Designing a home office for two to share is something you possibly never thought you’d have to do, but as the way we live and work has changed, they’ve become a staple of many homes. The design of these spaces must take into account the priorities and work behaviour of the person we’re sharing with, often a significant other. Sharing a home workspace can invite distraction, so it’s important to use design to create a space where two people can harmoniously work side by side.
‘The traditional home office was the den, the place where the Mad Men-like character, retired to do “business”‘, Eugene Colberg, principal at Colberg Architecture, tells us. ‘It’s always been there, but historically it’s been a single-person space. Now with both adults at home working, particularly as the world is navigating the work-from-home and hybrid models of work, most homes now need a home office for both working people.’
From nifty desks that work to accommodate more than one person to to lighting that suits all, to storage solutions, there are many ways that home office ideas can really work to create a productive and creative hub for everyone.
How to plan a home office that works for two
When planning your home office ideas for two, think about beauty as well as function, urges Gideon Mendelson of the New York-based interior design house, Mendelson Group Inc. ‘We believe that a room cannot be beautiful if it’s not also functional. There’s beauty in function!’ Gideon says. ‘When designing an office for two, it’s important that both parties have what they need in terms of desk surface area, storage, lighting, and comfort.’
Then, when priorities are clear, it’s time to think about the intricacies of the design and the style. ‘We then select materials, colors, and pieces that both clients can agree on. And, finally, we always include our clients’ favorite collections – whether it’s sentimental objects, art or books. These final additions make an office feel more personal, which is also beautiful,’ says Gideon.
1. Think about the desk
Whether you are designing for a collaborative space with multiple people, or whether it’s a home office for one, the desk is one of the most crucial elements to your home office. If there are more than one of you, you may opt for a desk of your own, where you can benefit from your own individual storage and give yourself ample space to relax into your routine, or there is also the option of going bigger with a larger dining room-style desk that opens up the working station and promotes collaboration and working together for creatively, as seen in this example from interior design studio, White Arrow (opens in new tab). Think about how you and your office buddy work, whether you plan to work together or if you want to really keep things separate.
Gideon of Mendelson Group (opens in new tab) also suggests a partners’ desk as a good solution. ‘A partner’s desk is a great way to allow two people to work within one space. It may also make for the most efficient layout in the home office.’
Finally, an L-shaped desk, like this example from Albion Nord (opens in new tab), might be a good option for your working from home set-up, giving you your own space in one larger piece of furniture that slots neatly into the corner of your office. ‘This study is inspired by Ernest Hemmingway and is a cocoon of green with a beautiful bespoke wrap around desk made of natural English pippy oak – perfect for two, and atmospheric and cozy,’ says Camilla Clarke, creative director of Albion Nord.
2. Lighting for two
Think carefully about how lighting can accommodate the needs of those who are working in the home office. A task light on a desk helps illuminate your own work, but think about how this can work for both of you. Here, Mendelson Group (opens in new tab) chose a modern home office feature of swing arm sconces attached to the wall, picked especially for their flexibility, helping both people to concentrate with well-sourced lighting that is equally distributed. ‘They serve everyone and add flexibility around the desk,’ says Gideon.
3. Double up a ledge as a window desk for two
Functioning as a desk for you and a partner as well as a pleasant spot to gaze out of the window or a place to feel creatively inspired with a morning coffee, a window ledge makes a smart home office idea for two if you are lacking in space. This window office space was designed by Alice Lane (opens in new tab) and makes the most of what would be unused space in a room.
4. Separate the space
Separating the space is key to creating a home office that works for both of you. You want a clear separation and division of space to keep yourself focused and engaged with your work. This is doable even if you’re sharing the same desk or work surface, through simple design additions, like a touch of greenery, work furniture and office resources like a printer, or using color in a clever way to create that zoned illusion.
If this kind of set-up isn’t as much separation as you’d like, try splitting the whole home office completely in half with a room divider. This can work to soften the space and is a great way to close away the office area at the end of the day.
In this example, storage that stretches up to the ceiling makes for a great divider that is functional and practical all at once, minimizing distractions and making you feel like you have your own personal space for concentration.
5. Design a space that appeals to both your tastes
If working with a colleague, think about how your space reflects your personality, creativity, and use the design to inspire. Designing for power duo, Sara and Erin Foster, House of Honey Inc, creative director, Tamara Honey wanted to craft a space that the pair would look forward to going to. ‘Sara and Erin Foster are a multi-talented power duo, and it was imperative that this space comfortably accommodate two creative, dynamic personalities,’ explains Tamara.
In this example, transforming the space from a typical office setting into a room fit for creatives, Tamara wanted to create a playful flair, building an environment that would be inviting and invigorating.
‘We wanted to create an unexpected, cheeky atmosphere that matched their humorous approach to life,’ says Tamara.
‘We lined the floor with warm, textured rugs and layered soft, neutral furnishings to open up the space. We chose art that mirrored nature, with soft colors that keep the eye stimulated without being distracting. Lastly, we sprinkled the office with touches of everyday luxe: velvet, sheepskin, brass, plants and candles.’ The impact is a space that is comfortable for both parties, helping you both to work from home effectively.
6. Create space for separate storage
When designing a working-from-home space that must meet the needs of more than one person, storage is everything. ‘It’s important to have storage that works for both people. This means having enough storage for both people’s things, as well as having a system that works for both people,’ says John Linden, interior designer from Los Angeles-based Mirror Coop (opens in new tab). Giving people their own storage space that is independent of their fellow worker also helps with routine and order, giving a sense of organization that might be lacking when working from home instead of the office. Think about under-desk drawers, floating shelves, using wall space to your advantage, or dock drawers where you can charge your tech equipment in your own zone.
Also consider how you might want to tidy bits and pieces away at the close of the day. ‘Stash your laptop and work phone out of sight at the end of the working day,’ Irene Gunter of Gunter & Co Interiors (opens in new tab) explains. ‘If they are out of sight, hopefully, they are out of mind.’
‘We work with some incredibly skilled carpenters who create storage ideas that are super practical but also a thing of beauty, personalized to your style and the way you organize your life,’ she adds. ‘Successful storage always comes down to plenty of forward planning. Think about how you use the space and what you want to hideaway or proudly put on display.’
7. Use corridor length to your advantage
In many cases, the home office is a brand new area of the home, once a spare bedroom or dressing area. More often than not, small home offices mean space is at a premium, especially when designing for more than one person. Think outside the box and look to long corridors of space in your home where you might be able to fit people side by side. In this case by Valencia-based architect and interior design studio, Oneside (opens in new tab), finding a space in a smaller home was a challenge of the design phase.
‘When looking for ways to resolve the lack of size issue, we considered reducing the rest of the room’s size, but this was at the expense of reducing the size of these rooms. This way involved integrating an office into the corridor. This allowed us to keep the size of the rooms intact, have extra space for storage and use a part of the home that previously just had one purpose as a passageway part of the home.’
How can I effectively work from home in a shared office?
The key to getting your home office space just right for two people is creating privacy between the two of you. ‘Creating the opportunity for quiet, focused work, while the other might talk on the phone or participate in a meeting is a tough challenge,’ says Eugene Colberg of Colberg Architecture.
A well-designed space helps, but the rest is up to technology. ‘Invest in good noise cancelling headphones and a good microphone so you don’t have to yell and so you don’t have someone else talking while trying to get work done and focus. You might also be able to invest in acoustically appropriate materials that can absorb the sound and reverberation,’ adds Eugene.