Joseph is a successful investment adviser who occasionally works from his home office. His wife, Nicole, also works on her own household projects in the same space. The two of them were tripping over each other in a main-floor study that was crammed with files, papers and general chaos.

Joseph, whose clients sometimes visit him in the home office, wanted a strong, masculine room, but Nicole envisioned more of a lighter, feminine feel. My challenge was to design an office that would allow both of them to get down to business.

First, I took stock of the space. With a high ceiling, lots of light from five tall windows and a beautiful hardwood floor, I could immediately see that this room had a lot of potential. But the popcorn ceiling had to go — easier said than done, because it had been painted with an oil paint, making it impossible to scrape off. The only solution was to cover it with fresh dry-wall, which was an unexpected blow to our project budget. But it was certainly worth the time, effort and money.


After we added some gorgeous moldings, recessed spot lighting and fresh white paint, you’d never know that a dated old popcorn ceiling lurked beneath that polished new exterior.

We topped off Joseph’s old desk with a new white quartz work surface, and placed it in the center of the room, facing the doorway. To accommodate storage needs, I designed custom-built-in cabinetry to run down one entire wall, with another file cabinet positioned behind Joseph’s desk.

In addition to holding the printer, books and other occasional pieces, the full wall of cabinetry also incorporates a long, built-in work surface for Nicole. Here, she has room to spread out family photos, household accounts and various other projects. A custom-designed pin board runs the length of her workspace, and the cabinets surrounding her desk provide ample storage space. An elegant and feminine white chair adds that extra touch to make this space all her own.

To invoke a masculine influence, I introduced leather pieces. We kept Joseph’s original desk chair and leather blotter, plus my plan called for a tufted leather sofa. At least, that’s what it was originally supposed to be. But, because of the extra work on the ceiling, we had to make budget cuts elsewhere — and the leather got the chop. Instead, we sourced out a polyvinyl fabric that, I must admit, I was totally prepared to dislike. But, when the sofa arrived, I was shocked. It looked good! I have never ordered a vinyl couch in my more-than-20-year career. But this sofa certainly proves that you can never say never.


Since Joseph’s desk is the focal point of this room, we positioned a new chandelier directly above it, to provide lighting for his work surface, but also to add a touch of understated elegance. Two black chairs for clients are placed prominently in front of the desk. We mounted a TV on the wall for presentations (and the odd hockey game) and behind Joseph’s desk antique mirrored doors conceal a pin board.

One of the most unusual touches in this room is the black-and-white bookshelf wallpaper. It actually looks like library shelves, and it immediately adds a touch of knowledge and authenticity to the office.

The homeowners provided us with oak French doors for the room, but they were too wide, so we had to customize them to fit the doorway. It took a lot of finessing, but they were gorgeous once all was said and done. Best of all, those doors now open onto a home office space that is both practical and elegant. Its timeless appeal really works for both occupants.

Nicole has her own headquarters for conquering that ever-growing list of household projects. And, as Joseph said himself, it’s a home office that will make him millions. Which, come to think of it, really isn’t too surprising — it certainly looks like a million bucks.


Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV’s “Candice Tells All.”


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