Designing Your Own Office

Tips to creating a work space that makes perfectly good sense.



Design elements like frosted glass cabinet doors and Ecoresin panels infused with bamboo can help customize your office.

Virginia Macdonald

The concept of blending work and personal time into a lifestyle is becoming more and more common—and acceptable—among many working Americans. Perhaps we can blame that on 24/7 technology, but it’s also a choice we make, and to accommodate that decision, many people are creating home offices of some sort—even if they don’t work from home full-time.  

COURTESY CALIFORNIA CLOSETS

Catherine Orn, who specializes in designing custom office space at California Closets in Winter Park, has helped customers from parents who work at home and want a pull-out work space for their children to husband-and-wife teams who share the office, as well as business people who need a functional home office and those who may use it just for their personal computer. 

The first thing Orn asks her customers to consider is how the space will serve them now and in the future. “We want them to think about their equipment, their storage needs. Do they want shelves up above or open? Filing cabinets for letter or legal size, with or without locks? Are they getting a new printer, and will they want to hide it? A lot of the design is based on personal preference,” she says, which is why doing your homework before creating a workspace is so important. 

Whether custom space is in your budget or you’re just trying to make do with pieces picked up at an office or furniture store, you still have to plan. First consider how you move around in the space. Do you reach for files or books and need shelves?  Do you lay things out and want flat table space? Do you need fabric boards to which you can tack notes or swatches? 

Orn helped a customer create office space with plenty of library shelves where he could store his binders and easily reach them. Lighting was installed to illuminate the shelves. You have to ask yourself, “What do you want the lighting to do? Enhance the room or be functional?” she says. Her client also had a large computer monitor, so the shelves were built to accommodate its size. Orn also suggests painting the backs of shelves in your favorite color to perk up the room or installing decorative panels. California Closets uses Ecoresin panels, textured translucent panels infused with organic materials like bamboo used to create patterns and add an elegant touch.  

One of the biggest challenges when designing your office space is cord management. Most desks come with a grommet for tucking in cords, but you might also want to consider a closed cabinet where wires and power strips can be hidden.  

Another consideration is the height of your workspace. You don’t have to settle for the traditional desk; you can choose counter or bar height. Perhaps you want to stand and use the desk to work with clients. A bar-height desk and stools would be perfect. At California Closets you can even mix and match the heights by creating a portion of the workspace at bar height and the other half at a traditional desk level. Or you can build it to your own specific measurements.  

COURTESY CALIFORNIA CLOSETS

Besides functionality, you’ll want your office space to look good. That’s the advantage to custom designing your space and choosing the exact materials right down to the cabinet’s handles. California Closets designs are big on texture, Orn explains. The trend is toward linen, rich wood grains or a more fashionable herringbone pattern called Corsican Weave. 

You can mix the textures in the work area, blending a smooth white laminate desk top with dark textured shelves
below and a lighter shade above. You can also go contemporary in design or more traditional. 

Another thing to keep in mind is how you position your office furniture. If you have glass doors or windows overlooking a pool area or a soothing green backyard, you definitely want to take advantage of the view. Pay attention to any western windows that will likely get intense afternoon sun, making it uncomfortably warm. 

However, the most important decision you’ll have to make for your home office is the chair, especially if you work full-time from home. Ask someone who works from home what it’s like and you may get this answer: “Well, I wake up and start work in my pajamas with a cup of coffee and before I know it, it’s 4 p.m. So I shower and put on a clean pair of pajamas and go back to work.” One of the dangers of working from home is sitting in the chair for long periods of time because there are no meetings down the hall or colleagues to lunch with. If that sounds familiar, then you’re a prime candidate for an ergonomic chair. Although they cost more than a basic desk chair, the tilt and the adjustable seat and arm height, as well as the moveable arm rests and back and leg support, can make all the difference in your productivity and just might save you and your back a trip to the doctor. 

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