9 tips for creating a functional home office in the middle of the apartment

Even after the pandemic, remote work from home is here to stay. Working from home for seven years already, Kasia Rutkowiak shares her best tips for designing a functional home office in a small space.

Muuto Ridge vase, 16,5 cm, beige
Fresh flowers in Muuto’s Ridge vase bring joy and color to Kasia Rutkowiak’s home office.

​​​​“WORKING FROM HOME can be a great thing, but also a great challenge. Many of us had to learn a completely new skill when the pandemic hit. We’ve been sent home to work remotely and had to redefine the life-work balance once again.

I was one of the lucky ones, as I’ve been working from home ever since 2014. That made me a go-to person for many of my friends who were only starting their remote work adventure. They would write and call with questions, related to different aspects of working from home. And as many of them anticipated that the change would last longer than just a few months, they often asked how to arrange a workspace in an apartment where there is no separate room for home office and what are my go-to tips to make it both functional and nice to look at.

I have gathered a few tips that I hope some of you will find useful when arranging a working station in the middle of it all. These are all things I’ve done and tested for the past 7 years, and they work great. And regardless of what you decide to add or omit, just make sure to make this space feel yours. That’s perhaps, the most important tip of all.”

Tips for a functional home office:

HAY Container, S, brown
HAY’s containers are accompanied by a poster by Paper Collective and the Eames House Bird by Vitra.

1. Find an empty wall

If you don’t have a separate room, find a single wall that you can dedicate to arrange a shelf unit with a desk. Mine is in the living room because that’s the only one I could get. In the past, I have used the String Furniture units that I liked a lot, and after a while, I went with Moebe. Both solutions are highly recommended. Again, it might not be a perfect choice – after all, I’d love to have a full-sized desk – but it works great in smaller homes. Pro tip: go with white or light wood. It gives you at least a few more days in between dusting. 

All products by String Furniture >

Moebe Organise organizer, large
The white shelving system and the Organise organizer are by the Danish brand Moebe.

2. Add closed units

Make sure to add some closed units to your shelving solution. The less organized you are, the more doors and drawers you need. For me, it took some practice to organize the open space and it is a challenge if you’re not super neat. Luckily, with doors and drawers, some things can be hidden, and as for the rest, you will learn as you go.

All storage furniture >

​​​​“The less organized you are, the more doors and drawers you need.”

Home office chairs
An ergonomic office chair is probably the single most important item in the home office.

3. Don’t save on sitting

Choose a chair that is ergonomic, adjustable, easy to clean, and – if possible – with a swivel base. There are many possibilities to choose from and you do not want to compromise on this one, I promise. In most cases, your normal dining chair won’t be a good choice.

All office chairs >

Cozy Publishing Cozy Flower notebook, peach blossom
Be sure to go with stationery that suits the style of your home. The Cozy Flower notebook is by Cozy Publishing.

4. Stationery matters

Invest in good-looking stationery. From now on, the pencils and notebooks won’t only serve practical, but also decorative purposes. 

All stationery >

HAY Botanical Family pot and saucer
HAY’s Botanical Family collection consists of flower pots in a range of colors and sizes.

5. Add some green life

It has been proven that plants positively influence our mood.
 If you are good with plants, choosing them won’t be a problem. If not, make sure to learn something about what a particular plant needs prior to purchasing. And remember that not all flower pots are equally great – the best ones for most plants and home-gardeners are those with a hole in the bottom and a saucer. Just remember to be careful when watering so that you won’t accidentally get your shelves, documents or computer wet.

All indoor gardening >

​​​​“It has been proven that plants positively influence our mood.”

Vitra Uten Silo II, white
Vitra’s Uten.Silo II keeps your pens and other small accessories well-organized.

6. Small storage solutions

Especially (but not only) if you need help with getting things looking orderly, invest in small storage solutions for your bits and pieces. You can go with smaller and bigger jars or cups. A nice-looking utensil wall organizer is great, too. Hint: if you ever decide that you don’t need it in the office anymore, it can serve you (or your kids) in so many more ways. Win-win.

All small storage >

Ferm Living Paper pulp box, small, 2 pcs
Ferm Living's small storage boxes are made of recycled paper pulp.

7. Utilize boxes

If you still lack doors and drawers, use boxes. Such an easy way to store papers or smaller things away in a nice and clean-looking manner.

All storage baskets >

HAY W&S Complot candleholder, ivory
In the winter season, you can light up a candle in your home office. HAY’s W&S Complot candleholder is part of a collection by design duo Wang & Söderström.

8. Add decorative items

Although the main characteristic of a workspace should be its functionality, it won’t hurt to make it look good too. Apart from nice stationery and other strictly useful things, I like adding some other, more decorative items such as sculptural candleholders or vases, wooden animals and – of course – fresh flowers.

All decorative objects >

​​​​“A workspace should be functional, but it won’t hurt to make it look good too.”

Marimekko Oiva mug 2,5 dl, terra-black
Marimekko’s terra-colored Oiva mug goes beautifully together with the small wooden tray.

9. Space for coffee

Two last things I always have near me in my home office are some kind of a tray and a cup of coffee. The first one makes things look a lot more polished and can be used for just about anything, and the second one I just can’t live without.

All cups & mugs >

Get inspired

Cozy Publishing
Cozy Flower notebook
Oiva mug
Botanical Family pot
Eames House Bird
Uten Silo II
Ferm Living
Paper pulp box
Ridge vase
Kay Bojesen
Wooden Monkey
Kasia Rutkowiak

Kasia Rutkowiak is a Polish-born freelance interior stylist, photographer, and writer of the Scandinavian interior and lifestyle blog My Full House, which has followers and readers from all around the world. She is a mother to three Danish-born children and has lived for over twelve years on the island of Bornholm in Denmark. Currently, she resides in Warsaw, Poland.

See also:

Home office & office furniture >

Text and photos: Kasia Rutkowiak

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