If you’re one of the many Canadians who has spent the past two years working remotely, chances are your home office could use an upgrade. Now is an ideal time to revamp your WFH situation and start the new year off reinvigorated and focused. “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the importance of asking myself what makes me most productive,” says Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute, an online home essentials retailer.
Kaye, who currently works out of her bedroom and dining room in her Mar Vista, California-based home, says before you start designing a space, it’s important to ask yourself questions like: How much space do you need; do you want to be near natural light; and where are the nearest electrical outlets? Once you identify your needs, you can get creative with your setup.
Making yourself the top priority is also how Nina Ber-Donkor, owner of Toronto’s Black Rooster Decor, approaches designing a home office. “It’s important to know yourself and have visual stimuli outside of your little bubble of work,” she says, pointing to items that give you joy throughout your day, like your favorite hand cream on your desk or a photo of loved ones.
Here, Kaye and Ber-Donkor share their home office design tips that will help you easily—and affordably—revamp your workspace.
Start with art
Whether it’s placed on a wall in your sightline or used to anchor your backdrop, an inspiring piece of art will instantly elevate any home office space. “So many people are doing job interviews over Zoom. Not only are potential employers looking at you, but they’re also looking at what’s behind you,” says Ber-Donkor. She recommends travel photography, an abstract style or even a framed reprint of a famous artist, like Picasso. “Choose something interesting and that tells a little bit about you,” she says.
“A home office doesn’t need to feel uptight and clinical”
Another quick fix can be shopping your existing collection. Kaye is a big fan of moving around art you already have in your home to create an entirely new look in a different space—a style trick that’s also cost effective. “I recently took a wall hanging from my living room and hung it in my bedroom where I often take calls,” she says. “The pop of color and texture was exactly what was needed in my otherwise neutral room. These simple and free refreshes make a world of difference to switch up the vibe of your working space.”
It’s easier to power through emails and engage in virtual meetings when you’re comfortable. One of the benefits of working from home is that you have the ability to create a cozy space, Kaye says. “A home office doesn’t need to feel uptight and clinical,” she says. Try incorporating soft touches with a textural rug, an alpaca throw draped on the back of your chair or a shearling pillow to your seat for more support. “Not only do these items look beautiful in your space, but they are also guaranteed to make you feel good too,” Kaye says.
Another way to boost comfort is through scent. Ber-Donkor suggests indulging your senses with a great-smelling candle—so long as there’s no kids or pets nearby. If you need to be extra safe, try a diffuser instead.
Choose multi-purpose pieces
Whether you have a dedicated room to work from or are updating a corner within your bedroom, living or dining room, look beyond traditional office furniture. Instead of designing your home office with a typical desk chair, consider stylish dining chairs. “Most desks are 30 inches high, which is the same height as a dining table, so you can always use your [work] chair for when you have an extra guest over for dinner,” Ber-Donkor says. For maximum longevity, she looks for classic styles that don’t take up a lot of visual space, such as a bistro chair.
“Bringing in a plant or two is good for your oxygen intake and makes a space feel like less of a box”
Dabble in color
The foolproof shortcut to updating a workspace? Roll up your sleeves and get out the drop cloth. “An easy and inexpensive way to revamp your home office is with a new paint color; it will give your Zoom background a whole new look,” says Kaye. Her go-to palette of the moment is shades of sand, dusty rose, muted yellow and coral as they add a subtle pop of color and boost mood. If you want to flex your creative muscle, or don’t want to commit to painting a full room, consider creating a mini mural by painting geometric or abstract shapes to highlight a wall.
Bring the outdoors in
Add life to your at-home office—literally. Fresh flowers are great, but they die, which is why Ber-Donkor thinks plants are a better idea. “Bringing in a plant or two is good for your oxygen intake and makes a space feel like less of a box,” she says. If real estate on your desk or table is restricted, think about placing plants on a bookshelf or on the floor. For low-maintenance greenery, Ber-Donkor suggests succulents—which don’t need much watering.
And your weekly grocery run can yield a fresh change, too. “If you work from your kitchen island, a beautiful bowl of fruit can be a visual reminder to take a break,” Ber-Donkor says. She keeps a bowl of lemons in her space for a visual pop of color that also serves as a cue to hydrate throughout the day.