Home Office Makeover



I’m converting my messy, cluttered home office into an office/study/art studio. (I paint with oils and mixed media; a tabletop easel would work). I don't know what to do first, how to prioritize the space allotment and arrangement, or what to keep versus what I need to buy new—especially the floor, which is now covered by linoleum-type tiles. I'd like the room to be sleek, functional, and comfortable. It's about 9 feet by 13 feet. —K.B. Guttman, Tarrytown

Although budget obviously plays a big part in what you can do, to get started, approach the makeover as if money were no object, says Jane Bell, an interior designer in Scarsdale (janebellinteriordesign.com). “Make a wish list of what would be perfect, in the same way you might look at designer dresses and then look for something similar in your price range. Get the ideas down,” she says.

Figure out how much space you need for each function. Do you want a small sofa, or a club chair with a good reading lamp? Will there be a TV in the room? Do you prefer a standard desk or one that’s built in? Do you need a table dedicated to your artwork, or can the desk do double duty? “Carefully consider how much storage you need,” says Bell. “An office/study implies shelving for books and maybe cabinets, or storage for art supplies.”  Built-ins will look sleeker and will be a focal point of the room, especially if they’re floor-to-ceiling, perhaps on either side of a window. “Shelving warms up a room, too,” she adds. “It’s money well spent to do that properly.”

Before you actually build, buy, or do anything, you need a solid floor plan to see how it will all fit, Bell says. “It’s key for a space that’s not that large and used for several different things.”

You can draw up a floor plan on paper, but it’s fun to channel your inner designer with a computer program. Floorplanner is one free version (floorplanner.com), as is the cool mydeco 3D room planner (mydeco.com). Plug in your room’s dimensions, add doors, windows, and furnishings, then hit the 3D function and you feel like a giant peering into the room from ceiling height. It takes a little effort to navigate either of them, but probably less than hauling actual furniture around. Plus, seeing the results in a virtual setting may prevent a costly mistake in the real thing.

As for what to keep: “whatever you love, or whatever has meaning, like something you inherited,” Bell says. “If you never liked it, donate it.” And if you can’t afford new furniture, “paint can give a fun, fresh look,” she says. If you’re artistic, try a glaze or a faux finish.

Moving on to those linoleum tiles, Bell seems to think they should go. “Depending on the budget, I’d suggest installing hardwood with an area rug to provide pattern and color,” she says. FreeFit flooring (freefitfloors.com) is an inexpensive option. “It’s a new material that’s easy to install without adhesive, it’s washable, and it looks fabulous.” Or, she adds, FLOR (www.flor.com) makes modular carpet tiles that can be laid any way you like. “There are great, inexpensive things at FLOR, in fun contemporary patterns.”

Lighting is also important, Bell says. “I’d go with tiny high-hat lights in the ceiling with perimeter lighting. Put everything on a dimmer and also have lamps.” Finally: “Curtains add charm. Put them as high as you can, to keep the window as open as possible.”