Color Your Home Office


Most at-home workers understand the importance of a dedicated space for earning a paycheck — being able to shut out day-to-day distractions and household demands allows us to focus on tasks at hand, be it coding, calculating, or creating. But for many, the home office tends to be either a catchall space or a leftover corner of the house. Sure, you may have employed a few smart organizational strategies, but have you ever stopped to think about how your office environment color affects your output? Indeed, have you ever stopped to think about your office colors?

A workspace palette greatly influences the tone of our laboring minds, be it with energy, relaxation, sophistication, or enlightenment. And a well-chosen color scheme can mean the difference between feeling trapped in a daily grind and gaining a sense of fulfillment from a hard day’s work. So reflect on what hues speak to you. Look for inspiration in the objects you’ve already installed in your office — perhaps a favorite coffee mug, funky lampshade, or cherished artwork — and pluck a color from that piece. Below, I’ve provided a rainbow of reasons that you might select a certain hue.


This symbol for passion and excitement has been shown to stimulate conversation and drive productivity.

IDEAL FOR: Entrepreneur

PAIR WITH: Matte black metal filing cabinets and geometric prints

BEWARE: Red can fire up the appetite (meaning added snack breaks) and cause tension, so consider limiting this hot hue to a single accent wall.

COLOR: Orange

A welcome departure from the ordinary, this enthusiastic color adds freshness and energy to a space, perfect for those seeking inspiration.

IDEAL FOR: Writer or graphic designer

PAIR WITH: Mod resin furniture and pop art accessories

BEWARE: Bright colors can be distracting, so take caution if you need to concentrate on details.

COLOR: Yellow

Sunny shades help raise optimism levels and put workers in a shining mood.

IDEAL FOR: Marketing/PR rep

PAIR WITH: Painted furniture, white accessories, and black-and-white patterns

BEWARE: Overly neon shades of yellow can appear garish and lead to headaches, so lean towards buttery or golden options.

COLOR: Green

An earthy tone welcomes a connection to the outdoors, inspiring attentiveness in a peaceful, natural setting.

IDEAL FOR: Teacher/tutor

PAIR WITH: Plants in terracotta pots, wooden furniture, and sea glass accessories

BEWARE: Certain hues of green can look sickly and uninviting, so be sure to check your color choice in different lighting and at various times of the day.


Relaxing shades of soft blue quiet the mind, providing calm in an otherwise high-stress atmosphere.

IDEAL FOR: Accountant

PAIR WITH: A sea grass rug, frosted glass accents, and a blonde wood desk

BEWARE: Too much relaxation in the workspace can lead to a feeling of lethargy, so steer clear of overstuffed (i.e., excessively comfortable) furniture.


This versatile tone (which can pick up hints of everything from green to purple) lends an air of professionalism and sophistication without being boring.


PAIR WITH: Slick metal surfaces, white upholstery, and bold-colored accents

BEWARE: Dark colors can make a room feel smaller, like a dungeon, so be sure to include plenty of lighting and choose softer grays.

Once you’ve chosen a primary color for your office, you can begin to build a palette: Monochromatic schemes blend varying values of a particular color, often for a calming effect; analogous schemes team neighboring tones from the color wheel for a bit more interest; and complementary schemes pull together shades opposite one another on the color wheel, offering high drama. Designers often recommend employing the 60-30-10 rule, which directs you to use your primary color on 60 percent of the space (usually the walls), a secondary color on 30 percent (think bookcases and larger furniture items), and an accent color on the remaining 10 percent (desk accessories, frames, and throw pillows).

If you’re not sure about introducing a second and third color, consider adding simple black and white to your main color choice, serving to accentuate that hue. And if you’re shy about including a bolder color on the walls, try incorporating your scheme through desk accessories, a trashcan, area rugs, throw pillows, light fixtures, artwork, and other easily edited accents.

So, which colors make you want to get down to business?

Jay Harris has been a store associate at a Chicago-area Home Depot since 2005, and contributes to Home Depot’s Home website. His home-décor interests range from computer desks to home furniture.

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