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Creating a Stylish (& Functional) Office

Creating a Stylish Office

I don't know about you, but I have style schizophrenia. One minute I'm into midcentury modern, the next I'm watching an episode of House Hunters International and thinking about French country antiques. I've never been in a position financially to makeover my entire home or office on a whim, so although my passions change the large furniture pieces in my life remain neutral. This may sound a bit boring, but when it comes to styling an office it's a practice worth following. Here are a few more best practices for designing an office that is stylish and functional.

Invest in a desk that is as large as the space will allow. If you're stuck with the furniture selected for by corporate then skip ahead to number 3.

  • Select a desk that is neutral in style and color. I use an antique farm table for my desk and it looks great with every kind of accessory, from modern to shabby chic.
  • Get something that looks like it's in your price range. You may dream of a Tuscan Villa, but a gigantic faux wood Tuscan looking desk inside your cottage style house is not believable.
  • Choose quality. If you can't afford something new that you love, get a table top and legs from IKEA or refinish a garage sale table. You would be surprised what a coat of white or black paint can do.

Choose storage that coordinates with your desk. Remember that you will need some additional flat surfaces for a printer, fax machine, etc. so two shorter book shelves can work better than one that is super tall.

  • I love the look of the IKEA Expedit shelving unit hanging on the wall. If you have a long wall then hang two units for a built-in look. You can store books and store supplies and files in boxes then on the shelves. Be careful to hang it at a height that you can work from. It's nice to have an extra surface for collating or other projects.
  • Don't be limited by furniture designed specifically for an office. I purchased an antique china cabinet and had the drawers turned into filing cabinets. When I was over the French Country look I wallpapered the back of the open storage for a modern look. Instead of china on the shelves I store books. Here is a picture without the wallpaper.

Decide on a color scheme. You would think this would be first, but it's not for a good reason. It's harder to find a desk than paint a wall so figure out the big pieces first.

  • I know it's hard to believe, but there are really only a few choices here. Dark muted colors, light colors, bold bright colors, or black or white. That's it!
  • Before you decide get a feel for options in office accessories. If you decide to decorate your desk in python, make sure you can actually find python accessories and storage pieces that coordinate with python.
  • Don't fight the corporate decorator. If your cube or office color has been decided for you stick to neutrals.
  • Remember that color can affect your mood.

Identify your desktop storage needs.

  • Are you going to use stacking letter trays or a desk organizer or file box? Unless you can afford to change your letter trays out if you need to add on, make sure you select a neutral style. I use the See Jane Work Basic Letter Trays in white. They go with anything and if I need to go up a level I know the style and color will be available again.

  • Creating a Stylish Office

  • Make sure at least a few pieces match. Perhaps the tape dispenser and stapler or the pencil cup and letter trays.
  • If you want to take a chance on some unique pieces now is the time. A funky tray can look great and also serve as a business card or errant clip holder. Almost anything can work as a pen or pencil cup; try a vintage trophy, an antique glass, or that modern ceramic vase you picked up at an art show. Whatever you decide to use should be 3-4" high inside and heavy enough to stay upright when full.
  • For a trash bin use an old metal trash can from the hardware store or a fun basket from the flea market.

Don't forget the lighting. You may have plenty of overhead lighting, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't add a lamp. The lamp in the image below added a stylish touch to an otherwise boring cubicle.

Creating a Stylish Office

As long as you have good lighting then you are free to select a desk lamp based on looks alone!

  • If you have the freedom to make big changes add a hanging lamp, it's worth the trouble of involving an electrician.

Use storage boxes to contain clutter and add style. Manuals, pamphlets, supplies, small books and projects add visual clutter. Use storage boxes in coordinating colors to not only contain clutter, but further the color scheme in your office.

Creating a Stylish Office

Get a rug. It will add a pop of color and a finished feel to any office. They're hard to find, but a round rug can really break up the angles found in most offices.

A chair should be comfortable. This is not the place to save and definitely not something that should be chosen based on looks alone. Check the store return policy so if your back is killing you, you know you can exchange it. Add a small pillow for lumbar support and a little extra style.

If you work somewhere that has stifled all your efforts at expressing your personal style then look for some small ways to add some style to your work day. A brightly colored pen, portfolio or notebook can add color and style without disrupting the prescribed corporate decor

The best design advice I've ever received was from my friend Margo (her home has been in several magazines, so you can trust this advice). She has a very eclectic style, but it always looks pulled together. When I asked her what her trick is she said that she only buys things she really loves. If you really love something chances are good that it will live well with the other things you really love.

by Holly Bohn Weiss - Copyright © 2013