May 31, 2023


Creative living

How To Style for Video Calls

3 min read

For years now, home offices have been relegated to an underutilized corner of the house where one can stash an unsightly printer and all of those dreaded power adapters. Because let’s be honest, most “work from home” happens via a laptop and on a sofa (at least it did prior to March 1).

But things have changed quite a bit over the past few weeks, as the world has moved into a new work-from-home era to slow the spread of the coronavirus, with return-to-office dates pushing back further and further into the spring. Now, we’re working from home all day, every day — and our work-from-home setups are exposed to the world, thanks to Zoom calls, FaceTime, and every other video-conferencing application.

With little time for full-blown, and high-style, home office makeovers, many of us may have to stick with the strategy of designating a cabinet for supplies to make that sofa perch a bit more permanent. But that doesn’t mean we can’t twirl up a corner of our homes for a more stylish setting for video conferencing.

We turned to Los Angeles–based interior designer Joe Lucas of Lucas Studio and Harbinger showrooms for tips on how to zhush up your zoom backdrop. Below, an edited version of our interview.

interior designer joe lucas

Interior designer Joe Lucas

Karyn Millet/Courtesy of Joe Lucas

“Your home office, whether it was an official office before or just a temporary setup, is going to be your office for several weeks if not longer now,” says Lucas. “So it’s important to make it pretty and organized so it’s a calming place to be in this stressful time.”

“I’ve seen so many people on conference calls or on the news who are so creative in their careers but have not focused on their own home settings where they are working now.”

Do a trial run. “Before you hop on that conference call, get on your computer and turn your camera on so you can see what’s behind you and play around with different setups.”

Raise your monitor, iPad, or iPhone so it shows you at a more flattering angle. “It’s better for the camera on your device to be straight on and at face level then below you and aimed up. That’s never a flattering angle!”

Play with the lighting ahead of time. “It helps a lot to have good light on your face, rather than behind your head, so you want to avoid setting up directly in front or a window or door. Instead, try to sit facing a window that casts light on your face or consider adding a good lamp to your setup.”

joe lucas bookshelf

The bookshelf behind Lucas’ desk at home

Courtesy of Joe Lucas

Position yourself with a nice wall of art or bookcases behind you. “Consider rearranging a wall of art into a salon-style setup to create a layered look with a little more interest for your fellow conference-call participants. But avoid setting up in front of a corner — visually, it’s a terrible angle to show behind you.”

Make it personal. “Especially when we have to maintain physical distance between colleagues, friends, and family members, it’s nice to have things behind you or in the camera frame that show who you are. Think pictures of family or things you have collected from travels.”

hygge west zoom backdrop

Courtesy of Hygge & West

If all else fails, fake it with a virtual wallcovering or room.Several design companies [such as textile and wallcovering companies C.W. Stockwell and Hygge & West, and Pure Salt Interiors, an interior design business and showroom in Newport Beach, California] have created virtual backdrops featuring their patterns for just this purpose.”

cw stockwell zoom backdrop

CW Stockwell converted this photo of one of its fabrics into a virtual backdrop for video calls.

Courtesy of CW Stockwell

pure salt interiors zoom backdrop

Pure Salt Interiors converted design project images into virtual backdrop for video calls.

Courtesy of Pure Salt Interiors