Budget Friendly Tips For Designing Your First Home Office

For some a home office is a lifestyle choice, and for others it’s a financial necessity. If you are setting up or re-working your home office, here are some tips to help you make a smooth transition from home life to work space and back again.

Hide It

If you can’t put your office in a separate room, then create a way to visually ‘put away’ the office. Existing closets can become desk areas with storage above, and freestanding armoires are available that convert to home offices. Other options include folding screens and freestanding bookshelves. If none of these work for your scenario, you can mount a curtain divider on ‘hospital track’ for floor to ceiling separation.


Storage and Organizing

One of my biggest challenge is a sample storage. I keep gathering new samples and spec books and the collection seems to constantly grow without a way to expand the storage space! Here are a few tips that I use to help keep things under control:

  1. At least 3 times a year (put this on your calendar) review, discard, or return samples and supplies.
  2. If you cannot hide everything, then invest in attractive boxes for items that need to be kept in sight.
  3. Use a labeler – it lends an air of organization and consistency and will help you outsource tidying up samples and supplies to an assistant.
  4. Keep only what you need close at hand – you may find that you need to stash items in different parts of your space, so prioritize what you use the most and keep it close to your primary work space.
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Desk space

I personally like to see the door from where I’m sitting so I’ll always place my desk perpendicular to, or facing the door (this is also in alignment with Feng Shui principles).

Make a custom desk: I’ve used hollow core ‘slab’ doors from the lumber yard, along with IKEA legs for an economical ‘custom’ solution.

Have someone working with you? Make it space efficient by putting a long desk top along a wall to work side by side with a filing cabinet between you. allow a minimum of 30” for the desk portion, and an additional 18” minimum between the ‘stations’. If your desk work is laptop-based, your desk does not have to be the traditional 30” deep. I’ve used lovely mid-century secretaries as desks which also have the advantage of closing up and becoming fashionable furniture when not being used.

Work / Table space

If you need to spread out, you can always use a dining table temporarily, but if you find that you need other options here are a few ideas:

  1. A drop leaf panel mounted to the wall can come in handy and flatten to the wall when out of use
  2. There is some fantastic hardware for creating table extensions
  3. There are retractable counter extensions designed for kitchen base cabinets, but can be adapted to other wall-mounted cabinetry. This hardware can help you create a multi panel surface that stows in a cabinet – brilliant!
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Make sure you are picking a ‘high productivity’ color for your work space. While there are numerous studies regarding which colors produce the most effective work environment, it is a very personal choice. For example, you may find that a blue color in your space looks cool and perhaps not stimulating enough for you to function at your highest. I used to have a lovely blue office but when I switched to a citrine wall color, (which some may find too stimulating) I felt like it was a little boost of caffeine when I walked in the door. Be mindful of color saturation as well, and make sure that you’re picking a color – or version of a color – that will not be too heavy or dark.

Your best bet? Get some oversize color chips and try them out on different parts of the wall at different parts of the day, then choose what really feels right.



As in any other room I suggest a combination of overall, ambient, and task lighting. This may mean one central fixture or recessed lights in the room to provide basic illumination and task lamps on each work area. I actually find that having several sources of light really helps because you can modulate the amount of light based on the time of day and even your mood. Consider a table lamp on your desk as supplemental lighting for a cozy vibe. If you have a flood of daylight in the room, install solar shades — there are lots of inexpensive online retailers who sell them.

Make sure you are conscious of your bulb choice in fixtures – the newer LED bulbs are great, but they vary greatly in color and quality. I prefer a 3000k or similar color temperature for all bulbs, otherwise they look too blue. Also, an LED encased in a lens or diffused glass bulb will help soften and diffuse the light, resulting in a look closer to incandescent bulbs.

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Check out Jennifer’s free e-book to “10 Steps to Your Perfect Room Makeover”

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