17 Small Home Office Mistakes to Avoid, According to 7 Interior Designers

Even if you don’t have your own business, the rise of flexible hours has more of us working from home. According to a new study by Bentley University, 77% of Millennials say that flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age. Either way, your work space enhances your creativity, productivity, and influences what you produce so it’s important to create one that suits you both personally and professionally.

Of course, since more people are renting now than ever before, we know that most people don’t have a lot of square footage to work with but size limitations shouldn’t restrict your creativity. So, we turned to some of our favorite interior designers to share the best small home office ideas along with the common mistakes people make and the quick fix to turn it around. Read on to turn your spare corner or nook into a cool small home office—here’s some chic office décor under-$100 to get your started.

Photo: Sara Tramp for Emily Henderson; Tessa Neustadt for Emily Henderson.

Emily Henderson, Interior Designer, TV Personality, and Founder, Emily Henderson

The Mistake: Not being creative with storage.

The Quick Fix: You don’t need to be tied to the standard desk and file cabinet combo. Instead, you could get a pretty credenza for all of your storage needs and then just have your pretty daily essentials on your desk. 

The Mistake: Using boring work desks.

The Quick Fix: Don’t be afraid to use a regular dining table instead. This way your office will feel more open and you can place the desk anywhere in the room instead of dealing with hiding the “ugly side.”

Bobby Berk, TV Personality, Interior Designer, Founder, Bobby Berk.com

The Mistake: Don't forget to decorate.

The Quick Fix: Sometimes home offices end up being just that, an office but it doesn't mean that it shouldn't still feel inviting, warm, and interesting like the rest of your house. I love styling bookshelves with items that you typically wouldn't find like leaning art or a collection of decorative items amongst the books to break it up. I also always love to bring a live element into the space like a plant or tree to keep the air fresh and give it a bit of life. 

The Mistake: The wrong office chair.

The Quick Fix: Your office chair doesn't have to look like an office chair. There are so many chairs out there that can double as an office chair that are aesthetically more interesting and might even be more comfortable and functional. Take a look at the padded dining chairs before you shop for office chairs next time. 

The Mistake: Too much on the desk.

The Quick Fix: A messy desk means a messy mind. Sometimes all the clutter on your desk can be distracting so clear it off and keep out just the items that you use every single day. Everything else can go into a file cabinet or closed storage under the desk. 

Photo: Claire Esparros for Tali Roth Design

Tali Roth, Interior Designer, Founder, Tali Roth Design

The Mistake: Not having enough closed storage.

The Quick Fix: Ensure your desk has drawers or at least a rolling one.

The Mistake: Having a desk in your bedroom.

The Quick Fix: It’s not good for the mind to see your work items in your sleeping space. Move your desk to a public space if you can or to another space in the home with low foot traffic.

Shannon Wollack and Brittany Zwickl, Studio Life.Style

Mistake: Putting too many pieces of furniture in a small space.

Tip to fix: “Try to narrow down your décor to just include items that serve a purpose. Get rid of anything that isn’t functional or inspirational.”

Mistake: Your space is cluttered.

Tip to fix: “Organization. Use visually appropriate bins or baskets to store your office necessities. They’re the perfect way to hide the less visually appealing aspects of your home while still keeping them in reach.”

Photo: Courtesy Studio. Lifestyle

Studio Gild

The Mistake: “You have basic desk accessories.”

The Quick Fix: “Select aesthetically pleasing office supplies to help make your work day feel a little more elevated and chic. For everyday necessities from paper clips and scissors, forgo big box office supply companies, in favor of artisanal makers with a design-forward approach like TOOLS to LIVEBY and Hay.” — Melissa Benham, Principal.

The Mistake: “Doesn’t feel inviting.”

The Quick Fix: “Bring some life and greenery into the space with real plants. Not only will it brighten up your work environment, but it will improve the air quality too.”—Kristen Ekeland, Principal, Studio Gild

The Mistake: You find yourself easily distracted

The Quick Fix: “Keep televisions and couches out of the office and stick to a neutral color palette. The less physical and visual clutter, the better you’ll be able to concentrate.”—Jennie Bishop, Principal, Studio Gild

Cortney Bishop, Principal, Cortney Bishop Design

The Mistake: Dull lighting.

The Quick Fix: Brighten up your office space and no doubt productivity will thrive. Think about different layers of task lighting. Besides just installing an overhead fixture, consider a desk lamp or wall sconces to further illuminate the room. And if you can find a lamp that also has USB outlets for your electronics, even better. I love eliminating extra clutter.”

The Mistake: Maximizing wall space.

The Quick Fix: “Go vertical. If you're tight on space, consider taking anything up your wall that will make the space more efficient. Peg walls, freestanding shelving, bulletin boards, calendars, even lighting, can be installed to free up space on the floor.”

Julie Massucco Kleiner and Melissa Warner Rothblum, Co-Founders, Massucco Warner Miller

The Mistake: Buying basic, dreary, office furniture, lacking in personality.

The Quick Fix: “We like to use desks that are a pretty style, even a table or console can be used as long as it’s around 30” desk height. Think outside of the metal/laminate desk: grass cloth, leather topped, mirror clad or lacquered are some of our favorites.”

The Mistake: Not adding color or pattern.

The Quick Fix: “Chairs are a great way to plug in a color or pattern you love. There are very few home offices that actually require a wheeled task chair so any chair that is comfortable for a dining table application is usually great as a desk chair in a home office too.”

The Mistake: Not adding the finishing touches.

The Quick Fix: “Don’t forget to use a few details that’ll make you smile when you’re in the space. We’ve hung vintage mirrors behind a desk (it doesn’t matter if your screen computer extends up to cover them a bit), include a favorite photo, or a desktop trinket that can hold paperclips, gather a few pieces you love and use them here.”