Ask the Expert | The Times

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Sara is delighted to launch her new monthly column ‘Ask the Expert’ in The Sunday Times, nestled in the Move section amongst lots of property, home and garden news…

Q. I’ve been working from my spare bedroom since last March and I still don’t feel like my home office looks enough like an office. Can you help?

A. It’s definitely been the design challenge of the past 12 months. Suddenly we’ve all needed to create workspaces in living spaces — and often at short notice, depending on the latest government guidelines. So how do you create a working space in a room that was never designed to be a home office, something that has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have?

First, it is important to spend time planning your area. You should include a good desk space, comfortable chair, storage to pack everything away at the end of the day, and good task lighting.

A decent desk chair is critical to the operation. Some good options can be found online at a range of stores, from Ikea to April and the Bear, but go for the best quality your budget can allow. A funky swivel chair with no back may look good in your home, but it may not be the best for your back.

Personalising your office space makes a huge difference. A few items that bring joy to your desk will act as pick-me-ups on long Zoom-filled days. Some ideas include a framed photo of your family or pet, a small potted plant connecting you to nature, or a nice pen pot — mine is a recycled from a candle jar. Such items all go into creating a zone that gets you in the headspace for work while also providing character.

Under-desk storage and desktop storage are also recommended. They will keep you organised and uncluttered. If you are on video calls regularly, take time to create a good backdrop. I do not know how many times I have looked at my own backdrop and thought: “This is so boring — I need to get on to it.”

Start by adding a large piece of art or print behind you. The Dublin-based company Hen’s Teeth ( has a wonderful range of prints, or if you are into auctions you can pick up a special piece at a good price there. Try Herman & Wilkinson ( or deVeres ( House plants are also good to have in the frame, as the biophilic trend proves durable in the interiors world.

For when it is time to log off, invest in a screen to shut the space off. It is good mentally to feel as though you are closing up shop. It also means you don’t have to tidy up or lose the function of that space as a bedroom.

You can read Sara’s column every month in the print and online edition of The Times.

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