Remote Renaissance: Designers share advice for creating serene at-home workspaces

Four designers share tips on where to begin

Home office design
Decorator Phoebe Howard created this minimalist office space in Buckhead

Photograph by Max Kim-Bee

Has there ever been a better time to set up a home office? During the pandemic, many of us have been commuting to the next room instead of across town. At least some virtual work is likely to become permanent, so it’s more important than ever to create a workspace at home. Of course, WFH isn’t without its challenges—you may have acquired new “coworkers”— but with some thoughtful furniture choices and decor tweaks, you can have an office that works for you. We spoke with four designers who shared tips on how you can get started.

Home office design
Designer Elle Cantrell designed this room for a family of five in Virginia-Highland

Photograph by MARC MAULDIN

Flexible furnishings
Designer Elle Cantrell suggests building a room around multifunctional pieces of furniture, which she did for a family of five in Virginia-Highland. The white table in the center of the room was key, as it doubles as a workspace for both adults and children. Cantrell chose a table with a laminate top for easy cleaning, and the lightweight bistro chairs can be moved around or even used outdoors.

Don’t have room for a separate office? Incorporate furniture that can become a workstation, says Cantrell. A dropleaf table that doubles as a console in the living room can become a desk, and you can store office supplies in a nearby buffet or bookcase.

Home office design
Beth Kooby’s office

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Overhaul clutter
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is the accumulation of clutter, says designer Beth Kooby. Remove anything superfluous, whether that’s paperwork, furniture, or decorative objects. “If it doesn’t make you happy, replace it with something you actually enjoy being around, especially if you’re going to be stuck at home 24/7,” says Kooby. (Her streamlined space is shown far right, above.)

Lifestyle blogger Jess Cathell had plenty of bookshelves, so she used extra shelves to hold office supplies, hiding the clutter behind custom antique glass doors. She also recommends storage bins, decorative if they’re visible or clear if they’re hidden in a closet. “I have a ton of acrylic storage containers from the Container Store. If I’m working on a particular project, I can just grab those quite easily and take it to the room where I want to go,” says Cathell.

Home office design
Jess Cathell’s home office

Photograph by Christina Wedge

Use color
Colors like white, light blue, or pale gray evoke a sense of calm, says decorator Phoebe Howard, who created a minimalist office space in Buckhead. “I suggest you keep your colors on the neutral, lighter side and make it as monochromatic as you can,” says Howard.

If you derive creativity from bold colors, though, don’t be shy. Cathell appreciates a soothing palette, but she loves burnt orange, “It just brings me joy and inspires me.”

Whats old is new
If you don’t want to invest in new furniture, try upcycling items that you already own or have purchased secondhand. For example, Cathell revived a 1950s coffee table once owned by her grandmother with help from faux painter Brian Carter. Fresh paint and new hardware can turn a tired piece into a one-of-a-kind treasure, she says.

Divide the space
If your roommate is now your officemate and you can’t spread out, Cathell suggests using a room divider as a privacy screen. “It helps give a little more separation to the space. It’s also a great piece to use as a background for those lovely Zoom calls,” she adds.

Play around
Have fun with your office. In the space shown here, Cantrell incorporated art and pin boards for the kids’ creations. Items that inspire you, whether it’s bold lighting fixtures or knickknacks from travels, will make working a little more joyful.

This article appears in our Spring 2021 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.