Back in March, when many of us started working from home to slow the spread of COVID-19, it seemed preposterous that we’d be toiling away at makeshift desks all summer, let alone into the fall. But now that many companies have extended WFH policies through the end of the year — with some already extending them well into 2021 — you may be looking for ways to make a makeshift workspace a bit more professional (a.k.a. functional). Still, we wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to invest a ton of money into a home office, especially if you plan to return to your real office as soon as you can. When we think of fast-but-fundamentally-better makeovers, few top the transformations led by Queer Eye’s Fab Five — particularly the actually good upgrades that interior designer Bobby Berk manages to give spaces of all sorts. So we reached out to Berk about his favorite office essentials that will work for any space and, for the most part, won’t cost an arm and a leg (but are well-made enough to last a lot longer than we hope this prolonged WFH stint will). Read on for a desk compact enough that you can work from a hallway, handsome leather file folders for organizing paperwork, the fake plant he uses to liven up homes on Queer Eye, and more Berk-approved picks (none of which come from brands he is sponsored by right now, but some of which come from partners he’s worked with before).
“It’s really important to have a dedicated workspace. Getting a desk instead of using, say, your couch or kitchen table, will be an instant upgrade. This is a really great one — especially for those with limited space. You can even use it in a hallway. The desk part — the table that you work on — comes out, but can be closed up. So you can keep your stuff inside it, like your laptop and accessories and whatnot, and then close it up at the end of the day. When it closes, the office is closed and you’re done. I love the grain on this desk, too — it looks expensive.”
“This is not a huge lamp, so it won’t take up much space on even a smaller desk, and it’s really nice-looking. The brass makes it look higher end. Its shade in particular appeals to me because it casts light down onto a desk, not in your face. With a cloth shade, the light is constantly in your eye, and you don’t want light shining in your face all day. So this shade’s shape casts it down onto whatever you’re doing. I also recommend, if you can, positioning your desk where there is a good amount of natural light, because that helps your mood when you’re working.”
“I’m not a big fan of matchy-matchy desk sets — the ones with the stapler and the pencil holder and everything in the exact same material. I think those can look really cheap. When everything is unique, it shows you didn’t just go to Amazon and order a set. I really like to mix materials — I think the brass lamp above, for instance, would look really nice with this fabric organizer. I like how this has a dedicated space for everything: You can fit your notepads, Post-its, pencils. I don’t think anyone needs a bigger organizer because do you really have that much stuff? That’ll just end up being annoying.”
“If you’d prefer to build your own organizer, instead of buying one that already has set compartments, I really like these. They’re also a better option for people who have less desk space because you can stack the containers, so you get the same function without taking up a lot of surface area. The acrylic material also allows you to see what’s inside, which gives you the opportunity to use more unique-looking office supplies, like square or brass paperclips.”
“You can put this on a wall with cute little brass tacks to give yourself a customized corkboard near your workspace, or you can put it on top of your desk to protect it, which is what I mostly had in mind. It adds a natural element to a desktop and it also prevents any scratches. My desk is metal and I need one of these, because when I move stuff I sometimes scratch it. This will keep a desk looking nicer, longer. All you have to do is roll it out — no tools are necessary. This would also probably be good for kids who are schooling from home, so they don’t scratch any tabletops while working.”
“These leather folders are really beautiful. Paper file folders aren’t really reusable — they fall apart easily, which is just a pain. So this is a simple upgrade that you can use forever, even when we’re back to real office life. You can use them for a presentation or an interview when you have to bring your resume. I also think they’ll take care of your files better because they’re more durable.”
“I hate having pens everywhere — I’m a Virgo, I like things that have their place — and this instantly takes care of that. For people who have a lot of pens — students, perhaps, or those who sign lots of paperwork like I do — this will be very useful. It’s unique and I think it adds something extra to a desk space that’s maybe a little unexpected, too. It’s sophisticated and eye-catching, but not distracting.”
“I keep my chargers, lip balm, iPad pen, hair clips, hand sanitizer, gum, blue-light-blocking glasses, and other random things in here. This is also where my mail ends up so I don’t forget to go through it. The tray has more than an aesthetic purpose — although the brass is really beautiful. But having a tray is better than just using a desk drawer, because I find that when you use drawers, the stuff that goes in it is never seen again, which just adds a lot of clutter to your life. Being able to see what you have means you’re constantly reminded of the stuff that needs to get thrown out or dealt with.”
Editor’s note: This product is available to purchase now but will not ship until October, according to the retailer.
“A notepad like this is more sophisticated than a traditional one. I like the mixture of the elements on the page — there’s a blank section, and then lined spaces where you can take notes. I think this makes sense to keep on a desk rather than a traditional notebook, because even though it has a cover, it’s open-faced like other notepads.”
“I just love this. It’s so smart-looking and everyone has cords hanging all over the place, so this is a great way to organize them that still looks chic. I’m really into this kind of desert color right now. And the leather I think looks really expensive for this type of item, instead of using one that’s plastic. It shows interest in your space and makes it unique without a bunch of pattern and color bombarding you. In addition to your home office, I’d also recommend everyone get one for the kitchen.”
“I think that you always need a little touch of life — even if it’s just the illusion of life. I like doing fake trees because I never know who is going to have the right amount of light. So a good fake tree will add that sense of life and texture that you need when you’re at a desk all day — and you never have to worry about watering it. I use these fake ones from Target a lot in my projects on Queer Eye. They look very realistic and instantly liven up the room.”