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How To Make Your Home Office Less Office-Y

Three years into this work from home era, I’ve noticed a lot of us taking a look at the home offices we threw together slap-dash out of necessity, and reassessing. Home offices are one of the most common rooms that people hire me for. And usually they’re home office / guest bedroom / hobby rooms. Or in my case, home office / living room / workout room.

So when I received this question on Instagram, I had thoughts!

My Answer

Comfort and back health are important. We don’t mess with that. If you like/need this chair then I would focus on surrounding that chair with pieces that better express your personal style, making the chair and a monitor less of a focal point in the space. I recommend choosing a desk, lighting, and art that feel home-y, feel like you, and feel decidedly not like office furniture. If you could picture it in a traditional office setting - skip it.

The Desk

I avoid desks that come in office-like finishes, such as fake wood veneer, vinyl, and metal finishes that feel cheap. For example, instead of a desk that looks like this:

I personally would recommend looking at your local antique mall for an old dining table, console table, vintage game table, bistro table, or sewing table (that’s what I work on).¹

I love the details you get with older furniture, like a turned wood leg or a scalloped edge, that make a piece feel special and expensive (even when it's thrifted). They bring in interesting shapes and materials like real solid wood, iron, and marble.

The Lighting

Again, I avoid desk lamps that say “office” - anything that feels like fluorescent, gray, office lighting like this:

Instead I like to look for lighting secondhand (on Etsy or vintage sellers on Instagram). If shopping new, look for interesting curves or lines. These shapes will help distract or camouflage the more predictable office-y shapes like your monitor.

The Decor

Once you have your foundation of desk, chair, and lighting, it’s time to accessorize. Avoid storing your pens in stereotypically office-y accessories like acrylic desk organizers. Instead, opt for storing office supplies in things you could easily envision layered in a living room, like small glass or ceramic vessels.

And don’t forget to add art to the area above your desk! This helps keep your monitor from being the focal point.

I like to layer art, for example one piece hanging on the wall and smaller frames leaning on the desk. This is the perfect place to incorporate kids’ art or photos of family or friends for a personal touch.

Here are good examples:

Last but not least: An object you love

Keep a small something that you love on your desk so that it feels like you. A candle, family photo, travel souvenir, favorite book, something handmade. I keep a small vase of colored pencils on my desk because it sparks my creativity, and the colors feel upbeat.

These elements will make your office space feel personal, layered, lived in, and human. Just like you.

If you have design dilemmas in your own home office, I have One on One Virtual Interior Design Consultations and I’d love to sit down and chat with you.

Here’s what a past client has to say:

“I live in a beautiful brownstone apartment, which has such unique features that I love. The problem that I was grappling with, however, was the long-ish layout of my study. And so I reached out to Cristina to help me maximize the space, given that I wanted it to have multiple functions. And she did exactly that! She gave me two layout options and sourced furniture that would serve multiple purposes and let my study also function as a -- music/listening, sewing, and reading room!” - Moraa O

I also made a whole Home Office episode of my YouTube series, Home School. It's full of more non-office-y ideas and examples for you:

¹ Important Tip: When looking for a table to use as your desk, pay close attention to the height of the table and the seat height of your chair. Another measurement to pay attention to is the width of the desk’s opening, you’ll want to make sure your chair can fit under the desk.

Double checking the dimensions before you buy anything will cut own on mistake purchases - like buying a table that’s so high it makes you feel like a 5-year old at the big kid table.

The average desk is 28-30” high, and the average desk chair’s seat height is 16-21” high. But no matter what’s considered “average,” find a chair and desk combo that feels good for your body! Comfort & function first, always.


Meet Cristina Cleveland

Interior Designer

I created the Interior Style Quiz to give you the tools and language to express your style more cohesively in your home. 

Book a call if you need help closing the gap between your home right now and the personal style you want to be expressing.

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