Building the Best Home Office

Building the most productive office starts with the the basic core element; What makes you the most productive? Before you start designing the office you need to really know what your personal priorities are in formulating the best home office for you. Just because it works for other people doesn't mean it has to work for you.

We took the Home Office challenge in April 2009, here are some of our notes to help you move forward.

What should the Wall Color be?

When we set out to build the perfect home office we spent a lot of time with trying to figure out the best color to paint on the walls. We research all different colors for productivity and overall effectiveness. We purchased a couple of small samples and applied them on the wall to see what they would look like.

Wallpaper was never an option since it involves a lot of work to put up and if we changed our minds later, it would be very difficult to make a change.

It took a while, but we discovered that the 'Wheat' color from Benjamin Moore was the perfect balance for us.

What we learned: We are very happy to have spent a couple of days trying to find the best color that works for us. We visited the local Benjamin Moore dealer and had some help identifying the perfect color pallet we should use.

Scandinavian Designs Desk


I have a Scandinavian Design's' Cherry L-Shape desk, with a file cabinet accessory, monitor riser and a shelf that fits on the top of the desk. There are plenty of stores that sell quality scandinavian furniture. You won't find this particular desk at iKea. This is an awesome desk because it has a nice design and it comes in module pieces. Which means you can set up up differently to fit your office space needs.

When I was looking for a computer desk, I focus more on practicality than economy. Sure I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg for a nice desk, but I didn't want to settle with whatever option was available to me at one particular store. I was looking for a nice modular desk that I could customize to my needs. After I selected the base desk, I did go back to the store a couple of times within the year to get some add ons.

There's two types of storage to consider when selecting a desk, short term and long term storage.

Short term storage is things like paper, staples and blank DVDs. These are things that I want available to me usually at a moment notice.

Long term storage are things like extra cables, envelopes, and spare ink. These are things that I need to have but not always at my disposal.

What we learned: The key to a good home office is having the right desk. Spend plenty of time looking and feeling the desk that works for you. Know what will fit in the available space and know what you need for short term storage and long term storage. Where are you going to keep your bills??

Also keep in mine the life of your computer desk, do you really think that your desk space needs are going to be the same today as it will be 5 years from now? Sure Laptop are getting popular, but you still need a place to focus on the work that needs to get done. Don't assume that sitting on the same couch that you watch the Superbowl is going to be a productive environment.


October 8, 2014 - Form in Teak, a popular scandinavian furniture store in the Boston area, closed it's Burlington, Massachusetts store on June 2013.

Wall TV

We wanted the ability to watch TV in our home office and decided that having a wall mounted TV would be great addition to the home office. This did cause a couple of challenges, one we didn't have any TV cable into the office or that side of the house and we didn't have any electric plug where the TV would go.

We contracted a local electrician to help us with installing a cable and power jack to where the TV would go. We decided to put the jack on the wall just behind the TV. This way there would be no low hanging cables.

We went down to the local Walmart and purchased a TV, there wasn't any particular TV that we were looking for. The only regret is that we should have looked for ones that had a built in DVD or Blu-Ray player. That would make it a little bit easier to hook up a DVD player. We did purchase a value price DVD player that Walmart had, as we wanted the ability to watch movies but didn't need to have a lot of bells and whistles.

We put up the TV ourselves, as it was very easy and didn't need to pay someone else to do it for us.

What we learned: Hiring someone certainly made installing the Wall TV electronics easy and more importaintly done right.


I use my 2011 21.5" iMac as my primary computer. The Apple iMac is a great power computer since you can easily have both Macintosh and Windows running at the same time via Parallels Desktop.

The iMac comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse. Having a wireless solution helps keep the computer desk clutter free by having the ability to move the keyboard and mouse to the side when you need space.

I also find havimg dual monitors to be a great productive tool. You can easily add a second monitor to the iMac by using the Thuderbolt connector.

Tip: When building your home office, you need to figure out what computer will provide you the best tools. Having multiple monitors really can improve your online productivity.

Printer/Scanner Combo

I currently use an Epson Stylus CX7800, which is a great USB printer that has scanning capabilities. I can even scan documents right from Photoshop without using a third party tool. There is a memory card in the printer, but I don't find much use for that.

A good printer is key to being productive and using an "all in one printer" not only saves desk space, but it also means only one USB computer port gets used and only one power supply is needed.

I have found that some of my premium printouts that I need to do are better off being done at FedEx Kinkos and Staples that using an ink jet printer. I would recommend not focusing on getting the perfect printer as you can utilized printing services if you need to get the perfect print. If you don't need the copy right away, your options increase with uprinting and mimeo.

If you should get a printer make sure to stock up on extra ink supply. You can find lots of eBay sellers selling multiple packs of ink. These are not only an excellent value, but having the extra ink will be valuable when your printer runs out of ink.

What I learned: Deskspace becomes a premium space at home. Avoid any clutter on your desk by using various "all in one machines."

Extra Tip: When building your home office you need to figure out what your printing needs will be.

Basic Office Supply List

This is a list of general office supplies that I have on my short term storage:

Office Necessity:
  • Stapler & refills
  • Tape & refills
  • Container of Paper Clips
  • Container of Thumb Tacks
  • Pencil Sharper
  • #9 Kraft Envelopes
  • Note Pad
  • Technology Necessity:
  • Blank CDs and DVDs
  • Blank DVD Dual Layer
  • Empty C-Shell Containers
  • Empty Slim Containers
  • USB Hub
  • Productivity Necessity:
  • Desk Pad
  • Erase A Note by Vertiflex
  • Extra Pens and Pencils
  • Sharpie Pen to Write on Disks
  • USB Flash Drive
  • Tip: Instead of buying plain #9 Envelopes, you can add a little touch to your home office by getting custom evelopes at Vistaprint.


    October 17, 2014 - Consider shopping at smaller stationary stores such as Bob Slate Stationer in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They usually have better quality products and have some great ideas to organize your desks.

    DVD Short List

    Here's a list of DVD's that I keep at my desk that I like to watch while I work. I usually have these on a bookcase shelve near my desk. I find that these movies make great background audio/video when working from home.

    Back to the Future ClockStoppers RunDown Juassic Park III
    National Treasure Ocean Twelve Ocean Eleven Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    Mummy Returns Enemy of the State The Haunted Mansion (2003) Black Knight


    October 14, 2014 - The key thing is to find your favorite movie and use that as a background noise, alternatively you can use Amazon Prime to watch some classic TV shows such as Cheers or Family Ties.

    October 17, 2014 - iTunes have been posting full games of some of the best match ups. Watch a classic NBA game or some classic Wayne Gretzky hockey.

    August 3, 2015 - Having Apple TV setup in the office, you can setup various YouTube channels to have as background sounds.

    Aiwa DW480 Stereo System

    This is an old stereo that I purchased at Good Guys in San Jose California in 1988. I use this to digitalitize audio tapes, play music CDs and listen to the radio when it's snowing outside.

    I purchased this Stereo system because my Sanyo (model #035) was having problems with the speakers. The Aiwa model was the closest model that I could find, at the time, that has the ability to play audio from my computer. I simply hook up a male to male cable from the back of the computer to the stereo system. This allows me to mute the sound of the computer unless I have the stereo system on.

    What I learned: Having good music can set you in the mood and put you in the right mood. Using an external radio reduces the resources of your computer and gives you some more power sounds that come from your computer speakers. Today you can find much smaller systems that offer better sound, you don't need to have a dual cassette player to have a good home office.


    October 14, 2014 - It's very easy to hook up a modern stereo system to an iMac. You'll need a Male to Male stereo cable to make it work. Very importaint to make sure that's a stereo cable otherwise you could have some sound issues with some audio clips.