When busy empty-nesters Donna, an immunologist, and David, a European history professor, traded in their New Jersey family home for a more modestly-sized apartment on New York City’s Upper West Side, they knew they’d need some redecorating and renovation guidance from a pro. So they enlisted Joe Human of Designs by Human, who specializes in both construction and decorating for a holistic approach. Down-sizing meant prioritizing a guest bedroom for the occasional home visit from their grown children, but they also needed a designated home office, so Human helped them do both—in one room.
Whether you’re trying to figure out how to design a spare room or you could use a little guidance for your own bedroom-meets-home-office, the transformational guest room makeover below is sure to inspire good functional and formal change. Keep reading to discover the do’s and don’ts of guest room and home office decorating.
Choosing Balanced Colors
As many of us can personally attest, focusing on work and being productive in the same room where you’re supposed to rest, relax, and unwind can feel impossible. But all it really takes is a strategic layout to help break the room into different zones based upon use-case, and versatile decor. In this room, Human started by “toning down some of the colors” and landed on a muted olive green anchor color, Benjamin Moore’s Vintage Vogue (the ceiling is Ceiling White and molding, doors, and trim in China White semigloss), which is a nice balance between stimulating and stylish, soothing and understated—in other words, ideal for a bedroom-office hybrid. “It should draw out your creativity and actually make you want to go into that room to get things done,” Human says.
If you’re trying to come up with a color scheme for this type of room, Human has some advice: “I see and hear all the time that, ‘everything must be white and light to feel bright’ and it is simply not true! This room was lighter in color tones in almost every way, but now it feels so much lighter and brighter—even with all the dark colors—and now is so much more interesting.”
Focusing On the Details
The couple’s condo is in a classic New York Art Deco building, so Human wanted to accentuate some of that original character. He added “intricately detailed crown molding to bring in that modern take on Art Deco” design. And while the couple didn’t have the budget for real wood wainscoting, the existing wood chair rail running the perimeter was able to function as a makeshift alternative. Plus, it could work as a dividing line that allowed for a fun wallpaper moment. “What do we miss in while living in NYC? Nature! I didn’t want a literal picture of trees or a floral print because this room had to remain neutral for guests, so we found this wonderful vintage-inspired mural-scape from Anthropologie that almost extends the space further and makes the room feel larger than it actually is.”
Hanging full, voluminous drapes warmed up the room and extended the life of the wallpaper into the dimensional space. (Not to mention, the window treatments gives guests the green light to sleep in and relax without blocking any of the natural light when open.) Human brightened up the space with “newer, more useful overhead fixtures and then the addition of side lamps for accent lighting.” Oh! And, of course, comfy bedding is a must for a guest room. Human opted for a Brooklinen set.
Maximizing Storage and Decluttering
“The size of the room was ample but as you can see, there was a mish-mosh of items that needed to be curated and made cohesive.” We’re all for incorporating sentimental items and furniture in a room—those items can become the very lifeblood of the space, since they often communicate your personal style and interests. For example, the little stuffed doll on the dresser of this room, is “a sock puppet made by our daughter out of some of Donna’s old socks! Next to it is an origami dragon, also made by her,” the homeowner David says.
The books are another good example. “Their book collection is honestly one of my favorite things” about the entire space, Human says. “In so many projects, I get to curate book collections for clients. But I was so happy to see the existing collection here.” All it took was a little reorganizing. While the books were “literally overflowing in the space when we got there,” they now look nice and orderly thanks to another bookshelf made to house the books.
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