Hybrid working is here to stay, and it's more important than ever that we create workspaces where we actually want to spend time in. A key part of this is decorating with the right colors.
It's difficult to exaggerate the impact color has on how we feel in a space (for us, yellow can make us irritable if exposed to it for too long, while pink is supposedly the most flattering under candlelight). Consider whether you want to coordinate your home office paint colors with the rest of your home's palette or make it totally different, drawing a firm line between work and play.
Working from home frees up lots of time – a study by the University of Chicago showed that US workers saved over 9 billion hours in 2020 as they no longer had to travel to work. To make those hours spent at our desks count, experts from the interior design and paint industry have shared their advice on what color to paint a home office.
What color should you paint a home office?
'The best way to look at this is to consider your job, and some basic color psychology can help with your choice,' says Patrick O'Donnell, Color Consultant at Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab). 'While creatives can be inspired with bolder colors such as burnt orange or zingy yellows, more data-driven people will respond better in a space of blues and greens to help focus the mind. So consider these little rules before committing to splashing out on that tin of paint.'
1. Soothing blues
Blue is considered to be the color of the mind according to color psychology, making it perfect for a home office or therapy space. Serene and inspiring, pale blue creates a feeling of infinite space. This lends itself to problem-solving, brainstorming ideas, and attention to detail. In most of its guises, blue will help to promote cool, calm and collected thoughts in your home office.
'Shades of blue are known to stimulate the brain which ultimately leads to increased productivity and efficiency,' agrees Mike Semegen, from interior design service Hello Home Studios (opens in new tab). 'This is a great color for keeping focused in any office setting. Some examples of colors that work best are blue, teal, and blue-gray.'
2. Barely-there neutrals
According to a survey by Living Spaces (opens in new tab), 66% of people preferred neutral tones for their home office. A warm, neutral palette of tans and beiges would provide a calming backdrop to a hectic workday prone to WFH distractions.
Despite what you might have read about orange being the most productive color, Jessica Harris, designer at Living Spaces says any colors that provoke a strong emotional response, such as red, orange or yellow should absolutely be avoided.
Home staging professional Kate Keyser at Ivy Lane Design (opens in new tab) agrees that neutrals are the ultimate choice in a space where you need to be focused. 'We realize we may be in the minority here, but we actually recommend picking an office paint that is super neutral to keep the space feeling clean and not over-stimulating,' says Kate Keyser.
'We recommend a simple color palette – and packing the punch of inspiration into your art selection! Art gives you somewhere to rest your eyes and somewhere to draw inspiration from when you need to look up from your work.'
3. Soft greens
Consider introducing soft green tones into your home office, from delicate sage to rich olive. Sara Abate from Ambience Design Group (opens in new tab) says green is ideal for anyone working long hours: 'Green is a great office color because it is the easiest on the eye,' she says.
'A soft shade of green is ideal as it helps to generate a peaceful and productive feeling in the space, where you can stay for long periods of time.' Nature-inspired tones from pistachio to pine create a sense of balance, which could help when facing challenging tasks or preparing for meetings.
'The perfect mid-neutral would be the calming notes of Eddy (opens in new tab), a restful soft green that will encourage focus to get on with the job at hand,' says Patrick from Farrow & Ball. 'But if your metier is of a more creative bent, look to an enriching shade such as India Yellow (opens in new tab) to truly inspire.'
4. Take inspiration from your wardrobe
What color makes you feel good about yourself and the most productive? Given that you'll be clocking up a lot of time in your home office setup, it needs to be a color or a selection of colors that reflect your personality.
'Still not sure? Go take a look at the clothes in your closet,' advises interior designer Lauren Jacobsen, president of Lauren Jacobsen Interior Design (opens in new tab). 'That should tell you the colors you feel best in. What's really good about the home office is that you can truly personalize your very own space to reflect exactly who you are,' she says. This personal approach will create a home office that honors ourselves and the value of the work we're doing as we go.
Millie Hurst is Section Editor at Homes & Gardens, overseeing the Solved section, which provides readers with practical advice for their homes. She has been in the world of digital journalism for six years, having previously worked as Senior SEO Editor at News UK both in London and New York. She joined the Future team two years ago, working across a range of homes brands. Millie formerly worked as Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home, taking care of evergreen articles that help and inspire people to make the most of their homes and outdoor spaces. Millie has a degree in French and Italian and lives in North London.
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