Home office offers special challenges

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Scripps Howard News Service

Margaret and Bill recently built their dream home, where they both live and conduct their real estate business. Most of the house is exquisitely decorated, but the couple ran out of steam -- ideas -- when it came to their office in the basement. The space had raw potential, but was lifeless, disorganized and certainly not suitable for entertaining clients.

Creating a tasteful and functional home office can be tricky, but this one had an added twist: Margaret and Bill use their home to help sell other people's homes. This meant their office had to work on a few different levels: as a stylish showpiece for their high-end clients, a comfortable place to conduct business and a fully functional workspace. It also had to suit their dog, Lizzie, who spends a good deal of time in the room as "office manager."

The couple wanted the room to be a blend of traditional and contemporary, so I created four distinctly different areas that would work together: a funky media center, a conventional work and storage zone, a modern beverage area and a welcoming guest space.

I started with the media center, which I wrapped in faux caramel-colored leather wallpaper with an overstitched square pattern for a rich and luxurious feeling. I capped it off with a 42-inch screen for Margaret and Bill to use as a presentation device.

Next, I designed two separate work areas for the couple, blending plenty of traditionally styled cabinetry and two desks with a streamlined filing center to help control clutter. I used state-of-the-art computers and high-tech toys, but made sure that all the accompanying cables were out of sight with modesty panels so that the work areas still had a residential feel.

Then came the avant-garde bar and beverage center in stainless steel and glass that will keep everyone happy and hydrated. And, finding the office walls just a wee bit too conservative, I added some flavor to this area with a bright red accent wall.

I then created a lounge in the middle of the room, complete with a "deal-signing" table, a splendid area rug and four comfy chairs for clients to relax in while going over those infuriating last-minute details.

To help accentuate the space, I made sure the lighting was just as interesting as the room's other elements. I put in multiple layers of light with long sconces on the media wall, dropped metal pendants over the beverage centre, a lustrous frosted glass fixture over the meeting table and task lighting at both desks.

Then came some finishing touches. The room lacked softness, so I whipped up some roman blinds to help finish off the window, designed a curtain to help conceal the clutter in the storage room and created an upholstered memo board at Margaret's desk for a touch of femininity.

Lastly, I concentrated on the details. Since the walls, window and storage draperies were caramel-colored, I decided on red and black accents for things like vases, chairs and artwork -- and the room was ready to go. Ready, that is, except for a new executive office for Lizzie: an innovative dog bed and a beautiful cushion with the initial L emblazoned upon it.

This untidy workplace got just what it needed: a promotion, complete with fabulous fabrics and fixtures, sophisticated cabinetry and furniture, and modern accents and technology. The room is now a functional office-cum-professional showpiece that will help Margaret and Bill get those contracts signed, sealed and delivered.

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of Home & Garden Television's "Divine Design." For more ideas, information and show times visit www.HGTV.com or www.divinedesign.tv.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: