This article was published on May 29, 2012

How to design a positive or inspiring work space at home

How to design a positive or inspiring work space at home
Dan Taylor
Story by

Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is a professional Photographer and freelance writer based in Vienna, Austria. Dan is a co-founder at Heisenberg Media and speci Dan Taylor is a professional Photographer and freelance writer based in Vienna, Austria. Dan is a co-founder at Heisenberg Media and specializes in conference photography. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter

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With the U.S. Department of Labor reporting that almost a quarter of all employed persons have done “some or all of their work at home,” it shouldn’t come as a surprise that home working spaces are in high demand. Come to think of it, I can’t think of a single person that doesn’t have some form of a dedicated workspace in their home, and I’m guessing that most of you are in a similar boat. And if you’re at home, shouldn’t your home workspace be your dream work space?

The far end of the dining room table will only get you so far when it comes to inspiration and creativity. Whether you’ve got a nook under the staircase, or a full room to work with, your home workspace should be a positive and inspiring experience. Here’s how!

Work. Flow.

Now that you’ve decided to set off on designing and building your perfect home workspace, there are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind before any purchases are made. The layout of your space will have a dramatic impact on not only its functionality, but also its visual appeal, which ultimately leads to inspiration. First and foremost is the physical space. Do you have an entire room to play with, or the closet at the end of the hallway? Are you planning on meeting and greeting clients in this space, or is this an area solely for you?

Once you’ve chosen a suitable location (or utilizing the very last amount of square footage available to you), it’s time to map out a floor plan. There are a number of fancy tools that can help you design a space, but personally, I’ve used Creately and/or Lucidchart to mock up a number of items in the past. Be sure to take accurate measurements and reflect them in your floor plan.

Beyond the physical space, you’ll want to keep the overall flow of your workspace in mind. If you think about the last breathtaking room you were in, I guarantee the space had a well thought out flow to it. Meaning, everything that you needed to get to, wanted to see, etc. was easily accessible. Granted, you might have some tight space considerations, but that’s what the floor plan is for. If you have to walk around something A to get to something B, something A needs a new home.

Likewise, when it comes to your own personal workflow, play around with your diagramming and lay out some mockup objects in your new space. Can you easily access all items that you’ll be using on a daily basis? With one 180 degree rotation, do you have everything you need in arms’ reach?

In you workspace, your desk should take top priority when it comes to layout. This is the place you’ll be spending the most time at, and it deserves top consideration. There are two schools of thought when it comes down to desk placement: Facing the wall or window, and facing the door.

The Feng shui school would have us facing the desk towards the door, thus embracing the energy of the room. Given space considerations, this might not be an option, and you’re presented with option 2: Facing the wall. While you might not be embracing the energy of the room, personally, I find facing the wall to be far more productive, as you’re not subject to passing distractions, and have the added bonus of a second workspace staring you in the face. Literally.

Inspiration Nation

What inspires you? Is it a breathtaking sunrise over Lake Louise? Perhaps your prized bobble head collection? Whatever it is, make it front and center in your new space. Similar to desk positioning, there are those that caution against seating near a window as it serves as a distraction, and those that embrace the changing scene. I say, if your view changes your perspective, causes you to think about something in a new an innovative way, you’ve made the right choice.

Color. The color of your workspace can have a dramatic impact on how you work. Color theorists have long presented the case that certain colors trigger certain emotions in individuals. Please note the usage of the phrase “certain” above. Not every color causes the same reaction in every person. However, there are a few generally agreed upon emotions:

  • Red – Increases the energy level of a room
  • Yellow – Triggers happiness
  • Blue – Soothing and calming
  • Green – The most restful for the eye
  • Orange – stimulates the senses and is a social color

You’ll note that white is not on the list here. While white is a perfectly acceptable color to decorate your new workspace in, it is the hardest color to keep clean, and besides, it’s your new dreamspace, break out of the white box!


So far, you’ve chosen your space, made a floor plan, selected art and/or objects of personal inspiration, and designed a color scheme that compliments your working style. Let’s have a better look at that floor plan. You’ve taken accurate measurements and have a general idea of how the space will look. Now take a look at your current workspace. What’s lying around? Where do you store it?

Whether you like it or not, there are bound to be the standard office supplies that are needed in any workspace. Pens, papers, notebooks, and lest we forget about cables! Head back to that floor plan and have a look at where some storage units would fit in. It’s also important to keep the future in mind. Meaning, when you map out where you’ll be storing the aforementioned office supplies, don’t forget to plan for future growth. If you can fit everything you need into a 6×6 cabinet, plan for a 10×10. As the main goal here is to create the most inspiring workspace possible, ask yourself, which is more inspiring, a table full of papers, keys, pens, etc., or a clean, clear, surface with all the bits and bobs stored away in their proper place?

Remember that second work space I mentioned above when it comes to facing the wall? If you’re not facing the door, why not take advantage of this second space? In addition to some inspiring images, when decorated appropriately, and themed to your room, a row of shelving units can also add to your storage and declutter options. Just remember to plan for future growth. Personally, I have three rows of shelves lining the wall just above the iMac, with a few objects of inspiration flanking each side. These include a cork board which keeps me organized and on track and remains infinitely configurable, depending on my state of inspiration.

Cables. Ah yes. Wireless devices and connectivity are wonderful, but at the end of the day, you’re bound to have a USB here, a Thunderbolt there. All items that carry a hefty cable with them. There are a number of ways to deal with these cables, but one of the cheapest and easiest methods is to zip tie or twist tie these cables into one neat bunch. If you want to go one step further, Ikea even features a specific category that can help you wrangle all those cables, all at a very reasonable price.

Sit Down and Get To Work

Perhaps not the most visually inspiring, although they could be, your desk and chair are the absolute, most important considerations in your new workspace. Granted, your new chair could be just about anything you want it to be – the beauty of your workspace. A 19th century wingback can make for a funky, inspirational piece, but it’s important to keep in mind that most desks and/or dining tables are approximately 29 – 31 inches in height.

Admittedly, it is a bit “office,” but a few years back I sprang for a Herman Miller Aeron chair, and while not exactly cheap, I’ve had it for 5 years now and love it more and more every day. Not only is it a highly functional and comfortable chair, but I find the design lines to be inspirational. Again, it’s “office” but at the same time, I find it gorgeous to look at, and a challenge to my aesthetic every day. Whatever does it for you – that’s the chair you should be sitting in on a daily basis.

The desk. Very similar to the chair. Choose an object that will not only fit into your space, but something that you’ll want to look at again and again. For some, it’s a floating sheet of glass supported by a few tresses. For others, it’s that vintage oak desk that they saw at the antique store a few weeks back.

What is crucial in your desk and chair setup is proper height positioning. Having been down the carpel tunnel road myself, I can not stress enough how important the proper positioning of your desk and chair are.

To adjust your chair, first make sure that your feet are flat on the floor. From here, place three fingers behind your knees and set the backrest to a comfortable position. Armrests should be set at 90 or 110 degrees (max). Now extend your arms so that they’re parallel to the floor. This is exactly the height that your desk should be positioned at.

Light it up!

Space, check. Color, check, inspirational artwork, check, Desk and Chair, check. Congratulations, you’re almost done in your quest for an inspirational workspace at home. We’re only missing one element now, lighting.

As with everything we’ve discussed so far, your lighting choices should be something that makes you smile and fits to your inspirational workspace. And just think…no more overhead fluorescent lighting! According to the British Medical Journal, dimly lit spaces lead to a decrease in blinking, and increased drying of the eyes, particularly via voluntary squinting. Ouch. If you could avoid these symptoms in your new workspace, why wouldn’t you?

When it comes to lamps, a 65-watt bulb is sufficient for task lighting. Task lighting is perfect for your desk lamp(s), but don’t forget about ambient lighting as well. This can be accomplished through ceiling lighting or floor lamps. If you have the option, installing a dimmer switch on your ceiling lighting puts you in control of just how much ambient light you desire. Halogen floor lamps often come with a dimming feature, and 3-way 150 watt bulbs can provide various levels of ambient light for incandescent fixtures.

Ultimately, designing and implementing your workspace comes down to your personal tastes. For some, a zen like simplicity is positive and inspiring. For others, organized chaos seems to fit the bill. Remember, it’s your space, there are no HR directors or corporate pressure to conform to.

If Jackson Pollock’ing your walls causes you to think about things differently, then I’d say you’ve done the right thing. Conversely, if nothing but a desk, a chair, and a single lamp create a razor sharp focus for you, then congrats, you’ve achieved the goal. Just remember to make use of every possible square foot (or meter) that you possibly can, even if this is blank or empty space. It’s your realm, dress it accordingly!

Image Credits: FlowInspirationClutterDeskLamp and Workspace

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