7 Home Office Tips from Architect & Interior Designer Barry Goralnick

April 28, 2020

Some prognosticators predict that once the country has re-opened for business, more of the workforce will be permanently operating from their homes.  Whether or not a majority of people will continue to work virtually, it seems inevitable that a work-from-home space will become a staple for most every household.

Barry Goralnick, renowned architect and interior designer, has been helping clients to create home offices and work areas since before the pandemic hit.  In recent years, clients had already been asking questions like, “How can I make my dining room more multi-purpose so I can work there during the day?,” “Where can we make an area with a small desk that I can pay bills?,” and “Can we create a place for the kids to do their homework that’s not in their room?”

Increasingly, Goralnick is asked to find more permanent solutions for working from home – functional and aesthetic – including storage, an attractive background for telecommunicating, and places to work that don’t have to be completely cleared away after each workday has ended.

Goralnick offers the following advice, with some tips and resources to help make your work from home situation more of permanent solution.

Keep it Simple

Don’t complicate your needs.  Set up a simple workstation.

These desks are made of simple elements that are attractive and functional – the most basic Parsons desk and a Mid-century or modified office chair. [Left: Desk: West Elm / Hopper Desk Lamp: Currey & Co. / Chair: Chairsh; Right: Desk: CB2]

For those who have not yet gone paperless, now is a terrific time to start filing all documents digitally.  If you’re a paper addict, consider not putting a wastebasket close at hand. See for yourself if you truly need a printout to file in a hanging folder, or if it can all be efficiently digitally filed without the mess and waste of paper. Many larger organizations going paperless have limited the number of available trashcans for paper waste in order go green.

Create Room

Goralnick suggests you might be able to put up a temporary wall from places like Wall – the Partition NY. Post-college students have been doing this for years to increase the number of bedrooms in shared apartments.  Best of all it can be removed when you move out. This solution also cuts through New York’s Department of Buildings’ crazy quilt of regulations and co-op or condo board rules.

In this home office space, Goralnick created a long narrow space by colonizing a sliver of a bedroom. [Davy Pendant Fixtures: Currey & Co. / Storage Boxes: The Container Store.]

Don’t Hit a Wall

Goralnick points out that one of the most common missteps people make when creating a workspace is facing the desk chair into a wall. He advises, if possible, face your desk into a window or into the room.

In this instance, the client’s primary office request was an open, airy feeling. Goralnick’s solution was to give the office an interior window facing into the living room, which fronts a set of glass doors with a garden beyond.  By doing so, it provides the desired openness and makes a small space feel much larger. This interior window from the home office looks out into the main room, allowing for views of the outside.

Make Your Space Multi-task

In home design, nothing is sacred anymore.  So, make rooms for multitasking.  Whether space is limited or not, make the best use of every room. Previous generations had specific rules for particular parts of the home, meaning rooms were often underutilized – especially the dining room (often a large space), which was only used on special occasions two or three times a year.

This space is the multi-functioning hub of the home for a young family.  The set-up offers all family members a place to work at any time. Built-ins provide a commodious workstation for parents and kids. [Contemporary kitchen with a vintage Italian Mid-century table and chairs / Art above cabinetry is an important piece, and art on the shelves is from the kids’ art classes]

Rethink the Space You Have

See potential in what you already have.  Pull up a chair and get to work.

Originally, this living room/library (above left) was designed to house several collections, including antique books and walking sticks. The comfortable sofa faces a large TV, and the room was mostly used for reading or binge watching. The desk behind the sofa had, up until now, been simply decorative.

In current times, the desk has become a home office workspace for half of the couple. The shelves have been rearranged to accommodate files and supplies, and the computer is connected to the TV monitor so Zoom meetings can be viewed in a large format. This repurposing functions beautifully.

If you are in a smaller apartment, rethink the functions of each part of every room. In a one-bedroom apartment, you might consider flipping the bedroom and living room depending on the layout and what you need to accommodate. This owner moved the seating out of the bedroom corner and moved in a drafting table (above right). It provides just enough space to work. Plus, it’s next to the window for natural light and a view. [Table crafted from a base found in a flea market coupled with a mahogany top]

Do You Really Need a Desk?

Not everyone needs an actual desk.  Think about what you need to do your best work.

Here, a writer who does not need a traditional desk uses a small dining table coupled with a traditional style office chair for the perfect workspace (and it doesn’t look like an office at all).  This intimate office/library also multi-functions as a guest area with sleep sofa.

Knock It Off

This actual home office was created for a couple with twins. The space has a variety of storage options to hide office mess, a magnetic “backsplash” for notes and schedules, under-cabinet lighting, and filing cabinets – all well organized.

Goralnick advises that this type of solution can be easily replicated in cost-effective ways, “One of the best storage resources is IKEA. They have excellent storage solutions that include countertops, files, cabinets with doors, chairs, shelving, and even the under-cabinet LED lighting.”

If you want to up the aesthetic appeal, there is now a cottage industry of companies that make customized and semi-customized doors for IKEA bodies, like Semi-handmade, so you can make it your own.

The future has always held the unknown. As we look forward and inward, solutions to easier living in the days to come may actually be found right at home.