Everything You Need to Do to Stage a Home Office

Whenever I ask my Realtor friends what people today are looking for in their next home I often hear about the home office being on the wish list. It's no surprise, given the rise in working from home.

So, if you are getting ready to list your home, or if you have a home on the market already, a good question to ask yourself is, "Does my home have the kind of office that would satisfy today's buyers?" 

If you think the answer is no, I assure you there are simple remedies. Some creative thinking can give buyers what they want. Home staging to the rescue! 

Even a small, simple place to work or read or is a plus
in a home that's for sale. Photo: Southern Living

Find the spot

If your home doesn't already have a space or room you use as an office or craft room, your first step will be to find the space. Just hunt your home for unused square footage. Don't fret about a view or natural lighting. But you do need at least one electric outlet and wireless capability.  

It's fine if you want to tuck some office space into a corner or nook of the kitchen, family room, or even a wide hallway. Some WFH people are singles or semi-retired people who can work without worrying about family distractions. Parents who need a home office can often make their office and Zoom hours happen when children are at school, or they will use their home office only as a spot for children to do homework. 

Others will use a home office for occasional computer work, gift wrapping, bill paying, correspondence, or crafting. Your task now is to show with home staging that your home can accommodate a place to work.

One clever and easy way to quickly make your work area feel larger is by adding a mirror. Mirrors don't need to be expensive. Visit a big box store or shop online. With approximately 1.8 billion e-commerce websites out there, you're bound to find the perfect one at a good price, all without leaving home.

Another way to make a room look more spacious is to show as much flooring as possible, and to eliminate or limit the use of small area rugs. Transparent, reflective, translucent, or leggy furniture pieces are also helpful.

Add the essentials 

The only must-haves for a home office are a work surface, a chair, and a power source. Sometimes the work surface can be an existing built-in, but more often you'll need to bring in a table or desk. It's best if this piece of furniture matches the style of your home because otherwise, the space looks like an afterthought.

If your style is eclectic, you could use a vintage piece of furniture or perhaps something sleek and new in a mid-century modern mode. If your home favors a farmhouse look, a rustic table is perfect. For an industrial look, hunt for a table with metal legs and reycled work surface.

A desk like this is always useful, economical and will
be easy to transport when you move. Photo: Wayfair    

Adding a secretary desk or vintage writing desk is often all 
you need to suggest a suitable home office. Photo: Homesquare

A wall-hung unit like this from Boyd Design can be
the most effective use of a small space in your home. 
Photo: Roger Davies via Architectural Digest

Tucked into a corner of a room with a daybed, this 
home office hits all the bumpers for luxury. 
Photo: Joshua McHugh via Architectural Design

If your designated space doesn't have natural lighting, you can always add illumination. A beautiful view of the outdoors and plenty of natural lighting are both nice, but optional for a staged office. Buyers will however respond favorably to a well-lighted workspace because it will look larger, cleaner, friendlier, and more functional. This is especially important in interior rooms or during the winter months.

Add some LED lighting. LEDs are currently the most popular lighting choice, making up 53% of the world's market, because they are bright, energy-efficient, quiet, and don't generate heat. A typical desk lamp with a typical halogen light bulb will accept an LED light bulb as a substitute improvement. One popular way to add LED lights is strip lighting under a shelf or row of cabinets.

Dos and don'ts

Once you have a location and a desk, chair, electricity, and lights, you're off to a great start. See what you already own that can be pressed into service as part of the staging. Given adequate space, possible additions would be a bookcase or shelving unit, a file cabinet (yes, they are still useful), a plant, some artwork, and a rug to ground the grouping. 

If you are staging this home office in order to fill a vacant or sparsely furnished room, some possible additions might be a larger bookcase or two, additional seating or a couch, floor lamps or a statement desk lamp, a musical instrument, radio, or sound system, a bar cart, or a coffee station.

Don't locate your staged office where there is no year-round indoor climate control unless you live where the air temperature and quality are consistent and comfortable all year. For a room over the garage, it's common to add a window air conditioner or a source for auxiliary heat in order to convert the space to a useable office.

Don't makeover a closet into an office. Buyers prefer storage space over a place to work.

Don't squeeze an office into a bedroom if it is going to crowd the room and make it less than a restful retreat.

Don't get cheap by making a desk from hollow core doors or a sheet of particle board on top of a couple of cardboard storage units. It will only look shabby and devalue your home.

Don't make an office look gender-specific. Many offices you'll see on Pinterest or on blogs are designed to please women. They're pink and fluffy and romantic. Even though women are often the prime decider in a home purchase, it's just smarter to plan your staging to please as many people as possible.

Twin beds? That's a perfect place to add a desk and stool
or chair to suggest a tiny workspace. Photo: William
Waldron, design by Alessandra Branca and Steve Uihlein 

Since many homebuyers no longer care about a
formal dining room, that kind of area can be
staged as an office like this one by Andrew Fisher
and Jeffry Weisman. Photo: Simon Watson

Trick it out

The final flourishes in your staged office will be the fun part of staging. You'll want to add the props that add personality, and that fuel the imaginations of people touring your home. 

Most likely, you'll already have some items on hand that can be your office props. The usual candidates are books and supplies for organizing the office. You can't walk through any store's home decor department without seeing displays of organizing baskets, boxes, racks, boards, and holders. Considering that "getting organized" is the most common new year's resolution for most Americans, staging an area that makes organization look easy will please potential buyers. 

As always with home staging, keep clutter out of the picture. If you are actually using this office, arrange it so that any daily accumulation gets tucked out of sight when you aren't there. Don't leave out any confidential information, valuable objects, or calenders that tell when you won't be home. You know the drill. Stay safe.

Choose a few handsome desk accessories, nothing too small or valuable. No matter how small your office space is, a plant or some flowers are almost a must. They can be real or silk. As a staging prop, I've used a closed laptop that my computer repair guy said was unrepairable and then made it obviously not-worth-stealing by removing its insides. Some art, corkboard, or oversized clock helps fill blank space.  

If you want to add some color to your office setting, planning a simple color scheme keyed to colors in the surrounding area is best. Sometimes, a group of office objects you already have can be spray painted to look more coordinated.          

Window treatments are an easy way to bring more color into your home office without painting the walls. They can also help to regulate your home's temperature. About 25% to 30% of your home's heating and cooling is lost through your windows. Thick, quality curtains can help to keep the indoor temperature even, whether you are living there are not, and they add a soft touch.

Of course, most people are going to fall in love
with a she-shed office. Don't do this if you don't
have the power to heat and cool it, illuminate it, and  
access to the internet. Photo: Man Cave Know-How

If the appearance of your house is more industrial chic,
you get a pass on adding colorful accents. Photo: DigsDigs

Make sure whatever electronics you stage with look current,  
but aren't liable to be stolen or hacked. Kate Riley at
Centsational Style used pink flowers and draperies
to add color to her mostly white home office.  

Your colorful accents don't have to be bright colors.
Pastels work just as well. Photo: Little Pink Notebook

Color will be what gives your home's staged office a bit
of punch. Choose one or two accent colors, or even a rainbow 
in small accents like desktop accessories. Photo: Signs Plus Signs

Get the look, get the book

Remember, it doesn't matter if everything in your staged home office conveys with the property or not. The idea is to let buyers see the potential your house has to be a home for them to call their own. 

If you would like more ideas for staging a home office follow that link to visit my Pinterest board for home offices. You'll find more than 60 inspiring photos there, all of them suitable for a staged home.   

And don't you dare leave here without downloading my home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You'll get all the encouragement and tips you need to plan and execute your staging, from start to finish. Take advantage of my years as a decorator and real estate investor to speed you on your way and simplify the work!