When Anne Sage sent me her client’s office space I immediately leaned in and asked, “is that a fabric accent wall?! Oooh, that’s sick!” Then as I continued to pour over the photos, I kept finding special details and great ideas. Not surprising though given how thoughtful Anne is with her designs. But naturally, I had about a billion questions which we will get to in a minute. But one question we always ask designers of their projects is if there were any fun surprises and/or challenges. What I absolutely loved was that Anne said her client really gave her free reign – “Probably the most fun surprise I had was a client who loved all my ideas and gave me the freedom to run with them—how often does that happen? So many of the special details in this space were ideas that I’d been keeping in my back pocket for a really long time, just waiting for a client who was bold and open-minded enough to try them!” That’s so true! While I’ve only had one “client” myself, watching Em/EHD team’s past client projects and talking to my designer friends, it’s rare that ALL presented ideas will be given the green light. In my opinion, it really paid off (and is why hiring a designer is worth it if you can budget for one). BUT for those who don’t have the budget, some of Anne’s ideas are DIY-friendly!
Why is this beautiful kitchen in a blog post about an office you ask? It’s because they are in the same home! You may remember this kitchen Anne designed and renovated in just TWO MONTHS last year. It’s extremely cool to get to see more of this home’s spaces and how they work together. Here’s a little backstory about the family and the new office:
“The client is a screenwriter with a young family, she and her husband had recently purchased her first house and we undertook a complete renovation of the whole home. (You guys actually featured the kitchen I did for them too!) This room is on the home’s first floor, just off the entryway, and the previous owner had used it as a kind of den/TV room (hence the wine storage cubby).”
What did your client ask for when y’all started?
“My client planned to use this as her home office — her first ‘real’ office after years of working from home in her bedroom! — and in honor of the big step up, we knew we needed to make it EXTRA special. I asked her a lot of questions about how she works, what her dream setup would look like, etc. and this space was born!
Some of her callouts included a spot above her desk for doing storyboarding, a place to relax and take breaks without having to leave the room and go into the rest of the house, and lots of storage. In terms of aesthetic, she’d long loved the warmth and textural aspects of boho style but wanted the office to feel more like the modern evolution of the boho style she’d gone for in the past, to reflect the evolution that was happening in her career.”
I love how this office was meant to reflect the evolution of her client’s career! I can absolutely understand the need for that physical/visual representation. I mean that’s exactly how I wanted to feel in my office area too. But what I sadly don’t have are fabric accent walls. Of course, I needed ALL of the information from Anne. So the idea for the fabric wall behind the sofa came after the idea for the wall above the desk on the other side of the room. From Anne: “The really cool thing about that wall above the desk is that it has a MAGNETIC pinboard behind it and was where the seed of the idea for the fabric wall was actually born.”
– How did the idea first come up? “The idea for fabric on the wall above the desk was born as described above. But the idea for a fabric wall with a couch that seemed to “pop out” of the wall was born the year before when Crypton Home came out with some really stunning striped fabrics that I was dying to use. There were two in particular that felt like they were meant to be used in the space — the black stripe and the burnt sienna stripe, which are two of my fave hues together. When my client told me she wanted a nap couch, and then when the magnetic wall idea popped into my head, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to marry all those little threads together into one epic space! One special thing about this fabric — it’s a bit hard to see unless you’re really close-up to it, but the stripes are slightly raised against the background, almost as though they’ve been embroidered. It’s truly such a special fabric and the end result is a tactile dream!”
– What was the install like? “In a word, stressful! Everything had to be done in a really specific order to get all the lines right, and I was juggling the scheduling needs of many different parties — California Closets, the fabric installer/lime washer, who couldn’t install everything at once but rather had to work in stages, and of course, my client who wanted to be able to start working in her office ASAP! And of course, it had to be done very exactingly, since any errors in the install would have resulted in the stripes being off and the whole concept going down in flames.”
– Is that a lime wash paint on the wall? Do you have any tips for people who want to but have never used it before? “It is indeed lime wash! Since we were doing two of the walls with the fabric, I was concerned that a normal paint finish on the other two walls would be too stark a contrast—I wanted to keep the feeling of warmth and coziness going! Lime wash was the perfect solution, since it brings its own earthy depth to the texture party. The good news about lime wash is that it is pretty easy to work with and get a good result, even if you’re a first-timer. It’s quite forgiving and can be built up or diluted down as you go along. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you can’t tell what your final result will look like until it’s completely dry—so leave yourself lots of time (i.e. a few days) to take the process slowly. It’s one that can’t be rushed. As well, it’s very drippy and messy, so be sure to protect floors, furniture, etc. In terms of technique—as always, YouTube has some good videos to get you started. But also, don’t be surprised if you develop your own technique as you go along and get the feel for what works best for you!”
– How hard was it to match up the lines on the wall to the lines on the sofa? “Honestly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be — it just required working with vendors who take accuracy of execution as seriously as I do. Since the wall and sofa fabrics were of the same pattern, just a different colorway, I knew that so long as I gave specific instructions to my wall installer and sofa upholsterer, we’d be okay. We used the middle point of the wall as our reference point, meaning that we’d have a black stripe at the exact center of the wall, and a sienna stripe at the exact center of the sofa. And then, of course, the sofa needed to tuck perfectly into the opening created by the bookshelves—but I wasn’t worried about that at all, because the team at California Closets are SO spot-on with their measurements and manufacturing. They’re incredible at taking a custom idea like this, adding all their own special touches, and then executing it to perfection. But one thing I will say, is that I checked and double-checked and triple-checked my measurements more on this project than any other I’ve ever done, ahha!”
– Would you say it’s DIYable and if so what are your tips/warnings? “A fabric wall is definitely DIY’able! A fabric wall with stripes that line up perfectly — not only with a striped sofa but with the grid of a built-in bookshelf? Well, let’s just say that’s an ADVANCED DIY, ha! One of the biggest challenges in the install was actually my fault—when choosing the striped fabric, I didn’t think through the complication that would be posed by the fact that the stripes run width-wise on the fabric, not length-wise. What this meant in practice was that my installer couldn’t just unroll the fabric and put it on the wall vertically as I’d envisioned the stripes. Rather, she had to sew several pieces of horizontally striped fabric together to create the look of vertical stripes—but she had to do it in a way that the seams didn’t show. This is actually where the bookshelves came in handy, since she was able to hide the seams behind the shelves. (Thank goodness this project was in LA, where I was able to find a former set decorator + scenic painter who had transitioned into doing home decor work but had tons of experience troubleshooting weird requests like this!)
In terms of tips/warnings for anyone who wants to do this at home: Definitely choose a fabric whose pattern runs the LENGTH of the fabric so that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation. As well, I’d suggest starting small with any type of fabric work—like maybe try your hand at covering a folding screen first, to get the feel for it. There are some good tutorials on YouTube that detail the tools and techniques you need—they’re pretty simple, just fabric starch is the most commonly used adhesive, and then of course all the precise cutting and measuring tools you’d expect for something like this!
As for the reason you might choose to do fabric instead of say, wallpaper? Fabric does add a really elevated textural touch, since it does have that woven feel that most wallpaper doesn’t (grasscloth wallpaper being the exception of course). It’s a really warm and cozy vibe that gets created. And in our case, because of that piece of sheet metal above the desk — wallpaper wasn’t really an option, since the ridges caused by the edge metal would have shown through wallpaper, whereas the fabric is more forgiving and hides those ridges better.”
How is the large art piece hung on top of the fabric? “It’s a very light float framed canvas with the backing torn off, so we were able to just use two very small picture hanging nails to hang it — right into the fabric, and then the holes actually kind of disappear when the nails are removed, in the same way that the hole from a tailor’s pin disappears after its removed from a piece of clothing.”
The wall shelving unit is also awesome! What was that process of designing it like? If you can share what was the cost of it? “The cost of the whole unit, bookshelves/drawers + then the desk/undercabinets, was $7,500 through California Closets. The shelf over the desk was another $1000, that had to be done by my carpenter as California Closets didn’t offer a floating shelf in the shallow depth that I wanted (this one is 6” deep as I recall).
It was a real pleasure to design this custom build-out with California Closets. I came in with the initial sketches and functional requests (drawers to hide a printer and office papers, for example), and then they used their expertise to help me nail down the details. For example, one of my favorite little easter eggs in this design is the way the toe kick under the drawers that flank the sofa is the exact same height as the seam at the bottom of the sofa. There isn’t a single aspect of this space that wasn’t thought through really carefully by both me and the CA Closets team, and I love working with them for that reason!”
Is there a story behind the silver pot? “A lot of the accessories here, that one included, are vintage finds from my personal collection. That one, in particular, was a midcentury ice bucket I found at the Pasadena City College flea market years ago!”
Jess here! Man, I love the sweetness and whimsy of those penguins in this room!
What was the discussion between doing a standing desk vs a sitting one? “Throughout the whole home renovation with my client, ergonomics was a major topic of conversation as she’s quite tall and has back issues. She knew she wanted a standing desk—she’s at her desk a lot, in her job—but we both agreed that all the adjustable sit/stand desks on the market weren’t up to the style standards we were looking to set in this space. So building a standing-height work surface, and then giving her a counter height stool for sitting when she desired, seemed like the perfect compromise.”
Note from Anne about this desk chair: “The chair in these photos was a placeholder as the slightly sturdier (but similar looking) one was back ordered when we shot. Also, the client is planning to put a back support cushion in it.”
Was part of the purpose to add the fabric on the desk wall to be an awesome inspiration board to pin photos? “My client had said one of her ‘need to haves’ was a place for storyboarding with index cards over her desk. And of course, we could have done something like a corkboard, or linen pinboard – but I wanted the overall space to feel really sleek and streamlined, and those types of solutions felt clunky to me. So the idea to do a piece of sheet metal on the wall, and then cover it with fabric so you couldn’t even tell it was there, was born! If you look closely, you can see that the pictures over the desk are held up with little brass magnets. We affixed the sheet metal to the wall with liquid nails (aka super strong glue), and it spans the entire height and width of the wall above the desk, up to where the small shelf is.”
I LOVE how sleek those cabinets are! Was that a solution to the original nook being a bit too deep? “The original nook was just a regular counter depth, actually — and those cabinets under the desk are one of California Closets’ signature offerings for home offices. They hide shallow shelves that are perfect for keeping cords, power strips + other tech eyesores hidden. There’s a grommet hole in the desk surface above, and then you can run cables from your devices on the desk down the hole + plug them into the outlet that’s hidden behind the cabinet doors. We had one in my old home office too and it’s truly a GENIUS solution! (There’s a similar outlet/hole situation in the drawers that flank the sofa, too!)”
So before we get into the costs let’s take a look at these awesome before and afters!
Anyone else ready to happily nap on that sofa in this serene and cozy space? But before we doze off let’s talk money, shall we?
If you are able to share, what was the budget? “We didn’t have a set budget at the outset, more of a goal for ‘let’s do this right but not go too crazy’. I came up with the design, we priced it out, the client felt it was worth it, so we went for it! It definitely helped that this wasn’t a HUGE room, only about 10’ x 12’, so we were able to pack it with custom features and still keep our overall costs in a doable range for the client.”
Costs were as below:
Shelves + desk: $8,500
Custom 77” sofa: $1,900
Wall fabric: $450
Lime wash + stripe fabric labor to install: $2,700
Window Treatment: $540
Remaining decor accents: $1,500
Jess again. I know this isn’t a small number but considering all the custom pieces and labor this is a solid total cost! But if this is out of your budget remember that if you are handy (or are open to learning), a lot of these ideas can be doable DIYS (ie the fabric walls, lime wash walls, built-in cabinets). Take the inspiration if it speaks to you and make it your own. Congrats to Anne for yet another beautiful space completed and see y’all tomorrow!
Love you, mean it.
*Design and Photos by Anne Sage