cb2officeI’m in the middle of a huge (and hugely stressful!) home office makeover.

Since leaving my job in late January to focus more on my blog and other projects I’m working on, for the first time in 7 months I am now spending the majority of my time at home.  For the first time in my I am lucky enough to live in a home that has an extra bedroom – which my husband and I have turned into our shared home office.  (Up until we moved here I’ve been using my computer on tiny desks, shared desks, even the corner of my bed because there was no space for it.  I was thrilled to have found a house that had an extra bedroom where I could finally have a dedicated space to work!)

My husband watches Stargate re-runs and plays marathon sessions of Warcraft there.  And once every couple months dabbles on his flight simulator.  [He is a pilot instructor, so it’s not an entirely random pursuit.]

I work.  It’s where I blog, DIY, photograph projects, sew and mend, and think up new ideas.  To me, it’s the hub of everything I do.

Whilst working at my job I had to bring my laptop into work constantly, so I would come home with it and simply put it on the dining room table to work, then pack it up and get ready to take it away again.  Now that I am working out of home again, I don’t need to take my laptop anywhere – and we need our dining room table back.  So I went to move it back into the office…and had a bit of a mini-meltdown last month.


Where I’ve had my laptop for years.  Pretty horrible, right?

I’ve always hated how our home office looks.  The walls are brown…a horrible pinky-brown that reminds me of cat puke.  And it’s crammed with stuff!  I can’t focus.  There’s no space to work.  I’ve neglected cleaning up and organizing it for months, even leaving some boxes in the same state they were when we moved in: full of jumbled, unsorted contents.  There’s no color scheme or place for your eyes to land.  And in a jumbled up, scattered place like this, I can’t be creative or think up anything new.  It’s all my fault for just throwing stuff in there as I go.  So I had a meltdown, refused to enter the room, and spent about 3 hours staring at it from the hallway, trying to figure out what to do.

(Plus, I can’t work facing the same way as World of Warcraft.  I can’t tell my husband this – but there’s nothing more distracting than trying to update this blog and out of the corner of my eye seeing a bunch of warlocks gang up on the undead, beating them to a pulp.  Or catching some flight training video of a crash re-enactment with a plane full of screaming people hurtling towards the alligator-infested Florida swamps.  Nosiree, there’s no way I can get anything done in this current setup.)

But what makes a good office design?  And what to do about my mess?  I’ve been searching online, and analyzing tons of photos for weeks to find out the answers to this.  And here’s what I’ve discovered are the keys to making your own space beautiful, calming, and inspiring:

containerstore21. Give SPACE for everything to breathe.

Yes, this is probably the single most important factor in a calming space.  HAVING SPACE!!  And the key to this is that it’s the visual space that makes the difference.  You can still have an entire area crammed with stuff.  But leaving a little bit of wiggle room around your magazine files and pen cups can make all the difference in the world.  This is so easy to do: just shift the elements in your office around a bit, to give everything a little cushion around it.  Having a little bit of room around the individual elements creates harmony and balance.

pinterstoffice3containerstore12. Use a consistent COLOR PALETTE.

Pick one main color for your walls, and use a contrasting or coordinating color/pattern to your office accessories.  Utilize pops of the same color throughout your office.  Or go with a patterned wall and solid, more neutral office accessories.  Keep it consistent, and step back to assess often.  Everything being different colors, with no rhyme or reason, makes the eye tired.  What is so beautiful in professionally-designed and styled offices in magazines are the little color accents placed throughout the space.  Your eye travels throughout the space, resting here and there on well-placed color.  Have too many disparate items?  DIY consistency by painting your banker boxes, covering your boxes and files in fabric, using patterned or colored file folders, painting your pencils (a little too hardcore DIY for me, but that’s always a possibility!), or painting your shelves.  Make sure everything that’s out and in plain view…fits in your color scheme.

ikeaoffice1containerstore5containerstore33. ELIMINATE CLUTTER.

This is a big one, and one of my major pet peeves.  Visual clutter = mental clutter.  I am such a packrat I have a problem with this often…so I bought a number of large boxes from Ikea and just threw my clutter in there so I don’t have to look at it.  Filing trays, magazine files (you can DIY these from cereal boxes and save some cash!), and of course banker boxes can all keep that clutter under wraps.

4. Cut down on BUSY PATTERNS.

Similar to #2, this is a tip that really helps in the office because one tends to have a lot of paper, with words, text, or drawings on it.  Step back and assess: often from a little ways away this can look very convoluted and messy.  Minimize the bits of paper, colors, shapes, and words you have showing – like posters, sticky notes, photos, inspiration boards, etc….and make sure what you choose to show is artfully displayed and confined to a single area.  (See: how to create an inspiration board, clipboards for office clutter, DIY photo wall project roundup for ideas.)

pinterest office5. Add SOMETHING LIVING.

Workplaces can feel really stagnant and dry.  If you can, try to add a plant or fresh flowers to add life and variety to a room.  Plants that absorb harmful VOC’s and purify the air: snake plant, spider plant, aloe, gerber daisies, and ficus, just to name a few.  Even tiny succulents in an unusual planter can make a huge difference.

ikeaoffice4pinterestoffice26. Make a small, cramped, dark space feel bigger with REFLECTION.

Using large amounts of white – large windows with natural daylight – and strategically-placed mirrors – to brighten up an area…and create the illusion of space where there is none.  (Bonus points: white creates uniformity, and induces feelings of purity and calm.)

ikeaoffice37. Add PERSONAL ITEMS within your color palette.

Knickknacks, bookends, vases, oversized letters, photo frames – all of these will give a personal touch to your space.  However, try to not go overboard and carefully curate (like a museum, or collector!) what you choose to put on display.  Make sure it inspires you, makes you happy or nostalgic or joyful, and adds to your space in a cohesive way, not in a way that creates visual clutter and mental frustration.pinterestoffice4

Any tips you have for great organization in your home office space?  I’d love to hear them!


photo sources (not in order): CB2 online catalog, Ikea online catalog, Homedesigninspirations.com, Pinterest, Pinterest, Pinterest, Pinterest, Container Store online catalog


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