Bright and modern.
March 28, 2012 9:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm renovating my office, which is currently a monument to 80 years of bad decor. Help me modernize and brighten. Overview. Many details within.

I'm brainstorming how to decorate my office, which is currently a nice-looking 1928 room that has been augmented with a fiberboard ceiling and ten layers of moldy wallpaper. The wallpaper (and probably the ceiling) are going away.

I have a few pieces of nice modern-y furniture that I like and want to center the room around: this sideboard, this desk (2), and this rug. I also have some black-and-white photo prints I'd like to keep. (All other pictured furniture is disposable.)

As for the rest, I'm at a loss. The room is currently very dim. It's about 16' deep, 12' wide, and lit only by these not-very-bright windows. It has original doors, baseboards, and crown molding (2) that I'd like to keep. I also have the lamp visible in that last photo, which I like but isn't very bright. Some previous inhabitant punched a hole in the wall so they could mount a plug-in feature and run the cord through the hole -- the darkness is a problem.

I'm thinking of painting the walls a tan color to complement the rug, but I'm worried it will be too dark. I also don't have much stuff in here (a couple guitars, somewhere for the stereo to sit, and maybe some lockers for computer equipment), so I'm looking for a way to make it less sparse. I'd like it to look modern without sacrificing the original elements, but I'm not sure how to do that.

Your suggestions appreciated as I muddle through the problem of being an inept designer. I'm willing to try most things.
posted by zvs to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I used to keep my beta fish Pookie on my desk. And he would be so good for venting to when I got my big girl panties in a bunch with clients. Plus he was cute and colorful and made me happy. All was well until he committed hari kari one day and I found him lying on my desk one morning, as shriveled up as an anchovy. Poor guy.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:05 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A tan colour would work well. I would think about some white wainscoting, which would work well with the rest of the house, make the room more than an empty box, and allow you to brighten the room despite painting it tan.

Would a solar tube be an option, since you're working on the ceiling, anyway?
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:07 AM on March 28, 2012

Best answer: What's your budget?

Agree with the solar tube idea. They can bring in a lot of useful light.

I'm a big proponent of built-ins, if you've got the budget for it. They make the room feel less cluttered, and make the room easier to keep clean. You've got those insets on both side near the dormer; you could use the built-in to extend that inset dimension further back into the room as some combination of full-height cabinet, work surface, and waist-high cabinet.

Getting all your cords and routers and electronic cruft hidden will go a long way towards visual decluttering. See: decluttered, the bionic office.

I'd paint the walls a cool shade of white. If you want to really make a visual statement, paint the trim a dark or bold color, but be prepared to live with it.

Unless that window is facing north, I'd move the desk away from it, so that you're not looking into a lit background when working. It's probably a better spot for a couch anyhow.
posted by adamrice at 9:25 AM on March 28, 2012

I think the furniture you're keeping and the architecture would look great in a Hollywood Regency style office. Some modern Hollywood regency stuff is a bit garish (I'd avoid black damask on white, that sort of thing) but the more understated elements would look great there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:28 AM on March 28, 2012

Response by poster: What's your budget?

Hoping to spend about $1000 but I would sink more into durable improvements.

Would a solar tube be an option, since you're working on the ceiling, anyway?

Hmm, maybe! This is the top floor of the house, so a skylight might also be an option. Obviously both of these would blow my budget but that doesn't knock them out of consideration.
posted by zvs at 9:54 AM on March 28, 2012

Response by poster: (Top floor with no attic above)
posted by zvs at 9:54 AM on March 28, 2012

Best answer: You'd be surprised at what a few well-placed lamps can do. I have a dark family room (dark at night, when we're typically using it) and simply getting a couple of tall-ish tables (taller than the usual side table) and two lamps made it so much better. I don't feel like we're in a cave. I also painted the oppressive brick wall a light color; I'm sure that helped just as much as the lamps.
posted by cooker girl at 9:59 AM on March 28, 2012

Best answer: You might look into freestanding cooling options so you could get rid of the window air conditioner. i think the term of art is "portable air conditioner." Costs have come way down and some also double as heaters, which would be good for winter cozyness. That window air conditioner looks ancient (and may be spewing yuck into your air) so you might make back some of the cost on energy savings.
posted by carmicha at 10:14 AM on March 28, 2012

That wallpaper is awful, I'm glad you're getting rid of it. I'd go for a cool, calm color on the walls since you have so much dark furniture.

If I were in your situation, I would try and find a nice brown leather office chair to compliment your rug and desk. Don't get rid of your futon either, just find a nice patterned futon cover like this one.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:17 PM on March 28, 2012

Best answer: I am in week 2 of Benjamin Moore Shabby Chic, and it is not too dark. It's actually lighter than I thought it would be. However, I face east from five stories up and have big windows, so MMV.
posted by jgirl at 3:10 PM on March 28, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all! I marked a bunch of best answers, but they're all very helpful. If anybody else wanders in, feel free to add more.

(To esmeralda, I've never really loved those lamps. It would definitely match well, but I'll probably try a different lighting option. But who knows...)
posted by zvs at 7:11 AM on March 29, 2012

I would consider a medium gray, perhaps a warm gray tending towards taupe. Tan + brown + lots of wood is very brown. Get a desk lamp. If possible, get the wall sconce repaired, and get different glass shades - plain or not.

Consider putting a chair and maybe the guitars, on stands, in the window nook, and bringing the desk into the room, perhaps sideways to the door. Then you could put a chair or 2 on the other side of it, or diagonally to the desk, as if people could come and visit, even if they don't. A large room with small-medium furniture around the edges looks out of proportion. You could leave 1 wall with no furniture, and more art. The couch could be recovered. (Navy blue, tweed, sage green would all work, or a good pattern)

The furniture is mid-century modern; get some wood treatment, and apply it once it a while; it will look much spiffier. Skylights bring in lots of light, and let hot air out. If there's excess wiring along the woodwork, get rid of it; it tends to look clutter-y. Don't be afraid of colors darker than pale; they look cozier, and more sophisticated. Lamps are not expensive.
posted by theora55 at 11:23 AM on March 29, 2012

and I'd love to see 'after' pictures.
posted by theora55 at 11:24 AM on March 29, 2012

Response by poster: Hmm thanks for that, I agree with your outline. I think you're right about the desk, although the guitars can't go by the window because the radiator is over there, which is doom for them.
posted by zvs at 12:06 PM on March 29, 2012

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