How to design a home office

If you work from home – or are planning to – use this guide to help create a functional and aesthetically pleasing home office

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Crown Imperial offers matching bedroom and home office furniture to create a seamless blend between the two zones, seen here styled in Zeluso collection a matt finish with a mix of open/closed units and sleek white modular shelving. Prices start at £500

Once regarded as a luxury, an office space at home is now a must-have, whether it’s a dedicated room, built-for-purpose pod, or giving a small wasted space a more practical use. The home office has become an essential room in most houses and an estimated 4.2 million people now class themselves as home workers according to the Office for National Statistics.

Start by thinking about the purpose of your space. If you’ll be working in there on a daily basis, creating a different ‘feel’ from the rest of your rooms may help you to focus. Building a separate room in the garden to use as an office is another option but comes with the challenges of adding light, heat and power.

As part of the plan and design process, ask yourself a series of questions to establish what is needed in your work area:

  • What storage do you need?
  • What are your printing requirements?
  • Do you need a desk top computer?
  • Do you have a dedicated office or does it need to be a multifunctional space?
  • How much of your time is spent on the phone and, while on the phone, do you use other equipment?
  • Is it important for you to have peace and quiet; to be insulated from noise and disruption within the home?
  • Do you require access to a library of books, or samples?
  • Are you untidy, and must your ‘clutter’ be left untouched by other people in the house?

All of these factors, and more, should shape your workspace.

For example, you may have identified the need to shut yourself away so that you can make phone calls in peace without interruption from the family. A garden office room or home office in a loft conversion might be a solution.

On the other hand, you may be a mum, running a small business from home and need your workspace near the kitchen or sitting room. An ideal solution for your circumstances might be a cupboard workstation.

Other popular office locations include spare bedrooms, an under-used dining room or a garage conversion.

Once you have identified the necessary requirements and the best available location, you need to ensure the space functions efficiently.

Read more:

Designing the work space

Everyone's work requirements are different and how you plan your space will depend on the kind of work you do. Most of us use a computer for at least some of our office tasks, but you may also need space for paperwork, filing or perhaps drawing/crafting.

When laying out the space answer the following questions:

  • How much desktop space do you require?
  • Which hand do you prefer to use to answer the phone? It is amazing how many people put up with the phone cable crossing their computer keyboard while talking rather than simply moving the phone to the other side.
  • Do you often need to access files? Would these work better for you as lever arch files on a shelf or drop-in files in a desk drawer, or are there so many that they would work better on a wall of shelves?
  • Where is the window and is the positioning of your desk likely to mean your computer screen will be affected by glare?
  • Where are the existing power points? Will you need new electrics to accommodate more gadgetry and are they placed suitably to avoid a tangle or wires across your floor?

Home office furniture

We really are spoilt for choice when it comes to home office furniture with most high street brands offering a wide range of desks, chairs and storage options. You are guaranteed to find something in the size, style and colour that you want. 

Choosing an office chair

A comfy chair is a must for anyone sitting at a desk for any length of time and a swivel chair with wheels is the usual go-to for an office. There are countless styles available for various budgets, so the choice will usually come down to picking one that matches the rest of your scheme.

Read more about finding the perfect office chair in our expert buying guides:

Desks

Choosing the right desk for your home office will largely be dependent on how much space you have available in the room. Of course, the desktop needs to be big enough to accommodate your laptop or computer, while giving you space to take notes or sort files. 

Many people opt for a corner desk which allows them to split their work station into two: one side for their computer, the other for paperwork. Desks may be advertised as left-handed or right handed, allowing you to set up an ergonomic workspace. Be aware that integrated storage pillars (while incredibly useful) will dictate where you can sit and may affect achieving a comfortable working position.

Some desks have handy wire channels to keep your tangle of cables neatly out of the way. If your chosen desk does not, again, you will need to consider the placement of the desk for a neat and safe connection to plug sockets.

freestanding home office design


Lillåsen desk in bamboo, £115; Vågsberg/Sporren swivel chair in white, £40; Stockholm three-seater sofa in Sandbacka Black, £1,000; PS 2014 storage combination with top in bamboo and light green, £27, all available from Ikea

Fitted furniture

You may find that bespoke furniture is the best solution to creating a workspace that maximises the available space. Built-in shelving and desks mean you can position everything exactly where you need it, and in accordance with existing features of the room (sockets, windows, doors and awkward alcoves or heaters).

Although more expensive than off-the-shelf options, custom furniture is worth the investment if you use the space everyday. It can also be the best option for a multifunctional office space which has to fulfil other roles such as be a guest room, or sit as part of a kitchen-diner.

Hartleys bespoke guest bedroom with office furniture

(Image: © Hartleys)

This fitted office-cum-guestroom offers maximum flexibility for the space. The bed folds up into the wall, only to be pulled down when the space is needed for guests. Fitted storage and desks keep all work-related paraphernalia neatly out of the way. Priced from £8900 in this Aragon oak wood grain vinyl finish from Hartleys

Home office storage

Identify your storage needs by listing the items you will need to keep in your office. Neatly filing your paperwork will cut time spent looking for things and so plan ahead, not only making space for what you currently have, but also thinking about growing files. You may also need to make room for office accessories such as printers, scanners and document shredders. Think about whether you want these neatly packed away, or easily accessible on a worktop.

You might need lots of cupboards to keep everything out of sight, but think of the perfectly styled office shelves you see on the likes of Pinterest and Instagram, using pretty box files and folders to add colour, pattern or personality to the room.

See more home office storage ideas.

Viktoria pink magazine file from the Holding Company

(Image: © The Holding Company)

The Viktoria magazine file i made from robust, hand-laminated fibreboard and comes in a range of colours. Priced £11.95 from The Holding Company

Stylish home office desk with colourful noticeboard

(Image: © Oak Furniture Land)

A desk with built-in storage is a great option for keeping office mess out of sight, allowing you to make a feature of pretty pen pots or a quirky noticeboard. Seen above is the Orrick computer desk in rustic solid oak, £558 and Kemble chair in painted solid oak with plan grey fabric, £139 — all from Oak Furnitureland

Practical storage is a must, but don't forget to include a bit of space for treasured items, artwork, books and other things that will make the space functional but not sterile. If you are spending a lot of time in your office, it should be a space you enjoy.

fitted home office furniture


Fitted furniture starts from £3,000 at Neville Johnson

Getting office lighting right

When planning the lighting for your home office, remember to allow natural light in the room to blend in with your selected products. For homeworkers who use natural materials, position your desk close to the window to benefit from as much daylight as possible. If you’re working with computers or other screens, make sure you allow for the angles of natural light through the day and avoid glare.

It’s not all about task lighting, either. Creating the right ambience in a home office is essential — and clever lighting is a brilliant way to achieve it. Soften harsh light with a lampshade to set the mood and, if space is at a premium, pendant lighting is a good way to illuminate a room without cluttering it.

Decorating your home office

Although this should be a functional space, the look and feel of your office is still very important for creating an atmosphere that helps you work effectively. Hokum theories about what colour schemes are most conducive to work can largely be ignored, but you might want to avoid anything too busy or dark that might affect the light quality in the room. 

Office flooring

A hardwearing engineered timber or laminate is a good option for offices as soft flooring (such as carpets) can be hard to wheel an office chair on. You can then add interest and warmth to the room with a rug or runner.

Window treatments

A combination of curtain and blinds means you can control the amount of light coming in to the room throughout the day. A light coloured blind that blocks glare while still allowing in natural light might be a good option if your computer screen is near a window. 

If the room doubles as a bedroom, a blackout curtain that can be pulled over at night will ensure a restful sleep.

Building a garden office

If the garden office is subordinate to the house and can’t function as an independent dwelling, then you should be able to construct it under permitted development if it is within certain dimensions.

  • It must be a single-storey
  • It can only have a maximum eves height of 2.5m
  • It can only have a maximum overall height of 3m (Or 4m if the roof is dual pitched)
  • If your garden office is within 2m of a boundary, the maximum overall height is restricted to 2.5m

Most garden offices are built at the edge of a garden, meaning that the maximum overall height is 2.5m. It is probably worth considering building your garden room with a flat roof to guarantee the best use of the space.

garden office and studio on an old garage

See the whole of this garden office and studio, built on the site of a disused garage

Heating a garden office

A home office in a garden room should be designed for use all year round. If it is a space that you will be working in permanently you don’t want to be demotivated by the idea of walking to the bottom of the garden in bad weather. Chances are, you will need to divert services from your house to be able to work in the space.

Think about heating options like underfloor-heating or radiators. Underfloor-heating is a practical and cost effective way of heating a small space and should be easy to install in a new structure without taking up valuable wall space. Alternatively, radiators are a good solution if you have wall space to spare.

Powering a garden office

You will need to consult an electrician when it comes to powering your garden office. Not only should you think about where you should run insulated cabling through your garden, but you will need to consider where you want to install power points and lighting in the structure itself.

Draw a scale floor plan of your office on squared paper and plot where the important furniture, like your desk, reading chair or workstation will sit. Make sure these points have enough plug sockets to service everything that you need to work with.

Good lighting is also known to improve productivity, so make sure your garden office is well lit. In work areas, incorporate task lighting to light the space directly. Having a series of spotlights in the roof will ensure that the space is properly lit. If you’re going for a more relaxed work space, use a combination of table and floor lamps.

Extending to create a home office

Factoring a home office into an extension design is far easier than building an external garden office as you are already closer to your power and heat supplies. You should discuss these elements with your architect when you are planning the project from the start.

A new factor to consider is acoustics, especially within a busy household. To minimise distraction, place your office away from loud spaces like the living room, or insulate the room against sound as best you can.

lf your office has a lot of glazing, ensure blinds are installed to regulate natural lighting, shade and temperature. Extensions tend to be cooler than the rest of the house, so investing in underfloor heating might also be a viable solution to keep the area warm without installing radiators, which can encroach on space.

Bespoke Urbano study from Neville Johnson

Bespoke Urbano study in ash wood veneer, from £3,000, Neville Johnson

An office in an awkward space

If you can’t add a new office, being creative with existing space might be the solution. Hallways and landings that are often thought of as being unusable can actually be a perfect place to create a small home office.

If you have a small nook under the stairs, a hallway or even the living room, it could be suitable to neatly fit a small desk and a chair without it encroaching on the space itself. The trick here is to use a style of furniture that blends in with the rest of the room, so that it doesn’t ruin the overall room.

a small home office in a small london flat


This home office is nestled against a wall in a corner of this tiny little London flat