As the pandemic continues, it might be time to upgrade that temporary home office setup

Thursday, June, 4, 2020 By Jura Koncius Washington Post

The past few months of working from dining tables, couches and beds have taken their toll on novice telecommuters. With many of us settling in for the long haul — told to stay home until at least Labor Day or, like some Facebook and Twitter workers, permanently — the makeshift office hacks of the coronavirus shutdown are getting old. America’s backs and necks are suffering.

Realizing this is not as “temporary” a situation as you thought, you might be ready to trade in your metal folding chair for an ergonomic model or treat yourself to a set of new candy-colored Sharpies. Maybe you want to make the spot where you spend your days (and maybe nights) more welcoming and videoconference-friendly. Maybe your employer is even offering a stipend for workers in need of home office improvements.

Designer Young Huh started the pandemic in her Scarsdale, N.Y., home sharing side-by-side desks in a small office with her husband, as their two kids worked in their bedrooms. But her husband’s conference calls were disturbing her concentration. “He makes too much noise. We needed him contained,” she said. She moved to the dining room to work. A butler’s pantry and a bar cart now organize her papers. And she’s added a few frills. “It’s still important to make your workspace look pretty. I put my pens in pretty canisters and put my ear buds in a silver gravy boat,” Huh says.

Many households were unprepared for the entire family’s transition to working from home. “In some homes, there needed to be four or five setups,” says Jeff Miller, vice president of design for Poppin, a line of furniture and desk accessories known for its color and modern vibe. As for Miller’s own New York apartment setup: “I sequestered myself in an extra-small bedroom with just an Eames Aluminum Group chair and a music stand for my laptop,” he says, great for videoconference calls. After the third week, his back hurt. He picked up two Poppin Series A desks, which he arranged next to each other to create two seating areas, which he could share with his wife, who is also working from home, or their 12-year-old son.

When the pandemic hit, designer Loi Thai of Tone on Tone had already converted the garage a few steps from his 1928 home in Silver Spring into a cottagey office. “Since I’m spending so much time here now, I want to be surrounded by things that I love,” Thai says. Instead of standard desk accessories, he uses galvanized garden pots and trays to hold pens and note pads. In lieu of a boring office task lamp, he bought a fun ceramic lamp base with a silvery glaze and a navy ikat-print paper shade from World Market.

Keeping it all together is hard, but organized living beats chaos. Beth Penn, a Los Angeles professional organizer and owner of Bneato Bar, has heard from a number of clients looking for help. “I have gotten calls to talk about productivity. My clients say they aren’t getting as much done as they would like since they are home with all these distractions they are not used to,” Penn says.

Looking for an upgrade of your own? We’ve consulted with design pros who shared some of their home office decorating secrets.


You can’t work in bed forever; you need a decent chair that will support your back. But you don’t have to get a hulking black monster on wheels that takes up half your room. The best models are ergonomic and have adjustability in height, lumbar support and arm rests. Choose something that fits with your desk and room, but make sure it’s comfortable.

Penn is a fan of West Elm’s two-toned upholstered office chair ($649). It’s pretty, she says, and keeps your home looking like a home. It’s also cushioned and adjustable for comfort.

Thai picked a streamlined Graham leather desk chair from Crate & Barrel ($349) that has a stylish look and small footprint. “I sit in it all day, so I wanted something comfortable, but not a bulky model,” he says. He took the arms off so it can slide under his desk.

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