Working from a drafty attic or a dark corner of the living room is often a rite of passage for new entrepreneurs. Of course, it’s a sacrifice you gladly make to do the work you love doing.
Now, the makeshift home office is a collective experience. The global pandemic forever changed the way many of us work. With remote work here to stay, inefficent and non-ergonomic setups are no longer sustainable.
And, unappealing home office spaces could actually be doing harm to your business—not to mention your well-being.
Why home office design matters
There’s plenty of research to support that a thoughtful approach to home office design can increase productivity and happiness. Investing in your home office space is therefore an investment in yourself—and your business.
Clever space-saving storage solutions, layouts that maximize productivity and improve flow, and office décor choices that improve air quality and happiness can vastly improve the efficiency of your space.
From minimalist to eclectic, there are plenty of ideas to suit your aesthetic as well as creative solutions for even the trickiest spaces. And, you don’t need specialized skills or big budgets to make it happen. Let’s dive into some home office design ideas for entrepreneurs and remote workers.
6 DIY home office design ideas for every budget
- Assess your needs, budget, and space constraints
- Get design inspiration and create a mood board
- Create a layout of the space before you even touch a hammer
- Decide on the details—everything from color scheme to air quality
- Invest in smart storage and connected tech
- Inject happiness and inspiration
1. Assess your needs, budget, and space constraints
Before you start dreaming of accent wall colors and built-in bookcases, take stock of the facts. You only have so much space, time, money, and other resources to make this dream happen.
- What is my space availability and what are the constraints (architectural details, etc.)?
- How much money do I have to spend on this project?
- What are the specific needs or must-haves? What’s essential to run my business (versus what’s just nice to have)?
- What skills do I possess? Can I DIY my home office design or will I need professional help?
Where will your home office live?
Choose a room in your home that can accommodate every aspect of your business, allowing all tech, supplies, and equipment to be close at hand.
Professional designers generally work with minimum dimensions of 60 inches (150 centimeters) by 84 inches (210 centimeters) when designing a workspace. Your desired location may not meet these minimums, but it’s important that you consider how you’ll move in the space: Is there enough space to slide out the chair? Can you comfortably complete your daily tasks?
If you’re a maker and your home office is also your production space, you may need even more room. Consider alternate spaces in and around the home: heated garages, finished basements, hobby sheds, coach houses, or an underused formal dining room. Can you take over the guest bedroom and add a Murphy bed to make it a multi-functional space?
Living in a bachelor apartment or have roommates? Small spaces can also accommodate a dedicated home office. Think closets, nooks, multipurpose rooms with room dividers, or clever fold-away furniture.
When determining placement in the home, ask if you’ll be using the space for meetings or greeting customers. In this case choose an area on the main floor, close to the entrance.
Lastly, your home office location should be optimized to eliminate distractions. The kitchen is a typical hub of activity and can be convenient for parents who work from home, but can also hamper productivity. Conversely the workspace can distract from family time once you’ve “clocked out.” If possible, carve out a dedicated space to provide distinction between life and work.
Working within a budget
There are many smart ways to stretch a design budget, from shopping thrift or DIYing (we’ll get to those ideas later), but it’s important to understand what you’re working with upfront. When determining your home office design budget, consider:
- Paint, paint supplies, and other construction materials
- Professional costs, if applicable (e.g., electrician to add outlets or move fixtures)
- Furniture, storage, and décor accessories
- Tech and ergonomic supports
While this article will focus on the do-it-yourself approach, you can also find professionals to help you with everything from designing a layout to installing bookshelves.
Sometimes working with a pro can actually save you money by leveraging labor contacts and getting industry discounts on materials. Search for professionals in your area using a tool like HOUZZ or ask around for local referrals.
💡 Remember: Improvements to your home office space are legitimate business expenses and could be tax deductible. “Be sure to keep copies of receipts for all material purchases,” says tax expert Will Hillock. And be sure you can back them up, too. “As tempting as it may be, don’t try to claim a kitchen renovation or swimming pool installation.”
2. Get design inspiration and create a mood board
If you’re not a designer or if home décor doesn’t come easy to you, there’s no shortage of inspiration across the web. Search décor publications like House Beautiful or Architectural Digest to find and clip inspiration for a new gallery wall or get tested desk chair recommendations. Or keep tabs on your favorite independent interior design creators on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.
Your mood board can take many forms. You can choose to create one digitally where you collect home office design ideas from the web, color palettes or paint color swatches, and product photos. You can use a tool like Pinterest, Miro, or Canva to collect images and create your board.
For tactile folks, a physical inspiration board to gather your home office ideas is another option. Use a bulletin board or a wall in your new office space to pin clippings from magazines, souvenirs from a trip to New York or Tokyo, hardware store paint samples, fabric swatches, and other items that will inspire the space.
Your inspiration or mood board can contain both aspirational images as well as actual items within your budget. Your board will help you stay focused as you search for décor items and plan your layout.
3. Create a layout of the space before you even touch a hammer
An interior designer can work with you to establish a layout that meets your needs. But with modern technology—or simply a pen, paper, and a measuring tape—you can easily create a DIY home office layout at little to no cost. There are plenty of online tools and apps that can help plan the space in either 2D or 3D:
- Room Sketcher
- Home Design 3D (Android/iOS)
- Stanley Floor Plan (iOS or Android)
When considering how to lay out a home office, you may want to designate spaces for different tasks—separate areas for thinking, meeting, working, order packing, production—to help with focus and flow and to avoid clutter.
If Feng Shui—the ancient Chinese system that examines how energy connects people with space—is important to you, use its guiding principles to help choose a location, design the space, and arrange the objects. The philosophy says that proper arrangement of a space can affect wealth, success, and happiness.
Your layout or sketch should also consider any power or other tech needs or limitations. The position of switches, outlets, and overhead lighting may inform the position of certain furnishings.
- Are there enough power outlets? Will the placement of the office furniture allow for access to them? Do I need power bars or cord management solutions?
- Is my home’s internet service adequate for my consumption needs? Where will the router be located?
4. Decide on the details—everything from color scheme to air quality
Now, the fun part.
Deciding on the details involves bringing your mood board to life. An easy way to start is to anchor the design around one special piece (say a glam light fixture or a sleek Scandinavian-style desk) or focal point and coordinate everything else around it.
On choosing a color scheme
Maybe you’re partial to monochrome schemes, bold black and white, or soft pastels. It’s important to stick to what you love versus what’s trendy. But picking the right colors for your home office should extend beyond personal preference, too. Color can impact productivity and energy levels (blue and green are good choices here, respectively).
If your work is tedious or physical, colors like orange and red can be energizing. Yellow is a great color for design types, as it stimulates creativity. Beware of each color’s negative attributes too—yellow, for example, can cause eye strain.
Furnishings and décor accents
Furniture and décor can be expensive if you don’t know where to look. You also don’t want to sacrifice quality on items that will be seeing lots of daily wear. Big box stores like IKEA, however, are inexpensive one-stop shops for items like organizational baskets and plant pots.
Online furniture brands like Article offer higher end pieces such as accent chairs for a lower cost than some of the designer brands, as they have less overhead. If you splurge on a focal item for your room, you can accent it with a mix of lower cost pieces from Target.
Also consider finding unique secondhand or vintage pieces by browsing your local thrift or antique shops. You can get a rundown desk for a steal then give it a new life with a fresh coat of paint and upcycled hardware.
Lighting is also a critical element to consider when setting up your home office. What are your lighting needs for different times of the day, including after the sun goes down? Overhead lighting or natural light may need to be compensated with a desk lamp or task lamp—especially if you’re working with detailed production.
Investing in healthy spaces
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in your new home office. That’s why it’s worth considering the impacts it will have on your health and well-being.
If there’s one place to splurge as you consider the details of your office design, it’s on an ergonomic setup for your office desk and chair. Be sure to adjust your seating and desk height to sit in the optimal position—back straight, feet flat, elbows 90 degrees—to avoid injury.
Regardless of the chair, prolonged sitting can cause adverse health problems like fatigue, back tension, and reduced heart efficiency. A standing desk (or sit/stand combo desk) is a great alternative to a traditional desk.
Air quality is also a concern that should be addressed at the planning and building stages, from choosing healthy paints (low/no VOCs) to ensuring the space has adequate ventilation. “Green conditions” can improve cognitive performance and positively impact strategy and information usage, according to one study.
You can also consider air quality when choosing the décor and details of your home office. A portable HEPA air purifier or even a few houseplants can improve air in small spaces. NASA’s clean air study found that common houseplants can remove harmful toxins from the air, and recommends one plant to every 100 square feet of space. Varieties like the peace lily, english ivy, and varigated snake plant have extra air-cleaning qualities.
When you’re positioning houseplants around optimal natural light, consider the same for yourself. One study found that the amount of daylight exposure in the office can impact sleep, activity levels, and quality of life.
5. Invest in smart storage and connected tech
Storage is an important consideration, especially in small, shared, or production spaces. Unless your business operates on a dropshipping model or you sell services or digital products, you’ll probably need to make room for product and shipping materials.
There are several ways to attack the problem:
- Build up—make use of the vertical space with tall modular shelving, rows of floating shelves, or hanging baskets.
- Buy accents and furnishings that double as storage (say, an ottoman with a removable seat/lid).
- Purchase a slatted wall or peg system. For a DIY version, buy a piece of pegboard (available at most home building stores) and cut to fit a secondhand frame.
- Try an open retail display to incorporate your products into the design of the room.
- Designate a closet or other area of the home for separate storage.
- Rent a storage unit outside of the home.
While much of your day to day is likely organized thanks to apps, there are several tactile home office design ideas to keep to-dos top of mind and inspire you to stay on track:
- Replicate project management tools in an analog Kanban system and eliminate yet another open browser tab.
- Try a large physical calendar for marking major events like sales, goals, or product launches.
- Design a clear in/out system for mail, shipments, customer returns, paper invoices, etc.
- In offices that double as production spaces, organize tools and materials creatively to keep them close at hand, and assign everything its own space.
Finally, consider your technology needs. Wireless internet and printers eliminate clutter and smart home products like Wi-Fi-enabled light bulbs and thermostats can keep your home office conditions managed automatically—one less thing to worry about.
6.Inject happiness and inspiration
Design your office with things that inspire you. What keeps you going? Is it your kids, your favorite motivational quote, or the drive toward your goal? Maybe it’s a prototype of your first product design. Represent that motivation visually in the space.
Motivational art prints are an inexpensive way to achieve this. Pair a print from your favorite designer with a basic IKEA frame or update an ornate vintage frame with colorful spray paint.
Investing in yourself through thoughtful spaces
As an entrepreneur, you’re likely logging plenty of hours at your desk, and you’ve worked hard to build your business. There are clear benefits to improving your home office design—from mental health boost to improvements to productivity and workflow. Treat yourself with a space that inspires you to do what you do best.
Home office design FAQ
How can I make my home office more attractive?
There are many home office ideas that you can easily try to make your home office more attractive. Inexpensive ideas include: painting an accent wall with a pop of color, adding houseplants, integrating decorative vertical storage, and anchoring the room with a bold accent rug.
What are the top 3 things needed to design a home office?
For a typical office, ergonomic and functional furniture is generally the most important item. Your home office design should also include practical storage. Lastly, adequate overhead and/or task lighting is critical to avoid eye strain and property light your working area.
What else should be included in a home office?
fter taking care of critical items for productivity and flow, inject some joy and personality into your space with motivational art, plants, and color that make you happy. Connected home devices, adequate power sources, and cabling solutions are also helpful to consider when setting up a home office.
How can I make my home office more professional?
If you’re seeing clients or taking video calls, your space should reflect the image you want others to have of you and your brand or business. Eliminate clutter through smart storage, boldly represent your brand in the space (say, through signage or product), and make a clear delineation between your working and living spaces.
What type of desk should I use for my home office?
The desk you need for your home office is the one that best suits your needs. A sit/stand desk gives you plenty of options to alleviate back strain, which an old refinished vintage desk might suit your eclectic style. Be sure your desk is large enough to accommodate the items you need close at hand at all times, and that its height is suitable for your size.