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’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!
- Apartment Therapy
- Bookshelf Porn
- Home Sweet Home
- How About Orange
- Little Green Notebook
- The Pink Elephant
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.