Remote and hybrid work models are here to stay, with 58% of Americans reporting they have the opportunity to work from home at least one day a week, according to a 2022 McKinsey survey. That means setting up a home office that’s actually conducive to productivity — and general well-being — is more critical than ever before.
And it’s something Ali Budd, president and creative director of Ali Budd Interiors and star of Hulu’s new design docuseries House of Ali, knows all about. “Covid obviously changed everything for us and how we think about working from home,” she tells Entrepreneur. “It’s always a balance between form and function, and especially [for] somewhere you’re sitting for long periods of time.”
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Budd, a veteran interior designer whose million-dollar renovations (and $20,000-$30,000 office overhauls) helped put her on the map, caught the design bug young as the daughter of two artistic parents who ran an ad agency. Her father would travel the world to stage and photograph different spaces, and from an early age, Budd had a knack for that sort of work herself — from reorganizing the basement to redecorating her room.
“When there’s less clutter everywhere, you actually feel better mentally.”
Budd is quick to point out that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to designing the home office of your dreams, but paying attention to a few key details can go a long way toward cultivating the right workspace for you.
First up? Budd suggests creating a plan to make sure you end up with a space you truly love. Things get a lot easier once you measure a room and decide which pieces of furniture you’ll need and exactly where they’ll go. It’ll also help you stay on “budget and with the overall vibe,” Budd says.
When it comes to home office design, Budd stresses that having a separate space — even if that doesn’t include a door — is “the most important” place to start, as it helps distinguish between “your mindset for work and relaxing.”
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Next, consider what you actually need in your workspace, and don’t fall into the trap of adding a bunch of stuff unnecessarily. “We used to need filing cabinets and so many drawers in our desk,” Budd explains. “And we don’t need any of that stuff [now]. I watched this thing recently on the evolution of the desktop; it went from the ’50s to now [covering] what people needed on their desks. It was cool. [And] it went from 400 things on your desk [to] just your laptop. When there’s less clutter everywhere, you feel better mentally.”
Workspace at Ali Budd Interiors headquarters in Toronto. Image Credit: Valerie Wilcox.
“We need to remove the word ‘trend’ when it comes to interior design because it’s such a crazy notion.”
Once you pinpoint what you need, you can start putting the space together. Again, Budd emphasizes that there are no rigid guidelines or must-dos — it’s all about adding what brings you joy. But some items worthy of consideration? A “really comfortable chair,” an aesthetically pleasing Zoom background (“even if you just set up a little sheet or something”), fresh flowers and a desk facing the room, not the wall — all the better to see the beautiful space you’ve designed and reduce the appearance of unsightly cords.
There might not be rules when it comes to setting up your perfect space, but Budd does caution against one major faux pas: finding inspiration from whatever seems to be trending. “We need to remove the word ‘trend’ when it comes to interior design because it’s such a crazy notion,” Budd says. “You are investing in pieces you are living with every day. Why on earth would you care what a trend is? I also think if you like pink, it’s not trendy. If you like black, it’s not trendy. You love what you love.”
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Budd’s own office is a testament to that advice. Its crowning feature is a large desk that belonged to her late father. Because the desk was in storage until she found a space big enough to hold it, it was in “rough shape” — fortunately, a friend refinished it for her.
“[The desk] just gives me such an emotional connection to [the space],” Budd says. “Because my dad was an entrepreneur as well. He ran a business for a long time; I grew up there. So to think about me trying to do that now, it’s very sentimental to me, and it’s very beautiful, and it sort of all works together.”