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How to create an inspirational home office

Kate Watson-Smyth has been writing about interiors for 20 years and has helped clients style their homes for more than 10. Here, writer behind the popular Mad About The House blog shares her top tips for how to create an inspirational home office along with some ideas for arranging your workspace if you don’t have room for an office.

By Kate Watson-Smyth



We spend ages styling the mantelpiece or arranging the kitchen shelves, but our workspace often gets left behind. When you only have a small room or space to function as a home office, it’s easy to get so caught up in the practicalities that you can overlook the importance of how inspirational the décor needs to be.

No one wants to sit in a space which feels draining and depressing, or to feel cross at the thought of having to be in there at all – even if there is a super-duper slidy drawer for the keyboard to slip in and out of and a state-of-the-art filing system. In the book, I have written about the importance of getting the wall colour right so that it’s a place that makes you feel happy and creative (green is good for that btw), but don’t forget the other details.

A giant noticeboard isn’t just for unpaid bills and reminders. Making a space on the wall for a board that you can rearrange as the mood suits you will turn it from being a purely functional space into one you use to transform your dreams into reality. So add things to keep you inspired; a picture of that fabulous holiday you’ve been working towards, a ticket stub from that gig or film you went to a few months ago when you had such a great evening. I always have large swatches of my current favourite paint colours stuck on mine. Why not use one of those apps to download and print a few pictures from your phone of fun times and pin them up alongside that page you tore out of that magazine just because you liked it? Some say that sticking up pictures of the things you want is a good way to manifest them into existence or, on a less woo-woo note, to spur you into working harder so you might be able to pay for them.

If you don’t want a board – either cork tiles or magnetic – then what about a couple of floating shelves on which you can prop that magazine with the great cover as well as this month’s edition that you still have to read, plus a couple of ornaments, some keepsakes, and a calendar. I use the shelves in my office as a sort of permanently shifting moodboard – a curated collection of my favourite things – that often provides much-needed Monday inspiration (more of which you’ll find on the blog).


You will have to carve out a little spot from another part of your home to work at.

If that needs to be the kitchen table then that’s fine, but find somewhere to store papers and printers etc. The paperless office is much closer – you can now scan a lot of documents and store them in the cloud, but there are still times when things need to be printed and kept. I worked at the kitchen table for many years and kept a plastic box on wheels with a lid under the table for all the ‘officey’ stuff that I needed on a daily basis.

In the book, I have written about creating an office in a cupboard, but sometimes it’s just about finding a handy corner to work in. Perhaps you can buy a desk that is a table with a drawer so you can slide the notebook and laptop into it at the end of the day and leave it clear overnight. If it’s a corner of the bedroom then see if you can fit in a screen so that you can, as it were, put it away and hide it from view in the evening.

In a spare room, it’s all about making clever furniture choices. First of all, buy a sofa bed. This is a good idea anyway, as it will free up more space in the room and who doesn’t want that? I am constantly astounded by how many people don’t think of that. Also, working in a room with a bed in it is an inherently bad idea.

Next up – can you work from a table that can double up as a dressing table? Keep the mirror and vanity items in a drawer and then whip them out when guests arrive and put the desk stuff in the drawer. Yes, this is harder if you have a large desktop computer, in which case you will just have to live with that. Consider putting Shaker pegs all around the walls too – these work well as decoration and you can also hang baskets with paper and stationery supplies in too. Plus they are perfect for guests who may only have a couple of things that need hanging, but they can also use them for a towel, a dressing gown and even a toiletry bag.

Find more interior tips for creating a stylish home in Mad About The House: 101 Interior Design Answers by Kate Watson-Smyth. Out now. Check out Kate’s blog Mad About The House.

Illustrations by Abi Read.