Designing a space for yourself can be challenging in a whole host of ways. Even if you’re an experienced designer (which I am not), when it comes to your own home deciding which direction you want to go in can feel like you’re trying to shove everything that represents you into one house or space. Adding another person and their design aesthetic to that mix can make it feel almost impossible to design a space that you’re both happy in. Trust me, I’ve been trying for the past 4 years, and still haven’t found the best method for designing a space that both Mac and I feel equally represented in.
And so far the designed spaces in our home have definitely leaned more into my own aesthetic (which is a whole other issue of its own). So when it came to designing the office, I really wanted to bring Mac into the design process in a more meaningful way. This is the room that he spends the most time in on a daily basis, so I want it to be a space he really loves and enjoys. A space that feels like him. But Mac isn’t an interior designer, so asking him to design the office of his dreams and letting him have full design-freedom wasn’t going to work either. He’s not an interior designer and doesn’t know where to start – from where to look for pieces, to figuring out how they go together in a space. Mac is actually a designer (he’s an associate creative director at Scholar, an animation and advertising studio), so he has a very strong design eye, and a good sense of what he likes and doesn’t like. But translating a pinboard of ideas he likes the “vibe” of to a real room, piece by piece, wasn’t something he knew or even wanted to do.
After combing through a lot of “interior” inspiration photos, it was clear that the architecture and overall “vibe” of space was what spoke to Mac the most. He might not like a single piece of furniture from the photo, but the giant floor to ceiling windows, an insane custom built-in, or some other awesome architectural element was what he was drawn too. And clearly, we have none of those things on our office, nor the capability to do those things. The office is just a box, with orange peel walls. It does have two big windows though!
But ultimately, it’s about as standard a room as you can get, so we were going to have to try and translate Mac’s inspiration to attainable design elements. So I decided to try and treat Mac like a design client. I asked him to pin a few images that weren’t so much aspirational as they were functional – what were things he’d actually to see in the office? Here’s what he pinned:
Desk space – and lots of it. He has two monitors and a laptop open 24/7 on his desk for work, and a needs to be able to spread out. He also wants storage – he hates the idea of having a stuffed attic or garage. If we can’t fit it in the house, why have it? So some sort of shelving where he could display important things he’s collected, but also had closed storage that could house other items (like all his D&D stuff) would be important to incorporate.
Mac’s taste definitely leans more modern and clean than mine, but he also loves vintage, so he’s not purely about that modern minimalism that’s sharp and desaturated. I think “organized” would be a better way to describe his aesthetic. So desk organization and functionality will be something he would really value in this space. We had chatted about a possible dark accent wall or paint color, and that was something he was open to, since he usually tends to opt for dark tones when given the choice.
We had also chatted about having the office double as a guest room. So a sleeper sofa would provide both lounging space and functionality. But the office is small, so we were going to be super limited on what would work. All I knew is that it couldn’t be another velvet sofa, for Mac’s sake.
The first thing I had to figure out was a floorplan layout. The room is small and square, and we wanted to fit a lot in there. My new favorite hack? Using the Ikea Planner online software to block out floorplans. I’m not using any Ikea products in the room, just literally using the software to layout the floorplan. I just create my room, and then use “floor obstacles” to see how big all the pieces are, and if they’ll fit. If you look at it in the 3D view it’s just a bunch of boxes, but overhead it’s perfect for getting a good spacial idea. This helped me figure out which pieces I had pinned would work, and which were just gonna be too big.
The next step was putting together design options to have him go through with me. I’d love to say that this was a super easy process of presenting him with two options, having one conversation about which pieces we both liked from each, and settling on a final design plan. It wasn’t. First, I’m not a designer with client experience. Second, he’s not really my client, he’s my partner so there are a lot of emotions involved. And third, we both want to like this space, so it’s not as easy as a designer just trying to please a client. I was, in a way, always a client of the space too. And we both generally have different ideas of what we want our spaces to look like. And me repeating “I just want you to be happy in the space” translated more to “this is your generous crumb of design input, the room where you get to do what you want, so just tell me what you want.”
But, in the simplest terms, I did present two designs to him, we discussed, and we combined elements from both designs to create a final design plan.
DESIGN OPTION #1
For this first design I proposed painting the walls “Goodnight Moon” by Clare, but keeping the ceiling and window trims white to keep it from feeling dark and monochrome (a look we intentionally went with in our TV room). Mac had pinned that sturdy wooden desk from Article a while ago, and we’re planning on reusing the office chair from our previous office. We’re also going to keep the vintage coffee table we used in our previous office, but I wanted to throw in a more colorful vintage rug to bring in some more color to this space (but also something with a flat pile so if Mac’s office chair had to roll over it there wouldn’t be any issues).
That sofa from Blu Dot is actually a sleeper, but not a traditional sleeper. Between Mac’s desk and the sofa we could really only accommodate a sleeper sofa that opened up to 70 inches max. That’s not a lot of room, but this sofa opens up to only be 66″ long. It’s like a hybrid between a futon and a full-size sleeper bed, and will work perfectly for the few nights a year we have guests. Plus, I liked the contrast of the modern sofa design with the vintage rug and coffee table. Same goes for the ceiling light fixture (from Rejuvenation), which I liked that it tied in a brass element to the brass globe lamp from Article, and all the wood in the room, but still felt modern.
Mac has tons of awesome movie and design-related art that he wants to display, so the art is gonna be all him. He has a Pinterest board filled with vintage posters he’s been wanting to get, so we’ll be sourcing a few cool things and getting them framed with Framebridge.
Lastly, that cool wall shelf from Rejuvenation is wall-mounted and so pretty. It provides both display space, but has a section with doors for storing more unsightly items.
DESIGN OPTION #2
In this version, I opted for a paint color I’m obsessed with called “Current Mood”, also from Clare. It’s a bit lighter than Goodnight Moon, but still has that moodier tone I thought Mac would be into. I paired it with a bit more of a subdued vintage rug (I searched through just about every vintage rug Revival Rugs had and there are a lot of good ones), that still has a lot of deep saturated color. And brought in the same Blu Dot sofa, but in a darker option to jump off the walls a bit.
Mac really loves that shelving option from Article – it’s got a cool modular feel, and lots of little areas that feel like display spots. But even more closed storage (this guy has a lot of D&D material, ok?). I paired the shelving with a black and brass standing Article lamp, and a super modern ceiling fixture from Rejuvenation in a color I knew Mac would be into – Black.
I also brought in a leggier desk (from Lulu & Georgia), in a dark color, to try and reduce some of the brown wood in the room.
THE FINAL DESIGN PLAN
After reviewing all the options from the first two designs, we finally pulled together a final design. It took a LOT of conversations, mixing and matching pieces from the two design boards, and just like, only a few frustrated tearful events. All in al, this was one of the smoother design processes.
We’re gonna go with Goodnight Moon on the walls and baseboards, and keep the window trim and ceiling white. We’re using green in a lot of other spaces in the house and felt like we needed to shake it up a bit. Blue isn’t Mac’s favorite color, but this inky navy hit a sweet spot of dark and moody, while not being ultra-saturated.
And even though we’re using a darker color on the walls, we decided to go dark on the sofa as well. We’re really into the fabric, and kind of liked the cohesive dark look that the sofa had against the wall. Plus the rug, with its deep colors, brings a bit of lightness and saturation to the couch area. Mac spent DAYS deliberating on which vintage posters were going to grace the walls of this space, and after agonizing for too many hours, he’s settled on these two vintage Japanese posters in more neutral tones. He’s also got an amazing A24 poster, that’s already framed, that will go on the wall next to his desk.
Mac really wanted to go for something sturdy in the desk department, so we’re going for the warm wood desk, which also is 71″ long so will provide a lot of great desk space for him. And we’re going with his dream shelving to make sure he’s got enough display and storage space. The shelving will come into the window a bit, but functionality is going to win out on this one. We’re also going to add two art ledges above Mac’s desk to bring in more space for smaller art and collectibles. It’ll be one more spot Mac can share a bit more personality in the space.
Lastly, Mac liked the first ceiling light fixture just a touch more, but felt that the brass and wood felt a little too mid-century for him. SO, I popped an all-black version on the board and we both kinda nodded our heads like, “yea, that’ll work.” It was one of our cohesive design decisions, haha.
And that’s where we’re at now. We have some baseboards to finish up, and then it’ll be painting and installing. It’s a super quick project, but one I’m really excited to tackle. Is our couple’s design method seamless? No. And I don’t know if it ever will be. But I definitely don’t want Mac to just throw in the towel and let me have carte blanche because I want this house to feel like both of us. And he doesn’t want to hold up every single design decision by making me feel like he hates all my ideas. But this room did come together a little easier than the last one, so maybe with practice we’ll get there. And then I’ll write a book and become famous and solve this same issue for couples everywhere, and people will ask me to officiate their weddings and name their babies after me. Until then . . .
Opinion time! Who thinks we’re crazy, who’s on board, and who has the secret to cohesive couples designing?