10 tips for designing a workspace that inspires creativity

In an effort to make good on my public declaration that I would live a more creative life in 2014, I’ve made a creative workspace for myself, and I’m quite happy with the result.

You see, the conundrum was this: I have an “official” office, a separate room on the first floor with a big desk and big computer, but the room and all of its trappings support my day-job as an editor. And let’s face it, when you spend 8+ hours in one room, you’re ready for a change of scenery by the end of the day.

Mainly what I wanted was a space that was all mine–a space apart dedicated wholly to my creative endeavors. For me, this means a special space for writing.

To design my writing space, I looked to other writers for inspiration. Agatha Christie, in her Autobiography, claimed that she simply used any sturdy surface that was available for writing–her dining room table, for example. When I tried setting up my laptop at my kitchen island, though, it didn’t quite feel right. And it was annoying having to move books, notebooks, pens, and papers out of the way at mealtimes. So I turned instead to Virginia Woolf, who advises women writers to create a room of one’s own.

Since I didn’t have another spare room available to me, I decided instead to create “a nook of my own.” Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? But in reality, it’s been a great solution. I set up my writing space in a small area of my kitchen using an IKEA desk that had been sitting unused in the attic as the foundational piece, and then building from there. There have been additional benefits: I get to spend more time with my snoozy Clumber Spaniel (the kitchen is his main hangout); I can monitor a roast in the oven while writing; I have close access to the kettle, allowing me to drink copious amounts of coffee and tea during working sessions, which seems to help me compose my thoughts.

I’m really happy with how it’s turned out:


The books I plan to read in January and February (ambitious, I know, but I need to read more to feed my own writing–more on this in a later post):


So what did I learn from this little exercise? Without further ado, here is my top 10 list of “key ingredients” for a creative workspace, in no particular order:

  1. Space to spread out. You don’t need a massive desk, but you should have room for the essentials–those things that support your creative work. On my desk I have room for my laptop, reference books that I consult frequently, coffee cups, Post-it notes, photos of those I love, among other necessities.
  2. Books that inspire you and galvanize your creative purpose. In a magazine holder, I’ve collected some of my favorite books on writing: Anne LaMotte’s Bird by Bird, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write, and a few others. It’s comforting to know that if I feel stuck, I have inspiration right at my fingertips.
  3. Practical items at hand. My desk doesn’t have drawers for storage, so I’m using a pretty basket that holds pens, scissors, and other sundries that I use frequently.
  4. An inspiration board. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. On my bulletin board, I’m beginning to collect ideas for my novel, images that inspire, and photos of the work of other artists I know and admire. Having an inspiration board does wonders in terms of reminding you of your greater purpose.
  5. A pretty notebook for capturing all those new, fresh ideas. More on that here.
  6. A view to the outside world. My desk is next to the patio doors, which provide lots of natural light and the opportunity to meditate on the beauty of the outdoors. If this is not a possibility in your space, try hanging a print of a landscape that cheers you to help bring the outside in. Writing can be isolating, so it’s nice to have a link, real or symbolic, to the outside world.
  7. A good light source. Choose a lamp or task lighting that provides adequate and warm, inviting, “easy on the eyes” light (banish the fluorescents!).
  8. A comfortable and supportive chair. I made the investment in an ergonomic office chair, and it was worth every penny.
  9. Fresh flowers. They bring natural beauty to your space and boost the spirit.
  10. A commitment to use the space regularly. The more I read about developing the habit of writing, the greater appreciation I have for the role that rituals and environment play in making the habit stick. Having an inviting place to work and using it on a daily basis can help ingrain the writing habit. This I believe!

What are your essentials for a creative workspace? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to add yours in the comments section.

Until next time, I’ll leave you with some lovely images of creative workspaces that inspire.



Via Vlassak-Verhulst:

Via Habitually Chic:

Country Living:

Emily Clark’s office. Love those bookshelves:

Drew Barrymore’s workspace (that inspiration board!), via Pinterest:

Another favorite from Claudia Benvenuto featured in Elle Decor. I would love to work here:

Simplicity makes for clear thinking, in my mind. Via Hello Ancolie:

I’m a firm believer that pets add a much-needed coziness to a creative space. Via design sponge:

A relaxed yet elegant workspace by Sara Scaglione via House Beautiful:

You don’t need a big space to have a lovely spot for creating, as Deborah Needleman shows us via Lonny:

One of my all-time favorites, via Pinterest. I want to work here:


The Writer

Writer & Residence blog. A blog dedicated to two of my favourite things, interior design, and writing.

  1. I have the feeling that magnificent writing will come forth from that creative space carved out for your amazing talents. Love this idea! Gives me inspiration to improve my studio!

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