This work-from-home arrangement, popularized with three initials as WFH, is now the norm, rather than the “exception“ it was just a year ago. When Manila Bulletin Lifestyle approached architects, interior designers, and furniture makers to reveal their WFH spaces, we got an overwhelming response that we decided to publish a second installment.
The respondents for this forum were just excited to show others what they’ve done with their own work corner at home. Some of them even recommended friends and co-workers to join this forum.
In revealing—some of them for the first time—their own private work space at home, they also extend their desire to influence others who may want to improve their own WFH space.
STEPHANIE KIENLE-GONZALEZ (Chief operating officer and vice president, Philux)
An ideal WFH set up varies for everyone. Create a space of productivity and inspiration by adding your work essentials and things that motivate you. Begin by investing in a reliable desk or table, and a chair that you won’t mind sitting hours on. Depending on the nature of your work, make sure that what you normally use is organized and easily accessible. Add objects that make you calm and happy—your favorite photo, an artwork, a plant, or some greenery that enliven the space. Welcome natural light in.
When you do online meetings, make sure that what your colleagues see is that you are in a comfortable, organized, and presentable space. Being in a space that looks professional is giving respect to who you are meeting with and to the company you represent. Make sure the space has good lighting, quiet, clutter-free, and perhaps somewhere with a door that you can lock in case your kids or your pets start invading your meeting!
JESY CRUZ (Co-founder and creative director, Alero Design Studio)
Just like any typical office, you want your space to work around your needs and make it conducive to creating outputs. It’s a bit tricky since it’s a balance between making it comfortable, but not too comfortable. A WFH space should function according to the nature of a homeowner’s work, thus it should have ample task areas, along with storage areas for documents, files, and equipment.
Aside from ample natural and general artificial lighting, do not forget about task lighting which can help illuminate your work space, therefore reducing eye strain.
If you are just starting your WFH space, start with deciding on isolating an area in your house that’s far from distractions. Collect furniture pieces at home that you can use together—a desk and an ergonomic chair is a good starting point. You can then surround it with pieces that keep you motivated and energetic throughout the day. It’s a small change but a good way to get you started.
LOWELL LOREN P. BALANDRA (Principal architect, LArcC Methods)
In terms of organization of the WFH setup, I recommend a functional and practical approach. A clean desk with the essentials (your laptop, a mug, and a few decor to lighten you up). Aesthetically, I recommend the use of a textured table and mementos of travel or nature to remind us that the world still exists.
As much as possible, pick a space where you can focus, one that provides the right amount of privacy, and comes with good acoustics. Be comfortable in organizing your setup. Avoid too many distractions. Don’t overdo your setup.
DIANNE VERSOZA (Principal interior designer, VRSO Interiors)
Foremost, my WFH setup is a functional workspace that has all the things I need. It is comfortable since I work long hours. To enhance it, I have a “Zen corner” that is within my reach to help me deal with stress. It keeps me calm, focused, and grounded the whole day.
I placed decor that is only located at the corners of my eye to avoid distraction and clutter. These help lift my mood. I also added a board that shows all my tasks to help me in time management.
As for colors, I used white for purity, blue for calm, green (from plants) to add life, and pink to reflect my personality. I also have flowers and scents to calm me, candles to give me energy and to keep me awake, and pictures of my work to keep me motivated.
RALEENE CABRERA (Principal interior designer and partner, GUSSYDESIGN Inc.)
A good WFH setup should accommodate the type of work you do. I always ask my clients how many hours they would be in this space as this dictates the furniture they’ll need. A fully upholstered chair looks nice but will not give you enough support if you’re typing for more than six hours. Try on as many chairs as comfort is key! Invest in an office chair with good back and arm support.
You should also consider space for day-to-day essentials, an area for refreshments, supplies, and devices. If the client requires a lot of screens or computers, I would consider cord management into the design.
Decor and art are also important because everyone needs a good Zoom background. Shelves or a blank wall behind you should give you enough opportunities to inject some personality into your space. If you’re able to, position the desk in the room with windows to the left—this gives you some soft natural lighting for video calls. For larger rooms, I always include an area for lounging and some guest chairs.
A wider desk is always good. If you don’t want to do a custom desk and have enough space for it, don’t be scared to use a dining table! I’m currently using a dining table, which works for laying out swatches and plans.
MARK STEVEN PEREZ (Principal interior designer and partner, GUSSYDESIGN Inc.)
As interior designers, our eyes are trained to look at every corner and nook of each space we are in, including those that are not so visible like undersurfaces of tables and countertops. We mind how everything goes well together the moment we step into the room—from the flooring to the walls, to the ceiling, lighting, the ambiance, ergonomics, and comfort of the furniture, the color schemes, and even the scent, acoustics, and air conditioning. The success of the design is really based on the designer’s attention to detail and the total experience of the user inside the interior space.
The same goes for designing for a WFH set up. The main objective here is to be able to create a workspace that’s effective, comfortable, and of course, inspiring for any user. He or she should be able to efficiently focus on work tasks, and be productive at the end of the day. The space should be well-lit, free from unnecessary clutter and distractions. The work table should be good enough for the amount of counter space the person needs. Some need more counter space for papers, books, and devices.
Storage spaces and organization are also important. When you “go to work,” you want your space to be clean and organized well so you know where to get your files, stapler, and other small stuff. Extra drawers come in handy. For those who need a printer, it’s also important to know where to put them. We are so lucky we can now print wirelessly. Sometimes these printers eat so much of the counter space. Now, we can hide these printers away and place them in some shelving so we can really maximize our work counters.
Once we have defined the essential requirements, we can now create and visualize the look that would best fit and inspire the client.
Color scheme, materials and finishes of the furniture, lighting, storage, and nice table accessories come in play here. Plants also play a big role here, for we always need a visual rest from looking at our computer for hours. It’s always nice to have some greens on top of your desk or near you at some corner in the room. Besides, they also help purify the air we breathe in the room.
When it comes to lighting, some people prefer day-light fixtures, others want it warm-white or somewhere in the middle, like cool-white. But cool-white to warm-white lighting colors are more flattering than having day-lights. Day-light is really more for office. It really depends on the client’s preference. If he or she prefers day-light as a general lighting, we can put a nice interesting table lamp on one corner and have cool-white bulb in it to set the ambience.
Overall, the client’s need and personality are what we really consider when designing an ideal WFH setup. It’s very personal in a way and we, as the interior designer, try our best to marry what they need and like, and what we think professionally would really work best for them.
On the other hand, when it comes to designing or styling for online video meetings like Zoom and MS Teams, the approach is different. It’s somehow viewer-centered, this time. You want to look fresh in front of them. Lighting again plays a big role here. You want to be clearly seen on cam, or else it defeats the purpose of you being on a video call.
Lucky are those who have windows near their work stations because they have natural lighting, and they get to take a break every now and then, and appreciate the view outside. Warm to cool-white lighting are much flattering than day-light. So to tone down its harshness on cam, you can turn a table lamp on in front of you or use an artificial studio lighting, like a ring light for you to look better on cam.
When it comes to composition, it helps to set your camera or laptop in place to capture not just your best angle but also the best possible view of your background. It’s always great on cam to have an interesting visual of what’s behind you so your viewers could appreciate everything they see on their screens and also get a glimpse of your personality with your choice of furniture and art.
When you’re in a business video call, it should be at least decent, presentable, and professional enough. It’s also understandable if you don’t have that kind of background, or if you just want some privacy—you can always use a nice crisp image as a virtual background, like I do since I prefer to work in my bedroom, with the best view and lighting during the day.
VIANCA FAVILA (Principal interior designer and partner, GUSSYDESIGN Inc.)
For me, the best WFH set up would be a desk beside a window. I love natural light and the view of nature outside while I work. It helps me relax and not get too overwhelmed when there is much to do. I would also make sure that a WFH space has enough desk space or writing surface for all your things.
A functional table would be about 1.2 meters in length at the minimum but it can also just be any desk or dining table with ample space for your basics (laptop and notebook). Since I am a designer, I need more space for my sketches and A3 plans.
I usually advice my clients to decorate one’s desk with things that would keep them relaxed. In my case, I have a lavender plant, a crystal, a candle, and a painting near my desk. Since I live in a condominium, I have about three other floor plants surrounding me as I try to imagine as if I am working outdoors.
At the end of the day, I make sure to clean and organize my desk. This helps me get started again the next day and so it is important to choose a table or space that can give you proper storage for all your WFH needs.