"Out of clutter, find simplicity." -Albert Einstein
My home office - or as we usually call it, the library - has a split personality.
With its doorway positioned just a few inches from my front door, this room is literally the first one that you will see as you walk in the door.
So it needs to always look clean and organized. Let's face it...first impressions matter.
But at the same time, this is the place where lots of cluttery things happen. Bills get paid, class lessons get planned, blogs get written. I do all my online chores to my desk top, which is tethered in this room, and while my husband does most of his work at the office, he needs space here for his weekend business, which includes stacks of library books and many rounds of online chess.
And while I mostly work by myself in here, I get a lot of drop-in visits from my daughters who stroll in to ask me questions, tell me important bits of information or generally share life. The room needs to serve as a place for meaningful conversations too.
Therefore, when I recently tackled an overhaul of this space, I knew I was taking on a balancing act. Here's how it all turned out:
^ This is the view from the doorway, just to your right as you step through the front door. Two work tables form a square peninsula on the left side of the room; my work station is on the far side.
On the right, in front of the window, sits a comfy loveseat. This gives my visitors a place to sit down and relax as we visit, and it's well-used by humans and animals alike.
^ And here is the view from my seat at the table, which features a set of built-in bookcases. More on them later.
For now, please watch your step because there is a large, furry obstacle underfoot.
^ Yes, it's Ranger, dozing near my seat at the table. My loyal hound spends as much time in here as I do, and honestly, the decor in this room needs to take his needs into account. The top priority on the list of doggy demands? Easy. A floor that can stand up to his oft-dirty paws.
^ Enter these scrappy little rag rugs from IKEA. Well. they were separate rugs when I bought them... five of them, in fact. But with a few yards of white embroidery floss and a few episodes of Supernatural, I whipped them together into a long runner that protects most of the floor and adds a dash of color and texture to boot.
^ Because the rugs are handmade and vary somewhat in size, my new rug is not a perfect rectangle. Where one rug joins another, there is often a mismatch that, to some eyes, might look messy or flawed. I find it quirky and fun.
^ Oh, did you notice the two little wire side tables, jauntily outfitted in turquoise with stained wood tops? Their fun color and interesting geometric shapes helped to inspire the color and mood of the whole room, and I love their spunk.
^ Speaking of inspiration pieces, this oversize painting drove my imagination as I reworked the room. In its previous incarnation, these walls were red and while I was definitely ready for a change, I still wanted to capture that warm, vibrant sense of color.
This piece, painted by my second-born, pulses with happy tones and sets exactly the mood I was after. During these gray, lifeless days of Pacific Northwest winter, their tropical energy warms me up and sets me in motion like a salsa beat.
And yes, my walls are indeed polka dotted. While this may look like a case of the albino measles, it's my attempt to inject a bit of playfulness onto the serious beige-y tone of the room. The dots are totally removable - I created them with white card stock, an oversize hole punch, and some of that no-mess poster tack - and I can take those puppies down and/or move them around any old time I want. I consider them the temporary tattoos of this room, and I enjoy their random and happy attitude.
The stripes and dots look down on the peninsula work tables, which are a designated work zone. No stylistic cutesy touches or sweet accessories to clutter up this space. Decor enthusiasts may be rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at my stubbornness, but I need some no-nonsense real estate in my home to get stuff done.
^ On the far wall hangs a new collection of art. Across the top are four black frames holding Instagram reprints. I've decided that I agree with the design buffs who insist that every room needs some black and white elements, and I selected images that play up the geometric theme that slowly crept its way into this space.
There's an interesting lesson that I learned while creating the other two pieces. First, on the far right, I was inspired by a bright triangular graphic design to reinvent my own version using paint chips. But I have to say, by the time I finished my interpretation, I was surprisingly bored and unenthusiastic. I wasn't sure why.
Enter Project Number Two. I found a fun painting of a vase of tulips and decided to make a copy. You won't find that piece hanging on my wall, because by the time I finished laboriously imitating every stroke, I hated the finished look. H A T E D it. With a fiery burning passion.
So in my frustration and disgust, I ran to the garage, grabbed the first blank canvas in reach, tossed some yellow and orange paint onto it, and started to paint. I didn't think about what I was doing; I just let my emotions take over and drive the process. Within a half hour, this is what I created.
Now, I'm not suggesting that the best art is unplanned, and I certainly don't recommend working yourself up into a tizzy before approaching a project. Unarguably, there are merits to carefully examining the work of others and replicating it with precision. But in this case, I definitely needed to set aside all the analytical precision and invite my emotions into the process.
I learned the important lesson that in making satisfying art, there must be passion. And I won't soon forget.
^ Alright, on to a more pragmatic corner of the room. We all know that one of the curses of the digital age involves the tangle of accessory devices and wires galore that present themselves alongside of our sleek black monitors. In order to minimize the eyesore factor and free up as much of my main tables as possible for work space, I adopted this humble little piece.
Designed as an ecomony-minded TV unit, my baby BENNO is compact enough to shoehorn into this corner with plenty of surface area to house my tower, printer, power strip, random cords, and an external hard drive or two. The open compartments and drawers are perfect for storing stuff I actually need and use, and like the table top, I consider this space a work zone that needs not be styled to Pinterest-y perfection.
^ But you know I can't deny my stylist's instincts forever. So let's loop back to these built-in bookcases that have haunted me for as long as I've lived in this house. See, my husband has a large collection of history books and this bookshelf is their non-negotiable home. But history books, lovely and important as they are, lack visual charm. They are square and stodgy, usually bound in serious colors like maroon and navy.
In short, their somber energy clashes with my salsa-striped and polka-dotted visions.
So what to do?
Well. I just flipped all of his books around so that the serious bindings are hidden, and the fresh, bright pages face into the room.
Hallelujah! Problem solved.
Though heaven help him when he goes looking for a specific book.
After resolving the drama of the dark books, the rest of my styling challenge got a whole lot easier.
I bought lots of red, yellow and orange-bound books.
I scoured thrift stores for vases, elephants, owls, and geometric thing-a-ma-bobs.
I spread all my finds out on the aforementioned work tables, and played to my heart's content.
And I'm pretty happy with the results.
^ Oh, one more detail. I decided that the shadowy compartments and my happy collections would benefit from some additional lighting. So I scooped up two sets of DIODER lights and mounted them under the shelves.
Ahh, so much better. Now the history books are playing nice with my collectibles.
The room looks presentable yet allows extra space for projects and temporary clutter.
My work space is private but welcoming for guests.
And a spirit of balance and calm has descended upon my little office space.
See? Even Ranger and Cedric have laid aside their notoriously adversarial roles as dog versus cat, and enjoy each others' company here. We are all enjoying the peace and harmony.
* * * * *
Here is the full story of this office makeover...Enjoy!
* * * * *
And for a little look-see at some other rooms in my home, go to: