Whether you have a dedicated home office or a small area tucked away for working, a study needn’t be merely practical and dull. From stylish storage to decadent decorations, read on for inspirational ideas to create a space where dreaming can be made into reality.
Rooms that house computers, paperwork and books can often feel crammed and soulless. If this is the case in your house, it is easy to reinvigorate it by adding a touch of opulence in your décor.
John Mabhegede, the commercial director of Cambridge-based design studio Mineheart gives his advice: “As we all know, an inspiring office environment encourages creativity. Mineheart’s trompe l’oeil wallpapers will be sure to get the creative juices flowing. Designed by Young & Battaglia for Mineheart, the White Bookshelf wallpaper, for instance, gives a bright minimalist look. The Vintage Bookshelf Wallpaper, on the other hand, creates an old library or reading room look. I’d also recommend the White Panelling wallpaper, which calls to mind elegant, Georgian homes. Tromp l’oeil architectural details on the Stone Angels wallpaper, however, are reminiscent of Renaissance sculptures so your room is transformed into something out of an Italian palazzo.”
For eye-catching décor, that will certainly be thought-provoking, invest in one of Christian Lacroix’s new wallpapers in collaboration with Designers Guild. Entitled ‘Incroyables et Merveilleuses’, the bold and eclectic range features zany florals and bright prints – inspired by 18th century follies and gardens.
With its bold, stripe wallpapers, Sandberg is also a good source for creating a striking feature wall. For those wanting something ‘quieter’, however, Graham & Brown’s new Pure collection of wallpapers feature organic shapes and tactile natural textures with a contemporary metallic twist.
“An attractive workspace makes the world of difference and these days you don’t have to choose between functionality and style,” comments Paula Taylor, colour and trends specialist for Graham & Brown. “Let the space reflect the nature of your work to motivate and inspire you.. A more neutral environment can be enhanced with pops of colour, plants and accent pieces – don’t be afraid to accessorise. If unsure, look to your walls to set the tone and go for wallpaper: choose a monochrome design for a sleek, contemporary aesthetic, or for more of an impact, choose graphic geometrics in modern, bold shades. Above all, don’t be afraid to embrace a completely new look – it can totally revolutionise your time spent at work!”
When it comes to a colour palette for the room, many of us veer towards neutrals or pastels for a study, perfect for aiding industriousness. While this can work well for a peaceful zone, Josephine Rance, marketing director at Farrow & Ball, says that also using a strong colour adds contrast and personality.
“Painting the walls in a light shade such as the crisp All White will help to bounce natural light around the room,” she says. “Using strong Down Pipe on the floor will help to ground the room. If you’re someone who needs a minimalist space to concentrate, why not try painting the walls, floorboards and woodwork in a neutral shade such as Wevet or All White? You will be able to create a crisp, clean style. However, a new trend is to paint walls a darker colour, such as Stiffkey Blue, and then in contrast, paint a piece of furniture, such as your desk in a more softer shade, like Setting Plaster, in order to create a truly unique working area.”
To create a cocooning space, that is inviting and warm, invest in thick carpets, such as those at Brintons, or glamourous rugs, like the beautiful designs available at The Rug Seller or the monochrome collection available at Idyll Home. Don’t be afraid of pattern either – a study is an ideal place to go wild with design and works as stimulation when work needs to be done.
“We have seen a surge in demand for our Padstow spot carpet,” says Natalie Littlehales, consumer marketing manager at Brintons. “It comes in a luxurious and versatile shade of blue, in a hardwearing weave, which pairs perfectly with white or grey office furniture and accessories.”
From B&Q’s Art Deco office wire baskets to Oliver Bonas’s modern pastel clocks, add in accessories that will accentuate your space, offer attractive storage and add style. Of course, most of your time spent in an office is seated. For added impact, why not choose a statement chair, such as the velvet range available at Marks and Spencer? It will become like an old friend – something you will want to return to, for reading time or to clear the mind when deadlines are looming.
Claire Vallis, design director, at Harlequin, reveals: “All home offices should have a break-out area – a comfortable place for contemplation away from the computer screen. For something unique, reupholster a vintage chair, and match blinds to the fabrics to give the office a luxury feel when working from home.”
For a really effective office space, make sure you declutter properly. Get rid of any surplus paper-work – most things can be accessed online these days – recycle magazines you haven’t looked at in ages and clear out items that are looking tired. From stacks of pretty boxes to rows of baskets, there are inventive ways in which you can store the things you need to keep, without it all becoming an eyesore.
“We have lots of stylish storage solutions, from bright boxes to fun and quirky shelving units, which mean your clutter can become a part of your décor,” says Emma Bier, head of design at Flying Tiger Copenhagen. “A pretty pot of pencils and a stack of colourful notebooks can look fantastic on a funky shelf, such as our circular version, which comes in a range of colours.”
Meanwhile, John Stephens, director of Rencraft, which offers bespoke furniture, points out that storage will vary according to your needs: “Busy families may have more than one person using the space at one time – in these situations more than one desk may be required. Avid readers may need additional shelving, or even a cosy seating area to sit and enjoy their favourite books. If you have a love of technology, you might want space for multiple screens or brackets and shelves for printers and additional gadgets. By utilising all the nuances in the room, such as alcoves and chimney breasts, you’ll be surprised how many innovative ways there are to achieve exactly what you need.”
From Shabby Store’s painted cabinets to Shimu’s Chinese-style filing drawers, be inventive with how you store your office essentials – and think outside the box (literally). For a practical idea, for instance, The Futon Company’s Lili Day Bed gives both a seating area and storage combined.
Jane Sandhar, The Futon Company’s Cambridge store manager, says: “Futons are immensely practical for home study areas, meaning that the space can double up as a spare bedroom. Our Lili Day Bed is a fantastic choice – not only does it look stylish but it contains storage underneath so you can hide all your clutter away. For a zen, appealing space, keep desks and shelves neat and tidy – minimise paperwork, regularly reassess what you need and add pretty boxes or baskets to hide any essentials you don’t want on show.”
Of course, the one thing to prioritise when reassessing a study area is the desk. An ‘investment’, wow-piece of furniture is a good option or those working without much paperwork and who want a classic look. While a stripped back desk – such as the Georg Console Table and Stool at Scandi Living – is great for occasional use and gives a minimal feel.
Jenny Hurran of Out There Interiors, gives her advice: “We may all fantasise about running the world from a huge, imposing desk, but if your office is situated in a box room, or even under the stairs, then an oversized desk simply isn’t practical. Find items that work with the rest of the house – office furniture doesn’t have to be dull and stark. I love to bring a touch of Provence into my home with beautiful French-inspired furniture. Match a rustic desk with a beautiful Louis XIV chair and a decadent bookcase. The office should be a relaxing environment to encourage creativity and keep you cool under pressure.”
David Wilder, head designer at I&JL Brown, a leading, luxury furniture company, also adds: “Gone are the days when the home office was a stuffy room hidden somewhere in the house. With more of us working from home and space at a premium, the home work-space is often integrated into the main living area. I prefer to place a desk as a ‘behind-the-sofa-table’ when space allows. Whether there, or against a wall, treat the desk as a console when you style it. A good light source (a pair even better) that isn’t an obvious desk lamp and a couple of decorative pieces will suffice.”
For a dedicated office room, a seamless look can be achieved with bespoke, built-in furniture, such as the ranges available at Cambridge-based Langtry Fitted Furniture. Director Tony Jones gives his take on the theme: “Built-in storage is immensely practical. It gives a sleek look to a room and, best of all it means you can hide all the files, paperwork and paraphernalia that comes with a home study. Your room will be clutter-free – the perfect space to get down to work and be efficient.”
Neville Johnson is also an expert in design-led fitted offices. Helen Reeks, group creative development director, gives her tips: “Consider what it is you will be storing in your home office, and what is the minimum amount of storage that you feel you need now, and for the future. Our designers would assist in defining your storage requirements and would then create a room design that meets those requirements within the available space. We often find that the most neglected areas of the home – the attic, the under-stair area, wide landings – can be perfect places for a home office, and more often than not, you don’t even need a dedicated area – just careful planning!”
Talking of which, for those short on space, Furl’s Flatmate desk is a great option as it folds flush against a wall. While for a modern, industrial look pair My Furniture’s Qubix desk with black accessories (and for those daring enough, a black-painted wall) for dramatic effect.
Jane Rockett, owner of Rockett St George, the quirky online home emporium, adds: “Working at home is a sign of the times and very much of the future. The home office will become part of everyone’s house offering an opportunity to create a very personal working environment. Individuality, style and functionality can be combined to create really effective spaces that inspire and motivate.”
Turn on the light
Lighting is one of the most important practical considerations for your study area. From choosing effective window treatments to opting for multi-layered lighting, how your office is illuminated will make the difference between a great space and a mediocre one.
Soren Ravn Christensen, chief creative developer at Vita Copenhagen, a Danish lighting experts, says: “A well-lit office space will have different types of lighting ranging from general to task oriented, without omitting the accent or decorative lights. Whenever you choose light sources for a room, you need to consider the purpose of the lamp, the size of the room, the mood you want to set and the look you want to create. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of light fixtures to create the perfect balance.”
From Fritz Fryer’s 1950s style desk lamps to Besselink & Jones’ traditional banker’s lamps with the iconic green shades, having a spot light on your surface is essential for computer work and reading. For a feminine touch, match with Marks and Spencer’s pretty, coloured glass pendants.
Controlling daylight and glare is also an important factor. Choose practical blinds which can easily be adjusted and which give an unfussy look. Fiona Garwood, director of Cambridge Sunblinds, lends her expertise: “When selecting a blind for an office in the home it is worth considering the position of the window, how much light is needed, how much privacy you want and style. The design needs to enhance the work environment and at the same time fit into the home. If there is likely to be glare from the window, which affects the computer screen, anti-glare fabric, with advanced light reflecting properties, is available with vertical or roller blinds.”
For a softer look, choose roman blinds in pretty fabrics, like those available at Little Greene and Vanessa Arbuthnott. “A home study is such a useful space, perfect for thinking and creating,” Vanessa Arbuthnott says. “Try to keep clutter to a minimum, box files and baskets are great to keeping things organised and you can easily coordinate these yourself covering them in complementing fabrics! A comfy stool is a must – there are some great vintage finds out there which can be re upholstered along with as sturdy wooden desk with plenty of draws for all your notebooks, pens and treasures.”
Take it outside
For those lucky enough to have a large garden, the latest trend for homeworkers is to set up office away from the home – but, crucially, still within reach of it. From converting summer-houses to full-on garden rooms, this idea is eminently practical because it means work stops and you can switch off when you ‘return’ home.
B&Q have a range of summer-houses that would suit the occasional office use, while Westbury Garden Rooms can design a modern ‘out-house’ with all the fittings you’d need. For something really original, however, look to Garden Hideouts, which offers a range of unique garden buildings – from shepherd’s huts to beautiful timber rooms.
Chris Hill, managing of director of Garden Hideouts, says: “A purpose-designed garden room takes your business out of the family home and projects a more professional image – and all at a fraction of the cost of moving or extending. For the complete package, each shepherd hut and garden pod ‘inner’ is created by a specialist interior designer and can come ready fitted and furnished for use as a study or home office. What’s more, the larger Arca garden room benefits from a themed series of six of the latest designer interiors. You literally just walk in and start using it without the hassle of finding all the furniture and accessories for your space. This is really useful for people who are time-poor, or not very design orientated, plus it means your business can be up and running straight away.”
Working just got very appealing.
This article is also in the August issue of The Cambridge Edition Magazine