Home Office Design- Lehigh Valley’s Morning Call Sunday Home Edition

Before & After: Take your home office from drab to fab….

What does your home office design look like?

Is it in the corner of the family room in the basement? Or maybe a small desk in either the dining room or great room that does double-duty as a homework station when you’re not using it for work? Maybe the home office is a separate room, but that room now also holds boxes of holiday decorations, seasonal clothes and other things that you only find use for occasionally.

Whether it’s a dedicated room or a small desk in the corner of multipurpose space, a home office needs to function to meet the needs of its owner. When it doesn’t, productivity can take a hit as distractions creep into the space that should be reserved for work.

The importance of a home office is growing as the number of workers putting in hours at home continues to grow. Recent numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that on any given day 51 percent of all self-employed workers and 20 percent of wage and salary workers work remotely. That data was based on 2015 numbers, the most recent available.

Angela Carroll Ast, owner and interior designer at ABCA Designs/Decorating Den Interiors of Spinnerstown, says an easy change to any room décor is to create a focus spot within the room. It’s a place your eye is drawn to when you enter the room.

“Every room should have a focus area,” she says.  “Such spaces or vignettes can be created simply with a lovely piece of art, a mirror over a chest of drawers or perhaps an overstuffed chair with a small side table and lamp. It may be as simple as adding one fresh item to the space, which can pull your design together.”

Homeowners are looking for their personal spaces to be able to accommodate a number of different uses, such as a great room also pulling double-duty as a home office and even a spare bedroom.

HGTV recommends knowing the potential traffic flow of the house before choosing a location for a home office, because all of the action around the home means distractions from work. If you plan to have clients over to the home office, then it must be in a quiet space and also have plenty of seating. Other key things to keep in mind when setting up a home office is not skimping on the chair or desk choices since this will be where you’ll be spending hours of your time.

Carroll Ast shared a home office project where the space was transformed into a sleek, modern office, well-equipped for its function. She took time out from her busy schedule to walk us through the project and answer our questions.

Q: What prompted the change in decor?What did the homeowner want to do with the space?

A: My client works from home several days a week. They desired a professional space that was adept to their business, but functioned and felt naturally attune to them, too.  The space needed a clean, organized, and updated feel.

Q: Can you describe what was done to the room and why?

The paint, wood walls, and electrical work was tackled.  We actually used engineered wood in this space, not shiplap. For a warm glow, we used a drum shade ceiling fixture. The walls were painted a subtle cream color (Benjamin Moore’s “Elephant Tusk”).

Originally, a woven grass cloth wallpaper was chosen for the office niche.  My client had seen a wood board treatment while on vacation and absolutely loved it!  I wanted to bring that strong affection into their home.  So, we switched gears and placed wood paneling on the wall.

The floor-length, pinch pleat window treatments (accented with punch-red horizontal banding) were hung, and the new furniture was installed to bring the whole look together.

For this particular space, the color and texture of the engineered wood worked best and was relatively easy to apply.  Adding a wood finish isn’t overly complicated.  However, the client does need to understand pros and cons for engineered versus hardwoods, including the specific applications required for each material.

This design demonstrates how designers must be attentive to their clients. They often get further inspired while seeing their design come together.  It’s the interior designer’s job to narrow down thousands of choices, ensuring their clients get the best products for their home.

Q: How important is it to have a dedicated space for a home office instead of a multipurpose room?

A: This home had enough space to dedicate one room for a home office, but that isn’t always the case. These days, there are so many beautifully customized upholstered chairs, loveseats and sofas that transform into storage or sleeping space.  I would definitely encourage homeowners to include one in a home office.  It’s a practical way to make a comforting place for out-of-town guests or for quiet contemplation.

Q: How can an interior designer help with a redo project?

A: Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.  Good designers have an intuitive sense and understanding of what will function and personally appeal to their client’s needs.  They know what potential is available within a particular space, and subsequently how to bring a unique look to that domain.

Q: Is there anything you would like 

to add?

A: Make sure you feel comfortable with the interior designer you choose.  Home improvement isn’t always like an HGTV show.  There will be problems, including possibly unexpected delays and other issues.  A great designer will help you see the potential of your home and make it an enjoyable and energizing experience, all while protecting your investment.  Their role lies in creating beautiful spaces, transformed through classic design and with quality products that feel uniquely yours for years to come.

Less to love: From Danish to Swedish, décor trends encourage decluttered, simpler home and life.

Linda Doell

Linda DoellContact Reporter Of The Morning Call

How would you describe your décor personality?

Is it sleek and modern or more industrial and utilitarian? Does your décor include shiplap and have a country flavor? Is your style a mashup that can only be described as eclectic or perhaps bohemian?

Or would your home décor style fall under one of the myriad of kitschy tag words to describe home décor trends: Wabi-sabi, hygge, lagom or cosagach? If you haven’t heard of some of these, no worries — in short, they are basically are the same thing and ways to organize your living space and simplify your life.

“Our lives have become so very busy. We are overwhelmed by technological advances. We feel the need to be constantly moving toward some goal and yet, never allow ourselves to just ‘be’,” says Angela Carroll Ast, owner and interior designer at ABCA Designs/Decorating Den Interiors of Spinnerstown.

“You now see people scheduling their own down time. Time to be quiet, relaxed and with ourselves is something almost unobtainable or frowned upon in American life,” she says. “These old Northern European words are a way of expressing that it is OK, and a beautiful thing, just to be in the present — normal, bored, alone, yourself or average.”

Wait, what are those words?

Hygge, lagom, cosagash and now, to a lesser extent, friluftsliv, are home décor design ideas that pair down accessories for a minimalist, yet comfortable, look.

“These terms all incorporate a calm and serene interior style, one more extreme than the other; they are all non-fussy looks and have a look of farmhouse chic to me,” says Shoshana Gosselin, principal designer of Love Your Room in Emmaus. “Things look handmade, hand knit and carry a warm, light feel.”


Hygge, pronounced “hoo-ga,” is a Danish word that encapsulates that country’s lifestyle ideal of cozy and comfortable living. In home décor, think fluffy pillows, cozy wraps and a decluttered living space.

“Hygge was the big term that is not so ‘on trend’ anymore,” Gosselin says. “The newer term is lagom, but there is a difference.”

A kissing cousin of hygge is cosagach, a Gaelic word that basically means snug, sheltered and warm. Think cozy nights wrapped up on the couch in front a fire. According to VisitScotland, the country’s national tourism group, cosagach has replaced hygge this year as a trend. Think inviting nooks and focal spaces.

Carroll Ast says she is working with a client who want to take a 2,000-square-foot home and decorate it to be intimate and inviting.

“She wants cozy nooks, places to curl up, feel good, sit and relax outside of her busy city life,” she says. “As her interior designer, we are adding a gas fireplace just opposite her main dining room table. This creates a space so dinner guests may just linger a bit longer. The simple, round pedestal style table will keep everyone included in the discussion, while the two overstuffed chairs by the fireplace can be where guest migrate and conversation overflows.”

The Swedish version of hygge is lagom, pronounced just like it looks. This decorating trend is all about balance and, according to The Washington Post, roughly translates into “not too much and not too little.” Think of it as the “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” approach to decorating – everything is just right.

“So instead of layers of hand knit blankets and scented candles used in hygge, you keep only what is sufficient in living and stop there,” Gosselin says. “Lagom is all about ditching clutter for a simpler curated look. It’s an effort to have a balanced work/home life.”

The final décor trend that is separate from the rest is the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. It’s the idea of appreciating the imperfections of life and celebrating aging gracefully. In home décor, it’s fixing the broken vase instead of throwing it away, or keeping and displaying a piece of furniture that may have paint peeling off it.

How do you pull off these looks?

While it might be tempting to jump wholeheartedly into a particular décor style, it could be better to ease into it to see if the style works with your home.

Greg Ebert, owner of Ebert’s Furniture in Allentown, says these décor styles are showing up in trends that are more about decluttering and streamlining. As an example, he pointed to how window treatments have changed from the use of heavy fabrics and paneled drapery to the current use of valances or even not using curtains at all. Curtains may be replaced in favor of a Roman shade, or the windows could be left au naturale.

He recommended trying to incorporate pieces of a design look into your home instead of a complete overhaul of your home’s décor.

“Try a track arm sofa on legs and get rid of heavy window treatments,” he says. “Instead of a big curio cabinet, try a simple bookshelf.”

The traditional Shaker style with its clean lines can fit the bill for more streamlined furniture. “They can go modern; they can go traditional,” he says. “They’ve been around for a long time.”

If you’re looking for a quick, relatively inexpensive update in the kitchen, replace the old country table set with a square table and a simpler chair design. Have the kitchen cabinets professionally painted and replace their hardware for a new look.

“Update the hardware and you have a mini kitchen remodel for a fraction of what a big renovation would cost,” he says.

“Keep in mind when updating your room, it’s fine to look at trends, but you want to buy quality furniture that lasts,” Ebert says. “It’s something you’re going to have for a period of time.”

Don’t forget to include artwork into your décor, too.

“An easy way to incorporate a theme is through art,” Carroll Ast says. “Don’t be scared to incorporate something you love, large artworks or uniquely crafted piece of furniture. It, alone, can create a space within your home.”

Though it might be tempting, Randy Dax, a salesman with Lauter’s Fine Furniture in Easton, cautions against buying furniture online without seeing in person and testing it out first.

“Everything looks comfortable in a picture and that truly is not the case with all furniture,” he says. “There are so many factors … we always ask someone to track down a particular sofa, if they have an interest in it, before buying.”

Dax explained some of the factors to consider include that some fabrics are more resistant to body weight than others, while some pieces of furniture have a firmer or softer seat than others.

Lauter’s focuses more on traditional, classic furniture styles rather than trendy lines. Dax said the store has been seeing more interest in traditional lines of furniture.

“There’s so many people doing the same contemporary furniture that it’s all starting to look alike,” he says. “Interest is going to start leaning back to more traditional lines again.”

Dax says gray still remains a go-to color and the new neutral for furniture, with customers ordering the body of a sofa in gray with different wood finishes. Other colors, including greens and shades of red, have dropped in popularity.

“A lot of people who are downsizing want simpler lines and less work,” he says. “Everyone is looking for something fresher nowadays.”

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