Creating a Working Space in the Home

A home office can promote happiness and productivity. Here’s how to make it practical and personal.

Designers and homeowners are becoming more creative with their home-office spaces. Case in point, designer Katja van der Loo, of Papyrus Home Design in Boonton, created this handsome office at the Mansions in May Showhouse in Bernardsville using an antique farmhouse table as a desk.
Designers and homeowners are becoming more creative with their home-office spaces. Case in point, designer Katja van der Loo, of Papyrus Home Design in Boonton, created this handsome office at the Mansions in May Showhouse in Bernardsville using an antique farmhouse table as a desk.
Photo courtesy of Peter Rymwid

Who doesn’t dream about working from home? According to recent studies, a home office minimizes distractions, increases productivity and lowers stress. Moreover, companies that allow employees to work from home lower their overhead and are often rewarded with a happier, more productive work force. And society saves on gas and carbon emissions.

Thanks to laptops and cell phones, a home office can be anywhere that fosters creativity and productivity—from a corner in the kitchen to a spare bedroom.

Red Bank-based interior designer Betsy Berner created an office in a closet for a showhouse in Little Silver. “There’s no space for clutter,” she says. “And, with no windows, there are no distractions. It’s a space that encourages total focus.” The office walls are covered in a Baltic, blue grass cloth; the door is painted a matching super-high-gloss paint. The armless chair is covered in buttery leather, and the console desk perfectly fits the space. “It works well as a writing table,” she says. “What more do you need?”

Of course, not everyone wants to work in a closet—but it illustrates the fun of thinking outside the box. A home office doesn’t have to be the standard mahogany desk in a book-lined study; rather, those who work from home—from freelancers to telecommuters—should focus on creating a happy, healthy, personalized space.

Interior designer Jennifer Watty created a home office in a sliver of her family’s TV room in Westfield. While a traditional use of space, her materials are anything but. Next to a 1960s love seat covered in a faux-alligator chenille, Watty placed a black, lacquered desk topped by zebra marble; the desk chair is an antique Eames chair recovered in cream-colored, pearlized faux leather. “It is legitimately the most comfortable chair on Earth,” she says. “My kids fight over who gets to sit here.”

Almost any space in your home can become your office, says Desha Peacock, author of Your Creative Work Space (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017). Your office, she declares, can be in your bedroom, at the top of the stairs, in a foyer or in a corner of your living room. The main thing is to ensure that the design and area beckon you to do your best work.

Given the cost of New Jersey real estate, Garden State residents are among those likely to use a pocket of their home as a home office. Consider Amira Rahim, an abstract artist who paints in her spare bedroom and runs her successful art business from a section of the dining room in her light-filled, second-floor Orange apartment. Although the dining room is otherwise empty, Rahim put her office desk in the corner, next to the window.

“It’s very grounded here and filled with light,” she says. This cozy space is where she conducts online meetings, answers e-mails and updates her website (amirarahim.com). It’s also where she has launched an online art course and maintains contact with the licensing companies she oversees. “This tiny area is where I do all my business work,” she says. “The studio is where I do all my creative work.” Her needs are minimal. “I’m pretty much a paperless office.”

Rahim adorns her walls with inspirational quotes, meeting reminders and to-do lists. Like most, she uses a laptop and a cell phone, but no landline. She keeps noise-canceling headphones at the ready for conference calls. Then she gets down to work.

Yes, there’s a pad and pen on her desk—and some favorite keepsakes—but they’re mostly for doodling. Important notes go directly to her laptop. “I love not having to commute,” she says. “There’s nothing like working in my pajamas.”

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