How to create a productive study space

Creating a study space where you feel comfortable and productive does not have to come at great expense, but it does require some effort, shares interior designer Anna Kalnars.

Kalnars, who runs her own interior design company in Devon, Infinite Design, has been listed in the Telegraph’s best 20 interior designers in Britain.

One of the most important considerations when choosing a home study could be completely cost-free, she points out.

“Good natural lighting can make all the difference,” she says.

“If you haven’t got that luxury then go for very good artificial lighting, both cast lighting at the space that you’re working in, and also more generally. Perhaps softer lighting when you just want to sit back and have some thinking time,” she said. Shadows should be avoided as they have a tiring effect.

Start from scratch

It is worth taking time to plan your study space properly regardless of size.

In the multiple home offices Kalnars has created for herself, she has always cleared out the space first. “Start from scratch,” she says.

“Go forward with the knowledge of what you’ve got to play with in the first place, and actually imagine yourself into the space.”

Using a grid plan can be a helpful tool to decide how to organise the study, she suggests.

When it comes to furniture, a comfortable chair is worth investing in, as is a good desk.

“There’s a lot of talk at the moment about it being bad to sit and I would certainly agree that it’s good to have variety, so put things elsewhere in your space so that you’re getting up occasionally,” says Kalnars.

“Certainly don’t keep your coffee machine in your study space. Have it somewhere else so that when you feel like a coffee it’s a conscious decision you’re making.”

A place for everything

Good storage space is the next essential. This can be both drawers attached to your desk or separate but “very close by” so that you can pull out everyday essentials easily.

Filing cabinets are a personal preference, but Kalnars suggests that having something you can look down on is useful. She prefers to use IKEA cube shelving with a good labelling system.

The value of shelving for reference books and files cannot be underestimated, she said. “However tiny a room you can actually achieve a lot of shelving right over your head.”

Putting your furniture in place is not the end of the redecoration.

“I think it’s worth putting the time into actually organising and then a bit more time into reorganising. Do it regularly as well,” said Kalnars.

Clutter buster

“Avoiding clutter is all part and parcel of that,” she added. This would mean keeping a clear desk space and electrical cables under control. Especially avoid having trailing wires across the floor and make sure they are going around the periphery of the room.

“You’re seeking to reduce all the things that are irritants,” she said. “There are really handy cable tidies that can correct everything.”

Finally, choosing the right décor can make a positive psychological impact. Kalnars recommends keeping office furniture white or grey as those are easy colours to live with for a long time. They can be matched with painted walls and colourful cushions.

Personalising your study can also make it more inspirational.

“Have a piece of artwork, or a favourite photograph, or even a noticeboard on which you can stick up things that are personal, so that it is your space. You’re making it your personal haven, somewhere where you can feel comfortable but you can do your best work,” she said.

Shopping list

Kalnars does not promote particular brands but would generally recommend IKEA for most office furniture. Office furniture specialists like Décor are also worth checking out for the staples that you will need for years to come, like a comfortable chair and desk.

Essentials to shop for:

  • Office desk
  • Office chair
  • A quality lamp
  • Cube shelving
  • Cable holders
  • Paint

Browse the full range of AAT study support resources here

Nicola Smith has spent a decade reporting for The Sunday Times on both the European Union and South Asia.

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