Reader Questions, Rooms

Reader Q: Office Help Needed!

July 24, 2008

Reader Kimberly wrote in looking for some help with her office space. Here’s the room needing a little love…

Reader Q: Office Help Needed!
Kimberly recently installed gorgeous new hardwood floors, repainted the walls, and replaced all the trim in the home they purchased last year. As a successful >wedding photographer, she needs an office space that is more inviting to her clients. “I don’t have a ton of room, but I want something where they can come, sit down, peruse my sample work, watch a slideshow on my computer, and chat about their wedding day with me,” she says. Here are some current photos showing the space as it is today.

Reader Q: Office Help Needed!Reader Q: Office Help Needed! Currently seating area for clients with her portfolio on the small table.

Reader Q: Office Help Needed!Reader Q: Office Help Needed!

Style: Her office is currently gray, red, and turquoise, all colors that she really enjoys so these colors are staying. She loves vintage and thrift store finds, mixing old with new, and loves anything mid-century.

Notes: The room has four closets, one holds photography equipment, another is a dedicated craft supply space, the third is random storage of office and business supplies, and the last is a clothes closet.

I’ve asked Vanessa De Vargas from Turquoise in LA, who recently launched her e-decorating service, to visit us today and share her decorating ideas with Kimberly. Here are some tips and products that Vanessa suggests for the space…

“First, remove your current client seating area — both of the little chairs and mini table near the door. Replace with two more (or just one) comfortable chairs with matching upholstery. Place all storage currently under the white shelf into a closet. Wallpaper closet doors and place two upholstered chairs in front of them. You could also do a L shaped desk so clients can sit at the L to look at the monitor. If you go this route, instead of chairs already mentioned, find cute matching chairs to fit your taste and upholster the seats. Move red lamp to the lucite side table and install some art work on the wall where the chairs were (or your own photography, it’s suggested you have your work on display somewhere in the room) and incorporate on small shelves in between some of your vintage cameras. To keep this budget-friendly, I’ve gone a little overboard with Urban Outfitters items but here are a few product suggestions along with a few examples of displaying photography that I’ve pulled together for you.” – Vanessa De Vargas

Reader Q: Office Help Needed!
Vanessa’s suggestions: Chandelier in white $36, 2 chairs from overstock to reupholster in a fun print if you do not opt for the l-shaped desk idea $269 each, lucite table $88, pillows for the chairs if you do not reupholster them, floor rug $68, wallpaper for closet, a desk chair in white in case she wants something more comfortable,

Reader Q: Office Help Needed! Vanessa’s framing ideas.

And to add some of my own advice (me, Holly). Kimberly: I also suggest an L shaped desk, in fact I like the idea more than two chairs near the double closet because clients should be seated at your desk to view your portfolio on your screen. For the desk my only suggestion is to avoid wood tones and/or glass (fingerprints!) and go with something light and airy vs. a solid heavy piece. You may want to check where you purchased your current desk to see if they sell additional pieces to create the L using your current desk. Another advantage in having this set up is that you can install a pendant light that hangs directly above the desk so you don’t have to worry about anyone bumping their heads! I like Vanessa’s overhead pendant suggestion, but also think a simple FADO globe from IKEA would be a nice look. You are currently limited so you use overhead lighting that is flush against the ceiling. I suggest keeping the wall paint as is, it is so lovely, and if you want to wallpaper on the closets as Vanessa suggested I would go with something crisp and graphic, like Ferm Living’s Berry Black, Birdweed, or Kingflower. Another idea for your double closet is that you can turn both doors into a giant chalkboard with simple chalkboard paint. If you buy magnetic paint to coat the doors before the chalkboard paint, you can use the doors to organize your work and since they are not the focal point as clients enter the room, they are in the perfect spot. I think a rug below the L-shaped desk is important to avoid scuffing the floors, you may even want to look into FLOR carpet tiles. I’d go for some texture in the room, perhaps a jute boucle rug in platinum from West Elm. I think your current desk chair is fine, I’d just add a pretty cushion to the seat or slip the top of it to coordinate with your guest chairs. Also look for armless chairs for clients for extra space, and try to find chairs on wheels. Sew some pretty chair covers to spruce them up or seat cushions. If you opt for guest chairs and no L shaped desk, I would try to locate some armless, slim slip chairs because they will take up less room. Crisp white would be lovely. The IKEA Stockholm chairs may work. Add a pretty pillow on each chair, a bolster or rectangular one would be good, but square is also okay. Since you photograph mostly people, this K Studio pillow in black with white stitch is darling and fits the look of the room nicely. You can add your red and turquoise accents in the form of your current desk lamp, a new red leather portfolio (vs. current black one), and red frames on your shelf or a turquoise vase filled with fresh flowers on your desk. Flowers are an absolute must when clients visit, puts them in total wedding mood, just keep them out of the way of arms in case of accidental spills. And of course… specialty candy or fresh baked cookies (or cupcakes, again think wedding) never hurts. All the TLC you can give a client meeting in your home to make you and your work stand out, the better! If your work has received press attention, you may want to show that off in a single frame or post it neatly on the chalkboard. And by all means, show you work on the walls. Dedicate a space to showcasing your best photography. Whether it’s near the door as Vanessa suggested, creatively displayed on the chalkboard (you could frame them using vinyl frame decals in white), or displayed in frames on the current long shelf you have, your work truly needs to be out and in view. Also, when it comes to lighting, you need some behind where your client will sit, so consider a floor lamp like the Adjustable Enamel light for $68 at Urbans. Or try to locate an industrial accordion style light (since you love vintage) with a clamp and attach it to the long shelf to provide some illumination in that area of the room. Here’s a visual to give you some help…

Reader Q: Office Help Needed! Items shown here are linked in above paragraph.

If anyone reading would like to also chime in with suggestions, please do! I’m sure she’d would love to hear from everyone — the more the merrier!

(images from kimberly hurst)


  • Reply Ryan and Courtney July 24, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    What a great space to work with! As I was looking through her pictures the first thing I was thinking was, “where’s the color?” I’d love to see more of her accent colors, not just in the lamp and frames, but maybe she could use a rug on the floor or fabric for her client chairs that highlight one of the accent colors. I think a little more color could make the room warmer and more inviting. Good luck and make sure to include the “after” pictures!

  • Reply Justine July 24, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    even simply lifting some of the storage off of the floor would bring the eye up and feel less like it is temporary. I really like the piece that looks like a card catalogue — why not put it up on a table?

    I think you need more interest higher up, so wallpapering the doors might be good, and displaying your photography on them might be good too.

    Since hanging work on th slanted wall could be tricky, why not try a wallhog vinyl print that you can attach anywhere? ( It might be tricky to do well from a design standpoint (i.e. you’d have to have the right images to display, etc.), but it could be very unique and a good way of displaying your work.

  • Reply Capree July 24, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I don’t have any additional suggestions, but I must know what type of wood/stain she used for her floors! We are planning on installing hardwood floors in our home, and have grey walls as well. If you could find out, that would be fantastic! :D

  • Reply Julie July 25, 2008 at 11:57 am

    no design advice, but just wanted to add that I love card catalogs – what a great piece!

  • Reply Margaret July 25, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Along the lines of wallhogs, perhaps, but embracing everything from whimsy to elegance, Kimberly might consider typography for her walls — a nice balance to her photography work. An online visit to Wonderful Graffiti at might be worthwhile. They even have a wedding specific site at

  • Reply Ana July 25, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Love all the suggestions from Vanessa and Holly and fellow readers. Kimberly, if your closets are full, could you use short IKEA Billy ( bookcases with doors to unify the storage space? I love the height of these b/c it gives you a great display area on top for those cool cameras of yours!

  • Reply Kim July 28, 2008 at 2:33 am

    Holly, I’ve been in Nova Scotia this whole week and JUST now had a chance to check out the suggestions from everyone. And I can’t tell you how inspired I am by everything that has been offered up.

    It has gotten me so very excited to work on my office again.

    Thank you thank you for all your lovely suggestions and ideas. I hope to update you with my progress!

    WOW! Thanks again.

    And for whoever asked about the floors. The hardwood was a simple white pine, and the stain was Minwax’s Natural stain. I love it because it’s warm without being too red.

  • Reply Joyce July 28, 2008 at 2:34 am

    I love both Venessa and Holly’s suggestions, especially Venessa’s framing ideas. Wall shelves and ledges do provide flexibility to display photographic works.

    Since this office space lacks of vertical wall surfaces to display, I will suggest taking out the closet door and convert the closet space into a display “niche” with filing cabinets at the bottom for storage purposes. The closet can be painted to the color that matches the upholstered chairs.

    Here’s my ideas with conceptual sketches of plan and elevations with concept board.

    I had simplied the color scheme a little bit and add silver/pewter as an accent. Hope this will help Kimberly.

  • Reply julie July 28, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Could you please tell me what color grey and what kind of paint was used for the room? I love the shade and am looking for a nice grey for my own home. Thanks.

  • Reply becky from hatch July 28, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Is that black chair in the before shots a Paul McCobb? it’s really beautiful!

    That desk chair Vanessa suggested is so hot! As I sit here on my too-short, legs-falling-asleep inducing antique kitchen table chair I am having dreams about owning that white one!


  • Reply foliohello July 31, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I like the idea of the L-shaped desk. But that window may make it difficult to find a good L-shaped desk layout. If your clients are facing a bright window they could end up straining their eyes trying to make out your silhouette. And showing your portfolio is the most important time to be sure your clients (and their eyes! :D) are comfortable and relaxed.

  • Reply nopta August 12, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Realy good designed,nice place to spend a part of lifetime.Good work.

  • Reply linksoflondoncharms March 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    It is very nice!

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