Working Through Design Challenges In Our Home Office | Part 1

If you have been to our home or have a good memory from my photos, you may have noticed that I changed our guest bedroom around a bit. What used to be a dual purpose space is now more geared to a single use space as an office.

The Old Guest Bedroom | Photograph by Dorothée Brand of Belathée Photography

The Old Guest Bedroom | Photograph by Dorothée Brand of Belathée Photography

For a year I was working out of a studio in Georgetown and trying to work predominantly from there, however often times I couldn't fit in getting myself to the studio and very often ended up working from home. The home office was designed to be a guest room with a desk but not necessarily and office space that was functional and productive for my work. This meant for many days of frustration, wishing I had a more productive office space. Also, when I broke down the cost I was paying for rent on a space I didn't use much, and the cost we were paying for an extra bedroom that was being used as a bedroom less than 2 weeks a year. I needed to make an adjustment. 

When my lease was up at the studio I moved back home, sold the mattress and bedframe (the headboard is still available on Chairish btw) and started working on a redesign for my home office. I had an idea that I wanted to paint the room an unexpected color, something out of my comfort zone. I also had to work in the color green since I already had the large display cabinet with the Fornessetti Malachite Wallpaper in there. Those two elements originally were the driving force of the design. Unfortunately after a few months, I still wasn't loving the space. It was feeling all too crowded. Something had to budge.


I have to admit I had a bit of a breakdown over this, because I honestly could not figure out what to do. Everything seemed to be wrong, but along with the breakdown came a breakthrough. Together my mother and I talked through the issues I was having with it and the obstacles involved with this very small space and I was able to figure it out. To start, I devised a plan on how to tackle such obstacles by listing out my necessities for a productive office. The most important features (for me) are:

1. Plenty of Storage

I need to have plenty of storage for my swatch library. I would consider myself a more soft designer and really enjoy textiles and putting together textures, finishes and furnishings. I love a good set of drapes and a fringy pair of pillows! I also need plenty of storage for books. My husband and I have a lot of books. Not only is this my office, I do have to share it (a little) with my husband so I needed enough storage for my books and his books.

2. A Place to Work Through My Designs + Having Them On View

I had to have a pinboard wall for soft materials and inspirational images as well as a counter surface for hard materials in order to see what I'm working on. This partially is because of my design style, where I love to layer multitudes of textures and materials. But I think it also goes back to my previous years in visual merchandising where we did a lot of our work with real materials and I did a lot of dressing of mannequins. There's nothing like feeling the textures you're proposing for a design. Online images really don't do fabric, stone or tiles any justice. They just don't. Also, I work on several projects at a time and having them visible and out in the open allows for me to switch from project to project easily. 

3. A Large Desktop

As previously mentioned Jack and I have to share and we both have large monitors. For this space the desk we have is the perfect size for our needs. It is probably not the perfect fit for this room, however that desk is Jack's prized possession. He designed and built it himself, so it's not going anywhere. 

By the way as I wrote this list, I realized that this is a good exercise for anyone who's trying to work through a design project and is experiencing challenges to make sense of things. Often it's much more difficult to design for ourselves. As much as it is fun to have ourselves as our own client, it's also challenging to think objectively and to really know what is right rather than what we want to be right. Writing down the black and white needs allows us to remove our emotions from the plan. 

Using this basic list I was able to build on that to develop a design. The next layer was what did I want to see in this room and what did I want to try or experiment with in this room. Considering that I am the client I finally had the opportunity to try a few things that I may never really get to do with a paying client. That list of wants was: 

  • Adding a bed back in for the occasional guest - I mean because how silly is it to have second bedroom that is not a second bedroom at all? 
  • Adding a seating moment beside the desk chair. 
  • Experiment with an unexpected paint color - Why not step out of my comfort zone?
  • Use some fabrics I've been drawn to for a while.
  • Design around that cabinet + the green rug 

Lastly, I was able to review the two lists and figure out what needed to be edited out and what couldn't be edited. The first thing that just didn't make sense in this room was the display cabinet. I needed to edit that out of the room, which led to a much bigger domino effect. However, I was able to figure that out too. I will explain that at another time. Next, with the cabinet gone, green did not have to be worked into the design in the same way. Sadly, these were truly the only major things I could edit, but they did make a great enough of a difference for me to be able to design a room that could be functional.

Updated Home Office Design

Updated Home Office Design

This is the new design plan:

Because I removed the 'not so functional for office supplies', display cabinet I needed to hold on to the Ikea cabinet to check off the plenty of storage bullet. This meant the Ikea cabinet could go on that back wall, then like dominos the desk and dresser found their places. I also found through extensive sourcing, a convertible sleeper chair that is small enough to live in the office space while folded up, but also large enough that when unfolded is a twin sized mattress. Both the Ikea cabinet and this chair are not my favorite design or furniture style, but I had to go with these for function reasons over form. I did end up finding legs and knobs from Pretty Pegs for the cabinet which were an immediate upgrade. I've listed below items I selected along with the closest options to my vintage items.  


In the next post I'll reveal how things are coming together, and what my next set of plans are for Part 2 of the office design. I hate to say it but this is not the final solution or end to the design story of this room. Ultimately, I know this space will never be the perfect office, nor my ideal workspace but for the time being I have to make it work so that I can work.