is also your
staggering 8 million Americans now work from home, enjoying the freedom and flexibility offered by telecommuting and the digitization of, well, everything. This seismic shift means millions of Americans in the last decade have had to redefine the physical space they call home—and rethink how that space functions in order to accommodate both their career and personal needs.
That is both the beauty and the challenge of the home office, according to Ashley Sumner, co-founder of Quilt, an online platform that connects female freelancers to co-work together in their homes. There is unparalleled freedom to create something tailored and functional, and Sumner believes employees can be incredibly successful in their homes. Research shows that work-from-home employees can be more productive than those who go into a traditional office, and that the former group finds it easier to concentrate.
I think you can be
super productive in
your home if you
set yourself up to be.Space matters.
I think you can be
super productive in
your home if you
set yourself up to be.
But Sumner also cautioned that the only way to be truly effective when you’re working out of your house or apartment is to be deliberate and creative about organizing your surroundings so they work for multiple purposes.
“Space matters,” she said, emphasizing how the efficiency of one’s setup is key. “I think you can be super productive in your home if you set yourself up to be.”
That’s a challenge that hits close to home for Francis Anderson, a freelance motion graphics designer and sound engineer whose clients range from independent musicians to massive, multinational restaurant chains. Francis does all of work out of his bedroom, which comes with both pros and cons. Working from home helps him keep his overhead costs low so he is able to take on smaller clients and passion projects, in addition to the bigger jobs. But on the other hand, Francis shares the apartment with his girlfriend and another roommate, so he must be mindful of their needs as well. It is a daily challenge to make it all happen in his relatively small bedroom without totally sacrificing his personal space.
Anderson’s top need? Storage. His accessories include an 80-pound touchscreen computer, large speakers, and bundles of cables and wires—all of which he needs to be able to safely stash, but also access easily throughout the day. He must also consider how to make the space still feel like a comforting and relaxing bedroom, one that his girlfriend also feels she can call her own.
“I constantly have to figure out how to arrange my equipment on my desk—and where to keep things—so that they’re simultaneously within reach, but also not in the way,” Anderson said.
“Keeping storage and clutter out of your home office is very, very key,” echoed Zain Aslam, IKEA interior designer, who explained how IKEA furniture in particular is suited to accomplish this goal. “It’s not the best thing to wake up first thing in the morning, step out of your bed, and trip on equipment or see a messy stack of papers on your desk, because you don’t even get a chance to wake up before you start stressing about work.”
Anderson is particularly concerned about maintaining those boundaries between his work gear and personal gear because he shares his bedroom with his girlfriend, and he’s mindful of her desire to have a bedroom that still feels like a real bedroom, not an office. He hopes that stepping up his organization game will finally give them both a space that really works on both of those levels.
A makeover is in order
Austin Texas-based designer Claire Zinnecker imagined a space for Anderson that provides the storage capacities he’s searching for; she knows the right solutions will keep him on-task during work hours while also allowing his bedroom to serve as a relaxing sanctuary. Better bedroom organization, she said, was the key to designing a room that can truly do double duty.
Slide to see the before & after
First up? Zinnecker customized a large ELVARLI shelving unit from IKEA that splits his room in two, clearly separating Anderson’s bed area from his workspace. In addition to offering that divide, it also allows Anderson to have storage solutions specifically matched to the size of his room—and to his somewhat odd-shaped, bulky equipment.
“The ELVARLI room divider tackles two issues Francis had, which are that he has a hard time visually separating sleep from work, and that he needs storage,” said Aslam.
Zinnecker also placed a large EKET storage combination next to his desk—this piece is also fully customized with a range of drawer sizes as well as open and closed shelves. It provides a pop of color, which is a nod to Anderson’s girlfriend who is drawn to ornate designs and bright textiles. He, on the other hand, is a minimalist. Zinnecker—who joked that her role is often one-part designer, one-part relationship counselor—said that this is where the ability to tailor-design pieces makes a crucial difference.
The most crucial challenge
when it comes to creating that professional space in your bedroom is that it's also the most personal space in your house.The most crucial
challenge when it
comes to creating
space in your bedroom
is that it's also the
most personal space
in your house.
Then she saved space and added more storage wherever she could. There’s the MALM bed—which allows you to flip up the bed and hide things underneath the mattress, taking advantage of a typically unused space— and the ALEX desk, which not only has two large drawers, but also built-in cable management to keep Anderson’s many cables and wires from taking over. This is the kind of organizational detail that a lot of people miss, but that pays dividends when it comes to designing a home office that is clean and functional, Aslam said.
“If you want space that’s uncluttered and easy to hang around in, cord management makes a huge difference,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t even have to reorganize or buy new furniture. Just cleaning up your cords will make you feel like you’re in a brand new space.”
The overall effect is a room that is cozy but functional. It looks sleek and clean, but is in fact layered with stealth storage solutions; and that truly gives Anderson the best of both worlds in one small space.
"The most crucial challenge when it comes to creating that professional space in your bedroom is that it's also the most personal space in your house," Aslam said. "So you want to try and keep the work stuff organized so you can actually enjoy your bedroom for what it is."
Upon seeing Zinnecker’s designs, Francis was thrilled. “I love the new look of my room, it lets the natural light fill the room and divides my space into work and recreation without creating two closed off, claustrophobic spaces,” he said. “This is a beautiful reimagining of my space and perfectly suits my unique needs.”