The Complete Guide on How to Buy Home Office Furniture

updated Oct 23, 2020
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Dining room turned into an office
Credit: Kristine Weilert | Stocksy

Working from home has its perks (cozy loungewear, a dream commute) and its pitfalls (distractions, a heavily blurred line between the office and off-hours). Creating a designated workspace can help combat the latter, but doing so with thought and intention is the key to making it work. Whether you’re upgrading from a cubicle to an entire room or simply carving out space in the corner of your living room, the items you choose to outfit that zone with will be the difference between a productive workspace and an ineffective one. 

Office furniture rarely drums up an aesthetically pleasing example of form marrying function, but reapply the concept to a home base, and suddenly, you have a lot more flexibility, especially on the design front. Bulky file cabinets and rigid desks get traded for softer textures and delicate lines. Snoozy paper memos and beige walls default to vibrant art and potted plants, transforming the area with colorful flair. And if you’re going for a traditional approach, there are design-forward opportunities for that as well. 

“Just because you are using a room as your home office doesn’t mean you have to incorporate ‘office’ pieces,” says Abbe Fenimore, founder and principal designer of Studio Ten 25. “I like to use media cabinets and buffets as storage pieces. They allow you to create a stylish environment while still leaving room for storing office supplies and tucking away the printer.” 

Ultimately, sourcing the best home office furniture is more than just pairing a desk with a chair. Here’s what you should know. 

What to Consider When Buying Home Office Furniture

As you formulate the groundwork for your home office design, think about the amount of space you’ll need and where you’ll feel most productive. Natural light is always welcome, and if you have the ability to carve out a spot near a window, take advantage of that. 

“Consider the placement of your desk or main workspace in the room. It’s important to feel comfortable with your view and create a space where you can feel settled and focused,” says Fenimore. Here’s what else to take into account.

1. How Much Space You Have

Before making a purchase, take inventory of the square footage you’re working with. If you’re converting a spare bedroom into a home office, you’ll have a little more leniency as to the type and amount of furniture you can get. If your workspace is the edge of a dining table or a console propped between the sofa and a wall, you’ll want to maximize every square inch you have. 

Pro tip: “One of the first things to consider when selecting home office furniture is how much your space will be used and what aesthetic you are going for,” says Decorist designer Casey Hardin, who recommends choosing a sit-to-stand desk so you have more flexibility and can stretch your legs while maximizing productivity.

2. How Many Hours You Work

The number of hours you generally work tends to inform the type of furniture you’ll need. For example, if you lean toward 40+ hours a week, a dedicated spot with a desk and chair is ideal. If you’re more of a sporadic or nomadic worker, consider a trolley cart that can move with you from one spot to another. Long hours tend to result in backaches, headaches, neck aches… you get the picture. The ergonomics of your chair, height of your desk, and lighting you’re working under will all eventually contribute to your productivity. 

3. Your Personal Style

Once you have an idea of the number and type of items you’ll need, focusing on your personal style will help narrow down the choices. These are popular themes:

  • Modern: Streamlined forms, geometric shapes, and a minimalist approach
  • Vintage: Wooden furniture, oversized table lamp, damask or old-school patterns
  • Contemporary: Think modern with vintage touches—use of marble, glass, and polished metals
  • Industrial: Wrought iron, reclaimed wood, exposed brick, and upcycled accents 
  • Glam: Elegant pieces, faux-fur textural layers, and rose gold or brass metals
  • Traditional: Soft shapes, neutral upholstery, nailhead detailing, ornate built-ins

4. Your Budget

Lastly, think about how much you’re willing to spend on furnishing your home office. If you’re starting from scratch, a desk and chair are probably the most important elements, so set aside the majority of your budget for those. Lighting is the next essential—a combination of a task light and a more ambient source are ideal. If you still have budget left over, think about storage, organizational contraptions, and decor. A well-dressed workspace is a happy one!

How to Choose a Home Office Desk

A home office desk should be more than just a landing pad for your laptop. It should take your everyday needs into account, align with your height, and provide proper storage.

  • Surface area: Do you require multiple screens, tabletop lighting, and an external keyboard? The last thing you want is a cluttered desktop. If you lack space for a filing cabinet, bookshelf, or printer, you’ll have to incorporate them on top of or below the desk. Measure out the approximate surface area most conducive to your work style and use that as a marker for your search. 
  • Ergonomics: Find a desk that aligns with your height, and avoid having little wiggle room under it. Unless you’re using a laptop, position the keyboard approximately at elbow height—you don’t want your arms to heavily protrude or your shoulders to be uncomfortably raised. Consider a pull-out keyboard tray or a laptop stand as a workaround. Your screen should sit roughly 20 inches away, at a slightly downward angle from your line of sight.
  • Storage: Hardin recommends a combo of open shelving for books, art, and decorative objects and a closed-cabinet system for files and items better kept out of sight: “If you can’t splurge on a new unit, consider taking a basic bookcase and adding baskets to the bottom shelves so you can hide away items and stay organized.”  

Types of Home Office Desks

  • Traditional desk: A traditional desk is similar to a table but may also include shelves or drawers for storage.
  • Corner desk: Intended to maximize nooks and angles, corner desks come in a variety of styles and sizes. The most popular are compact and meant for tight quarters.
  • Floating desk: Floating or wall-mounted desks free up valuable floor real estate and allow for a streamlined and understated finish. They typically have a drop-down desktop or a built-in storage system with an integrated surface for laptops or monitors.
  • Credenza desk: Picture a credenza with space carved out for your legs. This desk is often used with an executive or computer desk, allowing for maximum surface area and storage.
  • Folding desk: This small-space staple can easily collapse, making it a foolproof option for those who prefer a portable office setup. 
  • Ladder desk: This modular system comes with integrated shelves above the desktop and can fit just about anywhere. It’s convenient for those looking to squeeze a home office into an existing room.

Home Office Desk Styles

As far as aesthetics, look to the area your desk is occupying for inspiration. If your home office is incorporated within a bedroom or living room, allow that to inform the furniture style—office staples that stick out are rarely a good look.

  • Executive desk: This is your quintessential old-school office desk, typically in an L-shape, flanked by built-in cabinets and drawers. It’s comfortable in size and abundant in storage.
  • Writing desk: Picture a streamlined desktop sitting on a set of legs—this minimalist option is as straightforward as it gets. “A writing desk can fit almost anywhere, and a few small pencil drawers keep accessories out of sight,” says interior designer Kate Lester.
  • Computer desk: Ergonomically crafted computer desks often come with cord portals and built-in chargers. Designer Gillian Segal suggests a desk with cable management to keep things clean and tidy. “I always look for desks that have at least one drawer,” she adds, “particularly in small spaces, to tuck away clutter.”
  • Roll top desk: For a more old-fashioned look, consider a roll top desk, which has a rounded cover that slides down over the workspace when not in use. It’s a good option if you want to hide your office at the end of the day, but it’s bulky and not exactly inconspicuous.
  • Secretary desk: This mid-century icon (which actually dates back to the 18th century) consists of a hinged surface that doubles as a desktop and an array of drawers stacked on top for storage. It’s elegant in design, resembling a hutch, and keeps items concealed. 
  • Standing desk: A standing desk‘s surface comes up to about waist height, allowing users to function while upright or sitting on a high stool. Some are adjustable and can convert to a traditional desk.

How to Choose a Home Office Chair

You’ve solidified your desk situation and the next item of business is finding the perfect home office chair. “When designing a home office, the one item you should never scrimp on is your desk chair,” says designer Hardin. “This oh-so-important piece is what you will be sitting on for hours at a time, so it is crucial to select a desk chair that delivers on comfort.”

What to Look for in a Home Office Chair

  • Adjustable features: Your preferences in seat height or support will change throughout the day, so opt for a chair that has an adjustable height, backrest, and armrests.
  • Deep seat depth: A chair that can accommodate your preferred width and depth goes without saying. You’ll want to ensure that the backs of your knees are at least 2 inches away from the seat’s edge. 
  • Material: A fabric that promotes breathability and airflow (like mesh) is important, and padding is also encouraged.
  • Lumbar support: This is a pivotal component often represented in the form of an adjustable back, which can be personalized to your fit and form. It mimics the curve of your spine and provides structural and ergonomic support. 
  • Reclining seat back: Experts say that sitting at a reclined 135° angle puts the least strain on your back. Your backrest should leave a little room for slouching back in your chair.
  • Wheels: Also known as casters, they let you roam easily and are ideal if you’re going with an L-shaped or executive desk where you have a lot of surface area to cover.

Types of Home Office Chairs

  • Task chairs: Your run-of-the-mill office chair with casters, a cushioned seat and back, and armrests.
  • Ergonomic chairs: Ergonomic chairs are essentially task chairs but with modifiable features that go beyond height to include customizable depth, lumbar support, and tilt.
  • Drafting chairs: A step above ergonomic chairs, drafting chairs boast even more conformable components. They’re designed for those who spend a large amount of time at their desks (think architects).
  • Accent/reception chairs: Reception chairs are more of a design-minded choice. If you aren’t spending a lot of time at your desk, consider a chic dining chair or accent seat.
  • Executive chairs: Featuring a high back and usually a high price tag, executive chairs are statement makers that are best for larger spaces.
  • Folding chairs: Not the most ergonomic or comfortable, folding office chairs are a good solution for small spaces, as they can easily collapse and be stored away.

The Best Places to Shop for Home Office Furniture

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

If You’re Looking for Curation

  • Fully: Fully takes office basics and transforms them with a design-forward spin. You’ll find ergonomic staples as well as sleek standing, L-shaped, and even treadmill desks. 
  • Branch: This DTC brand has high-quality office furniture at reasonable prices. Their line includes contemporary staples along with sofas, filing cabinets, and conference tables. Did we mention they’re design-forward too?
  • Inside Weather: From custom desktops to chic, modular finds, Inside Weather lets you create the perfect workspace by selecting your ideal shape, color, and even base style. 

If You’re Looking for a Deal

  • AllModern: If you’re going for modern minimalist with mid-century or contemporary vibes, AllModern has you covered. Peruse the bestsellers list and don’t sleep on the sales!
  • Joss & Main: For home office furniture on a budget, Joss & Main is the place. The flash sale site has the full gamut of essentials, filing cabinets and cozy armchairs included. 
  • Walmart: Walmart’s collection is broken down by furniture and storage type, with an affordable approach to standing or converter desks, cabinets, carts, lighting, and more. 
  • Overstock: Whether you’re opting to shop by style, trends, bestsellers, or price, Overstock lays out their inventory of home office basics in a digestible manner.

If You’re Looking for Variety

  • Wayfair: Wayfair’s extensive collection of home office furniture means you can find just about anything you need—printer stands, cabinets, chair mats, and laptop carts included. 
  • Target: Target has a wide range of office furniture plus ideas for integrating pieces into various spaces. Expect small-space picks, mid-century modern finds, and a mix of staples. 
  • Home Depot: Yes, even Home Depot delivers on the home office front, including a wide assortment of more traditional and industrial finds. 

If You’re Looking for Modern or Contemporary

  • West Elm: Rest easy knowing you’ll end up with a design-forward pick here. West Elm’s mid-century and contemporary furnishings are primed to transform your home office. 
  • Apt2B: Sleek forms, streamlined elements, and minimalist shapes are the core of Apt2B’s approach. Head here for a fresh take on contemporary and industrial designs. 
  • Design Within Reach: While DWR may run on the pricier side, you’re getting the best bang for your buck. The retailer is all about premium design, high-quality products, and effortless cool, with a range of office essentials that feature myriad style icons. 

If You’re Looking for the Basics

  • Office Depot: The retailer has all your basics covered, no frills or over-the-top details. Find your perfect task chair and pair it with the executive desk you’ve always wanted. 
  • The Container Store: While it has your standard scope of office furniture, The Container Store’s collection of storage staples sets it apart from the rest. Snag trendy filing cabinets, tech organizers, desktop accessory sorters, color-blocked bookends, and more.