How to Create a Work From Outdoors (WFO) Space, According to Experts

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Working outdoors is a dream. Feeling the warmth of the outdoors makes you feel like even though you're working, you're at ​least​ not stuck in a stuffy office. It's a mood that those of us lucky enough to have access to outdoor spaces have come to appreciate even more in quarantine — and something we'll continue to embrace even more as we head into these warmer months.

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Enter the new WFH: WFO (or working from outdoors).

Personally, I've been eyeing the unsightly corners of my balcony, or wishing there was a little more pizazz in the overall design. Between obsessing over this quickly beloved IKEA balcony table and spending a good chunk of time comparing twinkly outdoor lighting options, I have spent more time thinking about my balcony lately than I have in the many years I've lived in this apartment.

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And it's not just me: The Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens' 2021 Outdoor Living Report found that 82% of American homeowners recently surveyed are more interested in updating their outdoor living areas than they were prior to the pandemic. In short, our outdoor spaces have become much more than dusty storage spaces and bug collectors.

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Much like some of us are finding new ways to bring the outdoors inside — hello, Justina Blakeney's new Jungalow book — we're also paying more attention to our balconies, porches, and desks to see how we can upgrade our home design and get the most out of these sunny living areas. As our focuses and our needs have shifted, so have our design desires.

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These spaces are teaching us that we've been really missing out by not giving them the necessary love and attention they deserve.

"By way of form and material advancement, outdoor living spaces can offer the same level of design detail and comfort found indoors," architect and designer Daniel Germani, Creative Director of Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, tells Hunker. "From sleek, ultra-durable cabinetry with soft-close functionality, to rugs and furniture textiles — even leather — created for outdoor use." Putting in this extra design effort really pays off in more welcoming WFO spaces.

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Ultimately, WFO isn't just an excuse to soak up the sun; in fact, it can help you get the most out of the work day. Your instinct might be to worry that if you're working outside, your mind will wander. But the opposite may actually be true.

"The outdoors is an environment naturally built for focus," Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams, tells Hunker. "In color theory, cooler hues like blues, greens, and teals signal calm and help us focus on the task at hand because they are recessive colors that don't command our attention. But for working, you need a combination of focus and positive energy."

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There are many fun DIYs you can take on to bring that warmth to your space to ensure your WFO is as productive as possible. "Outdoors, adding pops of color, like yellows and reds, can create this effect," Wadden says. "You could add colorful flowers or paint a bright mural on the side of your garage." Think of a DIY mural as the new quarantine baking.

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So what trends can we anticipate? Designers like Emily Henderson are filling our Instagram feeds with rattan egg chairs and bold, oversized outdoor rugs. We're also seeing soft, dainty touches like all-white outdoor furniture sets framed by lush gardens from Stockholm-based designer Janniche of @bloggaibagis and Gina of @gncgarden.

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A pop of color or two like these eggshell blue chairs from @my.philly.home is the perfect ode to spring, especially when surrounded by a lush garden. "Color is emotion and color brings projects to life," Germani explained. "When you are designing a space where you will be working and entertaining, you want to select a color that feels like home and works across all the aspects of your life."

One thread is key: Build an outdoor space that feels true to your style.

"Your view when working from outside should spark joy," Wadden recommends. "This could mean having fun with your home's exterior like adding your favorite hues in a fun pattern on your siding to help accent your work from outdoors space."

Check out some of our fave WFO finds below.

1. Anthropologie Pari Rattan Chair, $128

2. Urban Outfitters Terrazzo Ceramic Indoor/Outdoor Side Table, $169

3. Poly and Bark Tulum Outdoor/Indoor Area Rug, $299

4. Jostyle Extra Wide Privacy Screen, $99.99

5. West Elm Paradise Outdoor Lounge Chair & Ottoman Set, $299

6. Welly 18 oz Traveler in Monstera, $35.00

7. IKEA Torparö Balcony Table, $19.00

8. IKEA Torparö Table, Indoor/Outdoor, $29

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