How to make your home office a sanctuary


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Erin Lawrence

Home office tips, how to, improve, better, working from home, tech, technology, organization, light

I spend a lot of time in my home office. It’s the nerve centre for a lot of the work that I do each day. About twelve years ago it was rather hastily set up, with a leftover mishmash of items that didn’t fit elsewhere when we moved into our home. It’s functioned just fine until now as a place to set my laptop, sit, and be able to focus. But a few weeks ago I started to think it could use a refresh. Today, I’m glad I went ahead and made some improvements.

Easy home office upgrades for Working From Home

Here’s what I upgraded, what I improved, and what I replaced. And by the way, I’d love to hear what your working from home tips and tricks are, so share them in comments below.

Home office tips: Consider the colour scheme

One of my first decisions was to decide whether to paint. I opted against it. After all these years, I’m still in love with the gorgeous lavender hue on my home office walls. But I still needed to find a way to change things up. I contemplated vibrant wallpaper, and gave up on that idea when I realized it would cost me almost $600 to do one wall with the cool paper I had fallen in love with. I decided to leave the walls, but change nearly everything else in the office, and adopt a ‘light and bright’ contrast to the purple, by bringing in white anywhere I could. My new lavender and white look is calming, soothing and bright.

Home office tips, how to, improve, better, working from home, tech, technology, organization, light

Apple Sidecar setup.

Home office tips: Create a functional laptop workspace

The first thing I needed to do was overhaul my computer set up…

I use an Apple MacBook, and have for about the last eight years, since switching from a PC. At the time, the switchover was huge; I was navigating an unfamiliar world of new commands, different keys on the keyboard, and all new programs. All this time later I am not looking back. The switch has been amazing, and has allowed me to operate seamlessly across my phone, tablet, and laptop thanks to features like the cloud, and AirDrop.

I love my laptop, and now my iPad has become part of my desktop set up thanks to the new Apple feature called Sidecar which allows you to use an iPad as a second screen for your laptop (as long as it running Catalina operating system). You can read more about how to set Apple Sidecar up in your home office here.

Read more home office tech tips here!

Home office tips: don’t replace the desk: make it over!

I’ve had my home office desk for probably nearly 20 years. It’s a very simple white birch laminated wood desktop, with brushed silver legs that I got from IKEA when I bought my first home in Vancouver. It’s sturdy, just the right size for me, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, so throwing it away and replacing it seemed kind of needless. Instead I opted to give it a makeover.

Home office tips, how to, improve, better, working from home, tech, technology, organization, light

Wrapping the desk with faux marble contact paper

I found some high gloss marble-look contact paper on Wayfair, and ordered a roll. It did take help from my husband and two sets of hands to get the ultra sticky paper to go on straight and bubble free, but the paper adheres quite well, and brings a whole new look and lightness to my work surface. I also added a bamboo cooling mat to prevent the heat of the laptop from eventually bubbling up the paper.

Home office tips: find comfort in a non traditional desk chair

Home office tips, how to, improve, better, working from home, tech, technology, organization, light

Let’s be honest; desk chairs are ugly. I suppose in large office environments they may serve a purpose, but in my home office I wanted something that was softer in texture, and both comfortable and stylish. I opted for an upholstered dining chair instead. The reproduction Saarinen Executive Chair with wood legs sets just the right tone, and the amethyst colour is luxurious and anchors the room

To spruce things up a bit, and create some more support, I added a custom made throw pillow, using a photograph I took of Calgary‘s Bow building. You can create your own custom fabrics and cushion covers like I did from Spoonflower.

Home office tips: Add a rug, but not any rug 

The old rug I had in my office had no ties to the design or decor of the room. It was simply what was left over after I decorated the rest of the home. It was time to replace it with some thing that would liven up the space and be more purposeful. Something I would truly enjoy looking at—and walking on.

Home office tips, how to, improve, better, working from home, tech, technology, organization, light

Ruggable white shag rug

I recently wrote a review of Ruggable washable area rugs. After ordering one for our living room, I was so impressed that I ordered two more for the front and back doors. So when I heard Ruggable was now making faux fur rugs they call shags, that are also fully washable, I knew that was the perfect choice for my office. The Ruggable shag version is soft, cozy, and adds a nice ladylike touch to the space.

Check out the full review of these rugs, and see what happened when I poured a glass of wine and a cup of coffee onto the rug and let it sit.

Working from home makeover: Hide the clutter

Almost everything in my office used to sit out in the open. In my mind it was for ease of access, but the truth is it was just visual clutter.

I started my mission to organize and minimize by digging a small glass-door cabinet out of our basement, and putting it in the office. Into it went the printer, printing supplies, and other office supplies like envelopes and file folders. While I do like my HP Envy printer (read the review of that on the Best Buy blog) I didn’t need to look at it. It also doesn’t fit my new colour scheme. Though my new HP Tango does… read the review of the Tango, which is designed to hide in plain sight, here.

Home office tips, how to, improve, better, working from home, tech, technology, organization, light

Poppin file cabinet

I also decided to finally send my old, crumbling particleboard filing cabinet to the great recycle bin in the sky. I replaced it with a chic and mod powder coated steel file cabinet from Poppin via Wayfair. The three-drawer cabinet holds office supplies and essentials, as well as my key files.

Organize the home office: Shelving & wall organization

Home office tips, how to, improve, better, working from home, tech, technology, organization, light

New floating shelves. $20 from Ikea

For a long time my walls were bare. With the office redo, it was time to add some storage space and pizzazz. I opted for a trio of white floating shelves from Ikea to display a handful of meaningful objets like lava rock, art and to offer a bit of storage. Having these items up on the wall frees up space from the surfaces in my room and means less visual clutter and more artistic display. I feel like this helps get the creative juices flowing.

Home office tips, how to, improve, better, working from home, tech, technology, organization, light

Perch wall unit from Homey Can Do

As a technology blogger, I also often have lots of gadgets and devices hanging around. I needed a way to clear off more of the desk surface, while still keeping essentials nearby. I also wanted some thing that wouldn’t look like a typical office, so I chose a set of magnetic modular plastic wall organizers from Honey Can Do. The Perch wall system gives me a streamlined place for my gadgets, papers and essentials. I love that you can hang it using screws or (easy!) adhesive command tape strips!

Home office ambiance: add smart lighting & purposeful fixtures

home office upgrade, reno, refresh, office space, how to, lighting, technology

Dimmable starburst light fixture

The overhead light in my home office was a standard fixture that was probably left over from the original builders. It was likely cheap, and something I rarely thought about. It provided a dim overhead glow and that was about it.

When I started thinking about improving the lighting, I knew the dull, two-bulb fixture had to go. Knowing I wanted some thing with a lot of style, plus a fixture that was both super bright for dark winter months of early morning work, but also dimmable, I started searching for a better fixture. I opted for a fabulous 10-bulb starburst style fixture from Wayfair. At full brightness, it lights up the room wonderfully and gives me just the right light to work in.

My overhead light is now sculptural and feels like a piece of art in the room. It’s one of the first things I see when I walk in, and it makes me happy. Does the stark overhead bulb in your home office inspire you, or discourage you? If it doesn’t spark joy, consider an upgrade. This is the best $300 I’ve spent in a long time.

Want to read more about home office lighting and what I did in my office space? Check out my home office lighting blog here!

Home office tips: Add smart & colourful lighting

Working from home, home office, tech, tips, ideas, better, improve

Philips Hue Go lamp set to Rose.

As a technology writer, one of my favourite smart home gadgets is smart colour-changing lighting. Being able to adjust the colour can offset the winter blues, or make the summer heat seem less intense. Plus, painting with digital light adds a completely new dimension to the overall atmosphere of the room.

If I need to focus, I can ask Google Assistant to put on daylight coloured task lighting. If I want to relax, a lavender hue lets me think. When it’s cold outside, I can invoke the Google assistant to create a flickering light effect akin to a nice warm fire—without the hazards!

I have a Philips Hue Go lamp under a table for an ambient glow and a Hue Smart Bulb in my new office lamp. I can turn them on when I walk into the office in the morning by just asking google. Similarly I can set them up so that they will automatically turn off at the end of the day.

Podcasting or video? Don’t forget access to your microphone!

Working from home, home office, tech, tips, ideas, better, improve, apple sidecar, how to

Microphone arm

I record voiceovers for my YouTube videos every week, and I need access to my microphone constantly. I used to hide it in a drawer, but in my mini makeover I added an articulating mic stand arm. This is genius because it lets me display my mic and keep it close, but lets me easily push it out of the way when I need the space for other work. I found mine for a few bucks on Amazon.

Home office tips: Don’t forget the air!

If you’re going to spend a lot of time in any indoor environment, you’ll want to give some thought to the air.  I use the Dyson Pure Cool Me fan and purifier. It’s small enough so that it doesn’t take up a lot of space in the room, but it’s highly effective as both a fan and a purifier, and importantly for a work environment, it’s ultra quiet! Check out the full review of the Dyson Pure Cool Me fan and purifier here.

Home office tips:create a stress-free environment

Saje Wellness essential oil, diffuser, holiday, kit

I added one last little touch to the office so that it would always feel welcoming: a Saje Wellness Essential Oil Diffuser. In the same way as the light can help me focus, and feel warmer or cooler, different essential oil scents have properties and benefits that can help get work done. Adding oils like lemon, lime, or citrus can brighten your environment and help you focus. Handling a stressful task? Think lavender. Work giving you a headache? A few drops of mint oil can ease the ache. I always like to have the diffuser running while I’m working for both the essential oil benefits, and the added humidity. Read the review of the Saje diffuser and oils here.

All told, my mini office renovation didn’t cost me a lot, but it did increase my desire to want to be in here significantly. Whether you decide to replace, or reinvigorate some of the items in your space, making just a few small changes can go along way to improving your productivity, particularly if you’re spending more time working from home right now.

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The finished product!

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