You may not equate your home office with a stylish sanctuary, but that’s where designer MA Allen comes in. Whether a luxury or a necessity, your home office is the place where you’ll spend hours conquering goals and bringing creative visions to life. If that doesn’t deserve stunning digs, we don’t know what does. To help us up our office game, we asked MA—who’s known for bringing crazy-good style to everything she touches, home offices included—to give us the low-down on designing a stylish home office, from color to lighting, to the mysterious benefits of a vintage desk.
1. Get the Lay of the Land
MA typically kicks off the home office design process by taking stock of how her client works and how they use—or don’t use!—technology to stay organized. For MA, this survey reveals what design options will be most functional. For instance, she says, “A client who is paperless and uses a laptop, may just need a sofa and chairs and minimal storage. Whereas, an executive who can’t live without double monitors might need a built-in credenza to manage cords.” By laying out how you work, you’ll get a sense of what furniture pieces are paramount, and you can begin mapping out how to puzzle-piece them together in your space.
2. Energize with Color
If your impression of a home office is a bland, cast-off room, your quickest workaround is color, says MA—and lots of it. “If there’s one thing I love, it’s adding bold color to an office space. Considering it’s where you work, why not make it cheerful? Color can be so energizing.” MA shows no fear when it comes to color in an office—hot pink walls make an appearance in her portfolio of office hits—but you can obtain similar results by opting for a deeply-colored sofa, curtains, or upholstered office chair.
3. Choose a Vintage Desk & Chair
To out-maneuver unstylish desk chairs and boxy desks, MA suggests going with a vintage desk and chair. In order to make a vintage desk practical for modern day use, MA recommends floating your vintage desk in front of a built-in credenza. The credenza “can serve as a secondary desk surface,” says MA, noting that it can “house double monitors, printers, and other plugged in items,” while working to keep the central desk open and attractive. As for vintage desk chairs? MA doesn’t get too caught up on the absence of castors and other modern bells and whistles. Especially if you split your desk time between sitting and standing, a vintage dining chair can be a painless swap-out for an ergonomic swivel chair.
4. Pump Up the Lighting
You might think ambient lighting should be saved for entertaining spaces like the dining room or living room, but MA says not so. For her, layered lighting in a home office is a must. “I first aim to add generally good mood lighting via a central chandelier or pendant,” she says. Next, she likes to add recessed 4” can lights around the perimeter of the room as well as above work zones. Lastly, she’ll add a task lamp or sconces for “another lighting layer for flexibility.” To make sure your lighting is firing on all cylinders and can easily transition from daytime Skype call to late-night work session, MA recommends that all lights “be dimmable and easy to control. I love lighting control systems like Legrand linked to Control4,” she says.
5. Instate Order
Between rogue papers, books, and mismatched electronic components, a home office requires staunch organization. “The best tip for staying organized is to plan for exactly what you have,” says MA. “We always inventory a client’s technology, supplies, books, files to be sure we incorporate appropriate storage for it all. If everything has a place, then there is never a problem keeping it organized.” MA also recommends delving into the itty-biddy nuances of your workflow. “Are you a paper stacker like me?” she asks. “If so, then add vertical or horizontal slats in built-in cabinets to organize the stacks.” Baskets can also be used. Line them up on bookshelves to corral supplies like tape measures and out-of-use electronics. For those working with bolts of fabric or oversized drafting papers, tall baskets can also work wonders.
6. Layer in “You”
Personalizing your home office is key for creating a space you enjoying spending time in. Being a vintage fiend, MA is partial to going vintage whenever possible. “I love the intrigue that vintage brings to a room,” she says. “Incorporating a conversation piece or two adds unexpected character; an element of mystery and desire.” MA likes using bookshelves for displaying vintage curiosities, travel finds and favorite artwork in an office. If you do just one thing, find a spot for items that make you smile. After all, nothing takes the grind out of work like an upbeat point of view!
Lead photo by Anna Routh Barzin