The first step in designing a home office is finding a place to put that home office. And sometimes, this requires a little creativity. If you’re out of space on your main floor and all your nooks and crannies are spoken for, you may want to head downstairs to see if your basement has any space to offer.
“As more and more employees are opting to work from home, I think basements are a terrific area to place a home office,” Gail Jamentz, principal designer at Soul Interiors Design, says. “They typically offer privacy from day-to-day activities in the home, and oftentimes feature more unused square footage than other rooms in the house.”
Meet the Expert
Sure, a basement may seem like a strange place to put a home office. But with a little imagination, you can craft a basement home office that’s as sleek and focus-friendly as a home office on any other floor.
To help you pull off the transformation, we asked four interior designers to share how they would turn a basement into a functional home office space.
Figure Out How Much Room You Need
Start by asking yourself two simple questions: how much office space do you need, and how much basement space do you have?
“Consider what other activities are done in the basement,” Erin Coren, co-founder and principal designer at Curated Nest Interiors, says. “Are kids going to be playing there during work hours, meaning you need a closed-off space? Do you need storage? How many screens do you use?”
Once you figure out the needs of your home office—and the constraints of your basement—you can determine where to put your office. In some cases, you'll need a full-blown room. In others, you may be able to tuck a desk against a wall or inside an unused closet.
Declutter Your Space
Before redecorating your basement, consider decluttering it. This could mean getting rid of items you no longer need. Or it could mean completely clearing out your basement.
Paint Your Basement an Office-Friendly Color
One easy way to transform your basement? Repaint it. “A fresh coat of paint is a great way to start transforming the room,” Watts says.
And be thoughtful with your color choices. “If you work long hours, make sure you're using colors in your office that will make you want to be there and be productive,” Coren says. “Having a space that makes you feel comfortable and productive will help set the stage for success.”
Having a space that makes you feel comfortable and productive will help set the stage for success.
Invest in a Comfortable Desk Chair
No office is complete without a really great desk chair, so invest in a chair that you’ll feel comfortable spending all day in. “Invest in a comfortable chair and desk that supports the work you do,” Watts says.
And stock up on other essentials that’ll keep you cozy throughout the workday. If you tend to run cold, keep a plush blanket or a set of fuzzy slippers by your desk. (After all, one of the perks of working from home is that your colleagues can only see you from the waist up.)
Upgrade Your Light Fixtures
If you’re one of the lucky few with a window-lined basement, make the most of that natural light. And if you aren’t, consider upgrading your light fixtures. “One challenge with a basement is the light—or lack thereof,” Watts says. “Do you need to add or upgrade fixtures to create more light?”
Look at the light fixtures that are built into your space. Then, consider where you could make changes. Could you swap out an overhead fixture for a bigger option, upgrade to brighter lightbulbs, or add a few sconces to your walls?
Insulate Your Walls
When building out your basement, light is an obvious problem. But noise can be an issue, too. That’s why Lynn Stone, co-founder and interior designer at Hunter Carson Design, recommends spending some time downstairs before decorating.
“Head downstairs during working hours, and make sure the basement won’t be too noisy,” she says.
If your basement is noisy, you have a few options. “If sound is a problem, insulation, rugs, and solid core doors can help minimize the sound,” Coren says. And if the situation is dire, Stone recommends contacting a contractor, who can help you better insulate your walls and ceiling.
Build a Truly Incredible Coffee Station
If coffee is part of your daily routine, make space for it in your home office. “The hallmarks of a great office are things like a boardroom table that turns into a ping pong table, a coffee machine that makes you forget Starbucks, and a setting you want to be in,” Stone says. She adds that while the boardroom-table-turned-ping-pong-table may be a long shot, a user-friendly coffee maker can go a long way.
And if you’re not a caffeine person, you can always treat yourself to a decked-out snack shelf. “When those tough days come, you want to be sure your home office is stocked with healthy snacks—particularly if you are working in a basement area that is far from the main kitchen,” Jamentz says.
Segment Your Space Into Work Zones
The great thing about building a home office from scratch? You get to design your space around your needs. So if your workday involves different kinds of activities, dedicate space to each of those tasks.
“Designing a functional home office is most effective when you have like activities grouped in their own zones,” Jamentz says. She notes that computer work might live in one zone, meetings might live another, and mailroom activities might live in another.
“Once you have reviewed your work zones, determined how much space would be ideal for each activity, and measured any needed equipment, it’s time to layout your space,” Jamentz says. This approach should keep your space organized, comfortable, and optimized for productivity.
Fill Your Space With Feel-Good Accents
Staying motivated during the workday can be tough, so stock up on thoughtful décor.
“Viewing beautiful art, inspiring quotes, or decorative objects goes a long way to make the workday more enjoyable,” Jamentz says. “Also, displaying appreciative customer testimonial quotes, thank yous, and reviews are great ways to boost your morale on those occasional challenging days.”
Outfit your home office with candles, prints, and other touches that will give you a boost when you need it most.
Cozy Up Your Floors
As you outfit your home office, consider whether your floors need a refresh. “Once a clean slate of the space is created, I encourage my clients to determine if the basement needs new or updated flooring,” Watts says. This could mean replacing the floors outright—or simply cozying them up with a rug.
Line Your Walls With Cabinets
Before it became your new home office, your basement probably served some other purpose. And you may not have to bid that functionality adieu.
“What we love about basements is that they’re a great place to store the stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else in the house,” Stone says. “If you want to turn your basement into an office without losing the perks of basement storage, call in the custom cabinet crew.”
Sleek storage options—like floor-to-ceiling cabinets, open bookshelves, and drawer-lined desks—can help you make the most of your basement without disrupting your home office.
Mix and Match Different Kinds of Lighting
Good lighting is key in any home office. And often, you’ll need a few different options to get the job done. “Ideally, it is best to have three light sources in a workspace: overhead ambient light, task light, and natural light, if possible,” Jamentz says. Since natural light is limited in many basements, you’ll want to go all in on the rest of your set-up.
So upgrade your overhead fixtures, stock up on desk lamps, and invest in bright lightbulbs. Then, add flexibility by installing dimmer switches.
“When the sun starts going down, switch to warmer, cozier lighting to help reincorporate the workspace into the rest of the home,” Stone says. “You can have the perfect office, but if you don’t get the lighting right, you will feel like you’re working in the basement.”
Use Desk Décor to Keep Your Space Organized
Set yourself up for success by keeping your space clean and organized. “When it comes to designing a space that supports your performance, it’s important to note how vital the aesthetics of your interior are to your mindset, happiness, and energy,” Jamentz says.
There are tons of different ways to do this, but classic desk essentials—like bulletin boards, pen cups, and calendars—can make your office both prettier and more practical.
Snag a Bunch of Upholstered Furniture
Upholstered furniture may seem like a strange pick for a home office. But it’s a surprisingly great option. For one thing, it will give you a comfortable place to lounge during your lunch break. And it also should reduce some of the noise in your basement.
“Adding upholstered furniture—such as a cozy sofa, an area rug, and drapes—will greatly help diminish annoying noise reverberating from the room’s hard surfaces,” Jamentz says.
Stock Up on Power Strips
One simple step you shouldn’t overlook? Make sure you have all the outlets you need. “When we converted our basement family room into my husband's office, we were challenged by the few outlets we had,” Watts says.
Since you may not be able to install new outlets, stocking up on power strips, extension cords, and surge protectors is key.
Favor Flexible Pieces
If your goal is to craft a multifunctional basement, use flexible furniture to get the job done. “If you're strapped for space, consider having a chair that can be used in the office area, as well as for additional seating,” Coren says.
A sleek chair could slide under your desk—and out of the way—when you’re using your basement for entertaining. And a cozy one can expand your seating set-up when you’re hosting guests.
Sprinkle in Some Greenery
Plants make a lovely addition to any space—and your basement office is no exception. “Put a plant in a beautiful pot on your desk,” Stone says. “The green can go a long way in elevating your mood in the depths of the basement.”
Check Your WiFi Signal
It may sound obvious, but you need to make sure your basement is equipped with good WiFi, Stone says. And this isn’t the kind of thing you'll want to figure out on your first basement workday. Take your laptop downstairs, and check your WiFi signal. If it’s struggling, contact your internet provider before investing in a home office build-out.
Make Your Space Feel Like Yours
“A home office should support you in bringing your best self to the world,” Jamentz says. “It is where you create and share your gifts with the world, so it needs to be inspiring, functional, beautiful, and personal.”
Once you’ve covered your bases, sprinkle in some personal touches. Hang fun art, put up family photos, and spring for some cute accessories.
Your goal should be to create a "space that you’re not ready to clock out of by lunch,” Stone says. Invest in the finishing touches that will make your home office feel special.