I Finally Perfected My Tiny Home Office Thanks to These Simple No-Fail Updates
How one Better Homes & Gardens editor created a professional, personalized backdrop for video calls.
At the start of each weekday, my husband, two kids, babysitter, and I take to our respective corners and dive into remote work and school. Like so many, I adapted our bedroom into my work-from-home office during the pandemic. I set up a new desk and an ergonomic chair in a sunny nook near the window, and I was feeling productive. That is until I started taking video calls.
As the beauty and fashion director at Better Homes & Gardens, I meet with brands, experts, and even a few celebrities from my bedroom office. Lately, I’ve been feeling self-conscious about my background. From where I sit, my bed, dresser, and “beauty closet”—the console where I store a growing number of products to test—are all visible. I never got around to hanging art, and the unfinished backdrop doesn't reflect my job and interests or feel work appropriate.
The mismatched bedding, crowded surfaces, and makeshift storage had my head spinning with possibilities. Motivated to make over the area but not sure where to begin, I turned my attention to the blank wall behind me and connected with Jen Stagg, a Salt Lake City-based interior designer who does video consultations. We came up with a comprehensive design plan to upgrade my 180-square-foot space so it better reflects my personality and serves multiple functions: bedroom, makeup counter, office space, yoga studio. Here are the seven easy steps I took to transform my nook into a do-it-all work-from-home hub.
1. Determine Budget
Before planning the details of a home office makeover, come up with a realistic budget. My desk, bed, and dresser were all keepers, so I thought a budget of $500 would be enough. After my Zoom call with Stagg, I realized that amount might cover only half of what I needed. We determined a few must-haves, including floating shelves, a storage unit for beauty products, and small accessories, which were reasonably priced and easy to order online. However, I quickly learned that items can quickly add up even for a small project. I redeemed reward points from my credit card and volunteered my husband for manual labor to offset the costs. Retailer apps like Target Circle and coupon browser extensions, such as Honey, can also help you save on office supplies and decor.
2. Find Your Angle
Once you've settled on a budget, determine the position of your desk and chair. I knew I wanted to face a window so I’d have even sunlight on video calls. With Stagg's help, I fine-tuned the positions of my desk, chair, and computer. I set my laptop on a few thick books to put the camera at eye level. I also centered the camera on the back wall and dresser to establish what would be on-screen during Zoom calls.
3. Create a Focal Point
After arranging furniture, it was time to simplify my background (think: neutral bedding) and to create a cohesive focal point. “Shelving allows you to share a little bit about who you are and add some style into your room without it getting too loud behind you,” Stagg says.
I purchased dark wood shelves and black brackets, which match my existing bed and dresser, and a new storage cabinet ($126, Wayfair) for under the shelves. “I like to place shelving so the center of the shelves (the space between them) is at around eye level," she says. "If you have something specific you want to fit on them, make sure to account for height clearance."
Together, these two items provide stylish storage that speaks to my professional expertise during work calls.
4. Pay Attention to Scale
I had some funky proportions in my room to sort out, starting with a tiny canvas above my bed. New 22x55-inch artwork spanned the width of a queen bed frame and only needed an inexpensive update from an affordable IKEA frame. Before purchasing artwork, grab some painters tape and mark the space on the wall. This allows you to try the size of a piece before adding it to your cart. “Seeing the sizing on your wall will help you know what will work best,” Stagg says.
As for the bulky mirror overpowering the dresser, I swapped it out for a more delicate round version ($58) from the Better Homes & Gardens Collection® at Walmart. In addition to supplying some glam to the wall, it freed space for a bedside lamp, which is balanced by a vase on the opposite side.
5. Choose a Color Palette
An ocean scene from the Stagg Design Shop struck the ideal tone for the bedroom. It’s both meaningful—my husband and I love the beach—and filled with our favorite colors. (He lives here, too, after all.) Stagg pulled out some of the soft blues, greens, and pinks from the artwork for decorative pillows (also from her shop) and bedding ($90, Target), which are directly behind me during virtual calls. The muted bedroom color scheme creates a serene backdrop rather than a distraction.
The mirror, picture frames, and other accents feature brass and gold metal finishes. “Brass and gold have a way of warming a space,” Stagg says. Greenery (even faux) adds more color and life to the room. Stagg says to be careful of the placement of greenery so it doesn't look like it’s growing out of your head.
6. Carve Out Storage
Especially in tight spaces, storage is key. Remember the piles of makeup and hair products previously cluttering my backdrop? A new chest of drawers tidily tucks them out of sight. Its compact size (ideal for a New York apartment) also provides enough clearance for my yoga practice. Inexpensive trays in one drawer organize the jewelry that once littered the top of my dresser. Clear display jars on the open shelves contain and showcase lipstick and nail polish, and a marble canister holds my collection of makeup brushes.
7. Showcase Personality Through Artwork and Accessories
Art is a great way to display your personal and professional interests on a fairly tight budget. For my display shelves, Stagg suggested beauty-themed black-and-white art from Etsy that cost $2 to $6 and can be downloaded to your computer. The writer in me especially loves the graphic look of words. To give a favorite print a high-quality finish, order it on heavy matte paper (I got this one from Artifact Uprising) and place it in an inexpensive gold or brass frame. (Mine are from Target and West Elm.)
To pull the shelves together, Stagg says to layer on personal knick-knacks, books, and a plant or two. For me, this included display jars that organize makeup, a vintage camera from my grandpa, and, of course, a magazine rack to showcase my work.
With my sophisticated new background for video calls, I’m not only confident about inviting my professional world into my personal space, I'm excited to show it off.