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Hot Mess to Hot Desk – How to Create an Inspiring Workspace

Words: Polly

Photos: Bjorn Wallander, House Beautiful, Bloglovin,, Apartment TherapyJenni Kayne, Decoist, Money Can Buy Lipstick, Style Me Pretty, Jules Villbrandt, How To Decorate, BritAndCo and Melanie Gandyra Illustration

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” – Dolly Parton

What we are surrounded by can have a real impact on our productivity, so I’m going to share my top tips for making your home office epic, regardless of size or budget. The featured spaces all have key things in common and you can harness these too and take a desk space that’s dire to a workspace that’ll inspire.

Concealing clutter is the number one aspect to get right; free up space and you’ll free your mind.

1. Savvy Storage

This doesn’t necessarily mean an immaculately tidy desk, most creatives (including me) have a myriad of ideas at any one time, which means books, magazines, tear-outs, swatches etc strewn about (though I do now have a handy basket to scoop it all away at the end of each day). Clutter is the stuff that’s in your way, mentally as well as physically. Maybe it’s receipts, legal documents, to do lists, magazines and books piled up – the ones not currently on your creative radar. Organised storage (even if organised chaos) hidden behind a cupboard door makes you feel lighter, you can see more clearly. Built-in storage is the best and can be designed to suit your exact needs, but baskets, box files, lidded boxes and trays on shelves are an easy fix, then add a notice board for the scraps of paper and inspiring photos, postcards, event flyers etc that need to remain to hand.

2. Statement Desk

Choosing a desk is vitally important because it will be the dominant piece of furniture in the room, the focal point, so it needs to be gorgeous. It doesn’t have to be a ‘desk’ per se, dining tables are great for creatives, but whatever you choose, make a statement. Imagine an amazing antique find, cool vintage, leather inlaid, zinc topped, wooden, marble or concrete (try Graham Sayle for amazing resin poured tables). Be wary of glass tops as they do show fingerprints, smears, marks and scratches more readily than other surfaces. If you are desperate for an airy feel try smoked glass, available at most local glass suppliers (it must be safety glass), which makes marks a little less obvious.

3. Inject Personality – lot’s of it!

After freeing up space, this tip is the game-changer. If your space is purely functional it will look and feel utilitarian, dull and uninspiring. The more of you on display, the more things that bring you joy, the more you’ll enjoy being at your desk. Surround yourself with curated groupings of photos, objects, books, candles etc, arranged in odd numbers for maximum visual impact. Try Thrills of The Emporium, Tin Design and Rockett St George.

4. Outlook

Not your email, your view. Make sure you’re looking at something inspiring, preferably a window with greenery beyond, but if that’s not possible then definitely at a great shelfie, art wall, photos of your favourite trip. whatever creates a spark.


​5. Textural Play

A lot of time is spent working, so create a cosy retreat with cushions, sheepskins, rugs, fabrics and mixed textures to make the space inviting. (Try Design Vintage)

The visual shift from harder lines of a desk/chair to soft upholstery will elevate the style stakes. The space will thank you for it.

6. Second Sitting

If you have space add a second seating area for a sofa or accent chair, somewhere to take a break from the screen with a cuppa, read documents, magazines etc. Changing your view, even for a short while, can really help with productivity and the visual shift from the harder lines of a desk/chair to soft upholstery will elevate the style stakes. The space will thank you for it.

7. Harness Verticals

Where space is limited making use of the vertical planes will make a huge difference. Adding shelves, open for display and closed for storage, stunning wallpaper, a gallery wall, a strong colour and mirrors, will all add layers of interest that look cool and inspire.

8. Amazing Art

Continuing with the vertical plane, add cool artwork that you love in a range of sizes. Keep to a retrained palette for calm, or let loose if you’re more eclectic.

9. Layered Lighting

The best lighting schemes include three layers that perform different roles: Ambient – a general overall glow usually from a central pendant / wall lights. Task – direct glare-free and functional lighting for reading and detailed work, so this is best for your desk and second seating areas. Examples are task desk lamps, track lights, cabinet lights and spot lights. Finally, we come to Accent Lighting which is usually x3 brighter than ambient, used to pin point, or highlight, specific areas of interest like art, plants and architectural details, flooding them to create focal points of interest. They can be recessed, wall mounted, uplights or track lighting.

10. Greenery

The more natural elements the better the space will be visually and for your soul. Houseplants are having a huge revival and displaying them in patterned, metallic, hand-thrown pottery or wooden pots brings more visual interest. In north facing rooms, consider faux – which have come on massively in recent years. Check out Abigail Ahern / Ikea for a range of cool options from herbs to grasses and meadow stems.

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