The White House Interiors: How to design a home office

Inspiration and lifestyle

25 September 2018

AXA sponsored the Grand Room sets at Grand Designs Live, that took place at Birmingham’s NEC between the 10th and 14th October 2018. With the theme of the show show being ‘design by you’, we tasked six designers to transform their sets into spaces that buck interior design trends and champion their individual style.

Charmaine White of The White House Interiors chats taking inspiration from the historic interiors of National Trust properties, relishing the highs and challenges life as an interior designer presents, and how you can easily create a home office that is not only functional but beautiful and inspiring.

How did The White House Interiors come into being?

Growing up, I would always move my bedroom furniture around and constantly rearrange my accesories, so my foray into interior design was a pretty natural progression.

I studied art and design at college before undertaking a textile and furnishing degree at London Metropolitan University and although I absolutely loved my courses, I didn’t immediately pursue a career in interior design. Instead, I worked in buying for a few years before going to work on high end development projects for a West London-based interior design company in 2011.

This proved invaluable because I got to work onsite with builders and experience the real nitty gritty of what the life of an interior designer entails. I think there’s this common misconception that a career in interior design is quite glamorous but in reality, only about 10% of the role involves design and creativity whilst the other 90% is people management, scheduling and administration.

After working for another design studio in West London, I set up White House Interiors in 2012. The business really took off in 2015 and hasn’t slowed down since. From designing single rooms to managing projects from conception to completion, I’ve loved every challenge, lesson and reward that I’ve come across. Don’t get me wrong, being a business owner can be challenging – especially because you’re pulled in every direction – but I’m constantly learning and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Give us an overview of your style.

I like for clients’ personalities, aspirations and lifestyles to help shape the design. However, I’m also inspired by history – in fact, one of my favourite things do is visit National Trust properties to get inspiration from the architecture and craftsmanship and timeless design elements that are evident in their interiors. I always strive to inject a similar sense of timelessness mixed with modern influences into my designs.

Talk us through your Grand Designs Live space. What are you trying to achieve with it?

I was really attracted by the ‘design by you’ brief and the prospect of designing my dream space. I sometimes work from home, so I felt designing a home office was the perfect opportunity for me to be completely self-indulgent. Basically, my room blends modern and traditional design influences together rather than being steered by popular trends.

I think it’s important that you create a working environment that inspires you. Given that I’m inspired by Georgian architecture and art deco finishes, I’ve incorporated traditional architectural detailing via beading, to create traditional style panelling and modernised it with bold uses of colour. For the furniture I’ve looked to the past again by incorporating an antique style desk, which I’ve contrasted with modern chairs.

I’ve utilised the gamboge because it’s my favourite colour and it elicits happiness – and happiness tends to boost productivity when you’re working. Usually I like to inject colour via soft furnishings and accessories but given that this is my dream design, I thought I’d just go for it!

What’s your favourite part of the room?

Whenever I design a space, I like to incorporate pockets of statement design throughout it. As visitors work their way around my Grand Room, they’ll experience wow moments via the fabrics, finishes and textures within the scheme. It’s about making each individual statement piece of design work cohesively within the whole room.

What design tips can you give our readers on how to create their own productive office space at home?

Whether it’s a corner of a room or a full space, I think it’s important that your home office is an inspirational space. Here’s my easy top tips on how you can make your space as productive as possible:

  • Establish clearly defined areas: No matter if it’s a small space in the corner of your living room or a separate room entirely, it’s good to establish clear boundaries between your work and home life. Utilise screens to separate the office from the rest of the living space or multifunctional furniture to keep work materials out of sight. Closing the door on your work life when the 9-5 day is done is crucial to fully enjoying your leisure space.
  • Ditch the dodgy office chair: Don’t get me wrong, those ergonomical office chairs are great for your posture but they’re not the prettiest. In my Grand Designs Live space I’ve used a dining chair because they’re designed to be comfortable during long periods of sitting down. If you wanted to do something different and didn’t want an office chair, you can opt for something a little grander that’s still as functional.
  • Don’t get tied to your desk: We all know that sitting for long periods of time isn’t great for your health and you should have the flexibility to alter how you work at your desk and within the space itself, when inspiration strikes. When I’m working, I need to be able to get up and walk around my working space, especially when I’ve got fabric samples and design drawings laid out in front of me.
  • Get organised with storage: In short: organisation is key to a productive and stress-free working environment. Storage doesn’t just have to be functional, it can be beautiful too – and you can get beautiful magazine files, pen pots and other space savers from Homesense and Paperchase for reasonable prices. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of stationery addict, but for me, storage products help create an organised environment where I can easily access the tools of my trade.

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