Creating a home office: how to style your remote-working space with easy storage solutions and desks — from DIY to designer

Following the coronavirus lockdown, for many of us, our homes must now adapt to a raft of new round-the-clock needs, often with two or more people sharing the same space.

Currently retailers can still deliver electronics and electrical goods, furniture, stationery and lighting if ordered online. 

There’s been a run on small inexpensive desks — “not as bad as toilet rolls, but definitely an upsurge,” says Robert Pearce, director of the Futon Company, who still has good stock levels. Here, a mini desk costs £99.

Equally compact is its oak Zed standing desk — good for a multi-tasking parent doing quick screen checks (futoncompany.co.uk; buy a desk and get more office kit half-price).

Habitat’s desk sales, meanwhile, are up 70 per cent for some models in the past two weeks. The Cato, at £150, has proved a big seller.

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Habitat’s Cato desk in Sage Green, £150

1. Designer desks

For more serious desks, visit SCP in Shoreditch where featured designers include Matthew Hilton, Sarah Kay, PearsonLloyd and Terence Woodgate with prices from £499 to £2,500.

For sheer elegance you can’t beat the Brunel range by Rob Scarlett at Heal’s (desk, £549).

Find dozens of genuine vintage models from £300 at PAMONO (0203 1371 002).

For a handmade industrial style in wood and metal, try Steel Vintage in Bristol (01454 413 329).

Well-established Office Reality has basic desks from about £110 with corner models at £150. Three-drawer storage units start from £90.

Blue Spot Furniture has its own factory in Yorkshire — and a website packed with advice.

“Meticulous measuring up” is the mantra: “Use masking tape to outline a proposed desk’s footprint on the floor.”

2. Sort out the cables

Cables typically are spaghetti junction, so good desks have “cable management” while printers and keyboards can now be wireless.

Find neat ways to organise your cables at Office Reality. A wifi booster/extender can fix poor wifi — all is explained at mobilesignalboosters.co.uk.

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The San Francisco Ash “smart” charging desk has a QI wireless charger hidden under its white glass top and costs £399

3. Wall storage

An affordable icon is the String wall storage system, designed in 1949 by a pair of architects as shelving for a public library.

Its minimalist ladders can support storage and a desk (johnlewis.comutilitydesign.co.uk).

Visit stringfurniture.com/build-your-own and find an online planner.

4. Office accessories

A half-size classic Anglepoise lamp can plug into a USB port and costs £99 from John Lewis or SCP (as before).

Find cordless rechargeable lights and a huge choice of desks at Wayfair.

You’ll also need a chair which properly supports your body. Inevitably these are not very homely, so add a sheepskin or a small throw.

5. Storage solutions

Baskets and boxes can keep things under control. 

This is your space so you could be creative and decorate with wrapping paper or wallpaper, or adding paint and a postcard.

IKEA is excellent for office essentials (order on line at ikea.com, who can do contact-free deliveries if requested).

“You get style freedom when you work from home,” says author Joanna Thornhill, whose 2014 Home for Now, a popular décor manual for renters, was reissued recently with the new title of Insta Style for Your Living Space (£9.99, Cico Books). It’s packed with creative ideas to negate a “soulless cubicle”.

6. DIY ideas

Ideas for desks include a flush door placed on two trestles, glass on top of it cut to size, perhaps; or an old kitchen table with useful drawers; or a foldaway drop-leaf table.

Storage boxes could be vintage or wicker crates, old mini trunks (try Made.com) or big woven shopping baskets.

7. Feel-good artwork

Add some artwork. Museum posters are not expensive and plants add a feel-good factor. Helen Maxfield, assistant buyer at John Lewis, gives more tips on its website.

8. Declutter your space

Just published is Mad About the House: 101 Interior Design Answers by podcaster/blogger Kate Watson-Smyth (Pavilion, £20).

She chats about where to site your home office: in a spare bedroom if you have that luxury.

She has ideas about desks to store in a wardrobe, if it’s not stuffed with clothes. So use this time as an opportunity to declutter.

9. What about your routine?

“Designing your life is as important as designing your space,” says Will Knight, currently consultant to the London Design Fair and previously of London Design Festival and 100% Design.

“Get up, have breakfast, shower and change into something more than pajamas. Have a routine, with family time factored in. I really would hate now to be tied to an ‘office’, though a getaway space is useful.’’

Before you go stir-crazy, “get up and stretch regularly and exercise, go the park, go for a run”.

Sabine Zetteler, whose east London agency is listed this year as a best company to work for by The Dots social network, set up remote working for her five staff two weeks ago.

She sent them home with a “care package” of an office light, stationery, books and coffee.

Don’t forget that video conferencing puts your home on show. Cara Ward, of PuRe PR, foresaw events three weeks ago, and put IT systems in place for her staff of 20, with home access via VPN, underpinned by WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom.

“Video calls to clients need an uncluttered spot — no views of unmade beds or piles of dirty dishes.”