At-home office overhauls moved to the top of the to-do list

The biggest design trend of 2020 was born out of necessity — people everywhere are giving their home offices a makeover.
home desk set-up
Photo by Nikki Hansen

The biggest design trend of 2020 was born out of necessity — people everywhere are giving their home offices a makeover. For Kayla Degnan, this meant her unfinished office in her Sun Prairie home could no longer be used as a storage space.

“When we were starting virtual learning, we were in here and it seemed like a closet,” Degnan says.

Degnan and her husband, Alex, built their dream home in 2018 in their hometown of Sun Prairie. Degnan, an occupational therapist, started a blog and an Instagram account to document her home design journey. @kaylahaven_ now has more than 62,000 followers on Instagram.

With a leap of faith, the couple decided to dedicate more time to Kayla Haven, their home design consultancy business, in February. A month later, COVID-19 hit.

Kayla Degnan

Photo by Nikki Hansen

“We kind of [saw how it went] for the first couple of months but then realized that people are still really investing in their homes ,” Degnan says.

Since launching Kayla Haven, they’ve worked with 75 clients. “All client work has been virtual since March,” Degnan says. “It’s definitely been a huge learning curve, especially since this is all new for me as well.”

It makes sense that folks were still interested in home renovation and design, even more so through the pandemic, Degnan says. “We’re all spending so much time in our homes right now,” she says.

Degnan has furnished and styled her house the same way she encourages her clients to do so — room by room and piece by piece as time and money allow. And for the Degnans, the home office’s time had finally come. But COVID-19 changed the original room plan a bit.

little girl working at a desk

Photo by Nikki Hansen

“We’ve switched gears a little bit now that we’re home-schooling,” says Degnan, mother to Penelope, 6, Eleanor, 4, and Breckum, 3. “This was supposed to be a designated space to work on my clients and Kayla Haven alone. But I needed to switch gears a little bit so that my daughter can kind of work in here, too.”

She has a small desk that can easily be brought in and out so her first grader has a space when she needs it. “I really wanted it to be a space where we can come in here, read, work together at the table, I can do some of my design stuff, there are places to put markers and pens,” Degnan says. “It’s got to be multifunctional right now.”

And while the room serves a specific purpose, Degnan notes that home offices are often at the front of the home, so it can also be the first impression people get when they walk through the front door. “People are looking for something that kind of catches their attention,” she says.

Having a dedicated workspace has been a game changer, Degnan says. “I feel like it’s a place I can actually be productive,” she says. “I think if you don’t have a dedicated workspace, it’s really hard to feel like you can get things done. Especially in a time like now. We really have no idea how long this will go on for.”

6 Home Office Design Tips

At Home5

Photo by Nikki Hansen

1. Think through your storage space. Kayla Degnan went with built-in cabinetry from Cabinets Plus of Columbus, Wisconsin. “Having filing cabinets has been huge,” Degnan says. She chose a Hallman Lindsay paint color (SHEEPSKIN 0566) and inset drawers for the cabinets. “I just adore them,” she says.

2. Choose smart lighting. Degnan opted for a more modern light fixture for the room. But overhead lighting isn’t always ideal when you’re hard at work, so Degnan uses a mounted picture light she got on Amazon for about $50. “We have them in our living room and they’re like my favorite lights ever,” she says. “It just gives that nice ambiance and adds some flair.”

3. Consider a feature wall. All those Zoom calls deserve a decent background. Degnan went with a grasscloth peel-and-stick wallpaper to add some interest to her office, and to show her clients that you can easily put it on and take it off without full installation.

4. Buy accessories as you go. “I love to plan out this itemized shopping list,” Degnan says, adding that you can buy items incrementally instead of all at once. Degnan created a mood board for her office (pictured above right) and also creates them for her clients. Shelf styling is one of her favorite parts, and she says it is definitely less intimidating than it looks. “It’s so fun to play around with and it’s such an easy way to kind of change up your decor,” she says. Degnan also worked with Vintage Supply for artwork for the office.

5. Keep it light. One look at the Kayla Haven blog or Instagram account will tell you what Degnan’s favorite color palette is. “Our last house was beautiful, but it was really dark and I just feel like in Wisconsin you don’t get a ton of pretty days, especially in the winter,” she says. “So it was super important to us in this house that it was going to be very light and airy.” Natural light is a big plus in a home office, but light decor colors will keep things bright all through winter.

6. Expect shipping delays. The delivery of big pieces of furniture often takes multiple weeks, and COVID-19 has further delayed arrival times. Degnan says she tries to recommend vendors and product lines she knows have good customer service. “I do preface it by saying, ‘This could take a long time, especially for larger pieces.’ They don’t just ship within the next day,” she says.Magazine footer that says "Like this article, get so much more by subscribing"