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Your Office: Make It Pretty & Functional

Let’s talk about your home workspace for a moment, shall we? What does it look like? Is it accomplishing what you need it to? Are you proud of it or are you a blurred streak running to shut the door to contain the chaos whenever friends drop by? It doesn’t have to be the room of terror. Sometimes it only takes an afternoon of organizing and updating to give your room a ‘magazine’ touch that still feels human. Why not feel pride for the space you call your own? It doesn’t have to be perfect or even tidy, but it does have to inspire you and support your goals or else what’s the point of spending time in there, right!?

While I cannot visit you at home to help organize and decorate your office, I can at least encourage you to start by clearing unnecessary clutter and to gain control over the chaos. Take a good hard look at your chair, is it comfortable? Do you have a mood board that inspires you or have you not updated it in eight months? Is the paint color on the walls a good hue for working or could you try a fresh, new color? How about the lighting (most important after seating) – You can easily update your lighting on a budget by visiting your local IKEA or Target store.

When I help friends and clients update their office space, I question them pretty much to death and then take my handy clipboard along for a complete tour. I draw 3 columns on a page listing all of the things that I see that do not work and the things that do, along with a third column of what could be improved but isn’t absolutely needed right away. I also photograph the space and look at the photos on my home computer afterwards because I often find hidden flaws that I missed with my naked eye.

I encourage you to be your own decorator and inspect your space in a similar manner. You can even photograph it and share it on your blog or on Flickr, etc. to see what your online buddies have to say. Your goal is to make your home office completely work for you, you shouldn’t dread opening the door each morning and you certainly shouldn’t have to hide it from visitors!

This is a little ‘quick makeover’ tip I do at home myself — I’ve talked about it here on decor8 before… I have a piece of glass cut to fit the top of my desk and each month I change the theme by switching out the fabric, wallpaper, or wrapping paper that I place between the desktop and the glass. It’s a really inexpensive way to spruce up your space (once the initial glass top is purchased).

Of course, I cannot simply talk about pretty offices. I must show you a few of my favorites from a site I like to look at for inspiration called House to Home. I’ve already showed you a few above, more will follow below. If you are as visual as I am, you’ll walk away feeling like ripping apart your office and transforming it into your personal paradise. Here in Germany I’m about to carve out a little workspace for myself so when I finish it, I’ll show you my work spot here. Give me a week or two though, I still haven’t located a desk and a proper chair, but I did find an amazing vintage 1950’s mirror to go over it, just you wait because I know you’ll LOVE it when I show you…

A simple shutter from a home store or a flea market can make a nice memo/inspiration board for the desk.

Style your inspiration board in a way that not only stimulates your imagination, but provides a nice focal point for the room. A bright lampshade on a simple lamp base perks up a desk.

My love of maps and vintage charts as decor runs deep (see this post for more inspiration), so of course this office caught my eye. You can also use maps as wallpaper and paste them on an entire wall, something that’s been a bit of a trend over the past year or so.

A unique rug in a floral shape paired with a bold print over the desk (adhere your favorite fabric over foam core for example) and you have a few places for the eye to travel, avoiding the clutter on your desktop! Globes as decor are still a pretty hot trend, esp. vintage ones.

This office is a little to sterile for my tastes, but I appreciate the layout and love the picture ledges shown. Simple ledges or a shelf from IKEA can transform a space dramatically. Best part, you do not have to constantly hammer new holes in the wall when you want to rearrange your art work, just lean them on the wall using a shelf with a ‘lip’ or ledge and you can arrange them in a new way whenever the mood strikes you.

For some work areas, clutter is part of life because one may need many materials to perform their job (such as a seamstress or painter) and cannot bother with being overly neat. We all work differently, there is no right or wrong way to arrange your work space (with the exception of ergonomics, one must always give consideration to how they are working so please educate yourself about this to avoid potential health problems). However if you are feeling less productive in your space lately, or discouraged by its arrangement, no worries… A simple day set aside to access and organize your room can work magic. Ask a friend who has an office you envy to give you some advice or better yet, see if she’ll stop over to give you some hands-on advice. In exchange, you can bake her your best cookies or offer to babysit for an evening so she can have an evening to herself. When it comes to where you dream, imagine, connect, create… You should like the spot you’ve carved out so you can do your best work.

We’re about to approach a long weekend soon (Labor Day in the states, first weekend of September), so why not spend that extra day off sprucing up your workspace? If you have a before and after photo, send it over… I just may show it here on decor8 as an example of what a little creativity and hard work can do. :)

(All images from House to Home, permission given by Claire Toms.)

Posted by decor8 in workspace on August 29, 2008

Your comments...

  1. oolong commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 7:18am

    Thx for lovely pictures. Now I have to go pretty my workspace :)

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  2. arundati commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 7:36am

    i am in the process of converting one bedroom in my apt into a study/home office…..and a mood board is the first thing that i wanted…..cant wait for the carpenters to finish so i can put my stamp on my workspace!!

    arundatis last blog post: Jamming around???.Star Anise Jams with Peaches and Plums

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  3. Anna @ D16 commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 7:38am

    Thank you for the inspiration, Holly. I’m home today and have a list of projects, among which is working on my studio/office (presently a disaster area).

    My site is down for some inexplicable reason, so I’m going to try to NOT focus on that, and put my energies into remaking what is supposedly my “creative space”!

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  4. drey commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 7:50am

    Hi Holly,

    I always enjoying posts about the home office because it is truly my one place that’s mine. (Well, MY corner, that is!) And this is where, believe it or not, I come to relax, regroup and create. I am still working on my space, but I love that it is mine, and reflects facets of me in a beautiful way. I will be blogging about mine soon, after I hang up my newest baby from eBay!

    Thanks
    Audrey
    bijoukaleidoscope.blogspot.com

    dreys last blog post: Let there be WHITE!

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  5. cindy k commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 8:52am

    it just goes to show that a space doesn’t have to be big to be pretty. i’d be happy in all of those work spaces and particularly love the chair in the last photo. have a nice weekend!

    cindy ks last blog post: tunes : love this uk import

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  6. Trina commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 9:04am

    Thank you thank you thank you for this!!!! We have a small den in our tiny loft/condo which was/is indended to be a home office, but instead it’s turned into a storage room just FULL of stuff and clutter.

    Inspires me to get off my butt and just purge it all!!! Well, not all, but all the bad stuff of course.

    Toodles,
    Trina

    Trinas last blog post: Queen West Art Crawl 2008

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  7. Pethra p? Inredningsbloggen commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 9:11am

    Gereat post! I really need to do something with my working area, I move around the computer from room to room, but have no specific place where I am organized. It takes too much time and energy to find things when you don?t have a fixed plaace. I?ll look into it, thanks for the inspiration!

    Pethra p? Inredningsbloggens last blog post: Apple Pie Designs och ett rop p? hj?lp!

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  8. jessica claire commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 9:15am

    To me an office has to be functional but also aesthetically pleasing!

    I can’t concentrate on the task at hand if I’m too distarcted with ugly mess and disorganziation.

    Great photos of nice clean bright offices- light is SO important!

    jessica claires last blog post: From Russia With Love

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  9. brand-eye commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 9:21am

    these pictures are lovely. i am working on redoing my office space. you can find an in-process pics in my blog: http://brand-eye.blogspot.com/2008/08/work-space-redo-and-diy-cork-board.html

    brand-eyes last blog post: daily rainbow

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  10. Bethany commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 9:43am

    I love the photos and ideas for a beautiful workspace. I am in the process of setting up a home office (working from home for the first time!), so I am very keenly interested in the topic.

    My job requires that I sit at my desk and type almost the whole time I’m working (with breaks now and then, of course), so I really need a chair with good back support, that doesn’t become uncomfortable after 35 minutes of sitting. The chairs in the photos are very pretty, but don’t look like they would hold up to long hours of sitting and typing. Does anyone have any suggestions for chairs that are both attractive and ergonomic?

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  11. Melissa de la Fuente commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 10:00am

    These are so inspirational! I love these spaces and even though my “office” is just a little corner in our dining room, I try to make it my own!
    xo
    Melissa

    Melissa de la Fuentes last blog post: Ellie

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  12. Swestie commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 10:24am

    Hi! I loved seeing the office photos. It’s inspired to photograph mine for my blog. I’ll send you a link after, if you’re interested.

    I have a penchant for using magnetic boards for inspiration. I like to make my own. The first one, in my office, is just a piece of sheet metal screwed onto the wall. But you can see the second one on my blog at http://swestie.blogspot.com/2008/07/wall-o-fun.html

    I’m new to your blog, and I’m enjoying it very well!

    Swesties last blog post: Pretty Cutouts… oh yes.

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  13. katie commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 11:21am

    Holly,

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. My office/studio space has always been a bit of a thorn in my side. It’s been a room that I’ve been wanting to work on, refresh and reorganize to work better for my needs. I just found a vintage padded Cherner chair, so it’s inspired me to work on making the rest of the space a place I want to spend more time in. I’ll definitely send in some photos on the progress.

    katies last blog post: Bonus Bone: Oma bike

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  14. Caroline :: Patagonia Gifts commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 1:25pm

    I love, love, love all these shots! I like the idea of the desktop ?quick makeover?. Great post!

    Caroline :: Patagonia Giftss last blog post: Autumn Bridesmaid Gifts

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  15. ali commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 2:09pm

    What a great post. Organizing my workspace is on the top of my to do list. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration!

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  16. Liz commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 2:18pm

    wonderful post! thanks so much for the information and inspiration to get going on cleaning and re-organizing my studio space!

    Lizs last blog post: An Enchanting Escapade

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  17. Lexy commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 5:05pm

    I love seeing pics of inspiring workspaces. It might just be my favourite room in the house! Probably because I spend do much time here.

    Oh, how many times have I said I’m going to get this room organised and send you a couple of pics. When it finally is – I will!! Promise :)

    Lexys last blog post: Blogging, BARI, Busy and Breaks.

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  18. Robin commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 7:43pm

    oooh these workspaces are very inspiring.
    Thanks for including a sewing nook! I am in the process of creating my little mid-century flavored sewing space, and I love your blogging!

    Robins last blog post: A little off topic, just for a minute, then back to sewing!

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  19. christine commented
    August 29th, 2008 at 7:54pm

    Wonderful post, Holly!

    I do have a question, though: Have you ever dealt with home offices that have to accommodate not one but *two* people? My husband is an illustrator and I’m a graphic designer. I work from home full-time and he works from home part-time, but we only have one work room. We definitely haven’t maximized our space. We won’t be staying in this place much longer but I want to make sure we set up the new home office smartest way.

    Thanks. xo

    christines last blog post: good people doing good things

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  20. Kevin from iwantunow commented
    August 30th, 2008 at 12:59am

    Great inspirational post. Indeed with the end of summer, Labor day and Back to School, it’s the right time to declutter and re-vamp our workspace. My roommate already started. And tomorrow i’ll focus on this. Also the glass over the desktop is such a great idea. I have a lot of fantastic wallpapers i can re-use!

    Kevin from iwantunows last blog post: Stop the chaos.

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  21. decor8 commented
    August 30th, 2008 at 4:25am

    Christine,

    Yes I’ve dealt with that, couples sharing an office, many times including in my own home where I share an office with my husband. It’s really difficult if the other person is on conference calls all day, etc. but in my situation, when my husband has calls I just step into the living room, plug in my laptop, and work from the sofa until his call ends. Then I go back to my Mac in our office.

    I think when it comes to setting up a space, try to make sure your furniture matches or in an ideal situation, is the same (same desk, same chair, etc.) all in the same color or materials (glass with chrome, all white, wood, etc.). This helps to unify the space whereas if you have a shiny white lacquered desk and he has a large glass with chrome desk, it just doesn’t work in most cases.

    To personalize each of your desks, you can add a shelf or two over your desk, an inspiration board, etc. to carve out your section as “your space”. He can do the same. But again, whatever storage you install on the wall make sure it coordinates or is the same as his storage. If you do shelving, they should both be the same material (though not necessary the same size). Same goes for lighting, his lamp should coordinate with yours somehow. You wouldn’t want a ceramic lamp in white with a big red shade and he has a large bright blue anglepoise lamp. But you could use your lamp if perhaps he is okay with having a red anglepoise lamp. See what I mean? It’s about unifying the space without stripping it of your individual style.

    Thanks for asking, Christine!

    Holly

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  22. Maggie O'Neal commented
    August 30th, 2008 at 9:08am

    I am inspired and love the idea of creating a mood board. I just searched the web and found a great resource http://www.homespacing.com. They offer a series of kits for creating furniture space plans and a mood board for your space. They have kits for different rooms including one for the office, Office/Studio. I ordered it and also one for bedroom, after the office I am going to get to work on my bedroom. I love the idea of working hands on with the funiture stickers and designing my own mood board. I can’t wait for them to arrive so I can begin planning the design and then actually make my new office happen.

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  23. enna commented
    August 30th, 2008 at 5:19pm

    as i’m reading this, sitting in my very very cluttered work room i realize that I NEED YOU HELP :-) Please come over, I’ll make sure to bake some of your favourite cookies!

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  24. enna commented
    August 30th, 2008 at 5:19pm

    as i’m reading this, sitting in my very very cluttered work room i realize that I NEED YOUR HELP :-) Please come over, I’ll make sure to bake some of your favourite cookies!

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  25. Christine in DC commented
    August 30th, 2008 at 9:34pm

    Great idea about the glass for the desk top. Have yet to find a desk, but I love that idea for when I do!

    Christine in DCs last blog post: Saturday Suburban Splendor

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  26. Carrie commented
    September 1st, 2008 at 12:37am

    Great post. I love all the deigns for these workplaces! I can totally work at this kind of atmosphere and design around me:)

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  27. Kathy commented
    September 1st, 2008 at 3:11am

    Such beautiful work spaces. I’m in the process of fixing/cleaning up the house and plan on having my own (li’l) workspace soon. The only problem is is that it probably won’t be much bigger than a matchbox!

    I’m looking forward to seeing your workspace and hopefully getting ideas on how to make the most out of my little space.

    Kathys last blog post: Studio shelves

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  28. erika commented
    September 1st, 2008 at 4:26am

    Great post, I recently made some changes in my workspace and it makes it so much lighter and better to work in, but after reading your post I get excited to make some more changes!
    I will try to be in Amsterdam on the 5th, did you already find a place?
    tip: be sure to buy 101-woonideeen when you are in Holland, they have somegreat articles about ( women)working from the home and some great photo’s of workspaces.

    erika

    erikas last blog post: Rotterdam Craft

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  29. Abigail commented
    September 1st, 2008 at 11:16am

    I’m actually working on setting up a work space at home, so really enjoyed the post! Thanks for highlighting so many different variations of what a home office can be – it really helped to see a range of decorating styles and has given me lots of ideas.

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  30. Stacey commented
    September 2nd, 2008 at 2:28am

    Hi Holly,

    I would love to know where the 4th photo came from. The wood/metal desk lamp is just the sort of lamp I’m looking for. Can you help me with this one?

    Here’s hoping it’s somewhere in Germany… :)

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  31. cassie commented
    September 2nd, 2008 at 1:00pm

    Hi,
    Does anyone know where the black wire wastebasket in the first picture of this post is from? I saw one a while back in another design magazine, but was never able to find it for myself. Any help is much appreciated…

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  32. maryam in marrakech commented
    September 2nd, 2008 at 3:21pm

    Hi Holly! I am working on thoughts for my new office right now – so thanks for this!

    xo
    m

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  33. Vanessa Huff Menlove commented
    September 7th, 2008 at 10:12am

    these are lovely offices, however they do not look functional. i am currently setting up a home office so i don’t have to leave my kids all day. i am in a quandry of where to put the printer, scanner, fax so that my computer cords can reach it and it is not out in the open. where do you hide all the unsightly office “stuff” and keep it all pretty?

    Vanessa Huff Menloves last blog post:

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  34. drey commented
    September 8th, 2008 at 8:30pm

    Hi Vanessa, One of my all time favourite designers, Sarah Richardson created a gorgeous yellow, white and black home offices. She hid those all-important machines in a vintage lowboy she painted white and outfitted with sturdy sliding shelves (shoudln’t be too hard to DIY, I’d imagine)… and she installed wireless connectivity from the cabinet to her laptop… (if you’re in Canada or US, you might be able to get a copy of that episode, check out the website and info below)

    http://www.hgtv.ca/sarahshouse/episodes5.aspx
    (They used to have good photographs of how it all turned out..)

    Hope that helps!

    dreys last blog post: My First Gorgeous Portrait: ‘Nicola’ by Shabner

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  35. Kathy commented
    September 9th, 2008 at 7:40am

    Hi Vanessa,

    If you’re willing to invest, an armoire can hide a multitude of sins.

    http://www.marthastewart.com/article/the-ultimate-home-office?lnc=1a89cf380e1dd010VgnVCM1000005b09a00aRCRD&page=1&rsc=articlecontent_home

    Some cmay have a sliding panel at the back for the cords or if not, maybe you can drill a small hole for the cords to go through?

    If not, I agree with Drey — wi-fi is the way to go especially if you don’t want kids or pets tripping over the wires.

    Kathys last blog post: How-To: Hotel Luxury at Home

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  36. Estate Agents Paphos commented
    January 8th, 2009 at 8:02am

    Great article dear friend, I know no one can visit another’s house personally but the tips that are given here for office decoration are fantastic and I intend to use as many as them to improve my office. I shall surely revert back soon on the improvements I have been able to make.

    Thanks!

    Estate Agents Paphoss last blog post: Minthis Hills, 4 Bedroom Villas

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  37. Jocelyn commented
    February 1st, 2009 at 2:13am

    Thanks Holly
    This is the second time now that I’ve come to read your article. I continue to be inspired.
    As a teacher, I spend a lot of time in my study at home (not that I want to be there) and I’m always uninspired by the space. With some commitment and inspiration I hope to turn this shambles into a pleasurable room to be in.
    Cheers

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  38. Jennifer Pearl commented
    February 8th, 2009 at 6:59pm

    I love these photos and literally am mid way through painting my office and dread the thought of placing my ugly laminate hand-me-down desk in my new pretty room. Any ideas on dressing it up – I might be able to paint it but painted laminate – Yuck. I also have the fear of placing my back to the door which is the best position for the desk. Any suggestions? Otherwise, if I put it in the middle of the room facing the door I feel like a receptionist :). just some info on the room itself: long room with slider doors on each narrow end. the office opens to my kitchen and I will have french doors installed there. the opposite wall has lots of windows with space between them for 2 bookshelves and possibly a connecting shelf. So I thought about using that shelf as the desktop – with my back to the french doors. I hear thats a feng shui no-no.

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  39. Mamie Saunders commented
    May 30th, 2011 at 4:28pm

    This is a very lovely office. Your showing a different variations of a home-office..Thanks for this information and inspiration to get going on cleaning and re-organizing a work space! Great post and photos!
    Mamie Saunders´s last blog post ..The Quit India speech by Mahatma Gandhi August 8th 1942

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