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Here’s How to Make Your Desk Setup a Little Cozier This Winter 

January 20, 2024 code
Here’s How to Make Your Desk Setup a Little Cozier This Winter 

There’s a particular moment during the workday that people working from home dread: when the sun begins to set in the late afternoon, and only the glow of the computer monitor lights the room. The solution, of course, is to flip on the overhead light, but that doesn’t necessarily make the feelings of malaise dissipate.

Working or learning from home in the depths of winter can be downright dreary. From premature darkness to drops in temperature, there are plenty of ways the season brings you down. But there are even more ways to mitigate the effects of the winter doldrums.

Whether you’re a full-time dev or a code enthusiast, you’re going to be spending a lot of time at your computer. It’s worth it to make your workspace more than just functional, but comfortable and welcoming, too. With a few thoughtful swaps, your home office setup can become a space of warmth and creativity. Ahead, find six tips for making your desk a bit more cozy this year.

Consider rearranging the room

Person learning to code at a desk facing the sunny window with a plant

When it comes to sprucing up your home office, there’s a lot of conventional wisdom to go around, like investing in a comfortable chair and making sure your monitor and keyboard are at the correct ergonomic heights. But a winter redo requires special attention to light. Before you get a crash course in artificial light, try your best to maximize daylight. 

“If you can, place your desk near a window,” says Tara Bellucci, an interior design editor who’s worked from home for over a decade. “Any sunlight you can get helps a ton.” 

This might mean rearranging the layout of your home office, or simply moving your desk closer to a source of natural light. According to research from the National Institutes of Health, a lack of sunlight can impair cognitive function and have a negative impact on mood. An important first step toward remedying a gloomy desk setup is ensuring there’s some sunlight streaming in.

Get strategic with lighting

Aside from incorporating sunlight into your office, strategically installing artificial light can boost your mood. You don’t have to go full Twitch streamer and spend hundreds of dollars on hexagonal LED panels to make a difference — even swapping lightbulbs can do the trick.

“Incorporate bright bulbs, preferably LED bulbs with a color temperature of 5000K,” says Dara Greaney, the founder and CEO of LEDLightExpert.com. “This provides a clear and vibrant illumination but also mirrors the effects of natural daylight.”

Artificial light that mimics daylight, or blue light, is effective at combating depression symptoms, according to Ambience Design Group. You can take things a step beyond the average lightbulb, too.

Teenagers wearing headphones learning to code at a desk with LED lightstrip

“The biggest difference I’ve made to my WFH desk setup is installing the BenQ light bar at the top of my monitor,” explains Vivianne Chow, interior decorator and founder of the home decor blog VivandTimHome.com. “You’re able to control the color temperature and brightness of the light and I always keep my BenQ light at a warm color temperature setting. This helps create a cozy and warm atmosphere during the wintertime while creating functional task lighting for your desk.”

More traditional task lighting can also up the coziness factor. A small lamp with a funky shade or an old-fashioned desk lamp could foster the warm, vintage vibes you’re after. (My cozy desk lamp of choice is a banker’s lamp with a green shade.)

Invest in a SAD lamp

SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is a type of depression that develops during the change in seasons, typically during winter months. According to the American Psychiatric Association, this diagnosis goes beyond a case of the winter blues, as symptoms can interfere with daily functioning. While antidepressants and talk therapy are proven to help, light therapy can also be an effective treatment for some. If you’re concerned you’re suffering from SAD, you should talk to your doctor. They might recommend investing in a SAD lamp, a light box that emits a very bright light to replicate sunlight.

I recently put a Verilux HappyLight at one corner of my desk. I turn it on first thing in the morning to signal to my brain that it is, indeed, the start of the day. The idea is that the bright light snaps my circadian rhythms into sync, boosts my mood, and increases my energy. I’m actually typing these words beside the bright glow of my light box, and it feels energizing.

Put something that brings joy directly in front of you

Woman learning to code at her home desk decorated with blankets and plants

Minimal desk setups are undoubtedly sleek, but on a dark winter’s day, they may not bring you the good cheer you need. Consider shaking up the streamlined look with accessories that bring you joy.

“At my previous apartment, my desk was tucked into an exposed brick nook, so I decorated the wall with photos of friends and family clipped to string lights,” Bellccui says. Maybe you add a rubber duck, a badge from a hackathon, a custom keycap on your mechanical keyboard, or the first Codecademy certificate you earned as a visible reminder of your progress.

For my own desk—a Danish mid-century modern piece—I purchased a clear plastic mat to protect the wood from scratches and stains. Then, to liven things up, I placed photos and mementos under the mat which I can see while I’m working. Photos of my grandparents, postcards, coasters, and a bingo card imbue personality (and joy!) into my WFH setup. The scrapbook-style display is anything but minimalist, and it’s made winter a smidge more bearable so far.

Step out of your comfort zone with color and decor

Adding pops of color is a no-brainer when it comes to creating cheerful designs. But you’ll need to take things a step further if you really want to make a difference in your office. Try incorporating more color than you’re used to, through things like brightly hued desk accessories and patterned file folders, Bellccui says.

Texture in decor is important, too, as it can soften the hard wood, plastic, and metal surfaces you might have in your office.

“Textural elements are calming, but they also have a functional element to them as well,” says Krista Hermanson, founder of Krista Hermanson Design in Calgary. “Cushions, rugs, curtains, and soft blankets can soften the room’s acoustics. Acoustic privacy is essential if you are not alone in the house during your workday.”

For added coziness, try recreating hallmarks of cozy winter scenes—like a crackling fire. Carving a fireplace into the room probably isn’t possible, but specific candles can foster the same vibe. “Select a candle with a wood wick to add to the ambiance,” says Hermanson. “The wick crackling will transport your mind to relaxing beside a roaring fire.”

Add an unexpected element to your setup

At a certain point, while scrolling through pages of desk accessories and furniture online, they all start to look the same. If you’re in the market for a unique piece that’ll make your WFH setup feel different from the rest, try thinking outside the box. Bellucci, the interior design editor, decided to use a bright-orange dining table as her desk, rather than a more standard model. It’s exactly the kind of swap that will keep you from falling into a dull winter routine.

Similarly, a warm wooden bureau could add storage to your space, while a stained glass floor lamp could cast fun, colorful beams of light around the room. Whatever you choose, aim for warmth and light, the experts say.

Want to show off your own cozy desk setup? Share your space on Instagram and be sure to tag Codecademy.

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