They say everything is bigger in Texas and from what I’ve seen, that may very well be true. But that’s all changing pretty fast around here. High rises are on the rise, and even in what may be considered large homes, families are getting bigger (with more kids or the resurgence of extended families), pets are taking over, and more professionals are working from home than ever before.

Any or all of these can contribute to less and less space until 1 day you look around and find yourself working on a tiny “student desk” in a random corner with a TV tray for a printer stand and a stack of books or magazines on the floor.

Not everyone has the luxury of loads of space, and many people don’t actually want or need it. In fact, most of the time all you need is for your current space to be more useful and purposeful.  Your home office specifically needs to be an efficient, productive, and inspiring space.  But how can you have a fully dedicated home office even if you do not have a fully dedicated room for it?

I’ll give you 7 decorating tips to get the home office you need with the space you have.

Let’s start with a little “case study”:

I am an IT manager and I have worked from home full time for the last 3 years.  I attend lots of meetings, but our admin send out the minutes.  I need constant access to my phone, laptop, and printer/scanner – which are all currently on my corner desk in the living room.  We have a 4 bedroom home with formals.  Our 2 oldest kids are away at college and our youngest has his own room and a playroom.

When we’re not working we like to travel and entertain our friends and family.  I don’t really need much and don’t want to spend a ton – maybe $500 or so.  But I really need to get out of the living room so we can start having people over more.

So clearly in this scenario, you can see that there are a few options for a home office.  Two kids (who likely have their own rooms) are out of the house most of the time and the other has 2 rooms.  TWO!!  Either Jr. can give up 1 of those rooms for his breadwinning parents (I mean, I love the kids but how many toys does 1 really need to have?!) or the young budding professionals will have a professional space in their room (call it motivation, maybe?).

Before you do ANYthing…  Assess the Situation

Part 1:  Figure out what you realistically need in your home office to encourage productivity and be successful (e.g. essential supplies, storage space, actual desk space (do you need to write, draw, or take written notes a lot?)).  Be totally honest about this because it will become very important as you go through the remaining steps.

All those pictures you’ve been pinning of posh and pristine office spaces may be pretty to look at, but where would you put all your books – yes ACTUAL books – that you reference regularly to do your job?  Or where might you keep your art supplies and masterpieces in progress?  Take a look at your current setup, if you have 1.  What works and why?  What doesn’t and why?

Part 2:  Walk through your home with a notepad and notice how you are using each room.  As you do this, jot down what actually happens in those rooms, how often, and by/with whom.  In the case study, there are 4 bedrooms – master and 3 kid’s rooms – but 2 of the kids are only home on holidays and summers and the other gets 2 rooms.  Whether you need lots of space for your office or just a desk with a laptop and writing space, the choices are pretty clear.

Part 3:  Consider the furnishings you already have against what you need.  If you’re lucky, you already have what you need and you may just want to tweak it a bit.  If you have nothing, or what you do have just won’t cut it anymore, start with the necessities and build up from there.

Part 4: Decide how much of an investment you want to make in your workspace.  BE HONEST and REALISTIC.  If you’re a creative type, you’re not going to turn your only dining room into a full on studio.  An entry level corporate lawyer isn’t going to turn Jr’s room into the corner office at LAWMAN & SONS, Attorneys at Law!
Consider whether you want to spend time or spend money – in other words how much $$ you’d prefer to spend vs, how much sweat equity (i.e. DIY time & money) you’re willing to put in.  Keeping in mind that the DIY route could end up costing you more if you jack it up.

Home Office Decorating Tip 1: Delineate your office space

Decide where the compromise in space is going to be.  In the “case study”, maybe the youngest isn’t quite on board with giving up his playroom; he doesn’t understand the whole concept of compromise, yet.  Might this be the time to start teaching?  No?  Ok then you know that you will have to share a space.

There are several ways to delineate a dedicated home office in a shared space:

This could work well in an open space family room as well – place a long console table behind a floating sofa.  Use pretty baskets below to stash large items and bins on top for smaller necessities.

Shared Home Office Space A simple 3D layout for a home office in the bedroom

Home Office Decorating Tip 2: Bring in your necessities

In the “case study”, perhaps that big corner desk may be a bit more than you need.  Maybe?  Just a consideration.  You don’t have to buy a new one; a lot of times large desks are modular and the pieces can be broken up and re-configured.  Perhaps the center section could be removed so that it’s a more sleek and streamlined writing or computer desk.  If not, you might consider something more space saving that still meets all your needs.

Home Office Decorating Tip 3: Add some personality – YOURS!

Everyone loves to see those big changes that make folks go WOW!  But the truth is it’s the little things that really make a space sing. Think about all the little things you use everyday like:

  • your pencil cup – use a small vase instead.
  • lighting – turn off the overhead light and add a small embellished lamp to your desk
  • keep the air clean – add a plant.  Or bring in another vase of fresh flowers (just PLEASE change them out regularly!)
  • use decorative items to incorporate the things you love (like travel in our case study)

 Home Office Decorating Tip 4: Try to position your workspace so that there are NO doors or windows at your back (where you cannot see them).

If you can’t avoid it, strategically place a mirror where you CAN see them.  It’s not just Feng Shui; there is a certain level of tension and unrest when you can’t see what’s coming at you.

Home Office Decorating Tip 5: When using a shared space, DO NOT cross the line.

Keep things in their respective areas as much as possible; when you love your space it’s easier to do, especially if you make it a point to put things where they belong at the end of your workday.

Home Office Decorating Tip 6: Pay attention to color and pattern.

Try to avoid anything too jarring, aggressive, or overly busy. Color and pattern affect our moods, thoughts, and productivity.  Stay away from extremes in your workspace; all red, for example, might just bring out your inner Hyde. Or maybe the reason you fall asleep on teleconferences could be that super soothing blue you chose.  Take my word for it – be careful with color.

Home Office Decorating Tip 7: Enjoy your new space

Don’t think you have to wait until you are “done” to use your office space.  What really is considered “done” anyway?

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes the best way to know if something is working for you is to try it, use it, change it, and repeat.” username=”xbydesign”]

Always remember that our homes are constantly changing with us – our family structure changes over time, as do our jobs, and even our priorities.  Design is a journey… things change more often than you think.  Find what works for you and what you love, but don’t be afraid to change things up as needs change.  Your space is all about YOU.

As always, my last and most important tip… have fun and enjoy the process!

Office Space

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