Designer tips for creating — and sharing — a home office

Create a gender neutral office, and use accessories to personalize your work area. Savannah McNeill of Hey Wanderer, a Nashville based design and lifestyle business, created these desks for the space she shares with her best friend. Hey Wanderer

They say home is where the heart is, but for millions of Americans, it’s also their place of employment.

According to a report the employment-search site Flexjobs released with Global Workplace Analytics last spring, nearly 3 percent of the US workforce, or 3.9 million people, telecommute at least half the time. That’s a 115 percent increase since 2005.

What if you had to share that space? With more people flocking toward these arrangements, more families, couples, and roommates are finding themselves facing each other (literally) and the challenges of working in close quarters together.

So what’s the formula for a convivial work environment?

Having similar personalities and work styles helps. Just ask Casey Freeman and Savannah McNeill of Hey Wanderer, a Nashville-based design and lifestyle business. These best friends have been sharing a home and home-based studio for seven years. Recently, the pair expanded their business by offering interior design photography services under the name Oh Hey Photo.

“Because we have been blogging the entire time we’ve lived together, it’s been pretty easy to share an office with each other since we are usually working on the same things. We are also the same level of neat and messy, so that makes things easier,’’ Freeman said.

The duo utilizes a pair of custom-made desks McNeill created, affording plenty of space to divide and conquer.

Their biggest challenge isn’t sharing the space, but the ever constant sprawl of the tasks that keep them busy. “Our studio is the home to many DIYs and messy projects, and that will spill over onto our workspace. We end up working all over the house really,’’ Freeman said. “However, our goal this year is to limit our working to our studio so we can create some boundaries to keep the balance between our work and life.’’

Dyllan Nguyen and Brooke Scibelliface similar circumstances with their personal design business, Non Issue Studio. Their work-life arrangement involves not one but two workspaces: a room in their Jamaica Plain apartment that serves as a studio and a rented workshop they share with others in Allston, where they hold workshops and create handcrafted objects and art.

“Sharing the space well requires a lot of communication, planning, and blocking out times in our busy schedules to organize,’’ Scibelli said. “We have found systems to both be productive in our shared spaces and are developing organizational strategies to keep everything functional, like cleaning up projects after work sessions, organizing bins for specific projects or hardware, and donating old tools and materials.’’

There’s a psychology to sharing spaces that can easily be adopted by anyone, according to DwellRight founder R. Terry Cline, an architect from Portland, Maine, who posits that finding and creating the right space at home is key.

“Being crammed in an undersized space can feel like being a sardine in a tin can,’’ Cline said. “We’re much larger than our physical bodies. Our ergonomic reach defines such a larger body. Violating these body spaces without permission can add a sense of stress.’’

Accessibility and ease of use is another prevalent driver for those who work at home, according to Brad Little, president of Case Design/Remodeling in Charlotte, N.C. “Even if couples have agreed to share a coworking space, having one’s own dedicated area within that space is crucial to both productivity and relationship-building.’’

Each person should have their own dedicated space. The “Olander Double Workstation Computer Desk” from Wayfair is priced at $253.99. —

If the space is small, solutions do exist. “Floating desks can make the space appear less cramped, and if organized properly, will provide ample personal storage underneath,’’ Little said.

Floating desks can make a space feel less confining. Shown: The “Bennie Floating Desk,” which is $299.99 at —
This desk, the “Andersonville Floating Desk by Wayfair,” can be tucked into a corner. This desk is priced at $159.99. —

Interior designer and lifestyle expert Elaine Griffin, who runs offices out of New York and Georgia, suggests going with a neutral design palette so one style personality doesn’t dominate the room. “Create a stylish, gender-neutral space that relates decoratively to the rest of your home, and then personalize your zone with accessories,’’ Griffin said. “I’m a big fan of using oversized pin boards for displaying pictures, projects, and mementos without dominating the visual landscape.’’

The “Chicago Modern Toile” pinboard by Surface Love is available for $125 at —

And “don’t be a space hog,’’ she said. “When planning your furniture layout, realistically assess each person’s space and time requirements. Sure, the perfectly symmetrical partners’ or double-desk setup looks great, but if one of you is only in your office for a couple hours a day, and the other is in there grinding it out from sunup to sundown, with the commensurate collateral to support their habit, then play nice and assign them the larger part of the space if they need it.’’

And don’t forget to take the time each person works into consideration when you are picking lighting, Griffin said. “Early birds should be stationed nearest to windows to catch the daylight; night owls need adequate lighting, both task and overhead, to burn the midnight oil.’’

Sometimes, the key to cohabitating and coworking together is in the finer details.

“Get some soundproof headphones,’’ suggested Adam McIntyre, a freelance graphic designer who works remotely from Thailand with his partner, Pang Yodmoonklee, a freelance PowerPoint designer. “People focus in different ways,’’ McIntyre said. “Soundproof headphones can be a work-saver when you want to control the environment around you.’’

Sound pollution with your office mate can be distracting, but the same can be said of paper excess, Griffin said. “Are you a piler? A minimalist? Or a mess? Organize for your paper-handling personality. Even if someone swears that they know where everything is, desktop chaos is still an eyesore to look at and distracting to work next to.’’

You should develop an organizational plan everyone can commit to, Griffin said. “If you’re sharing an office with your organizational antithesis, know that anyone’s resolute refusal to rehabilitate their evil ways is flat-out partnership suicide.’’

Need a viable solution for the interim paper shuffle? “Tiered rolling carts are perfect drop zones to stylishly corral papers and files between sorting and eliminating that partnership-wrecking ‘unkempt stacks and piles’ look,’’ Griffin said.

Tiered rolling carts are perfect for corralling paperwork. The “4-Shelf Wooden Gavin Rolling Cart” is $149.99 at —World Market

Beyond the detritus of a shared office, there are other obvious tenets that warrant attention, like respect for deadlines and creating a distinct line between work and life.

“There are times when one of us will have no work at all but the other needs to work into the early hours,’’ McIntyre said. “This can easily ruin dinner plans or throw a spanner into evening activities at home, but it must be respected as the tables can easily be turned. Thankfully, when you both work from home as freelancers, plans can easily be changed.’’

“Set firm boundaries between work and personal life,’’ added Natalie Hornyak, an SEO specialist at The Content Factory. Both Hornyak and her husband, Chris, work remotely and full time together in a shared office. “When Chris and I close the office door behind us at the end of the day, we remind ourselves that work stays in this specific room. It’s difficult, because when you work in the same place — whether in the same physical space or at the same company — your spouse ceases to be the best sounding board for work stress, because it’s easy to take their stress on as your own.

“But it’s also important not to work 24/7 or blur the lines between your home and your home office, especially when you’re a workaholic like me.’’

Christina Poletto lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she writes about unusual old homes and interior design trends. Follow her on Instagram dovetailordesignstudio. Send comments and story ideas to Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @globehomes.