If you’d initially planned on working from home for just a few weeks, then maybe a few months, and now. . .well, for much longer, chances are your WFH setup is a little ad hoc. But, take comfort in the fact that you’re definitely not alone. Interior designers and decorators have seen a huge surge in requests for home office space upgrades this year and, for lots of us, a solid WFH setup has transitioned from a “nice to have” space to an absolutely essential one.
Transitioning from a temporary WFH setup to a permanent one can take some careful planning and consideration, especially if you’re working with a small or multi-purpose space. To get some tips for making it happen, we spoke with Leyden Lewis, an adjunct professor at The New York School of Interior Design and founder of his eponymous design studio. He’s an expert designer who’s known for his calm, poetic spaces, and he brings his professional experience into the classroom within NYSID’s Institute for Continuing and Professional Studies, which offers design classes for career changers, established professionals, and design enthusiasts alike.
Leyden shared a quick course in designing a WFH space that inspires productivity, efficiency, and creativity, all while looking great. Let’s begin!
1. Start from Within
When designing any space, whether it’s a blank slate or a room that just needs a practical refresh, Leyden encourages his students and clients to first “focus on the feeling and emotions that you want your space to evoke,” and then reverse engineer from there. Every space, even a small WFH setup, should speak to a mood. For a workspace, that could mean choosing bright, energetic colors that make you feel productive first thing in the morning. Or, it could mean making room for creature comforts like fresh flower arrangements or an ergonomic chair that truly transform the space into one you’re happy to spend eight hours a day in. Moral of the story: Establishing a mood is the first step in choosing furniture, a layout, and color palette that will help you create a great space.
2. Establish an Anchor
Once the mood is set, Leyden recommends choosing an “anchor” such as a fireplace or window to build the room or space around. Examine the existing architectural features such as the characteristics of the mouldings and the tone of the flooring (which is likely not going to change) to establish a color palette and style, and then add character to it. For a smaller WFH space where you don’t necessarily have interesting architectural detailing or a window, your “anchor” could be your desk, a prominent piece of wall art, or maybe even a plant friend. Whatever the situation, the point is to build your space’s color palette and style from a single source of inspiration to create a cohesive look.
3. Set Boundaries
Working from home can be a pleasure, but it undeniably blurs the line between work time and home time. Just as we’ve become accustomed to following proper sleep hygiene protocols for a good night’s rest (no screens in bed!), Leyden recommends setting up physical or mental boundaries when rethinking a WFH space. “The dining room is now both an office and a classroom,” he says. “It’s important as we spend more time inside that we create and set scheduled boundaries for these different functions to differentiate our personal and professional and academic lives.”
Depending on your space and schedule, setting a boundary could mean anything from adding a room divider to your workspace, getting a pair of noise-canceling headphones, or just creating a dedicated spot to stow away your laptop at the end of every workday. Even something as simple as investing in smart bulbs that can be timed to adjust your workspace lighting at different times of day can become an effective reminder that it’s time to stop working and start relaxing at the end of the day.
4. Embrace Change
Seasoned design pros know that any space is never 100 percent “done.” Leyden embraces the concept of approaching your WFH setup as an evolving space that can grow and become more practical, efficient, and lovely over time. If you’re on a budget or don’t have the time for a major refresh, he recommends prioritizing existing items in your space to sell, upcycle, trade, refinish, or reupholster. You can start small by making a list of the trades, improvements, or purchases you’d like to make and set up a timeline in which you can tackle them all. You’ll find that refinishing an old desk or swapping out your dining chair for a proper office chair over the weekend gives you some extra encouragement throughout the week, and you’ll end up with a WFH space that feels at least mostly done in no time.
5. Keep Learning
Finally: Never stop learning. Even if you don’t have ambitions of becoming a design pro, there are plenty of resources out there to help you learn the basic principles of design, which will serve you well for a workspace refresh and beyond. NYSID offers a wide range of on-site and in-person courses that let you test the waters of a career in interior design or could just help you out with your next DIY design project. If you’re looking for a place to start, Leyden recommends their CE050 Intro to Interior Design Course, which gives a thorough introduction. You can request more information, explore other course offerings, and design a learning path you’ll love at NYSID.edu.