30 Different Types of Home Offices (Ultimate Set Up Guide)

The ultimate guide to the different types of home offices (with photos) and how to go about setting up and designing the ultimate home office.

This gorgeous office is an example of a home office I would love to have with the hardwood floor, area rug, fireplace, floor-to-ceiling shelves and a piano to boot.

Source: Zillow DigsTM

In my view, too little thought is given the home office in many homes.  However, this is unavoidable in many older homes which were built in an era when the home office was a rarity.  In these homes, often the “home office” is jammed in any spare bedroom (a luxury in many cases), some corner of the basement, via desk in the master bedroom, the telephone console area in a kitchen or worst-case-scenario, the dining room table.

My first “home office” was a small desk in the spare bedroom.  It did the job, but it never had the permanency of a work space I wanted even though the bulk of my working hours were outside the home.

These days, a dedicated home office is often part of a home’s design since most households have various computers and so a dedicated work space is important.  Even if nobody in the household works from home, a home office is great to have for a proper computer.


Home Office Design Style (%)

Below is a chart and table that crunched the numbers of 158,040 home office designs to arrive at the different styles by percent.

Home Office Style Chart

Home Office Style Table

Home Office StylesPercentage
Contemporary22.70%
Eclectic5.04%
Modern9.63%
Traditional24.10%
Asian0.66%
Beach Style1.33%
Craftsman2.22%
Farmhouse1.41%
Industrial14.13%
Mediterranean1.68%
Midcentury1.10%
Rustic1.96%
Scandinavian1.53%
Shabby-Chic0.30%
Southwestern0.18%
Transitional11.43%
Tropical0.31%
Victorian0.28%

Will mobile devices and cloud computing kill the home office?

This is a great question.  We manage most of the household computing needs via tablet, which can be operated while comfortably seated in a recliner or sofa.  With cloud computing, all documents, photos, videos and general household management accounts (banking, groceries, shopping, kids’ activities, school communications, etc.) are accessible online for which a tablet is generally perfectly suited.

That said, there remain household management tasks for which a dedicated (i.e. quiet) office space is welcome.  For instance, while tablets are wonderful, it’s more efficient to compute on a desktop or laptop.  Sure, a tablet does the job, but I prefer a dedicated computer station for any serious work, including household management.  However, when young kids are in the house, retreating to a quiet space isn’t possible and that leaves computing in the ‘crazy’ zone as the only option.

If you work from home, even part time, however, a home office is critically important.  Even then, if you have young kids, there will be distractions.  I know this firsthand having had 2 home offices with young kids.  They will come in unannounced, usually during an important call.  But, at least in the office, I can ask them to leave and resume working in relative peace and quiet.

A dedicated home office space is also key for storing/filing any physical documents.  While physical documents are more the exception than the norm, we choose physical paper when given the choice because it’s easier to manage than digital documents.  I’m referring to bank statements, utility bills, etc.  All this monthly paperwork must be stored somewhere; the office is much better than piled in a box in the corner of the dining room or bedroom closet.

At the end of the day, the choice for investing in a home office is a personal choice.  I think it’s still a desired room by many households and worth having even if nobody in the home works from home.  Of course if a person works from home, the home office is a necessity.

Moreover, as you’ll see in the next section, there are many purposes for a “home office” a term that’s loosely defined by many.


Hedge Your Bet with a Flex Office/Bedroom Design

If you are designing a home (new or reno), one smart approach to planning a home office is doing so in a way so that it’s a flex space.  The ideal flex offering is designing the office so that it can easily be converted to a bedroom.  While this is a bit of a hedge and may compromise some cool office concepts, being able to market a home with a home office or as having one additional bedroom makes the home more appealing to a larger pool of buyers.

Since there are more requirements for a room to be called a bedroom, you simply implement those required features which generally include (do check in your jurisdiction):

  • Minimum ceiling height
  • Minimum room width and square footage;
  • Lighting and ventilation specifications;
  • Minimum window size for emergency escape;
  • Minimum number of electric outlets; and
  • Possibly a closet requirement (it’s a good idea to include one).

– Source: Eric Stewart Group

Requirements for a home office are much less stringent, legally speaking.  That said, minimum ceiling height, number of outlets and lighting options (lamps will do) are considerations.

Since a bedroom has more stringent requirements, you’re smart to design the home office to include the bedroom requirements in the event you wish to market or use the space as a bedroom.

In the event you plan on using the home office as a guest room occasionally, getting a murphy bed, futon or sleeper sofa for the office is a smart way to get the most out of the space.   In a pinch, you can use a quality airbed (they’re much better these days than pulling out a beach air mattresses).


What’s the Purpose of Your Home Office?

The importance and design of your home office is dictated by its intended use.  The following are the main types of home offices based on purpose:

Work-from-home:

If you work entirely from home, you’ll probably have greater needs than if you work part time from home such as email management.

It’s important you consider all the tasks you do for work as well as all the communication requirements you’ll need in order to set up a functional office. For instance, do you need a scanner, photo copier, landline telephone with business line, etc.?  Give it careful thought because there’s nothing worst than having to do work-arounds and/or running off to Staples to scan something (been there, done that).


Household management:

Paying bills, corresponding with kids’ teachers, online shopping, researching online for contractors, recipe management… all the things you do to manage your home.

While on the surface it doesn’t seem like much, it’s a lot and much of it requires a computer these days.  It’s so much easier to take care of these daily, weekly, monthly and annual tasks in a home office than some makeshift computer space in the dining room or kitchen.

It’s also helpful to have storage space for the reams of documents these tasks generate as well such as tax returns, bills, recipes, receipts, important correspondence, product research, etc.  Of course you can scan it or take a photo of it and file it digitally, but realistically we never get around to this level of organization (at least I don’t).


Media management:

How many photos did you take last week?  I took dozens.  My wife also probably took dozens.  Throw in a few videos and you have a regular media company.

Managing all of these priceless digital files takes time and concentration, which is aided with a powerful computer in a quiet space.


 Crafts:

Anyone who crafts regularly, be it sewing, quilting, scrap-booking, etc. will desperately want a dedicated craft space.  This type of “office” will have unique requirements such as proper work surfaces, tools of the trade and probably more space than just an office for computing purposes.


Reading:

Reading when the TV is on isn’t fun.  I don’t care for it.  If all you have is one living room with a TV and you’re a reader, you’ll appreciate a quiet reading space that’s nicely appointed and a comfortable space.

A home office for reading will have its own design requirements such as bookshelves, comfortable seating and proper reading lights.


Writing:

If you’re a writer, you’ll want to deck out your office so that it meets your writing needs whether it’s a computer station, writing desk and any other implements you like for your writing space.  Typically an office designed for writing really need not be elaborate.  If you need bells and whistles just to get inspired to write, perhaps writing isn’t your cup of tea.


Hobbies:

There are many, many hobbies for which a dedicated space is necessary.  While the fact of the matter is many hobbies are pursued in the basement or garage, it’s nice to have a dedicated space for your passion that’s properly outfitted.

Each hobby has its own requirements.  Spend time researching options so that you get exactly what you need/want given you’ll be investing serious money into a hobby room.


Gift-wrapping:

The first time I heard about a gift wrapping room was watching some HGTV show about Candy Spelling who sold her famous mansion.  The show provided viewers a tour that included a tour of the opulent gift-wrapping room.  At first I chuckled at the extravagance, but now that my wife and I have kids, the notion of a gift-wrapping room is not so ludicrous.

The fact of the matter is with birthday parties, Christmas and participating in the gift economy, we end up wrapping a lot of gifts throughout the year.  While we don’t have a gift-wrapping room, I can certainly see the utility of such a space.  It would make wrapping gifts much easier and faster with proper surface area and tools of the trade within easy reach.


Miscellaneous:

The home office is sometimes synonymous with “man cave”, “she-shed”, “respite”, “games room” to name a few.  I personally don’t use the terms interchangeably, but sometimes the home office evolves into something more such as a man cave with TV, seating, bar … along with a desk.


=> Check out our massive home office photo gallery here

Shared vs. Dedicated

Whether you create a shared home office or one that’s dedicated for one person, really depends on the purpose.  If you work primarily from home, you want a dedicated space.  It’s never fun taking important work calls with other people in the space.

Alternatively, if one person needs a computing space and the other a craft space, that’s not a great combo for a shared home office.

However, if the space is used primarily for household management and perhaps a little working from home, sharing a space works just fine.  You can in most rooms fit 2 desks or have a custom built-in installed with 2 or more workstations.

This is economical as the household can share the printer, scanner, office supplies in one central area.

The downside is if your home office is a respite, sharing the space will compromise that intended use.


Where to Put the Office in Your Home

In my view, some places in the home are much better for a home office than others.  I’ve had 3 home offices, all in different places.  They include in the spare bedroom, in the master bedroom and now the walk-out basement.  I specify “walk-out” because that’s much better than a fully submerged basement since I have windows and natural light which is much nicer than being fully submerged underground with no natural light.

Where you place your home office, how large it is and what it contains is not only dependent on its purpose, but on your budget and available space.

The following are potential locations for your home office:

The Upstairs Office:

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Unless your home has a huge footprint, upstairs home offices offer the most peace and quiet.  There aren’t footsteps above like a basement and you’re removed from the busy activity of the main living area.

It’s also a great place for the bedroom/office hybrid.

One upstairs location I like and would get if building a new house is the office adjacent to the master bedroom.  This would provide close access to a bathroom and it would be tucked away for the ultimate peace and quiet.  Moreover, being on the second floor offers terrific balcony/window options.


The Main Living Floor Office:

Source: Zillow DigsTM

There are definitely advantages for an office on the main living floor nearby the action of the house.  If you use the office for household management, it’s convenient to pop in there for a recipe or quickly pay some bills.  While not as quiet, it’s easily accessible.

The downside is it’s not as quiet and people (ahem, kids), will come and go… but it’s also easier to keep an eye on the kids (assuming they’re younger).

Another good reason for a main living floor office is if you have clients come to your home.  You don’t want them tromping through your house.  In this case I strongly recommend a separate entrance or consider a separate building altogether.

If you have a quiet wing, this can be a great spot for a home office as well.


The Basement Office:

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Many home offices are relegated to the basement for lack of space.  This is less than ideal although can be good if it’s a walk-out basement.  It can be noisy from overhead footsteps, but you may have plenty of space to create something exceptional.


The Nook Office:

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Some houses have nook rooms… little tucked away spaces that can be a decent computer work station.  It takes up little space, utilizes otherwise useless space and it’s easily accessible.

An example is a small computer work station under the stairs.


The Landing Office:

Source: Zillow DigsTM

If you have a large landing at the top of your stairs, this can be an okay spot for a home office.  While not private or quiet, it’s a good use of space.  While I wouldn’t want to conduct my business there, it’s fine for household management and personal purposes.


The Kitchen Office:

Source: Zillow DigsTM

As the only office, I don’t like this.  As a secondary space for quick computer access, it’s great.

The kitchen office is a small desk, usually a built-in, in the kitchen.  This is great for tablets and laptops so that you can access the internet for recipes, online shopping and apps for controlling any smart aspects of your home.

While useful, if it’s your only office area, you’re probably finding it not the most convenient for tasks requiring more concentration and time such as taking care of bills and taxes.


The Bedroom Office:

Source: Zillow DigsTM

While I like the idea of an office adjacent to the master bedroom, I’m not a fan of plopping a desk in the master bedroom and calling it an office.  I don’t care to work where I sleep and while the notion of only having a 4 step commute sounds appealing, it isn’t all that great (I know from personal experience).  The entire space gets messy … it’s neither a bedroom nor an office.  It’s a co-mingled mess.


The Outbuilding Office:

Source: StudioShed

This is a fabulous option for anyone who has enough property and works from home.  These days there are many modular style homes which is perfect for a small home office in a separate structure on your property.  This is great for clients, quiet and separating home from work.

The downside is it’s expensive.  This isn’t a $10,000 reno in the basement.  This is a $30,000 to $200,000 (or more) investment.


The Garage Office:

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Another option for adding interior space is converting a garage to a home office.  It’s not terribly expensive and you can easily create a separate access point for clients and visitors.

Expect to pay $5,000 to $15,000 depending on how finished you want it.  Sure, you can slam a desk with a space heater in your current garage and call it a day, but that’s not exactly the ideal home office space.  I suppose that would work if you normally work in the space doubling as a guest bedroom and you have guests for a few days.  Personally, I’d just head to Starbucks.

The big downside is you lose a garage and/or storage.  The big plus is you add square footage to your home and don’t lose any other space in your home for your office.

=> Check out our massive home office photo gallery here


Size: How big should your home office be?

A closet or office under the stairs can be as small as 8 to 12 square feet.  Just big enough for a desk.

This isn’t ideal of course and so you want an office at a minimum to be 50 square feet… but 80 sq. ft. to 100 sq. ft. is good for a small to medium sized office that will meet most needs.

If you’re building your house, err on the side of too big.  You will appreciate it later when you need more storage space and/or more desk space or you want to get comfy by adding a reading chair/sofa to your office.

If you’re renovating an existing space, then your hands are tied… but likely it’s big enough if using an existing bedroom or converting a garage to a home office.

Think of it this way:

Tiny Home Office:

A small computer desk is 3 feet wide by 1.5 feet deep.

The chair will take up a 3 feet by 3 feet at a minimum.

This totals 15 sq. ft. and it’s tiny.

Small Home Office:

A good sized desk is 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep.  You want at least 4 to 5 feet clearance behind the desk for your chair.  This, while still small, would take up

This totals 35 square feet.

Medium-Sized Home Office:

5′ x 2′ desk but situated in the middle of the room with a comfortable office chair, some bookshelves and a side table for a printer.

This would require at least 100 square feet to avoid it being a cramped space.

Large Home Office:

Beyond 100 square feet you get options for really decking out the home office.  Obviously at some point it becomes ridiculous.

My home office in the walk-out basement is approximately 12 x 17 feet which is a very comfortable 204 square feet.  I’m able to accommodate 1 large desk, 1 small desk and 1 small kitchen table as well as a reading chair with room to spare.  It’s very nice to have a home office this size and I’ve not once thought it to be a waste of space.


Home Office Lighting

Invest as much as you can into windows and quality lighting.

Lighting really makes the room.  When computers and screens are involved, it’s important to plan out window placement and lighting.

Rule #1: Lots of Natural Light Planned Out Carefully

Source: Zillow DigsTM

I despise sunlight on my computer screens.  I also despise having to lower blinds or covering up windows to prevent sunlight glare on my computer screens.

This means when you set up your home office, you want to do so to avoid the potential of sunlight shining on your computer screens.  The simple solution is designing the office so the screens face away from the windows.  The additional advantage here is you can then face the window.

Rule #2: Dimming Lights

I have lights that dim in my home office and I love it.  I can dim them down when working on the computer and brighten them when reading or working on crafts with my kids.  Overall I love dimming lights because sometimes I feel like minimal light while other times I like it bright.

If you can afford it, get dimming lights.

You can now buy smart bulbs that dim via an app or remote.  This is a super easy way to get dimming capability without having to hire an electrician.

Rule #3: No fluorescent lights

Fluorescent lights have no place in your home period.  They’re too bright, the flicker… they’re just plain bad compared to so many great lighting options out there.

Rule #4: A lamp or two

A desk lamp is a great lighting accessory because it helps your eyes when reading documents on your desk.  When your typing, you sit straight up.  It’s not good to hunch over to read and if a desk lamp can illuminate whatever you need to read sufficiently so you can remain upright, it’s a worthy investment.

Rule #5: According to its use

For example, if you do crafts in your home office, you want excellent light.  It’s no fun sewing in dim light.  That’s an eye killer for sure.  I love recessed halogen lights myself which alone can very nicely illuminate a room.

If it’s a reading room, you want nice reading lamps flanking your reading chairs.

If it’s a computing room, you want the ability to dim the lights in the event you wish to work in a darker environment (which I kind of like doing sometimes at night).

The point is don’t ignore lighting.

The plus side is you can always buy lamps to enhance whatever lighting deficiencies you have.


Home Office Flooring Ideas

I’ve had finished concrete and carpet home office flooring.  I MUCH prefer carpet. Here are my 2 key thoughts on home office flooring:

In fact, from a comfort perspective my favorite flooring for a home office is carpet because I like how it absorbs sound, is soft, and warmer on the feet than hardwood, vinyl and concrete.

From an aesthetic perspective, hardwood floor is my favorite home office flooring option.

The ideal solution is hardwood with a large, lush area rug (or rugs).  This provides the beautiful aesthetic of hardwood and the benefits of carpet.

Regardless of which floor you have, be sure you get an office chair mat to protect the floor.  I didn’t do this in one office and over time the concrete finished was completely stripped away.  It looked terrible.

Office chair castor wheels can do a bad number on any surface.

But…

If you pursue hobbies or crafts that may stain the floor or do damage, consider vinyl which is much more durable and can better stand up to rough use than hardwood and carpet.  Concrete floors are tough, but the finish isn’t.

If your decision boils down to carpet or hardwood, read our in-depth hardwood and carpet comparison here.


Home Office Wall Ideas

Here are my ideas for home office walls in a nutshell:

  • Mounted television (or space for projector TV);
  • Floor to ceiling bookshelves;
  • Floor to ceiling windows;
  • Hutch on top of desk if desk against the wall;
  • Fireplace and mantle;
  • Chalkwall (great for brainstorming I suppose);
  • Mini-kitchen (at the very least a coffee or regular bar);
  • Cool wall murals such as a cityscape.  I think these are cool, but you might think they’re tacky.  Check it out:

Home Office Photo Mural by Easy Walls


Home Office Design Styles

Traditional

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Contemporary

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Craftsman

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Eclectic

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Modern

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Rustic

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Cottage

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Country

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Mediterranean

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Tropical

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Asian

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Art Deco

Source: Zillow DigsTM


Most Important Home Office Items

In this section, I’m assuming your home office is for primarily for work and/or household management.   The following doesn’t apply to specialty rooms such as hobby pursuits, crafts, gift wrapping, etc. which require a unique set of tools, gadgets and accessories.

Having worked in a home office for several years, here are the items I strongly recommend you have in your home office:

Large Desk:

I discussed the importance of a large desk above.  Believe me when you’ll want a second display and additional space for paper, books, chargers for devices and more.  You can never have too much desk surface.  You can learn more about computer desks here and other types of home office desks here.

Quality Desk Chair:

If you use your home office for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, the chair quality isn’t so important.  But if you sit there for hours at a time, invest in a good office chair.

2 Monitors (or Displays):

If you’ve never used 2 monitors while computing, I urge you to try it.  Monitors are not expensive and it will seriously speed up the amount you can get done.  I pretty much refuse to do work unless I’m at my work station with 2 monitors.

In my case, I have my laptop screen and one additional 32″ monitor (you certainly don’t need this large of a monitor).  You can even connect additional displays to an iPhone and iPad.  If you do any amount of real work in your home office, get 2 displays… you’ll thank me later.

Printer / Scanner / Shredder:

Yes, even in today’s digital world, a printer comes in handy.

Unless you’re going to invest a lot into a commercial multi-purpose machine that can print/scan and copy, don’t bother getting one of these.  The cheaper versions are pure garbage.  I know because I have one that’s broken sitting in a closet.

Instead, buy each individually.  The best home printer I’ve ever had (and still have after years of use) is the Brother Laser printer.

As for a scanner, I typically take a photo and email the photo or use the scanner in the office outside of my home (I rent commercial office space in a addition to having a home office).  Same for the shredder (we don’t have a home shredder… just a shredding service that comes by my commercial office every few months).

Actually, the days of the scanner are probably short-lived because it’s so easy to take photos of documents and email the photo.  It’s also easy to convert a photo document (i.e. jpeg) to a PDF.

Basic Supplies:

This may sound trite, but invest in a good collection of pens, paperclips, post-it notes, paper, envelopes, stamps and other basic office supplies that seem trivial, but are ever so important when you need them.

Plenty of Outlets:

If you are in the enviable position of building a home office from scratch, don’t forget to include plenty of outlets.  You don’t want to run cords all over the place.  It’s much better for concealing cords if you don’t need reams of extension cords.

I recommend at least one outlet on each wall.  You never know what you’ll all be plugging in and where it’ll be.  You want to avoid running extension cords all over the place.

Power Cord(s) with Surge Protection:

This is especially important for your computer cord… which can accommodate multiple plugs for your computer, monitors and device chargers.

Phone Jack:

Unless you use a cell phone for business, consider a phone jack with a separate business line.  If you don’t have stellar cell service in your home, you’ll definitely want a landline.  Don’t compromise your business with terrible telephone reception.  People will get really annoyed and think you’re a third-rate outfit if your telephone is unclear.

Internet Connection:

Any office these days needs a high-speed internet connection.  If you have connectivity issues, get a wi-fi range extender which extends the strength of your wi-fi further throughout your house.  We have one and it’s fabulous.  This avoids the need for an additional router.

Window(s):

If you spend an hour or more per day in your home office, do all you can to have some natural light.  It’s depressing being away from natural light.  This makes your home office that much more pleasant.

Shelves:

I love shelves and have plenty of them.  In my home office I have almost an entire wall that’s floor to ceiling shelves and it’s wonderful for storing all kinds of things.  They’re not expensive yet provide such a useful function.


Additional Features Not Necessary, But Nice to Have:

Sofa:

I have an IKEA Poang chair in my office.  I don’t use it a ton, but once in a while I sit in it.  I like having it there.  It looks good and comes in handy once in a while.  I like the idea of a sofa even more for short naps, working on a tablet or just being more comfortable.

Fireplace:

Source: Zillow DigsTM

Amazingly, I have a gas fireplace in my office.  It looks cool although I don’t use it much because it’s plenty warm in my office.  In fact, I’m not a big fire guy, but if you are, you’ll appreciate having a fireplace in your home office.

Coffee maker:

I almost put this under required items, but that’s overstating it.  I have a small sink area in my home office and while I didn’t think it would be all that important at first, it’s been incredibly useful.  I love not having to go upstairs to make coffee.  It’s so convenient having a single serve coffee maker in my office.

Bar:

I’m not a drinker, but if I were and I enjoyed a 5 o’clock cocktail, I’d consider a mobile mini-bar for my home office along with small beverage fridge.  I mean, why not?  They aren’t all that expensive and it would be a nice touch… especially if you have clients.

Reading Chair(s):

I’m a club chair nut.  I love the over-sized chairs that I can sink into.  These look fabulous in home offices.  If you have the space, why not add a reading chair.  For now I have an IKEA Poang, but one day I’d love something a little more luxurious.

Bathroom:

I don’t have a bathroom adjacent to my home office, but I sure would love one.  Like the coffee maker, it would be super convenient.  If you’re planning a home office and you have the budget or existing layout to make this happen, I strongly recommend a bathroom for your home office.

Filing Cabinet:

If you like your documents, whether for work or for the household well organized in files, a filing cabinet can be great.  I have a small one as well as a filing cabinet drawer, which is very, very handy.


Messy, but there you have it

There are many aspects that go into a home office.  There’s not one simple set of categorizations that define the different types of home offices.

However, hopefully this article gives you some guidance with respect to the types, options, sizing and tools needed to create the ultimate home office.

 => Check out our massive home office photo gallery here

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