There are two ways to choose your overall home office decor: follow the style that prevails in the rest of your home, or treat your office as a separate space. Choosing which path to take is a simple task that requires answers to only a few questions.
> Has your home been decorated in a style that is visible everywhere?
> Is your office easily visible from other rooms/areas in your home?
> Does your work suggest your own style?
Based on the questions above, here are some simple ways to help you easily achieve a nice décor in your home office.
If you are going to treat your office as part of your home, using the same decor and style, your job is half done. But remember, you don’t have to wear the exact color scheme or mood. You can modify what you see outside of your office so it blends in seamlessly. For example, you can invert the main and accent colors; you can use the same colors but in different proportions; or a different level of formality. Because you’re decorating an office, you’ll probably want to treat the style differently than it appears in other areas of your home, and this is normal. Don’t be afraid to create a variation in the atmosphere; it’s just the general style that you try to respect.
For a home office that is open within one area of your home, you will have to be a little more cautious. In this case, you should respect the style seen around your office, but at the same time you should definitely try to create a sense of separation between your work space and your living space. Visual separation does not mean building a wall; it means creating a new environment within the existing one. Some ways to create visual separation include changes in ceiling height and/or floor level (one step up or down); a room divider placed to appear decorative rather than limiting; color changes, such as reversing the primary and accent paint colors used on the walls; and furniture placement.
Arranging furniture so that the layout separates the space is simple enough, but don’t forget to play around with your ideas on graph paper first, or else you may still need to rearrange when you should already be at your desk. Consider using a large bookcase or storage cabinet as a room divider; the back can be decorated with fabric, paint, a collage… or place the furniture back to back to create the feeling of two separate areas. Keep in mind as you work on the design that you don’t want to feel like your office is, for example, in the back of its base — is did the back of the base. Just as you can play with words, you can also play with space.
A home office that is going to be given its own style is a fun thing to do. You should try to have a bit of who you are visible in the decor, while creating a visual sense of what you do. This is not a cubicle in a large office complex, this is his office. If you love bold prints, classic cars, angels… incorporate them into the decoration even if they have nothing to do with what you are going to do in your office. At the same time, your office should say more about why you do that “I work at a desk” thing. What are you doing at that desk? If you’re in the computer business, have things around you that suggest that, like an enlarged and framed comic strip that has something to do with computers. If your office is really more of a workshop and you mend clothes, incorporate your supplies into your decor: display spools of thread in a rainbow-like pattern, run a rod a few inches from the wall, and drape with some fabrics for an ever-changing backdrop. If you work in the travel industry, hang a model airplane and display items or images that symbolize some of your favorite destinations; If it doesn’t get in your way, have a beach ball in your office or make a “sandbox” wall hanging by gluing sand to the back of a shadow box and gluing small shells into the sand.
When choosing colors for your office, there are a few basic points to consider. Yellows, reds, and other very warm colors in large amounts can make you thirsty. Blue is very relaxing, but be careful not to choose a soft blue-gray which can actually make you tired or restless. The best way to choose colors for your office is to choose three colors; use one as a main color (for example, on the walls), another as a main accent color (visible in a pattern on a rug, curtains, desk accessories…), and the third as an accent color that appears only in touches here and there (like flowers in a vase, a couple of picture frames…). At this point, your color scheme is set, and all you have to do is keep a few basic points of color psychology in mind. A dark ceiling will feel very low; mirrors and reflective materials make a space feel bigger; too many colors, especially bold ones, can cause a feeling of clutter even if there aren’t any.
One final point on the subject of color and style: materials like wood, stone, and metal can be incorporated into any color scheme, although they can affect the style, they won’t look out of place. A natural pine desk will certainly look different than a mahogany one, but either will match any color scheme; the same goes for stainless steel and brass, and marble and concrete.
Find the final article in this 4-part home office series: Home Office Lighting and Window Treatments.