Natural color, light help create a welcoming workplace

March 30, 2011 

Dear Debbie: We live in the country, and I work from home part time. We have a den that doubles as a guest bedroom and would like to repurpose this room as an office space for me, but want it to also still look inviting as a bedroom when friends and family visit. I've followed you through the years, and you always have fun solutions. Thanks. - Marie

Dear Marie: When blending living and work space, soften the look of office furniture and equipment to complement the ambiance of a welcoming guest room. Look for a desk made of wood with rounded or beveled edges or a glass top; cover a metal filing cabinet with fabric (easily glued on); utilize wicker or fabric baskets.

An all-purpose room is not so hard to pull together. It helps if you have an overall theme. On my recent television series “All for One With Debbie Travis,” we devised an ingenious plan for a desk that truly brought the outdoors in. The beautiful landscape that surrounded the home was the inspiration for this nature theme. We used fallen logs cut to equal lengths for the desk legs, secured with glue from the inside and tied with rope.

Color, pattern and texture enhance creativity, and you will want to select a palette that triggers your work ethic. Natural tones of green, brown, mid-tone yellows and blue are a solid base from which to start. Motifs found in nature – flowers, leaves, branches – have the ability to relax and rejuvenate our minds. Tailor the bed with an upholstered cover so that it doubles as seating with cushions (pillows) lined up against the wall.

Another option is to transform the room’s closet into a work space. It will require rewiring, but there will be enough room to build in a desk top for your computer and shelves for a printer and filing. Bifold doors will hide your office when guests arrive.

Dear Debbie: I have an interior office with no natural lighting. The fluorescent lights in the ceiling are cold and bright. The walls are painted institutional cream, and I can’t paint them. One wall has bookshelves, a bulletin board on another and white board on another. The carpet is low-pile brown. Can anything be done with what is in place to give this dungeon some life and hope? – Linda

Dear Linda: I would have a friendly chat with whomever is in charge and suggest changes that are healthful, inexpensive and guaranteed to boost the productivity and resourcefulness of any employee. The combination of bland background and overbright lighting is very fatiguing. Begin with the fluorescent lights – if you find the lighting harsh, then it’s as simple as changing the fluorescent bulbs (tubes) to a warm white. For specific product information, visit If you can’t change the wall color, try adding a few color panels on either side of the bulletin and white boards. Cover plywood panels with a high-gloss paint or an invigorating length of fabric. They can simply lean against the wall. At the very least, choose desk accessories that have some texture and pattern. One small burst of color can be inspiring and will break the blahs.

Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at Please e-mail your questions to

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