Setting up a home office is becoming even more important in residential design. So, we invited local Interior Designer Amanda Curtis to share how she collaborates with her clients to make their work spaces work in every way. Let’s hear what a professional has to say about home office design.
Name: Amanda Curtis, Interior Designer
Business Name: ARC Design Studios, metro Detroit, MI
Brief Description: ARC Design Studios is an Event, Residential, and Retail Merchandising design studio. We focus on translating our clients’ inspiration into concepts that are creative, cohesive, profitable where applicable, and that exceed their expectations.
Company Website: www.arcdesignstudios.com
EC: What should interior designers focus on when they kick off a home office project?
AC: The first step is to research how your client works. What is their current workspace like? What feels good to them right now and what can be improved? Observe how they use their equipment, storage, and furnishings.
Knowing if their home office is temporary or a permanent need makes a big difference in the choices you both make (especially when it comes to budget).
Most of the advice I offer assumes a separate room designated to become a home office. If the office space will be situated in a room with different functions, like a bedroom the points below may have to be adjusted to accommodate the entire room.
EC: How do you choose the correct room to designate as an office space?
AC: One of the first things to look for is a room that has natural light. It’s in our nature to be attracted to lighter areas. We’re all also more productive in spaces that offer a view of the outdoors during the long work day. Once you choose this space, position your client in the room so that they can control the natural light.
Light bounces off of furniture, creates glare and can cause equipment to overheat. Proper window treatments are a much needed filter. The right window treatment will offer your client control over their preferred level of natural lighting, from full darkness to sheers. So, reviewing different window treatments to determine which is suitable is generally my next step. When situating office furniture, I also watch out for glare on screens.
EC: What if the room has little natural light?
AC: When the best room is always a bit too dark, you’ll need to supplement with plenty of artificial light. That is best accomplished with a balance between task lighting (directly over workspaces) and ambient lighting for the overall space. The temperature of lighting makes a difference in your client’s comfort level and can change the visible color of their work, depending on what that includes. For example, if your client is in a creative field, the lighting can dramatically change their perception of colors they work with every day.
EC: What if your client is located in a high rise or urban setting with no calming nature around?
AC: When clients don’t have access to an outdoor setting or nature outside their window, bring nature in. Add wall art and/or home accessories of flowers, landscapes or waterscapes to the space that showcase the outdoors. We feel more at ease when we’re able to look out a window but that is not always possible. I also like to bring in natural textures such as wood, rattan and stone through accessories. The connection to these natural materials dives below our subconscious and creates a calming effect needed to feel balance in a hectic environment. Biophilia is the term used to describe this desired connection to nature and natural materials.
EC: What about colors? What are the best choices for interior designers creating a workspace?
AC: When you’re able to choose, use calming colors – from neutrals to blues and greens. I try to avoid red, which tends to imply action and have an aggressive undertone not well suited for a productive workspace. Sharp contrasts or tiresome patterns in the direct view of the work area may also quickly get old. Your client will spend many hours looking at a screen, so incorporating a backdrop with a very sharp pattern can even create headaches. Pattern can and should be used, but placement and level of contrast within that pattern will be key to a soothing and proactive environment for your client.
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EC: Now, onto furniture. What do you suggest for comfort?
AC: Consider a standing height desk for your client or a desk that can transition from standing to sitting and vice versa. Standing desks keep us on our feet longer, which means burning more calories and lowering blood sugar spikes. However, standing can be hard on the feet and hips. You’ll want to offer your client options that present a balanced time between standing and sitting, giving the body breaks and movement when needed.
EC: Alright, a home office may mean a family milling around. How do you help your clients reduce disturbances?
AC: Choosing a space in the home that keeps the noise level to a minimum can be a difficult task if your clients have little ones (or big ones). Setting a schedule and a tone for a quiet work space can be key to household stability. If the home is small and it’s difficult to create space, add noise dampening elements. Even rugs laid over a hard floor surface can help absorb sound. Plants can diffuse noise a bit, as well. Incorporating soothing neutral music as background noise may help to diffuse the chitter-chatter of daily home life, too. Try a mellow, but slightly active, melody. Beware of using sounds that are too relaxing, which may slow your client’s productivity.
EC: When a client can’t have a fully dedicated office space, how do you suggest interior designers modify a dual space to promote calm and control?
AC: Decluttering! It’s very easy to have work spaces turn into catch-all spaces. Encourage your clients to add decluttering into their routine at the end or beginning of each work day. A simple trick is providing your clients beautiful storage pieces like desktop organizational accessories, hung elements on the walls, or decorative bins and boxes that fit within closets or other areas of the room, out of their walking path.
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EC: As art advisors we know how important soothing and uplifting works of art are to a home office (and life), but we’re fascinated by your thoughts on plants. Tell us more.
AC: ADD PLANTS! Plants not only make a healthy connection with nature, but they also cleanse the air around us, work as noise control, AND it is said that they can help with memory retention and productivity in the workplace. But who wants the plants to become work? The best choices for the office are succulents including aloe and cacti, as well as rubber plants and peace lilies. Of course, if your client finds caring for plants soothing, there are many other choices available.
EC: Any other quick tips you want to share?
AC: Create opportunities for your client to make the space personal. We are each motivated by different things. Be sure to leave room in the design for them to create that energy.
Amanda Curtis’s Go-To Detroit Resources;
There are many local resources to find the bits and pieces needed to design a productive home office for your clients. Here are a few of my favorites!
Paint: Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Valspar. Many of these brands have a matching ability from one to the other. Also, you can buy wall samples from some brands to test before you paint. 2021 Color Trends
Plants: There are a handful of local greenhouses you can travel to here in the Detroit and Metro Detroit area (and all across the state of Michigan) if you are looking for greenery: Telly’s, Goldner Walsh, Milford Gardens, and West Croft Gardens are a few. Eastern Market, Royal Oak Farmers Market, The Plant House, Lowes, Bordine’s, Mason Jar Shop (West Michigan), and many small shops around Detroit offer a handful of houseplants as well.
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