- Insider asked interior designers for their best tips for creating a peaceful home environment that functions as a classroom, office, and more.
- Use dedicated workstations and space dividers to keep work and home life separate.
- You can add soft surfaces to reduce sound or invest in noise-canceling headphones.
- If you have the option, turning your closet into a tiny office could be a smart, space-saving move.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Over these past few months, a lot of people have been spending time at home — which has become a lot more than a place to relax. For many, homes are now also serving as classrooms, office spaces, and so much more.
With all of the clutter and chaos, it can be difficult to maintain a tranquil environment that is also functional.
So we consulted interior designers about their best tips for optimizing a home for work and school without sacrificing a calm living space.
Give each family member a dedicated spot
“Giving each family member a dedicated spot helps contain mess,” Alcorn said. “If you can’t assign permanent stations, use a portable container to corral work or school items and move them when necessary.”
Alcorn recommended using a decorative basket or tray to hold each person’s items, and she added that allowing kids to decorate their own container may encourage them to use it.
Use room dividers to help everyone focus
Interior designer and educator Karen Aronian of Aronian Education Design told Insider that using room dividers is a good way to keep working and living spaces separate.
“The best way to create a calm study or office spot is to section the room using dividers,” Aronian said. “You can use decorative floor screens or even a beautiful piece of fabric tacked to the ceiling.”
Using space dividers allows family members to focus when working and also keep any office or school clutter out of sight.
If you’re not able to physically separate from each other, consider investing in noise-canceling headphones
If there are multiple people using a given space during the day, noise-canceling headphones could be a handy tool for increased productivity.
“I think it’s important to have noise-canceling headphones available for people working or learning in shared spaces,” Aronian said. “You might also want to play calm music to enhance focus and block even more sound.”
Options that go over the ear are often better at muting distractions, but you can also use in-ear headphones with noise-canceling technology.
Post your schedule where family members can see it
Interior designer Racheal Zuniga of Level 3 Design Group told Insider that sharing your schedule is critical to maintaining harmony at home.
“Post a note card with your typical schedule or upcoming video calls in a visible spot,” said Zuniga. “It helps others know when to be quiet and when not to walk into the room in their pajamas.”
You can post this schedule on your fridge or door for easy access.
Add soft surfaces to reduce noise
Filling your home with soft surfaces can reduce the amount of noise leaking into your workstation or video calls.
“If you’re not lucky enough to have a workspace with a door, find creative ways to add soft surfaces to your home in order to absorb sound,” Zuniga said.
Zuniga suggested using floor mats or rugs to muffle footsteps or using a cushion to block noise from under the door.
You can also try tacking acoustic foam to surrounding walls to further dampen any noise.
Create a ‘cloffice’ out of a small closet
Interior designer Dalas Dodd, head of the residential design team at Sundae, told Insider that it’s possible to transform an unused closet into a tiny office.
“A ‘cloffice’ has doors you can close when it’s time to stop thinking about work for the day and can usually fit a small desk and all needed work items,” Dodd said.
If the added furniture means your closet doors can’t close, consider replacing them with a curtain or large piece of fabric.
Dodd also suggested decorating the back closet wall with bright paint or self-adhesive wallpaper to make the space more cheerful.
Think ahead before buying extra furniture
Rather than buying dedicated office or school furniture for your home, you may want to invest in pieces that will serve your family in the long term.
“We may not be working and schooling from home forever,” Alcorn said. “Be smart about buying new furniture and go for items that will continue to be useful when family members go back to their real offices or schools.”
Alcorn recommended using small tables as temporary desks and buying open-shelving units that can hold school items now and decor later.
Take advantage of natural light sources
The type of lighting in your work or learning area can help or hinder your productivity.
“Natural light is usually best for your mood and for getting stuff done,” Dodd said. “If that’s not an option, opt for a shaded lamp and avoid fluorescent lighting, which is harsh on the eyes.”
It’s also important to be mindful of using computer screens and tablets in spaces with inadequate lighting, as this can cause eye strain and headaches.
Let go of the need for a perfectly tidy house
Alcorn told Insider that allowing your home to pull double duty as an office or classroom means letting go of the expectation of perfection.
“No amount of storage or organization is going to mask the reality that important work is happening at home,” Alcorn said. “Take a deep breath, be thankful, and try to look past the piles and chaos.”