June 24, 2020

Style Solutions: Making a Shared Office Functional

Allison here filling in for Erin with a special edition of Style Solutions aimed at helping those of you still in the WFH grind! Molly put the call out on social media a few weeks ago looking for readers in need of home office help and this little sunroom-turned-home office for two caught my attention. Not only do I love a sunroom in general but thought that a shared work space would be particularly applicable right now as more of us are working from home these days.  

Before I get into the layout and design, I want to point out that these same ideas can be used for shared homework spaces or virtual schoolrooms (deep breaths, parents!) should they be needed in the fall.  

Design Brief: Our reader and her husband are both lawyers temporarily working out of the small sunroom adjacent to their family room. This allows them to have their own space but be readily available to their children playing in the other room. Their professions come with a lot of paper files and paperwork so ample desk space, storage and organization were at the top of their requirements. Blues, greens and neutrals with coastal touches were requested for the look and feel of the room.  

Design Solution: My initial reaction was that they needed larger desks with built-in storage as a place to start. I also felt that the desks needed to be similar in color/style if not the same to keep the eye from jumping around too rapidly in what is a small space.  

Their current layout also felt very crowded and cut off with the desks perpendicular to each other. Instead I’d suggest placing two large desks side by side along the longest wall. This gives the impression of one long workspace. If this room was going to be a permanent office or homework room, a built-in desk would be an ideal way to maximize the usable space. Since our reader might not need a shared office in the years to come, I looked at modular home office systems. Most large retailers from IKEA to Pottery Barn have offerings like these where you can customize the side towers and work surfaces to suit your space and storage needs.  With the desks along the long wall, it frees up the center of the room for movement, napping pups and the occasional impromptu toddler visit. I kept their barrister bookcase – it provides lots of storage and a bit of gravitas to the newer furnishings.  

I selected a desk that not only had coastal feel with its shutter style drawers & doors but also had a variety of file drawer, cabinet, storage drawer combinations for the support towers. The top is a stained wood that is similar to that on the barrister bookshelf, an added bonus. Each desk has its own task lamp and a small styled moment where the desk meet will provide a division of workspace. This could take the form of a woven tray with a branch-filled vase and a candle or misc. desk accessories (as shown within in the design board).  


desk chairs (in parchment) // pillows // woven wood shades // drapery panels // paint // desk // barrister bookcase (existing, but similar here) // artwork // vase // stems // desk lamps // storage cabinet // tray // sisal rug (in harvest) // faux fiddle leaf fig tree (existing, but similar here)

A lateral file/open storage cabinet to the side of the doorway provides a surface for the printer as well as more storage for files. Above it, I’m suggesting a stack of 2-3 framed pieces of art since there isn’t any other available space for art in the room. You could also use a mirror as well here.  

While I like light and bright sunrooms, the reader mentioned that she does not like how many different types of wall surface there are within the room – brick, exterior siding and plaster drywall above and below the windows. While it would be great to have a contractor come in and drywall over the brick and remove the siding, the cost may not be accessible for everyone. To work with the existing structure, they could paint the sunroom a deep blue, they have the natural light to make this work without it feeling cave-like, to help these textural differences recede.    

As the room is not air conditioned, I’m suggesting the reader invest in either woven wood or wood-look roller blinds for each window. This will help reduce direct sunrays for both heat and any glare it may cause on computer screens. New white draperies with navy stripes soften the bold blue walls.  

For the floor, I like the natural sisal rug they have now but they’ll need a longer size to bridge both desks and avoid chair legs ending up off or bunches up in the carpet – I hate that! Because this is an odd size they can either reach out to a local rug resource to custom cut a rug 4-6” off all the walls or use a semi-custom option – West Elm, Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn all offer custom cut sisals is a few different colors and styles in 12” increments. The rug shown on the layout is 6’ x 12’. 

Also, because sharing an office with your partner/spouse/roommate will hopefully not last forever, I also included a few layouts for how the room can be repurposed down the road… 

Hope you found this helpful! More to come from me, Eliza and Molly in the coming weeks!


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