San Francisco’s favorite designers share their do’s and don’ts for the best WFH space ever.
When a shelter-in-place mandate hit the Bay Area, many of us found ourselves suddenly working from home — and in major need of a productive and inviting office. But what exactly makes a home office productive and inviting? And how do we create a serene work space while simultaneously homeschooling children, taking care of loved ones, practicing social distancing, watching the news for extended periods, and trying to stay sane? Desperate times call for extreme measures. So the Gazette called upon the experts — our favorite local interior designers — for advice on setting up a home office. Behold the key takeaways from our conversations with Suzanne Tucker, Jay Jeffers, Jonathan Rachman, Dina Bandman, Kelly Hohla and Regan Baker.
Don’t disregard the walls.
“Wall art — a bold abstract, a pretty watercolor, a collection of vintage works on paper — is the perfect accessory for a home office. It does not have to be over-the-top expensive. Just look for something that speaks to you, something that puts a smile on your face, that is calming, not jarring. Posters are a no-no unless you are 12.” — Suzanne Tucker
“Very busy wallpaper is fun in a space where you want to relax and let your mind wander — but in a space where you want to focus, something softer like grasscloth or a more mellow pattern and color will help you keep on task.” — Kelly Hohla
Don’t overlook the importance of lighting.
“Invest in good lighting, a beautiful desk lamp, and stay away from harsh fluorescent lighting, a migraine trigger and a surefire way to ruin positive productivity. Don’t forget about window blinds: Direct harsh sunlight may need to be tempered with a matchstick blind or translucent shade.” — Suzanne Tucker
“I treat home offices as very residential by using chandeliers, lamps with nice shades, and good natural light from windows.” — Jay Jeffers
“Natural light is the best, which is why I love to place a desk by a window, but it’s equally important to have task lighting. Reading or working in poor lighting tires your eyes more quickly and makes it difficult to focus. A desk lamp with an opaque shade pointing directly at the reading material is the best possible arrangement for task lighting.” — Dina Bandman
Don’t be boring.
“Don’t be afraid to use patterns, be it in your window treatment, flooring, rug or ceiling!”— Jonathan Rachman
“I love using wallpaper in almost any space. It’s a fast and easy way to add personality to a room —especially if it’s a bold design.” — Dina Bandman
Do add personal touches.
“Surround yourself with a few personal touches — such as photos of pets and loved ones. Layer [furnishings] with textiles, pillows and throws, forgo the blah office accessories and use vintage china tumblers, a shagreen tray, wicker baskets, a vintage letter opener, crystal paperweights.” — Suzanne Tucker
“Art is always the best path to personality. A great rug, a fun light fixture or desk lamp are nice personality pops as well.”— Kelly Hohla
“Having flowers in a home office brings nature inside and is calming and inspiring.” — Dina Bandman
Don’t put furniture wherever.
“When it comes to furniture placement, think about the ‘flow’ of your space. Resist the temptation to shove all furniture up against the walls. Try not to place yourself with your back to the door. It’s a standard feng shui practice: You want to see someone approaching you. It’s known in feng shui as the power position. It signifies that you are asserting yourself as the sole creator and driver of your actions, your own life.” — Suzanne Tucker
“I like a large round or oval table floating in the room, as opposed to a desk against a wall.” — Kelly Hohla
Do consider color.
“Colors are everything!! The right color will put you at ease and peace while others would drive you absolutely bananas. This is different for everyone.” — Jonathan Rachman
“White is a great go-to in office spaces where there isn’t much natural light. A bright space is the key to productivity.” — Regan Baker
“Certain shades of blue are conducive to sleep, so perhaps blue isn’t the best color to choose for your office. On the other hand, purple is a mentally stimulating color that boosts creativity and imagination. If painting your office purple is not something you can envision, purple accents might just do the trick!” — Dina Bandman
Do find the perfect chair — and desk.
“If you routinely use your office to work from home full time, the comfort and ergonomics of your desk and chair are key.” — Regan Baker
“Never buy a desk chair without trying it in person first. Here’s how to check: Sit as close as possible to your desk, with your upper arms parallel to your spine, and your hands rested on the work surface. At this point, examine whether your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. If they are not, adjust your office chair higher or lower as necessary.” — Suzanne Tucker
“If you’re working in a smaller space, a Lucite desk can be a great option that won’t visually overwhelm the room. A secretary desk can also work well in a small space, as it doubles as a beautiful piece of furniture when not in use.” — Dina Bandman
Do separate work life from home life.
“It is the worst thing to feel like you’re at work when you are home. When you are finished working, you want to be able to put these things away, put some flowers on your desk, and feel very residential.” — Jay Jeffers
“We often talk about a work/life balance in the emotional/mental sense, but that applies to physical spaces as well. It’s much easier to put the stress and commitments of the workday on hold if you can close the door to your home office and join the family in the kitchen.” — Regan Baker
Don’t leave out equipment.
“Having equipment out in plain view like a printer are unnecessary and unsightly mistakes. Devote a small portion of a closet to storage for the printer, for paper, etc.” — Jay Jeffers
“We always recommend considering your storage needs — this includes storage for bulky items like printers or paper shredders that you need to access frequently but may also want to keep hidden. For most of our clients, we find that custom millwork for storage needs allows them to make the most of a space and create exactly what they need.” — Regan Bake
Do optimize organization.
“Go as paperless as possible – make all your statements paperless, invoices, bills. The less you have tole something away, the more organized you will be.” — Jay Jeffers
“We always source plenty of trays. Visually they can streamline even the most cluttered of desks, corralling wayward pens, notepads or paperwork. They can also be exceptionally functional organization tools. They can help categorize items in a shallow drawer, or hold materials for a current project.” — Regan Baker
“As the saying goes: a place for everything, and everything in its place, so don’t let clutter buildup. Determine whether you’re a neatnik and happiest with no clutter and filing everything away, or a visual person who needs to see everything in compartmentalized stacks or labeled baskets.”— Suzanne Tucker