Designing a Dream Home Office

One of the best investments I’ve made into my business wasn’t a fancy gadget or a shiny new toy. It was my office.

It’s interesting to see how many freelancers just work wherever they can, be it the local Starbucks, a spare bedroom or even the kitchen table. From my experience though, it’s extremely important to have a nice dedicated space, preferably filled with your favorite things.

While I don’t do any sort of graphic design, interior design is one of my favorite hobbies so I thought I’d share some tips and inspiration with you.

(That’s my office in the picture to the left).

Get Some Inspiration

Just like when designing a website, the first thing you need to do is get some inspiration. It’s hard to choose a what you like if you have no idea of your style sense.

The best (and cheapest) thing to do is to spend some time at the bookstore. They have an entire section in the magazine area dedicated to home design. Pick a few up, plop down in a chair and look through them. You don’t even have to leave the store.

You can also go online to figure out what you want. Search through design websites and through Flickr streams for home offices. I actually found the inspiration for my office through someone’s Flickr stream!

As you think of your inspiration, keep in mind that the room still has to function as an office and will therefore require desks, chairs, computers and other not so great looking items. There are ways to hide these and dress them up. More on that later.

Pick Your Colors and a Theme

Close your eyes and think of the most calming, relaxing place you’d love to be in. Is it a beach? A country manor? The woods? This is where you can choose your colors from. I decided I loved the cottage look, portrayed very well at Pottery Barn. I wanted something bright and cheery, but soothing.

This is why I went with a bright (but not neon) light green for the walls, and all of the furniture in white. I also chose the room that got the most sunlight in the house, to make it easier to work on the computer without headaches.

Let’s say you want a beach theme. Think of light blue walls, light beige wainscoting, and a very very light blue ceiling. Yes, you can paint the ceiling! If you’d like a country manor, go with light beige walls and a lot of white.

Choose a Budget

The biggest hurdle for any dream office is the budget. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Anything, anything can be done cheaper than you think. I mentioned above that Pottery Barn was my inspiration. If you’ve never been to Pottery Barn before, I’ll let you know right now. It’s really, really expensive. And it wasn’t in my budget.

My budget was $2,000, and that was to buy all of the decor, paint, new office chairs, a couch, two new desks, curtains, etc etc. I did go a little over the budget–but not much. Here’s how:

  • The desks. I wanted the infamous white desks at Pottery Barn, but they were going to be well over $1000 for both! I found the set you see in the image at Sears for about $500 a piece. The desks will almost always be your biggest expense. You don’t want to go with something cheap, but you don’t have to splurge either. Find a high end desk you like, and then search around for something similar in your budget range. The same goes with chairs.
  • The rug. The rug is usually the second most expensive thing in the room. This rug was actually the one I wanted from Pottery Barn, but I got it on eBay from an overstock seller for half the price!
  • The couch. $150 from Ikea!

Designing on a budget really is an art form in itself, but just remember that you can replicate any high-end look for much, much less than name brand items.

DIY

DIY’ing your office design is essential to stay on budget. Try to do as much as you can yourself. Paint your own walls and put together your own furniture. Scavenge through yard sales and flea markets to find items you can easily paint or change to match what you’re trying to build.

The Important Stuff

Don’t forget what your office is really for in the midst of designing. Make sure the desk and office chair match up in heights, and that your computer has enough space to sit on the desk. You’ll also want plenty of room for the keyboard and mouse and for a lamp and a place to write.

Just because you have to have all of this stuff, doesn’t mean it has to be messy. Since you’re redesigning anyways, take a look into getting reorganized. Hang some shelves and invest in matching boxes to store your papers and supplies in. Use tape and extra trash can ties to hide the wires from electronics (even better, invest in wireless!). Find a desk that has a desktop drawer, that allows you to hide your tower out of site.

Get Inspired and Get Going

Now it’s time for the fun part. Here’s a list of my favorite design blogs where you can get plenty of inspiration to start designing your own home office!

Your Turn

Everyone’s dream home office is a little different. Describe your dream home office in the comments, or better yet, post an image of your dream home office on our Freelance Folder Facebook Fan Page.

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Comments

  1. says

    Your office is gorgeous! I’m trying to get the money together to remodel mine as well. It is so much nicer when you’ve got a space you love to work in. Beats office cubicles any day ;)

  2. says

    Great post Amber. I’m actually looking to upgrade my home office space.

    Here are some more quality inspirational gems:

    Lifehacker Feature Workspace:
    http://lifehac.kr/lRMqQW

    My personal favorite. Every week a new workspace is featured from a pool of submissions. You can find the submission pool here to view all the workspaces submitted.

    Link to Lifehacker submission pool: http://bit.ly/kncKvl

  3. says

    I use a spare bedroom as an office, i noticed I still found myself using the kitchen table to code from. I eneded up moving my uber nice glass desk to the living room and putting a general use imac on it and the kitchen table to my office. now if I could find some good shelving I hate the ikea I am using.

  4. says

    agreeing with Amber Weinberg that i don’t meet with clients but i need to have the separation from working at home to having my own office space, which is dedicated to creating world peace design!

    Nice post.

  5. says

    Great post Amber. I’ve recently painted my studio after I’d put new carpet in. I’ve been doing it a little bit at a time so that I don’t upset the whole cart at one time. Now that the floor is done and the wall painted I can start to bring back the personality of the studio with the things on the wall. Oh I forgot to mention, I decided to put my drums into my studio as well. Great way to take out the frustrations of the day. Ha.

  6. says

    Amber, that’s a lovely home office! I like how the colors are so warm and feminine, not office-y at all.

    My biggest home office expense was my desk, as well. I ordered a Geek Desk, because you can adjust the height with the push of a button. I got scared after reading reports of how bad it is for our health to sit all day.

    Thanks for sharing your dream home office!

  7. says

    This is just a suggestion, but when you think about how long your going to be sitting in that chair (30 or 50 years?) you might want to look into getting larger wheels or caster for it. (just be sure that you feet will be on the ground when you sit and your at working height when you work) Four inch or larger diameter?

  8. says

    @Amber I was referring to caster size. If the caster’s diameter increases the seat height increases. I know that there is an adjustment on the chair for that but the diameter of a new caster could be more than the chair’s adjustment can handle.

    When you are sitting in the chair can you roll across the room on the rug?

    I hope I’m not pointing out things you haven’t notice before and blame me for the distraction or the stress it causes.

  9. says

    I completely agree, having an inspirational dedicated office space, is conducive to good quality work. In my experience my workflow is clear and focused when my office is clean, clear and well organised. It is important also for the office to fit your personality. What’s right for one is not necessarily right for another. Great work Amber!

  10. Jason says

    Interesting that you have a $2000 budget for an office revamp during a recession haha, I think you could easily get away with a $500 budget though, just need to go searching for second hand stuff

  11. says

    @Jason the US hasn’t been in a recession for a year now. And the development/design world was definitely never short of work…not sure why my budget should be made to sound frivolous. $2000 to redo an entire room w/ furniture is actually pretty cheap.

  12. says

    I envy people with cool desk and workspace cos mine is awful, honestly. Its just a small table cos I do blogs while I’m working with my mom’s boutique shop. So, these design tip are just ‘dreams’ to me, hopefully in the future when I’ll be successful in this online career.

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