Real Estate News

These coronavirus-era homework stations get high marks

Children need places to Zoom, to study, and to socialize. Here's how designers have worked it all out.

A little-used sliver of a space near designer Annsley McAleer’s daughters’ bedrooms became a kid’s office after her older daughter asked for a dedicated spot to do homework. The built-ins are painted Benjamin Moore’s “Blue Daisy,” the wallpaper is “Belfour” by Christopher Farr | Cloth, and the block-printed fabric used for the Roman shade is “Flower” by Clare Louise Frost. McAleer said, “Blue is a happy color for everyone in our family.” Michael J. Lee

“My 11-year-old works from the space formerly known as mom’s office,” said Caroline Counselman, who has been organizing her family’s schedules and such from the kitchen island since her sons’ schools pivoted to online learning. “He’s settled into my little nook quite nicely.”

Before that, the boys — ages, 15, 13, and 11 — all used the kids’ office. However, given the constant stream of Zoom sessions, Counselman quickly realized that the school day would go more smoothly if each had his own workstation. Her eldest son uses the kids’ office, her middle son works in his bedroom at a desk they pulled in from another part the house, and the youngest is at her desk off the kitchen, which overlooks a busy street.


“Seeing the community helps you feel less isolated when you’re going through something like this,” Counselman said. “Yesterday I heard him recite a haiku he wrote about the rain, which probably came from staring out the window.”

(How to create the perfect homework space.)

Robin Pelissier of Robin’s Nest designed this desk for Caroline Counselman just off her kitchen in Hingham. Her youngest son has been working here since the schools closed. The woodwork is painted a soft green, and the fabric-covered bulletin board is a pretty backdrop for notes and photos. Counselman said, “I love that space, and I can see that he likes it too.” – Michael J. Lee

Robin Pelissier, who designed the workspaces along with other rooms in the Counselmans’ Hingham home, has pulled together more homework desks than she can count. With four boys of her own now in their 20s, she is particularly well qualified. “Kids want to be in the epicenter of the house,” Pelissier said. “They seem to thrive in chaos.”

That said, parents have found that siblings Zoom-ing side by side isn’t ideal. Remote classes for little kids involve chatter and dancing, while older students convene in groups to decode formulas and analyze texts. Pricey noise-canceling headphones solves what each kid hears, but microphones pick up background noise, making participation a problem. 

Beacon Hill-based designer Annsley McAleer is thankful that she turned the small junk-collecting space next to her daughters’ bedrooms into a homework room a year ago. It’s where her 12-year old now spends much of the day. “She liked working there before, so it was an easy transition,” McAleer said. “We’re glad there’s a door to close, because she can be loud.”


Her 10-year-old is ensconced in a nook on the fourth floor next to McAleer’s design office, where her associate worked pre-COVID-19. “We’ll have to clear off the 10,000 colored pencils when she comes back,” McAleer said. There’s also a blanket, a pillow, and an American Girl doll. “She’s turned the office into a nest situation,” McAleer said. “After class she climbs under the desk to chat with her friends.”

Some designers are getting calls from families sheltering in homes built as vacation getaways. “I have a client with four kids who were up in New Hampshire skiing over spring break,” said Newton-based designer Jessica Seth. “They called saying, ‘We’re staying and we need desks!” 

The solution: An extra monitor on the parents’ desk for the third-grader, who needs to work next to an adult, and a new console-style writing desk that fits in a hallway for the sixth-grader. The eighth- and 10th-graders are working at a Ping-Pong table set up as back-to-back desks in the bunk room. Seth said, “I found an outdoor one so they can relocate it to the patio when this is over.”


Take a look at more top-notch homework stations:

Designer Kelly Rogers snapped this photo of her sons, ages 5 (left) and 8, on the first day of remote learning in March. Although the setup in their Newton home looks like a breakfast nook, it’s in fact a dedicated homework corner she created in the kitchen three years ago, before the boys were even doing homework. Rogers said, “Kids don’t sit at a desk in their room facing a wall anymore.” – Kelly Rogers
Ana Bonilla of AnaVera Design devised this desk for a family with three kids in Newton. She said, “The homeowner reports that they’re sewing and doing Zoom chats here.” – Lara Kimmerer
Since she spends the weekdays in her Portsmouth, N.H., studio, designer Amy Dutton let her daughter, a senior at George Washington University, take over her home office in Maine. “It’s quiet and beautiful, overlooking Wheeler Bay,” Dutton said. Her other daughter, a freshman at the University of Kansas, works at the puzzle table in the family room. – Amy Dutton
Nicole-Hirsch-Homework-Desk-Sarah Winchester
The owner of this Needham home recently called Nicole Hirsch to tell her that the homework desk she designed at the top of their landing last year has been a saving grace during this crazy time. “She’s so happy that her kids have a place to work all day,” Hirsch said. – Sarah M. Winchester
Kelly Rogers designed these floating desks in an attic lounge for a Newton family of seven. “They are actually butcher block-topped kitchen islands from IKEA,” Rogers said. “It was an economical solution and also a practical one with flexible storage.” – Sarah M. Winchester
Rebecca Falzano, co-owner of Helm Digital in Portland, set up a homework station in which her 7-year-old daughter is using her grandfather’s tiny writing desk. Falzano said, “He was 6 feet tall, and I have no idea how he ever fit at it!” Falzano and her husband painted the side of an adjacent cabinet in chalkboard paint and hung a roll of paper above it. She said, “The drawers are falling apart, and it’s been repainted at least three to four times, but it’s perfect for Clio, and I love that she now sits at it.” – Rebecca Falzano
They kept her grandfather’s writing inside the desk. “He had written every year and crossed it off — as far back as the 1950s,” Falzano said. “No idea why. I had this desk in my first NYC apartment, and ever since I’ve kept the years up to date in his honor.” – Rebecca Falzano

Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @globehomes.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on