Homeowners who go to Lauren Liess, an interior designer and blogger in Great Falls, Va., often have a priority list for decorating that starts with the kitchen and ends with the bedrooms.
“An office is usually the last place they want to spend money on,” she said. But Liess said that home offices — or desktop spaces in kitchens or bedroom niches — offer great opportunities to accessorize well and add personality.
We turned to Liess, as well as Darlene Molnar, a Washington interior designer and adjunct professor at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, to help us find timeless case goods and the latest, greatest accessories.
“Everyone loves chalkboard,” Liess said. “The ones I’ve used we’ve made. Buy the paint from Home Depot, paint part of a wall. For one of our clients, we painted with magnetic board paint and then with chalkboard paint. He can put magnets on it. It’s really practical.” For those who don’t want to commit to paint, there’s Pottery Barn’s Framed Chalkboard ($99-$169, www.potterybarn.com). For those who can’t stand chalk, try whiteboard paint.
“Everything brought into your office — or entire home, —- should be something that you actually like and that makes a statement,” Liess said. “Even a stapler can be a personal choice, so pick out one you love.” Molnar likes the cheerful apple-shaped Fruit Memo Desk Pads, which have a lot more personality than your average yellow sticky note ($25, www.gnr8.biz).
Liess’ favorite desk for any office project —
modern, traditional or otherwise — is the Parsons Desk in white lacquer from West Elm ($349, www.westelm.com). “It has really clean lines,” she said. “I like the glossy white.” It also comes in a chocolate-stained veneer.
“Organization is so crucial to keep your mind from getting overwhelmed and cluttered,” Molnar said. “You need everything from shelving to desktop files.” Clear organizing tools, such as an Acrylic Divided Tray, help you find things easily, minimizing visual as well as actual clutter ($11, www.containerstore.com).
If your home office is just a nook in your kitchen, you might need to hide files away in another room. Martha Stewart’s Ingrid File Console can sit out in plain sight in a living room and no one’s the wiser on where pay stubs are stored ($404, www.homedecorators.com).
When a computer workstation is out in an open living space, Liess makes sure that all accessories are pleasing to the eye. She suggests lining up Signature Three-Ring Binders from Russell and Hazel. With these binders’ cloth-linen spines in 11 colors, “you can really keep things clean and nice-looking on shelves,” she said ($24, www.russellandhazel.com).
If magazine spines or files are attractive enough on their own, try displaying them with Indice Bookends ($25, www.momastore.org). “I like the space-saving simplicity of these,” Molnar said. The powder-coated steel makes them a good match for a more modern office.
When it comes to desk accessories, Molnar likes Areaware’s Concrete Desk Set, which includes a tape dispenser, pencil holder and small tray. “There’s something alluring about an age-old building material used in a new way” ($60, www.2modern.com).
Brass is the metal finish of the moment, so Schoolhouse Electric and Supply’s Brass Number Clips “are great,” Molnar said. The clips ($20 for set of 12, www.schoolhouseelectric.com), can be used to label files, organize notes or even hold a place in a book.
Molnar likes a clean, fresh look to a home office; visual order helps the mind feel ordered. But she also likes a touch of nature, as with Terrain’s Woodblock Calendar. “I love that pure look of wood, especially paired with white,” she said. “It brings some life inside your office” ($24, www.terrain.com).
Liess said good overall lighting is essential; once that’s in place, you can focus on tasks with spot lamps. “Anything with a nice metal swing arm and movable head is nice,” she said. Our favorites, for their color range, are West Elm’s Industrial Task Table Lamps ($79-$99, www.westelm.com).
Liess said it’s important to bring your personality into the office, because the standard office equipment — printers, computers, staplers — can be a bit cold. “So if the rest of the space is extremely creative and personal,” she said, the boring stuff will recede into the background. Display photos and keepsakes in the Standing Paper Clip, with three large clips for organizing memorabilia ($49.50, www.potterybarn.com).
L:iess and Molnar agree that a quality desk is one of the best places to start when designing a home office. Molnar said that Anthropologie’s Silvered Writing Desk has a “worn-in glamour” and would work especially well in an older rowhouse with whitewashed exposed brick walls ($998, www.anthropologie.com).
“I think it’s great to have a neutral palette for the major pieces and then do colorful accessories to bring in some happy, bright stuff,” Molnar said, as with the cheerful fabric Pinwheel Push Pins from Anthropologie. “You want something easily changeable in case you get tired of it.” ($15, www. anthropologie.com).