For those of us who can work from home, we've all pretty much adjusted over the last year (whether with opens arms... or not). And while few are missing the commute to the office, or the social requirement of wearing pants, finding a balance between work and play in one space is the purview of great home design.
Whether it's to find more space, less clutter or just a change of scenery, these top designers from Western Canada shed some light on the design side of working from home.
Design by Space Harmony Interiors, Photo by Colin Perry.
“The need for a home office is a space where you can ‘disconnect’ from the rest of the house. If the space is limited, the closet-tuned-office could still serve the purpose, but we’re seeing more and more clients turning their whole extra bedroom into an office. With a desk facing the windows, beautiful wallpaper, nice furniture, decor and lighting, a home office can easily feel like a luxurious corner office. The above photo was a design concept to create a room with a minimal amount of furniture but with lots of personality. The fabric walls, velvet drapery and wool rugs absorb the sound and create a very quiet and peaceful environment.” - Negar Reihani, Space Harmony Interiors Inc.
Design by One Seed Architecture and Interiors, Photo by Ema Peter.
Away from the Action
“What we have found is that the size of the space is not the key element to its success, but in fact that the work space itself is an enjoyable and comfortable place to spend time. It needs to energize and inspire. Studies have repeatedly shown that performance at work improves when people have access to views, daylight, and fresh air. These same rules apply when working from home. Whenever possible, that means placing work spaces close to a window with natural light, and incorporating a design with a bit of whimsy. We like to have fun with the home office!
As work has transitioned into our home spaces, we need to be careful to ensure that work does not also invade our home lives and personal time. We take the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach, by moving the workspace out of the main living area where possible which has an added benefit of creating a quieter space to work when other members of the household are around. This does not mean that the home office needs its own dedicated room, but can be incorporated in a stair landing, or in another carefully planned niche in a home. If a workspace is more centrally located within the home, it is helpful to incorporate sufficient closed storage nearby, so that the papers and files can be away when the workday ends. – Allison Holden-Pope, One Seed Architecture and Interiors
Design by Gillian Segal, Photo by Ema Peter.
“Instead of a specific room [to focus on], I have found our clients are really just wanting to maximize space, and make their surroundings more comfortable and beautiful. Spaces that previously weren’t ‘design priorities’ (basements, un-used spaces) have become front-and-centre to create new spaces and additional usable room. I think previously, at-home offices weren’t an aesthetic priority, but now with so much time being spent here (and endless zoom calls) we are finding our clients prioritizing the look and feel of these spaces, so they can enjoy their time while working. Adding custom millwork is always a great way to increase functionality of a space and is a great investment even for resale.”
-Gillian Segal, Gillian Segal Design Inc.
Design by Alykhan Velji Designs. Photo by Joel Klassen.
“We have always tried to ensure that home office spaces are not only functional but also inviting and comfortable. It is easy for home offices to look utilitarian so we try and incorporate our signature patterns and texture into spaces to make them feel more residential. Built-ins are key to ensure you are making the most of the space and optimizing on storage.” – Aly Velji, Alykhan Velji Designs
"The aesthetic of a home office has changed over the years, but much more significantly over the course of the pandemic. What it looks like behind you is almost equally as important as what is in front of you. Admit it: you’ve been on a zoom call and gotten distracted by all the stuff behind the person speaking and spent more time analyzing the background than actually listening to what the person was saying. With the invitation of prying eyes on the many video-based conference calls, that home office became a very visible space to many more people.
Go for a large piece of art and a credenza with lots of drawers would be my recommendation. It creates a less distracting backdrop for anyone that may be watching you, provides additional concealed storage for those more functional objects that aren’t necessarily “pretty” but required for your daily routine and allows you to clear off some of the clutter from your desk. – Kevin Mitchell, Mitchell Design House
"A wider hallway or stair landing can provide great in between space for workspace use" - David Nicolay. Design by Evoke International Design, Photo by Janis Nicolay.
Functional Floor Plans
“We work in a variety of scales of houses, but we always strive to provide flexible workspace in even the smaller spaces. Where we have larger houses to work with, we often provide dedicated home offices. This is proving to be a bigger conversation currently as more people have committed more time to working from home for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, we continue to find spaces in our floor plans to provide this function, but with really comfortable dining chairs or counter stools, the kitchen can be a great place to hang out and work on a laptop - and be close to the fridge!” – David Nicolay, Evoke International Design
For more in-depth tips from Amanda, check out her Youtube Video: Essentials for Setting up Your Home Office Design by Amanda Lwanga, Photo by Amanda Lwanga.
Wallpaper that Works
“There are two vital aspects of setting up any space, particularly a home office, which is balancing the aesthetics and the function of your new office space. For functionality, it’s paramount that you have enough surface area to work comfortably. Lighting is also very important, as most home bedrooms are not ergonomically set up for a home office, and so they usually have one light in the center that isn’t necessarily enough appropriate lighting.
For aesthetics, this is the opportunity to communicate your personal and professional brand, especially if you’re a business owner. There’s a psychology behind colour, so whichever colours you surround yourself with affect yourself but they also communicate to your clients. For myself, I chose gold wallpaper, it’s luminous and textured, and it’s exciting to me and it communicated how I design spaces for my clients.” – Amanda Lwanga, Linger Design Studio
When renovating their Gastown loft, Aleem took extra care and focus on one room in particular. Photo By Aleem Kassam.
The 5 S's
“Pre and post-pandemic, we always had in mind that our lifestyles naturally would bring us to the heart of the home; the kitchen. Since I run an interior design firm and my partner is in software, we both find ourselves working from home often throughout the day, and right into the late hours of the evenings. Though a dedicated office space is still in the plans of completion of our renovation, our kitchen island is an area that we've always gravitated towards—where we can work alongside one another, and in the evenings when one might be cooking, the other working, with plentiful amount of space to spread out!
Aleem's 5 Tips for Kitchen Design:
Size With an island at just over 13' Long, and 5' Wide, there's ample space for all of these daily and nightly activities!
Surface The countertop surface was also essential, as it needed to be indestructible for all of these activities too; especially with laptops, pens, spilled coffees, books and equipment finding their homes here. I opted for one of the latest Dekton slabs: Laurent, by Cosentino.
Streamlining Knowing we'd have unsightly wires, I incorporated hideaway plugs in the island, just under the overhang so we could neatly tuck-away all of our cables. I sourced them from Robinson Bath & Lighting, and they're the Pop-Out Plugs by LeGrand.
Seating Because our counter stools serve the purpose of working throughout the day, we needed something very comfortable, but still minimal and streamlined. For these, I went with upholstered, swivel, black oak stools from the Balmain Collection by Restoration Hardware.
Sipping Because my partner and I are coffee fanatics, in the design of the space, I conveniently located the built-in coffee machine directly behind the island, part of the Noir Collection from Jenn Air Appliances.” – Aleem Kassam, Kalu Interiors
Design by Paul Sangha Creative. Photo by Brett Hitchins.
Glimpses of Greenery
“Your work space can be so much more than a desk within a room. Choose spaces in your home which allow you to bring the outdoors in, whether it be beside a window that allows sunlight to stream in, or frames a beautiful view of foliage – this will visually expand your space, even if you aren’t occupying it. To add a little sparkle and happiness to the darker days of winter, add garden lighting that can be enjoyed from inside your workspace. If you have a small patio or terrace close by, raised containers are a cost-friendly and fun way to grow edible species and add colour to your space.” – Paul Sangha, Paul Sangha Creative
Design by Kalu Interiors, Photo by Provoke Studios.
“I have found that the dining area has become so much more during this pandemic. It has become the area where we do more than just eat. It has become my mobile home office area so that I am still part of the action and able to keep an eye on the kids, which is made easier by our open floor plan. And when we do need to hop on a client call, (or Zoom) that’s when we use the home office area.” – Phyllis Lui, Kalu Interiors
A hidden office in the kitchen, shown with the doors closed and opened. Design by PURE Design Inc. Photo by Janis Nicolay.
Behind Closed Doors
“2021 is all about making sure working from home doesn’t mean living at work. Spaces that are beautiful and functional are a must, but where possible, a degree of separation or the ability to ‘close the door’ and shut off for the evening is a must. I always love built-in millwork to make the most of a space - with custom storage for the needs of the homeowners, and when opportunity allows, a pretty view.” - Ami McKay, PURE Design Inc