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7 tips for creating a Zoom-worthy background in your home

Yes to less; no to mess.

home office Credit: Getty Images / undefined undefined

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As we enter year two of our new working-from-home normal, it looks like at-home video conferencing isn’t going anywhere. And, since these on-camera calls are here to stay, it’s time to get on board and dedicate a space in your home that’s as professional as your career and as quirky as your personality.

Zoom Calls 101 has already been covered (think yes to natural light in front of you, and no to home hubbub or an unmade bed behind you). But what’s the next step? This can be a little trickier.

While working from home, a laborer wears a dress shirt and tie as well as pajama pants and slippers. Over a video meeting on their laptop, they give a thumbs-up.
Credit: Getty Images / doble-d

Your bedroom furniture is a great example of what not to have in the background of a professional Zoom call.


Transitioning to a WFH life means you’ve shifted your focus to showing your value within the confines of a tiny screen. This is not easy to do, according to Joanna Lovering, founder of Copper + Rise, a studio where, as an executive presence coach and workplace psychologist, she empowers women and encourages leadership.

Lovering says, “Here’s the good news: There are ways to show up on Zoom that feel natural and authentic and will help you look confident to others. It starts with putting some time and intention behind your Zoom set-up.”

Whether you use Zoom, Google Meet, or some other video-conferencing service, these expert tips are equally applicable.

1. Create a simple background

“Within that little rectangle, the priority must be to reduce distractions in order to keep the spotlight on you,” Lovering recommends. “If you have a room behind you, [there is] lots to look at. Make sure your background is close behind you. If you have the ability to be inches away from a wall, perfect.”

If this is just not in the cards, Lovering suggests investing in an inexpensive screen to hide the confines of the space.

2. Keep books and artwork of an unbiased nature

A lovely young person looks into the camera, speaking to us. Behind them, out of focus, are shelves full of print books.
Credit: Getty Images / fizkes

If you've got books in the background, make sure the spines are turned so as not to distract others on the video conference from your message.

It’s also easy for your audience to read into your background—literally. Another Lovering pro tip: If you’re sitting in front of a bookcase, make sure the titles aren't readable.

“You have no idea how many people will inspect your books instead of listening to what you're saying,” she adds.

Deborah DiMare, founder of DiMare Design in Miami, agrees. “If you’re displaying art or books, make sure that the topics aren’t insulting to others. In a professional setting, we would advise to think unbiased.”

In other words, leave the hunting images, profanity, nudity, or anything political or religious for off-screen.

3. Display art, don’t distract with it

A small gallery or office interior has been decorated with a couch, fur pillow, and a tall green plant. Minimalistic art prints are hung on the wall: flowers and plants, lines forming abstract shapes, and word art.
Credit: Getty Images / katarzynaBialasiewicz

When arranged with care, a gallery wall can make for a subtle yet interesting background for any video conference.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have some personality. DiMare says, “It’s okay to have a piece of art or a decorative wall like shelves behind you, but always be mindful of the context of the piece and also the area surrounding it,” she says.

Leigh Lincoln, co-owner of Laguna Beach, California’s Pure Salt Interiors, believes you should see virtual calls as an artwork opportunity.

“If you haven’t considered adding a gallery wall, now is the perfect time. Not only is it fun to display your art (family photos definitely count), but seeing beautiful things will surely spark your workplace creativity.”

Do proceed with caution: Instead of tons of tiny objects, which could be deemed messy, choose a large piece of art that’s not too busy or cabinetry that’s neat looking, uncluttered, and tidy for a stunning background.

Kevin Isbell of Kevin Isbell Interiors in LA says, “Backdrops should be interesting, but you also want to keep the attention on you and not your surroundings.”

Keep accessories to a minimum whenever possible, as they tend to distract the viewer from what is being said. “Although,” says Isbell, “I do like an interesting piece of art which compliments the wall color—it breaks up the monotony and the bareness.”

4. Bare may be too spare

A young writer, or student, sits working on a yellow couch. There’s a laptop on the table in front of them; their focus is on a small notebook.
Credit: Getty Images / RicardoImagen

A blank canvas behind you is a good background option—as long as it's not white, which can be too stark.

While Isbell suggests against busy patterns and an overabundance of décor, on the opposite side of the spectrum, try to steer clear of a bare white wall.

He says, “I prefer a solid wall in a vivid hue that stands out in the grid and makes you pop off the background,” he adds.

DiMare agrees, “I believe an ideal color would be a grey or blue backdrop. White or black can be too stark.”

5. Use a plant to create movement

An individual sporting glasses, stubble, and a denim overshirt gestures with their hands, speaking into a laptop. A teacup sits on the table beside the computer; plants and bookshelves are visible in the backdrop.
Credit: Getty Images / nortonrsx

Use a plant in the background of a video call to create movement and break up a blank wall.

Another color to consider in your IRL Zoom background is green—but not in the way you would think.

Lincoln says, “Bring some light and life to your screen with a plant. Real or faux doesn’t matter, but the color and movement will help break up an empty wall behind you.”

6. Showcase your tools of the trade

An office interior has been professionally decorated with plants, candles, and other knickknacks arranged on a wooden table with two tiers. To the right of the table, there is a gold-colored couch. Shelving units hung on the wall are shaped like letters, spelling out the word “blog.”
Credit: Getty Images / asbe

Showcase your work persona by decorating with items that you use on the job or that represent it.

Consider what you do for a living and how that can tangibly translate to your workspace. Perhaps hard hats hanging in view if you’re a builder, or a favorite quote on the wall behind you if you’re a writer.

Sarah Barnett from Sarah Barnett Home in Atlanta says, “Representing your work persona visually can be a nice addition.”

For added inspiration, look at typography pieces such as those in Ikonick by digital designer Jeff Cole.

Added bonus: This style of décor can help delineate your “work zone” from the other areas in your home.

7. Don't hide your personality

A person in an orange sweater smiles at their laptop, as if on a video call. They’re playing a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar.
Credit: Getty Images / RgStudio

Backdrops can be interesting and show off your personality, just avoid clutter.

Barnett says, “No matter how much Zooming you do, your home office is for you and by you. Think of this space as yet another way to brand yourself and represent a bit about yourself to the outside world.”

Featuring a curated minimum of photos of family, or places and art that inspires you, can, from Barnett’s perspective, personalize your business interactions, improve your mood while you are at the office, and act as some built-in small talk for the inevitable first awkward moment of the video call.

Nick Bowers, owner and creative director at blocHaus Interiors in Chicago, says, “In my office, I keep items that mean something to me, that I truly love. Art doesn’t have to be a painting—it can be anything you think is beautiful. During times like this, if it makes you happy, do it.”

In the end, this is still your space. Even with the “rules” in place, it should still emote a sense of who you are.

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