Posted by Dan O'Malley in Home Design

​Home offices have gone from nice to have, but maybe not essential, to a must for many homeowners, causing them to think about what makes a home office look good, function well, and be Zoom ready.

​Home offices are so important to buyers now, according to Mollie Carmichael, principal of Meyers Research, that one recent survey showed more than half are willing to spend $10,000 more for a home with an office space.

​Given that long-term investment, it pays to know how to create an environment where your productivity and creativity are at their peak.

Lights, Color, Action

​The real estate adage about “location, location, location” applies to your home office, too. Some people just need their favorite couch or chair plus a laptop, and that’s their office. Others need a room with a door to block out noises and assorted distractions, including the kids playing a loud game of tag or the dog who just rolled in some unknown substance outside.

​In between, there are buyers who like the concept of adding a modern desk and lighting in a bedroom, breakfast nook, or other area.

​Carmichael predicts we’ll start to see a trend of smaller home offices, another home management area with desk, and a homework space for kids in their rooms.

​No matter which option you like for your new home office, choose a space with plenty of natural light. “It helps bring life into the space,” says Jill Mastrostefano, creative director with the design firm P [Four]. For video conference purposes, people typically look best in natural light. Views of nature can also help inspire and connect you to the world beyond your home. (Just don’t position yourself in front of a window during a video call or you’ll be hard to see.)

​Contrasting color is an essential element to look your best on Zoom, Mastrostefano says. All skin tones are warm. The wall color in back of you should ideally be cool, such as greens or blues. As it happens, the Pantone Color of the Year is navy, one of the most widely accepted colors in the world. “You can't go wrong with any blue,” Mastrostefano says. “Think of a pair of jeans. It goes with everything.”

​If a cool wall color isn’t possible, Mastrostefano recommends choosing your outfit to contrast with your skin tone and the background. Skip the peach-hued shirt against a peach wall.

​Then there’s the matter of office furniture. “The lawyered, executive office look is dead,” Mastrostefano says. Avoid ornate desks for something more approachable. A stylish dining table perpendicular to a wall with comfortable chairs along one side can make a fine office space. When you’re ready to invite the family in, children or teens can tackle homework at one end while you finish up a project at the other.

The Home Office Backdrop

​Surround yourself with things you love, and position one of those pieces as your Zoom backdrop.

​“Video calls can be cold. We're missing that energy of being in the same space with another human being,” Mastrostefano says. Rather than showing a cluttered wall or bookcase, consider positioning your device so viewers see a piece of art, a colorful basket, or another item on the wall that shows your personality. The idea is to give people a way to connect with you when we’re all craving more social bonds.

Tech to Make Work Easier

​The last thing you want during a virtual meeting is the message that your internet connection is unstable.

​One solution to potential Wi-Fi problems is a mesh Wi-Fi system, says Alex Gantt, an account rep specializing in new construction with CPI Security. Mesh Wi-Fi allows your signal to originate from multiple locations in your home, rather than a single spot. An eero mesh network, as one example, provides a main router plus a series of beacons that can be strategically placed throughout the home. “Each beacon jumps the signal to the next, helping it navigate around walls and down hallways,” Gantt says.

​Another tactic is a hardwired connection. “Every day people ask me, ‘Isn’t everything wireless now?’” Gantt says. “Wireless connections have opened up a whole new world of possibility for our tech devices, but a hardwired connection will always prove to be faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi.” He recommends a data connection for a stationary computer, printer, or smart TV. A hardwired device is also less susceptible to hacking or other privacy concerns.

​Now that you can stay online without interruption, it’s time to consider gear. Gantt shares several recommendations:

  • A network-ready printer with a document feeder on top so you can easily scan large files directly to an email address. (In a pinch, try an app such as Genius Scan that lets you to take a photo of a document and turn it into a PDF.)
  • A surge protector to shield your computer from lightning strikes or power surges.
  • An external hard drive or cloud storage service for backing up files.
  • An external webcam if it’s not already built into your device. offers “great product comparisons and reviews online to get you started,” Gantt says.
  • A USB Hub, allowing you to charge your phone, tablet and more all at once on your desk.
  • A voice assistant can be helpful for setting reminders, creating meeting invites, finding quick answers to questions, taking a call, or even adjusting the temperature and lights without interrupting your work. Amazon and Google are among the leaders in voice assistants.

​Whether you want to post every artistic vignette of your workspace on Instagram or just want to easily find that piece of paper you dropped on your desk a minute ago, a clean, inviting, well-equipped home office is an asset. Spend time to turn it into a space that supports you.

​What must-haves make your home office an environment that keeps you productive and focused?


Dan O'Malley
Dan O'Malley


Dan O’Malley is the Vice President of Product Development for M/I Homes.With over 30 years of expertise in residential architecture and design, Dan has been overseeing the product needs of the company's 16 divisions located throughout the Midwest, Southeast, Nashville and Texas for the past 12 years. Before joining M/I Homes, he was a partner in the Chicago office of BSB Design, a national residential architectural firm, for 14 years. Dan is an expert in all aspects of single-family and multifamily design and has received several awards for his successful projects. He is also a popular speaker at various industry events, including the International Builder’s Show, Midwest Builder’s Show, and Multi-Housing World.

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