For those seeking a useful way to spend their time during social distancing—or anyone simply interested in forging a deeper connection with their homes—HB has launched Home Love, a series of daily tips and ideas to make every minute indoors more productive (and gratifying!). Check back every day till April 1st for new tips.
As cities across the U.S. begin shutting down to quell the spread of coronavirus, more and more people are facing a new daily reality: working from home. For many, it's meant struggling to create a routine—where do I plug in my computer? Should I wear real clothes? Am I allowed to take a lunch break? Luckily for us at House Beautiful, we happen to know a large population of people who have been working from home for years: many of our favorite designers. We reached out to some of them to get their advice on creating a space that's functional, inspiring, and stress-reducing.
Designate a space
“For me, establishing 'The Place Where I Do Work' has been incredibly important in making work and home coexist,” says Next Wave designer Noz Nozawa. “I don’t have a separate room so my desk is in the main shared space. I have all the gear I need: ergonomic chair, big screen, comfy mouse, and a fab cup for all my pencils. It puts me in the zone of ‘when I’m here, I’m working,' it helps me not get distracted by the kitchen (snacks!!) and lets me mentally separate after the work day is done.”
Though she doesn’t have room for a dedicated office, Robin Baron designated a specific spot in her kitchen for working: “My desk is in a dedicated space that allows me to focus, be organized, and store everything I need at my fingertips,” she says.
Kelly McGuire of The Modern Antiquarian agrees: “Living in New York or other crowded cities makes this task hard, but it is possible. In my miniature East Village apartment, my desk was a side table that was pulled into place when my roommates left for work, a sofa, and a well-organized bag that acted as my 'desk' holding my supplies, planner and writing utensils.”
If that’s the move, what’s the best location? Tamara Eaton recommends setting up shop near a window. “Good light is key and being next to a window made me feel like I was part of the world and not too snuggly,” she says. Adds Sarah Walker, “Reduce visual clutter and choose a space with great natural light. Try to avoid any sight line that reminds you of domestic work so you can stay focused and not feel guilty about not cleaning your kitchen!”
The use of a designated space helps establish the most important part of a home office: boundaries between work and home. “Separation between business and home is key,” says Jenny Brown. “Don’t let bills and paperwork get mixed up.”
In addition to spatial boundaries, many WFH experts recommend setting boundaries for your time as well. “Sometimes I set a timer to signal when work time is over and I can tend to my kids,” says Kristen Nix.
"Work hard and don’t get distracted by housework—that way you can relax when you clock out," advises Josh Pickering. "My little office also doubles as our bar, so it’s important to have things cleared up enough before 5 o’clock happy hour!"
Create a routine
A big part of setting those boundaries is getting into a routine—the same way you would if you were waking up, getting ready, commuting, and settling in at your non-home office.
“Creating structure is essential,” says Eaton. “I designated starting hours, lunch break, tea break, but I didn’t let myself have personal time during ‘business’ hours.”
As silly as it sounds, this might entail acting like you’re actually going into an office. So no, don’t sit in your bathrobe all day: “Following your regular routine and dressing up like you’re going to work helps with mindset,” says Margaret Schwartz of the Modern Antiquarian. "I force myself to get up and make the bed like a usual work day," adds designer Nina Nash Long.
Make use of storage
The best way to ensure that spillover doesn’t happen? Good storage. “You’ll want to have plenty of closed storage so you don’t have to leave the mess for all to see at the end of the work day,” says Amanda Lantz.
"Keep baskets or bins or file holders on your desk or on a nearby hard surface to help keep your paperwork nice and tidy," advises Lauren Clement of Lauren Nicole Designs. "A clean and crisp work surface is important to mentally stay focused on the task at hand." Clary Bosbyshell agrees: "Organization is everything," says the designer, who opted for rattan storage baskets in her workspace.
Equally as important as having a place to put away the things you’re not using, though, is ensuring easy access to what you do need. “Organizing your most-used materials so they are at arms length is a major key to not going nuts,” says designer Taylor Debartola.
"Make a list of the top three things you need to be productive (for example, a filing cabinet or organization system for papers, an ergonomically fitted desk chair, etc.) and work your way toward the aesthetics with the function in mind," advises designer Ariel Okin, who just redesigned her own home office.
Surround yourself with things you love
In addition to the essentials, make sure to incorporate elements that will make you happy and reduce stress. "You need to want to go into your new home office, so adding personal touches will help boost your morale," says Clement, who recommends a vase of flowers and a family photo.
"I splurged on some fabulous brushed brass desk accessories from CB2 x Fred Segal to dress up my home office," says designer and photographer Sarah Winchester. "My desks may be plain white dining tables from Ikea that I turned into work surfaces, but my accessories are like little pieces of jewelry, shiny and happy as I edit, file invoices, and open bills."
"For me, it’s a good playlist and caffeine (I’m a green tea girl),” says CeCe Barfield Thompson. Her go-to playlist? The Hôtel Costes station on Pandora.
Likewise, says Next Wave designer Anthony Gianacakos, “I always like to burn a candle, turn on Spotify, and have a small potted plant at my work station.” After all, plants are proven to reduce stress. “Every room should have a touch of green to bring the outside in and keep it fresh,” notes Amanda Lantz. "Keep the clutter to a minimum, but do add one to two items that make you happy," advises Laurie Blumenfeld-Russo.
If you're going to be set up there for the long haul, Marika Meyer suggests making some easy upgrades. "I love the idea of a simple fix like peel and stick wallpaper—it goes up quickly and is relatively inexpensive for fun patterns," she says. "Another simple, fun way to add color is to swap out your desk lampshade for something bright and colorful."
Julie Kleiner and Melissa Rothblum of Massucco Warner have a similar attitude: "We love to hang some pretty things on the wall so our view during the day is as pretty as possible," they say. "As with any room in your home, find art and objects that speak to you and bring you joy."
Artist Tug Rice encourages new WFH-ers not to forget one of the more overlooked senses—your sense of smell, that is. "It's all about perfecting the workspace aroma," he says. "The smell of coffee is said to stimulate creativity and productivity so I always have some brewing. And then you need a candle that's not overpowering but will overshadow the lingering scent of the eggs and bacon you cooked for breakfast."
Practice good communication
To ensure your work stays on schedule—and to stay connected with others—don’t let yourself go totally off the grid. “Now more than ever, communication and organization is key,” says Barfield Thompson. “Make sure your vendors are paid, get them as much work as you can, update your timelines with any changes due to quarantine and make sure you’re sharing those updates with your clients.”
This also applies to your coworkers, if you have them. “I jump on the phone and FaceTime at least three times a day with my boss,” says McGuire. After all, what better reminder that we're all in this together?
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For more Home Love ideas, head here—we'll be launching a new one every day until April 1st. And tag your own home project photos #homelove for everyone to see.
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