February 26, 2013

A Man’s Surprise Office: Before & After

The “Morris Lantern” from Visual Comfort- hanging in the center of the room- is one of my favorites and, although I rarely repeat pieces in clients’ projects, this one’s an exception.

I’ve had some of the most fun putting projects together that are gifts or surprises…  A super-sweet client of mine decided to surprise her husband with a new office for his birthday.  He works from home, but since they’ve moved in, the office hasn’t really gotten much attention.  I was thrilled when my client called me to discuss the project after helping her & her husband with their family room.
The existing white office had everything the husband/my client needs to get work done, but it didn’t feel like he’d really moved in yet.  My client knew that her husband would love a formal “masculine” study feeling- one that was traditional, warm, and classic… so we got to work.  Here’s the view of the office when we started from the French Doors:
We knew the biggest change would be painting.  The masculine room we were envisioning was dark and moody.  (He works on computer screens and so the darker walls help with that too since the room is really sunny.)
The biggest challenge in designing this space for us was creating an office our client’s husband would love, yet one that didn’t feel over-the-top, too boring or kitschy…  I’ve noticed that there’s something about men & these “man rooms.”….  you know, dark paneled libraries with the big presidential desk…  They love them!!  When they see them in someone else’s home or in photos, they want them!!  So even though as soon as our client said “masculine study” we knew exactly the sort of room he wanted, I wanted to make sure that we made his office extremely personal and include a couple of unexpected elements so that we weren’t just recreating a movie set.
We put together a design for my client & she approved everything without showing or mentioning any of it to her husband.  We set the project in motion and on his birthday, she surprised him with a rendering -done by Michelle Morelan– of his office in progress:
{The rendering done by Michelle Morelan, who is always wonderful to work with…  the colors are a bit more saturated in this image than in the actual painting but this gives you the idea.}
I was able to take a few quick pics of the finished space on installation day with my phone, but will definitely have to go back with my photographer, because with the dark walls, it was almost impossible for me to get a good pic.  (But I thought you’d enjoy a peek anyway 😉
So, again, here’s the ‘before’—
And here’s the ‘after’–
{We used three different paint colors which I’ll share in just a bit}
My client went to Yale so his wife & I thought it would be special to hang a massive vintage photograph of Yale (blown up to almost 7 feet high) on the main wall.  I love it because not only is it sentimental, but it feels almost like a window in the now-dark space.
{The photo is on a linen paper and is backed with a reusable adhesive.}
I think my client said her husband’s dorm is actually in this photograph!! How crazy is that?!!
We’re still waiting on the custom leather chair to be finished so in the pics you can see my clients’ old black leather chair.  Here’s what the new one looks like, except ours will be in a warm brown leather:
The main desk was one of the first pieces of furniture we selected.  We knew our client’s husband would love its masculine, traditional lines.  We call it the “Presidential” desk.  😉 😉  We pared it with a more modern leather parsons desk with a glass top.  Using such a traditional centerpiece allowed us a little more freedom to be able to mix things up a bit while the feeling of the room remained traditional.
Since it was so tough for me to get a good photo, here’s a pic with the lights off too:

I used some more modern pieces in the traditional space to add a little bit of juxtapostion:  The modern task lamp on the desk, the small folding table next to the chair…


One of my favorite pieces was the antique Civil War painting we found:
Photos just don’t do it justice but the patina & colors in it are incredible…
It’s purposefully too small between the windows, which is another tiny element that defies the tradition of the room:


The plaid curtains warm up the dark navy room and we used lots of caramel browns that are a bit on the orange side to liven up the palette a bit.
On the right wall – and not pictured- we are working in a group of framed meaningful art…  family photos, paintings and pictures.
Here’s a photo of the built-ins (before the books) and it really shows how we used different paint colors to get the feeling we were after:


{The chair’s getting swapped out with a tufted brown leather one.}
Here’s the paint breakdown (all Benjamin Moore)…
The walls are “Gentleman’s Gray” which is a very dark traditional navy.
The woodwork is all in a semi-gloss so dark navy that it’s almost black- “Polo Blue,” and
The ceiling is in a navy with the tiniest hint of peacock blue… “Blue Danube” (The bit of green/peacock added to the ceiling paint makes the room feel a tad less serious and also sets off the blue-green in the rug.)
This pic really exaggerates the subtle color differences so you can get an idea:


I’m off for the day but will be sure to share better photos of the fully finished space when I have them.  (Looking at my photos is just sad haha)  Thank you so much to my wonderful clients who really trusted me with this one!! Going this dark takes guts and I think it really paid off!!!

If you’d like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

ps- I’m always going to treasure all of the comments you all left in the last post… Thank you so much. Huge hug to everyone!!

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up to receive design inspo, exclusive content, shopping guides, and more.