Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the word “zoom” referred to driving somewhere in a rush. Now, it’s taken on an entirely new meaning and a part of daily quarantine life for millions of people. In December 2019, the video conferencing platform had approximately 10 million daily meeting participants with the number increasing to more than 300 million by April 2020. So, despite social distancing rules, whether you’re a celebrity broadcasting a live performance or an average person virtually meeting with your team— there are more eyes than ever on our homes.
So how exactly do you create an ideal space for Zoom, social media, or television appearances? I interviewed celebrities, influencers, and entrepreneurs to get a look at where they’re going live and learning their best tips for styling a space that reflects their personal aesthetic while remaining professional.
Singer and American Idol alum Haley Reinhart opened her boho-chic living room to the world when she performed Piece of My Heart for the Billboard Live At Home event. Knowing that her performance wasn’t the only thing audiences would be looking at, she was very intentional about her decor. “I love dream catchers and you can see one hanging behind me in the window. We definitely cherish them in my family and I often gift them to friends from my travels. To me, they represent the importance of both our sleeping and woken dreams. I like to hang them above my bed, it’s a constant reminder of what exactly I‘d like to manifest in my life,” the singer tells me.
For anyone trying to create a space that reflects their personality, she recommends taking a holistic approach, tapping into who you really are and expressing it visually. “I’m an old soul, still living vicariously through the ’60s and ’70s,” she says. :So if you come over to my place, you will definitely find my sideboard with vinyl, lava lamps, Waterford crystal, instruments galore, and a whole lot of funky colors and patterns. Just be yourself and make a vision board if you’re inspired to do so. The world is your oyster and the room is your pearl.”
Thought leader and entrepreneur Tara Mackey, who is best known not only for her books but her natural beauty line Genetix Organic believes natural light is everything when it comes to space for her to create live content. “Natural light doesn’t like competition, so the best place to do Zoom meetings and Instagram live sessions is somewhere with a lot of natural light and a dim background. “For me, that place is my bedroom,” she says.
She props her phone against a shelf on her window sill, but a stack of books can work just as well. “One big, open window facing outside means I don’t need to invest in any equipment. The rest of the room is dark behind me, so there is no distracting backlight and I don’t need a fancy ring light to feel confident. It allows me to have the simple background of the room, the great lighting on my face, and space to either kneel or sit down if I want to. Since we’ve been practicing social distancing, I’ve recently done a lot of Instagram lives and zoom meetings and this spot worked perfectly, both in the morning and afternoon.”
Beauty and travel influencer Adaleta Avdic uses Zoom to record her podcast, Get An Aaatude, and create content for her 600k followers on Instagram. “My office is airy and bright, especially in the afternoon. So, it has nice natural lighting which is ideal for Zoom calls,” she says. “This way my colleagues can see me, and I don’t need any additional light to have them see me clearly.”
Avdic also recommends using props to color and fill out the room, even if it’s just an inexpensive clothing rack. “I adjust the clothes seasonally. There’s lots of light pink, some tie-dye, and a pop of yellow, along with white and black classic pieces. Add some pops of color in your background just to give a bit more of a structure and fun vibe to your Zoom space.”
UK-based interior designer, Aurore Martial knows how to elevate a space for Zoom like no one else. Her living room is the perfect spot to show off. Her design philosophy revolves around using statement pieces. “Here we have a zebra and a piano in a very monochromatic color scheme but my entrance has got a life-size statue and a red carpet. You’ve got to find your signature! Something people will remember, a conversation starter, something that says something about your personality,” she says.
And while many of us are hesitant about showing off our homes on Zoom, Martial sees this as a positive. “This is a great opportunity for making an impression with your colleagues and clients so think about something that will catch their attention, that they will remember, that shows your personality—a conversation starter.”
If you want to make your space bolder and aren’t sure how to do it— a wall mural (especially peel and stick versions), patterned wallpaper, a gallery wall, or a large art piece can be easy fixes.
Lacy West, who is the founder of Laced Hair Extensions uses her office in Utah for Zoom meetings. “I chose this space because I wanted somewhere minimalistic and relaxing to escape from the craziness of everyday business,” she tells me. “Life in my industry runs incredibly fast, so I purposefully selected an office space with clean lines and a light, airy feel to offset how hectic each day can be. I find myself feeling most calm and concentrated when I’m in a bright, open area with minimal distractions.”
For others trying to create a simple but sophisticated aesthetic, she recommends a bright open space with comfortable seating. “Focusing on a natural palette while gathering decorations for a space helps to create a relaxing atmosphere. Once you’ve got the basics, it’s important to slowly incorporate small elements from your personal life to create a look that’s sleek yet cozy,” says West.
Best known as the host of popular podcasts Ok Sis and the Scout podcast, Scout Sobel is also the founder of Scout’s Agency— so she is incredibly busy with her clients. She Zooms in her living room because it’s a great way to show off her gallery wall. “I think it adds a lot of ambiance to my Zoom background while also showing off my personal home decor style,” she says.
“I am so obsessed with creating the right aesthetic environment when it comes to Scout’s Agency’s office that I have put the same level of style into my Zoom meetings. This background also has tons of natural light from my floor-to-ceiling windows, which makes for an all-around more positive vibe. It is welcoming, airy, roomy, inviting, and chic.”
Sobel also emphasizes the importance of creating a space that looks professional. While many people are Zooming in their bedrooms, she cautions against this. “You wouldn’t show up to a meeting in pajamas in the office so why show up to a Zoom meeting in bed? Putting some thought into your Zoom background is like putting on a power suit for a big meeting. It just completes the picture.”
For those without gallery walls, she recommends setting up a little corner with some flowers or an indoor plant sitting beside you next to a window! “Little details like that complete the picture. Lighting, design, details,” she says.
Actress, producer, and host of the Her Voice Podcast, Alex Chando records her show in front of a wall in her family room. It looks clean and professional, while disguising a problem many of us are having right now. “To be honest, I have to do a little set decorating and moving of furniture before I record, but I love the bold blue of this wall, and using this backdrop makes me feel a little more put together for our episode guests. The art and plants complement the blue background to make for a great aesthetic.”
Her space shows a little effort can make a big difference, even if it’s just a small section of the room. And if you’ve recently moved, there’s never been a better time to paint your walls an interesting color.
Actress, model, and creator Marta Pozzan recently taught a live unboxing class from her living room because of the natural light and the fact that she has a large dining table. “I needed room to move around in this case and a table to bring up all the packages I unboxed live and this table is way bigger than the one I have upstairs in my office so it worked out perfectly.”
She thinks this space is good because the colors aren’t too intense and the room isn’t too busy. But she also likes to keep things simple, which helps separate her Internet life from her real one. “I think it’s good to find a space that doesn’t feel too personal since we normally wouldn’t share our home with everybody and in those Zooms calls there can be more than 40 people sometimes. A nice, spacious, and not too private area of your house would be ideal I think,” she says.
Podcast host of Dream Big and influencer Diana Madison launched her namesake beauty line shortly before the lockdown. As a result, she’s had to pivot her entire business. “I turned my storage space into my workspace to get all my daily work done. When it comes time to record my podcast, the office is pretty soundproof.”
Madison also uses her office to shoot her daily live show on Instagram called Waking Up With Diana as well as other video content. Having a room with bright light, a clean desktop, and space for her products creates an aesthetic that matches her personality and allows the room to work for multiple purposes.
On the other hand, Ali Lasky, who is the owner of The Influence, which is a top Influencer Marketing and PR agency, uses different rooms in her West Hollywood apartment to keep things interesting, adjusting to where the best natural lighting is, depending on the time of day. “I usually like to be comfortable on one of my couches for Zoom Meetings, or propped up at my kitchen island with a large piece of art I painted behind me,” Lasky tells me.
She recommends switching up pillows and other decorative accents for a complete look.
“For the #StayAtHome campaign, which included Scheana Shay (Vanderpump Rules), Audrina Patridge (The Hills), and Pia Toscano (American Idol), the pillow accents and gray tufted couch made for a great backdrop reflective of my style.”
Lasky also suggests wearing neutral clothing during Zoom calls and avoiding anything that looks overly distracting. “The shades of grays in my apartment are perfect because they lend for a great backdrop without being distracting.”
Professional dancer and World of Dance contestant Abi Perl is still working through the quarantine, teaching live Zoom dance classes to nurses at hospitals nationwide in partnership with the non-profit Lollipop Theatre Network. She recommends using the living room and adjusting furniture accordingly for anyone trying to teach dance, fitness, or any type of physical class online. “You can push the couch and coffee table to create a more open space like a studio provides,” she says. “Bring your laptop or phone and use the furniture next to you to prop up your devices to stream or place your yoga mat in front of your device.”
With gyms and studios closed, Perl emphasizes the importance of daily movement. “Getting good workouts in and keeping your body mobile is so important during this time! Dance produces endorphins just like fitness and is so much fun. There are tons of dance and fitness tutorials, live-streams, and classes happening all day every day.”
Molly Borman Heymount
Founder of Just Nips and author of The Instagram Iceberg Molly Borman has been Zooming from her kitchen because as a working mother with a newborn, her life revolves around food. “I’m always eating or feeding, so staying in the kitchen is key. For the first few days of Zoom life, I was all about keeping it professional and hiding away in my office, but the lighting was terrible and I kept running back and forth between the kitchen table, where I actually work, and my office, where I was pretending to work! After a few days, I was done pretending.”
She has also found that unlike other spaces in her home, the kitchen is relatively easy to keep clean. “I’ve been a little nuts about disinfecting around here so the wipe-down surfaces are ideal! And if there’s a pile of baby toys and bottles on the counter before I’m signing on to a call, I just put them to the side and deal with it later! Survival mode, people!”
Heather Smith is the CEO of StoryFile, which is an immersive storytelling technology app that will be launching in the upcoming months. It was essential for her to create a space that would set an example for her entire team. “I actually chose that space because I could see my water fountain in my front patio through the window in the French door. The location of the chair gave an interesting enough background, good light throughout the day and it’s comfortable! I can also see everything going on in my house from there without moving,” she says.
For others, she recommends working with what you have and adjusting if need be. “Don’t be afraid to move around furniture, artwork, books, or tables to create a good space! It also helped me that there was not too much room behind me for people to be walking around.”