Anyone who’s worked from home knows that it’s a double-edged sword: You’re in the comfort of your own home, but it’s a challenge to stay focused around household distractions like noisy family members, unfinished chores and easy access to your television or the snack pantry. But whether you’re looking to log some post-office hours, you work remotely full-time, or you just need a nook for paperwork, there are some tricks to setting up your home office to boost brainpower and get more done.
The first step toward making an efficient space is to define its purpose, said Michelle Chase, owner and designer at Anchor Design Co. in Bangor. When it comes to decorating for clients, “I always begin by assessing how they’ll be using the home office,” she said. Some questions she considers (that you should, too): “Are they looking for a place to organize and pay bills? Will they be working out of the office? How many hours a day do they anticipate spending in there? And sometimes most importantly, how many people will be using the office?”
Create a Calm Atmosphere
Jeanie Rogers, a licensed clinical social worker who owns Healing Tree Therapy LLC, a private practice in downtown Bangor, knows the importance of ambiance when it comes to decorating an office. As a therapist, she strives to create a soothing environment for both herself and patients, vibes that can enhance any workspace, no matter your industry.
To capture a sense of calm and keep your thought process flowing (and anxiety at bay), consider taking Rogers’ approach. “Light and natural-colored walls such as beige, cream, yellow, and light blue contribute to a positive mood,” she said. Chase is also partial to seaworthy hues. “My office has high ceilings and features a floor-to-ceiling wall of open shelving that’s painted a great shade of blue/green,” she said. “That color reminds me of my favorite place — the water — and is always inspirational!”
In the name of keeping the calm — and blocking the chaos out — having a space where you can shut the door, or at least turn your back from the rest of your home, can minimize distractions while you’re trying to stay on-task.
Lighting is also key in setting the tone you’re after; to some extent, it’s dependent on the work you do, Rogers said. In Rogers’ case, the goal is to promote relaxation, so in her office, “Desk and floor lamps provide an atmosphere that feels safe and warm.”
When it comes to where you work, consider whether a too-dim glow will make you too sleepy, and notice if you feel energized by natural light. If setting up shop near a window isn’t an option, consider daylight-mimicking bulbs that keep you alert without causing excess eye strain.
Especially during the long Maine winters, bringing a bit of the outside in can make your home office feel fresh. “I believe every workspace needs life,” Chase said. “I always incorporate live plants of various sizes and types.”
Her favorites include low-maintenance succulents and air plants that thrive in off-the-ground planters. “I love to use air plants in interesting containers, and can always find what I’m looking for at The Rock and Art Shop in Downtown Bangor,” she said. “The store is full of whimsical items!”
Equip Your Area for Organization
Of course, it’s difficult to be productive when your work area is in chaos. “Research shows that clutter may be a contributor to anxiety and depression,” Rogers explained. So when it comes to equipping your space for cleanliness, look for chic storage options that do double-duty as decor.
Chase knows this from experience. “I need to have a clutter-free work area, so I’ve incorporated several file cabinets and drawer storage for supplies,” Chase said of her own home office. “My wall shelves are both functional and decorative. I use them to store blueprints, client portfolios, and house my printer.”
Make the Space Yours
While a home office serves a functional purpose, Chase emphasizes that it shouldn’t be sterile. “Don’t be afraid to let your personal style shine through in your office space,” she advised. “Use colors and textures that speak to you, motivate you, and draw you in.” Some of her favorite personal touches in her workspace include “Photos of my family, plants, and a large wooden countertop square that belonged to my father are out in the open … All things that hold meaning to me.”
Further, she recommends choosing decor that’s tailored to your taste. “I believe a desk, chair, and area rug that suits your personality is important,” she said. “Whether it be dark wood with a formal feel, distressed lighter-toned wood with a relaxed, beachy style, or glossy and modern, it should reflect your style and be a place you want to sit at!”
After all, how can you practice peak brainpower in a place that feels impersonal? “If it isn’t a room you look forward to being in, you’re killing your motivation before you even walk through the door!” the designer said.