All home offices are not created equal, so your first priority is to determine what role your workspace will play.
The household hub is the go-to spot for Internet use, bill paying, correspondence, archiving photos, and other family business. Think of it as “Office Lite.” Furniture here can be minimal and in some cases, a portion of the room can be co-opted for another use, like a dry pantry or kids’ homework corner.
The part-time study is the place to set up shop after dinner or on weekends. Along with accommodating reference materials and files, it needs to be a comfort zone enticing enough for a little overtime work.
The home studio/full-time office fosters productivity the same as a commercial address does. While amplifying the divide between home and office here is key, design possibilities are sky-high without the stuffy, assembly line setup of traditional offices.
Clean out anything—and we mean, anything—that isn’t relevant to the purpose of the room. That includes ancient bills, out-of-use printers, even that old baby stroller you’ve been storing in the corner. Only items that facilitate office work and enhance the environment should remain.
Invest in a filing system only after you’ve sorted and organized the remaining contents.
Your palette should suit both the work at hand and its role in the house. Paint household hubs a shade or two lighter or darker than adjacent rooms to maintain their connection to domestic activity. For all-business rooms that keep nine-to-five hours, choose hues that establish a contrast between house and office. And when it comes to creative havens, all bets are off. Choose a shade that wires your mind.
Address light and comfort in your office overhaul, starting with quality task lighting. Hang a pair of pendants over your desk for a good-looking twist on the standard desk lamp. Replace any furniture that stalls productivity, including desks with limited surface area and slouchy task chairs past their prime.
Inspire your workday efforts with items that mirror your purpose and gussy up the room at the same time.
Create a Nostalgic Collection: Family photos and children’s art projects make for satisfying wall decor.
Inspiration Boards: Dress a standard bulletin board in items that cue your creativity—landscape images, treasured notes and drawings, and inspired reminders all work well.
Portfolio Art: Don’t tuck accomplishments away; frame photos or drawings of past projects and hang on office walls.
Need something for occasional meetings? Try a hip stool (near left). Crave a new desk chair? Opt for cushion, comfort, and casters (far left).
GO ECLECTIC: Scour antiques shops and tag sales for vintage crates and other chic storage containers.
SCORE USED GOODS: Browse craigslist.com, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, and thrift shops for gently used desks and cabinets.
GIVE NEW LIFE TO OLD STUFF: Simple, office-issue bookcases are easily made over when coated with a bright shade of paint and/or colorful wallpaper spread across interior shelves.
BUILD A SYSTEM: Big-box stores stock inexpensive, stackable storage boxes you can add to over time.
CREATE A CORNER OFFICE: Don't have the extra square footage (or money) for a dedicated workroom? Retrofit a coat closet with a petite desk and hang to-do lists and calendars on the interior back wall, shallow shelves on the side walls, and a bulletin board on the back of the door. Add a slim chair that can slide under the desk, and close off the office when work’s done for the day.
GET BOARD: Invest in dry erase boards. The calendars can be used for years on end, and the note boards, too, which saves dollars and paper both.
CLOSE IT OFF: Those who regularly work from home can often write off the mortgage or rent for the square footage of their office space. The main rule of thumb is that the claimed space must be solely used for work and is ideally separate from the rest of the house, by a door or otherwise. For details, visit irs.gov and meet with your accountant.