Function and Style

Setting Up a Home Office that Works

By Carrie Luteran | Photography by Alice G. Patterson 

More people are working from home than ever before. Sixty-nine percent of entrepreneurs start their businesses at home. Even once they’re established, a majority remain home-based. According to a recent Gallup survey, 43 percent of Americans who work in an office spend at least some of their weekly hours working from home. Whether you’re self-employed or working remotely from your job, it’s essential to have a space that fosters productivity and motivation to get stuff done.

Here are some tips for setting up a home office that will help you stay on task and enjoy the time you spend there.

1. Function before form

When it comes to setting up a workspace, your top priority should be functionality. That antique writing desk might look lovely in your office, but if it doesn’t provide a big enough work area, it’s not going to cut it. What about that cute chair in the corner that’s constantly covered in papers? Swap it out for a file cabinet instead. Identify your requirements for a work area and storage space. Address them first, before you think about decorating.

2. Lighting

A well-lit space will reduce eye strain and allow you to work for longer stretches more comfortably. Multiple light sources allow for flexibility as the natural light changes; have a task light on your desk as well as an overhead light or other lamps.

Another important consideration is the color temperature of the light in your office. Stick with neutral or cool light bulbs (look for a rating of 3,000 Kelvin or higher on the packaging) to help you stay alert.

3. The air you breathe

Plants in your office add color while improving air quality. A diffuser can be another welcome addition, especially in the winter months when the air in your home is especially dry. Certain essential oils, like citrus, rosemary and peppermint, are invigorating and can boost concentration while you work.

4. The question of messy desks

Einstein famously remarked, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?” His desk, like that of other famous creatives like Mark Twain and Steve Jobs, was a disaster. Some research has shown a messy space can actually boost creative thinking and willingness to try something new. So, should you embrace the mess on your desk?

The answer depends on how it makes you feel: if it stresses you out or makes it impossible to find what you’re looking for, take time to tidy up. But if it doesn’t have a negative impact on your productivity or state of mind, it’s probably not necessary.

If you do want to keep your space neater, set limits on the papers and materials you collect with a desk tray; once it’s filled up, take the time to sort and file. Wall-hung file holders allow you to get papers off your desk but keep them close at hand.

5. Personalize it

Once you’ve taken care of the functional needs of your workspace, be sure to add some personal touches and décor. Family photos, objects from your travels and artwork you love will create a positive environment. An area rug and curtains on the windows can add a pop of color and pattern without creating clutter.

A bulletin board is the perfect spot for inspirational messages and images to keep you motivated. But remember, over time, the things posted there become part of the scenery and you don’t attend to them as much; so, it’s not the place for important reminders of upcoming events. Keep those in your calendar, instead, and check it often. SWM

Carrie Luteran makes spaces totally functional and fab. She provides professional organizing and interior design services to the Syracuse area through her company, Pretty Neat. Learn more at or call 315-400-1966.