Ask a Designer

Ask a designer: Convert a screen room into an office

August 3, 2012 

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I would like to convert our 12-by-16-foot screen room into an office. Our computers are pushed up against a wall in the living room, and we never use the screen room except to store our bicycles. It is the ideal space to be converted to an office. I would like to continue hardwood floors that are throughout the first floor into this space and to put in a bay window with a seat cushion and closet space on each side for storage. My colors are deep red, green and gold for seating, draperies, picture frames, etc.

Teresa Howard


We asked Carole Gaskins of Carole Gaskins Interiors in Raleigh to tackle this dilemma. She writes:

When I went to see the space and talk with the family, I learned they would like a place for their son and friends to play video games, a window seat with storage and, in addition, computer stations for teens to do homework. Ted Howard dreams of a space with multiple televisions, but he graciously put that request on the back burner.

Window seat: A window seat with storage underneath, topped with a 3-inch cushion covered in green linen, would fit perfectly in this space, but closets on either side would not. There is not enough room for the doors to open. To tie in this space with the adjacent kitchen and dining room, I recommended pillows in a multicolored fabric of red, green and gold and several solids.

Go multi-purpose: Always consider if there are ways to make your space work for several purposes. By adding a 72-inch sofa, I could create a grouping with the window seat for intimate conversations. One computer station is across from the sofa; its chair can be turned around to join the conversation group. A computer station is on the wall across from the window seat. Now the room could function as homework central for the teens or for quiet conversations overlooking the lovely, private backyard. That’s one alternative. But there’s a better one.

A lasting solution: Instead of two computer stations to fill a temporary need (one of the teens will graduate and then be off to college), I recommend buying only one desk for a work station. Buy a laptop or a smart TV that allows Internet searches and can be used with the game station. Just exchange the computer station closest to the window seat for the smart TV. The corner now serves four purposes: homework and Internet surfing, TV watching, gaming or conversation. The other computer station can stay in its same corner and do duty as a homework workhorse.

Style update: The existing family room and kitchen have a beautiful but conservative red, green and gold color scheme. For continuity, we need to continue it into this new space, but I’d kick the style up a notch with a nod to today’s clean, modern lines. Everyone can do this to a traditional space by keeping classic big pieces like sofas and chairs while updating smaller items. Be playful. Go for fun, cool lamps. Use two small coffee tables, which can be moved about the house if needed, instead of a single big one. (My drawing shows an optional fabric ottoman where they can put their feet up or rest a tray to hold drinks and snacks.) I chose unusual shapes and materials, like Arteriors Home’s low, wired iron table 2665 with a mirror top or their bubble 18-inch square tables. Their Millenium Iron Lamp 48563 is another cool touch.

Update or not?: How to update the red/gold/green of the 90s? I suggest keeping the walls a soft white and going bold with accents. Use a red chair for the computer(s). Add a punch of red in the pillows on the window seat and artwork. Definitely bring in shades of green. Multiple shades of green work together, like on the window seat cushion. On either side of the sofa, I would add yellow/gold lamps – but these could be red instead. I also suggest adding lights on the window seat and putting them on a dimmer. The sofa and end chair could be muted taupe neutrals, which would endure as trends change. If the family still prefers a 90’s palette, try a butter yellow sofa with sage green walls and a combo fabric of red, gold and green on pillows. Or a sage green sofa and club chair, with butter walls, and red accessories. Watch the mix so it isn’t Christmas-y.

Be brave. I think your revamped space will make you really happy.

Carole Gaskins, Carole Gaskins Interiors, Raleigh. 919-881-4145.

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