How To Listen To Your Design Gut And Take Risks - Malcolm Shows Us How With His "Moody But Stimulating" Home Office Design Plan

How To Listen To Your Design Gut And Take Risks – Malcolm Shows Us How With His “Moody But Stimulating” Home Office Design Plan

How To Listen To Your Design Gut And Take Risks – Malcolm Shows Us How With His “Moody But Stimulating” Home Office Design Plan

Information about How To Listen To Your Design Gut And Take Risks – Malcolm Shows Us How With His “Moody But Stimulating” Home Office Design Plan

Newborn News

Hello! Happy autumn! Are you excited that it’s practically already 2022?! This time of year always reminds me of the first day of school during my childhood. The crisp air makes me think of mornings spent at the bus stop—feeling rejuvenated, inspired, a little bit nervous, and ready to make the next school year the BEST ONE YET. As an adult human person that is no longer school-aged, I tend to use this autumnal energy (I’m going to use the word “autumnal” as much as possible in this article, be warned) to dive into something new and exciting. This year, I’m commencing on a journey to create an amazing office/studio for myself at home!

I’ve always had the intention to design an office for myself (my last three homes have had a spare bedroom for that exact reason), but I’ve never had a rreeealll need for one, until now! I’ve been working from home more than ever before—designing spaces, writing, and currently conceptualizing a line of home products, so the time has finally come for a home office! Exclamation! 

This spare bedroom has served a number of purposes over the year and a half that I’ve lived in this home —but more than anything else, it has been a massive dumping ground for things that don’t belong anywhere else. We all have that room, right…? Justify my hoarding tendencies, please. It started out as a messy guest bedroom, which morphed into a messy studio, which then morphed into a messy space for contractors to prep for my bathroom remodel earlier this year. Right now, I’m utilizing one corner of the room as my office, while the rest of the space is an amalgamation of DIY tools and despair. 

HOWEVERRR, now is the time to set some intentions. To take advantage of this AUTUMNAL momentum and create something special. To do that, I’m going to create a mentally energizing space, challenge myself to take some uncomfortable design risks, and be mindful of the multipurpose nature of this space while I’m crafting it up.


design by aiya design | render by hālō studio | via behance

Now, if you’ve been following along during my home renovation journey here on Emily’s blog, you’ll know that I’ve been ALL ABOUT creating spaces that mitigate my anxiety and reinforce routine-building behaviors. My calming bedroom makeover is the heart and soul of my home, and my bathroom makeover underscores that mindset in a very thoughtful way. While it’s certainly always my intention to create spaces that are comforting and soothing, this office design is a great opportunity to SHAKE THINGS UP A BIT in an effort to stimulate my more energetic tendencies and create a space that perpetuates out-of-the-box thinking.

design by max humphrey | photo by christopher dibble | from: 12 tips to make a spec home, special…with max humphrey

I’m talking sight-stimulating. Touch-tantalizing. Taste-triggering (…kidding about the “taste” part…the alliteration just felt right in the moment. Although maybe a snack bar in the office is a good idea…). This office design will be an exercise in creating fluidity with the rest of my home while simultaneously creating some good tension with other spaces—particularly in this upstairs corridor that includes my bathroom and bedroom.

images source

I have a few visual stimuli that I’ve been inspired to include in this room—one of them being a barrister bookcase. I’ve been eyeing one of these for MONTHS after seeing one for sale at Community Forklift in Maryland. I didn’t get my hands on it quickly enough, and I’ve been searching up and down the east coast for a reasonably-priced alternative. Barrister bookcases feel so handsome, utilitarian, and vintage in a truly authentic way. It would also allow me the opportunity to display personal and inspiring pieces I’ve curated over the years, which would perpetuate the good creative energy that I need in this space. If you’re selling one, and live in the DC-MD-VA area, please let me know!

image source

Now, I’ve been wrestling with this next idea for over a year. For some reason, I’ve always envisioned a neon sign in this space. I’m not entirely sure why, because I tend to think they’re fairly tacky, and it wouldn’t really fit the classic vibe I’m continually striving for in this home…but sometimes you have to trust your gut, ya know? And, honestly, what an interesting way to shake things up? Maybe? We’ll seeeee. I’m a huge proponent of listening to visceral thoughts and reactions, and for some reason this one won’t leave me alone.

design by james brown and christie fels | via remodelista

Along the vein of creative visual stimuli, I’m really interested in playing up the juxtaposition of light and dark in this room. Despite having two large windows, the room doesn’t get much natural light—mostly because of the big, beautiful oak tree in my backyard. I’m planning to install a permanent light fixture in the ceiling and make creative use of floor and table lamps in the space, but I’m also planning to lean pretty heavily into the darkness of the room by painting the room in a fairly saturated color…which leads me to my next point…


design by renovation husbands

Back when I was planning and designing my bedroom redesign early this year, I texted Emily for some tips about paint choices for my closet doors. She recommended that I paint the doors, walls, and trim in the same, dark, inky color. While I only ended up painting the doors in a dark color in that project, I’ve wanted to take her advice elsewhere. Enter, the office!

design by byrdesign | photo by heidi’s bridge

I’m going all-in on paint in this office. The walls, trim, and CEILING will be painted in a muted and smokey green hue that will make the entire space feel quite different from the rest of my house (in the best way possible). While this design element isn’t particularly new in the larger design-o-sphere, it’s definitely new for me, and it feels like a huuuge risk. I’ve historically been fairly neutral in my paint choices (all of the walls in my house are currently painted a warm white), so I’m really challenging myself to lean into a more saturated tone for every inch of wall space in the office. Will I regret it? Maybe. But probably not. And again, it would be remiss of me not to listen to my gut (and I’m not talking about my lactose intolerance. I barely listen to that).

I have clearly done…lots…of research into the right green for this room, and I think I’ve finally settled on “Green Smoke” by Farrow and Ball. For me, it strikes the right balance of light and dark in a way that will complement the inherent darkness of the room, while not clashing inappropriately with the white that I’ve used elsewhere.

design by heidi caillier design | photo by haris kenjar

The green tone will also be carried into BUILT-INS for this space. This will be another new and challenging project for me, as I’ve never done it before and have a lot to learn. I’ve gained some moderate construction experience over the last year by building my bedroom headboard and deck privacy wall, so this built-in system feels like the natural next iteration of my skills, but I want it to be GOOD. And SEAMLESSLY FUNCTIONAL. I also want people to think that it was built by an expert craftsperson in 1952 and has been here since.

I’ve measured approximately 91 times, planned multiple layouts, and finally settled on a fairly simple system to build out. I’ve conceptualized two floor-to-ceiling bookcases with floating shelves in between. I’m planning to use IKEA boxes with Semihandmade cabinet fronts for a fully custom design. I’ll then make bookcases by hand to sit above each cabinet, and I’ll likely install fluted trim behind each bookcase (the same trim I used for my bedroom headboard. We love when rooms speak to each other). I’m also hoping to find a remnant black/dark countertop piece—like a soapstone or a marble—that will serve as a “floating desk” between the two vertical bookcases. I’m in for a journey with this one, y’all! Are you with me?!

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to make your smallest room, the coziest room in your home + sara’s tv room reveal

These built-ins will also create much-needed storage in this room. I have lots of…stuff…to store here. Tools, paperwork, my massive printer, and any number of odds and ends that I’ve secured over years of random DIY projects. This office will really serve as a studio of sorts—where I can build things, conceptualize new ideas, and collaborate with people on new and exciting projects—and I’ll need space to accommodate all sorts of activities!


design by clare walton | photo by suzanna scott | via dwell

While the built-in system will be critical for office storage, I’m also planning to build it with enough space to accommodate a queen-sized bed between the two bookcases! While I’m not intending to put a bed in the room currently, it’ll be nice to build in the space for one if I decide that I eventually need a spare bedroom more than I need an at-home office (and I’m manifesting a storefront/office for Mas Means More outside of my home at some point in the distant future, hehe). I’m being very mindful of the fact that someone will likely live in this space eventually, and I don’t want to create any permanent structures that would hinder that transition fairly easily.

In addition to the forthcoming built-ins, the office has a pretty big closet that houses the HVAC system (and currently a slew of my DIY supplies) that would be the primary storage space for any eventual occupant of this room. For my own purposes, I’m planning to deck out the closet with top-notch organization so that I have a place to keep my tools neat and tidy, while leaving some space for winter coats and some cleaning supplies. Aside from my primary bedroom closet, this office closet is the biggest space for storage in my home, so I need to take full advantage of it!

design by the fox group and christopher scott cabinetry | photo by scott davis

I’ll also include ample seating in the office makeover, just in case other people want to work in the space with me and absorb the creative energy that will spew forth from every Smokey Green inch of it. As usual, I’m leaning heavily into my love for bespoke hospitality design for the concept of the office redesign, which includes inspirational spaces for my visitors to lounge comfortably. I’m excited to “brand” this space with my unique design sensibilities in ways that allow visitors to feel a seamless continuation of the rest of my home. Brand continuity ain’t just a thing in graphic design and marketing, folks.

Chair | Desk | Chandelier | Curtains | Clock | Bench | Neon Sign | Floor Lamp | Table Lamp | Rug | Artwork

WITH ALL THAT IN MIND, here is the mood board for the space! I really love the direction that I’m heading in, and I’m excited to challenge myself in many ways to push this dream into reality. This project will be an exercise in trusting my gut, learning from inevitable mistakes, and manifesting this AUTUMNAL energy to feel like that giddy school kid again—waiting at the bus stop on a crisp morning to embark on a new and exciting journey. 

What part of this makeover are you most interested in seeing come to life? And if you want to follow along, be sure to follow me on Instagram for live updates before the final reveal of this office!

Opening Image Credits: Design by The Fox Group and Christopher Scott Cabinetry | Photo by Scott Davis

Breaking Story – How To Listen To Your Design Gut And Take Risks – Malcolm Shows Us How With His “Moody But Stimulating” Home Office Design Plan

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