How to Set Up the Ideal Home Office

Your home office should be sleek, comfortable, and, above all, inspire you to be productive. We walk you through how to achieve that.

Though in early adulthood a return to school is either implacably real, non-applicable, or a vague theoretical threat looming over your increasingly mature (as in cheese, gently moldering) life, the emotional tenor of September always remains the same. We are forever marked by going to school, advancing in grades. The onset of fall creates a simultaneous rush of nostalgia, momentum, and a renewed capacity for change, just like it all happened with your first move into dorm rooms.

So what to do now with that vestigial sense of energy? Perhaps September is a perfect time to rethink where you do your work these days. Instead of occupying a new classroom or crafting a perfect schedule, make your home office a place in which you actually want to spend time.

A good home office contains multitudes. It’s a space for doing things you might not want to do otherwise: paperwork, laborious emails, researching the best kind of dishwasher to acquire. But it’s also a space to be inspired by. It should make you feel motivated to create, make headway on those projects you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. Thus the home office must be both efficient but also comfortable, prodding you to get something done but not making you feel bad about it.

And though the home office is by definition at home, it also has to feel separate enough from the rest of the domestic space to make it feel like an isolated zone. That HGTV cliche of a desk in the living room or kitchen, it’s a lie. The home office must be kept separate, whether that’s by actual walls or at least a heavy curtain and some shoji screens

Searching Ikea, or CB2, or West Elm, the dominant idea of the home office seems to be a replica of the executive suite: a sprawling desk, enormous leather chair, a proliferation of storage space. It looks like a stage set to fire someone, except the only person to fire is yourself. Don’t you want a slightly friendlier vibe?

The furniture in your home office is an opportunity to be expressive rather than generic, unlike at work.

Mid-century modern is a cliche principally because it’s the most enduring furniture style created after the colonial era, so sticking with it is perfectly acceptable. (No one actually uses Memphis Group furniture; they just like to brag about it.) To that end, I recommend going with Lane, an enduring furniture brand that hasn’t become quite as expensive as Eames or other Danish variants. Their vintage dovetail coffee table is as beautiful as it is functional.

The ultimate table on which to do work is the Herman Miller Nelson Swag Leg. This is not up for debate. No amount of bankers’ green leather or reclaimed wood will outweigh the classic’s sheer verve, designed 50 years ago and still perfectly fresh today. The legs curve invitingly, as its name suggests. The surface is neither too big nor too small. The double-decker structure and cubby design mean your myriad charging cords will never get tangled. Of course, you’ll pay for the timelessness up front.

For more contemporary options, the Stern Counter Table from CB2 can function as a standing desk, because obviously the alternative — sitting — will slowly murder you.

To fill out the rest of your home office, use a Wall Control peg board to build a customized, convenient storage area that won’t get in the way of your keyboard. The Herman Miller Aeron Chair is the only non-lethal way you can sit and work for long periods of time. Greycork is a new Ikea-alternative brand that will provide a modular bookshelf to house all your leather-bound volumes. Then, just add an industrial-grade beer and wine cooler, and you’re all set.

Earlier this week, I started moving into a new coworking space that I’m starting with a friend. It’s sort of like a collective home office, the ideal space in which to do work, be inspired, or just hang out and procrastinate. Building huge farm tables, like this Restoration Hardware Flatiron table, and assembling baroque Ikea constructions like the viciously difficult Kallax bookshelf, I felt just about as productive as I did starting freshman year of college one fall. To be honest, probably a lot more.

Photos by Todor Tsetkov / Getty Images