Many Long Islanders have been thrust into working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While work can often easily be done from the couch or kitchen table, having a designated space is key to productivity.
We asked a few Long Island interior designers for their top tips for setting up a home office.
Kim Hendrickson-Radovich of Huntington-based Kim Radovich Interiors and Kim E. Courtney Home, advises telecommuters to remove things from their workspace that will be distracting, like a TV.
“I would certainly recommend that now because that is the ultimate distraction,” says Hendrickson-Radovich, who worked from home for several years before moving to office space in Huntington.
Similarly, Hendrickson-Radovich advises against working in the bedroom unless absolutely necessary.
“It can be a private place, but right now it’s best to keep the bedroom as a place to disconnect,” Hendrickson-Radovich says.
In a similar vein, Cynthia Braun, a professional organizer who owns the decluttering business Organize Your Life in Lake Grove, recommends finding an out-of-the-way spot — even a quiet nook that’s part of a larger room — to create your home office so that you can minimize distractions.
“If your idea of working from home is spreading files on the kitchen counter or propping your laptop on your living room sofa, then it’s time for an upgrade!” Braun says. “This is not going to work now. Converting a space, even a small one, into an office creates separation between home and work, and makes it easier to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Plus, you can close the door at the end of the day and find a work/life balance that works for everyone. Also, make sure your family knows when you need your privacy so that you can focus on them when work time is over for the day.”
Think creatively about space
If you don’t have a desk, you can create a desk-like space by moving a table, or using a card table with fabric cover, Hendrickson-Radovich says.
Your desk also doesn’t have to be against a wall, says Nancy Lupo of Interior Design By Nancy, who is based in Deer Park.
“It can float in the room, grounded with a bold rug, smack dab in the center of the room,” Lupo says.
Use nonoffice furniture for storage to add some interest to the space.
“I have an old armoire in my office with my calendar and upcoming projects on the inside of the doors,” Lupo says. “Get creative with the space you have and look for space in unexpected areas.”
Keep things organized
Make sure you have enough storage space for your supplies and for your computer and printer, Braun says. You should also have a file system that works for you so that you can find papers in less than 30 seconds.
A comfortable wheeled chair is also important and allows for flexibility in getting your items.
Decluttering is also key, and Hendrickson-Radovich says it might be the perfect time to “Marie Kondo your space.”
“This is the best time for us to purge so when we get back to business, we’re going ready to go,” Hendrickson-Radovich says.
Perhaps most importantly these days, keep your space clean.
Braun advises people to disinfect their workspace every morning before using it and at the end of the day using Lysol spray, Lysol wipes or more than 60% isopropyl alcohol.
Add color and life
Home office spaces don’t have to be office-y.
“Add plants and maybe a bouquet of fresh flowers every once in a while, to brighten it up,” Lupo says. “The greens and florals can really help with creativity and happiness.”
Try to create a space that has personality.
“Setting up a new home office is an opportunity to create a space that’s completely yours,” Braun says. “Many of the offices I created often are intensely personal spaces that combine work and retreat. I always suggest adding artwork and collections and also installing dimmers, or lamps on dimmers … so the lights can be bright for office work and dim for relaxing.”
Zoom into the right background
Sometimes, even a well-organized home office isn't always ready for its close-up. With so many meetings going virtual, it may not be possible to hide the basket of laundry that needs to be folded, or the pile of dishes from at-home lunches.
The video conferencing service Zoom, which has become the go-to for work meetings, has a feature that allows you to swap out your background for something virtual, such as shelves piled with books or a beach dotted with palm trees.
Zoom offers some default backgrounds, and you can also upload your own photos — conference call at Jones Beach, anyone? — but there are many places online where you can find or make your own creative virtual Zoom backgrounds. Here are a few:
Canva: This web-based graphic design application comes with free photos and free virtual backgrounds that you can customize — the conference call Bingo sheet is a popular one — or you can create a customized background with your own images and graphics, including one of your home office in a tidier state.
As seen on TV: Several TV networks, including NBC, CBS and FOX, have created backgrounds from their hit TV shows, such as Leslie Knope’s office from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” The online design company Modsy even blogged about creating versions of their favorite characters’ homes, including Long Island native Jerry Seinfeld’s sitcom apartment.
Stock images: If you can’t find what you’re looking for in your own photo library or on Canva, you can find all sorts of images on stock photo sites, such as Unsplash, Shutterstock or iStockphoto. Search for “home office,” or “conference room,” or find a photo from your favorite national park. There are many images that are free, though some require a small fee.
— Lisa Chamoff