Home Front | Chat about home offices with Kacy Paide

Oct 04, 2012

These days, home offices have gone from a rare luxury to near necessity. But how do you create one in your home that is both functional and enjoyable to work in? For this week's chat, we'll be talking with Kacy Paide, a professional organizer based in Silver Spring who focuses exclusively on home office organization. Send in your questions now and join us live on Thursday at 11 a.m.!

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

Follow @jurakoncius on Twitter.

Home Front Live Q&A archive Older Home Front Live Q&As

Is your office in good shape? We all need some tips to keep desk clutter organized and our desktops looking stylish. We have Kacy Paide with us today to take your questions. Kacy is a professional organizer whose company is called The Inspired Office and she knows all the tricks on office organizing. So let's get inspired.

Thank you for having me on this morning!  I've helped hundreds of people organize their offices over the years and am so excited to share as much as I can.  Home offices are my favorite place to organize because we have the freedom to personalize a space after finding proper places for things.  It's a fun challenge to create an aesthetically pleasing solution to what can be a very unsightly problem!

Please, I am setting up my office (NGO). What are the basic items I need to get? and how do I place them. It is a one space office.

This is a big question, but if you're like most people who are somewhat out-of-sight-out-of-mind when it comes to important papers, you'll want a combination of filing cabinets and visual systems.  I'm a big fan of step racks, file pockets on walls, & the Elfa rolling file cart at the Container Store.  Any combination of these makes for a system that will ensure nothing is lost forever in the file drawer.  Be sure to have a comfortable chair.  As for desks, ideally your desk shouldn't be facing a wall.  See if you can pull it away so you have a view of the room.

Hi. My husband and I have a long-running dispute over leaving the shower curtains open or closed. He thinks they should be left open to better ventilate the humidity. I just think it looks messy and prefer them closed. We have our bedroom in the basement with the dehumidifier running at all times, so does keeping it open really make a difference? Thanks!

Love this question. It sounds like something my husband and I would discuss! Just off the bat, I would prefer the curtains closed and in our main bathroom, we keep the shower curtain closed at all times. My first question is - Do you have an exhaust fan in your bathroom? If so, with that and the dehumidifier, you should be fine. Even without a fan, I think the air can circulate over the top of the curtain. Otherwise, keep the curtain open for a half hour after showering and then close it.

As a business owner, i have the habit of collecting receipts; however, it seems somewhat redundant since i get electronic statements these days... well, except for cash spent on cab rides or food i eat while traveling. how can i minimize receipts and still keep track of expenses? thanks, Tazima! (former DC resident currently in Los Angeles, CA) p.s. I love your work!!!

The secrets to receipt sanity are:

1. Make sure you are only housing receipts that are relevant come tax season.   Filter throughout the year. Business owners naturally tend to keep more.  This means, toss the drugstore receipts and keep the taxis, meals, supplies, etc.

2. Have one and only one place to keep these so they are all easy to find at the end of the year.  A folder is ideal, but you can also designate a bin or a tray that is in plain view.  This works well if throwing things on a desk comes more naturally than filing in a neat folder.

Hi Jura - we are the lucky new owners of a beautiful 1920 home which has large rooms, high ceilings, and elaborate moldings. While we love the house's details and craftmanship, our lifestyle is informal and we want to make sure our home feels welcoming and not stuffy. We really are not fancy people...any general tips for making sure our home stays down to earth?

What a great question. Your house sounds beautiful. If you are not formal people, I bet your furniture and accessories aren't either. If you need to ramp up your style a bit, I would suggest hiring a designer, if only for a few hours, for consultation on paint colors, furniture placement and ideas for lighting and carpets. I would also suggest some reading. The new Nate Berkus book would be perfect for you - it's called "The Things That Matter" (Spiegel & Grau $35) and it explores design with the idea that your home should tell the story of who you are. Lots of great inspiring photos for ideas.

How can I figure out the best heights for my chair, desk? Also, what do you think about standing workstations?

Standard desk height is 30 inches.  If using a laptop, you want your eyes to be in line with the top of the screen.  Here's a neat little ergonomics guide: http://pinterest.com/pin/14003448812508952/

 Standing workstations seem to be all the rage, but were actually quite popular in the 1960s I believe.  They supposedly allow for better circulation and are good for fidgety people!  I'm all for any set-up that allows you to comfortably focus at length.

Can you recommend a rich, reliable caramel paint color? I usually use Benjamin MOore, but open to others. Thanks!

How about C2 Cafe Latte or Benjamin Moore Morning Sunshine. Or maybe Straw by Farrow & Ball.

Hi, thanks for these amazing chats. They are so helpful. I am hoping you guys or the chatters have heard of/used Schluter systems Kerdi waterproof membrane and have some input on it. Is it worth spending money on? Thank you.

I am in the dark on this. But I'm sure someone who is chatting with us today can comment. Please do!

With the Washington Design Center's building having been sold to make way for the Bible Museum, do you suspect this weekend's Sample Sale will have even greater deals than in years' past? Won't the tenants be motivated to get rid of stock, rather than have to pack it and move it? What are your thoughts or have you heard anything about the pricing this year? Even the deep discounts have traditionally still been out of my budget in the past.

Wow. Interesting thought. I have not had any information about this. Can any of the showrooms chime in today?

A couple of thoughts for people who, like me, are using a spare bedroom: you can store business stuff in a nice dresser (it's a little tricky for files if you still use paper)--and you can also store out-of-season clothes in file cabinets for a more "business" look to the room.

Love this. Thanks.

I have my grandparent's dining room set- table, 6 chairs, hutch and buffet. Nothing grand- I think it came from Sears in 1940. It was originally that dark purplish stain, but I refinished it 30 years ago to a dark teak stain. I'm thinking of using Annie Sloan paint - would it look odd to have the hutch or buffet, for example, painted and the rest not? Or if I painted just the inside of the top of the hutch? I'm tired of the brown, brown, brown, but I don't want the furniture to look odd. Would I need to paint both large pieces?

I think you have the right idea. Use what you have but lighten it up for a new look. I'd try one piece and see how you like it. Mixing colors in furniture is fine these days. But you may feel like you want to go lighter on all the pieces after you see how it makes the room look bigger and brighter. Let us know how you make out.

We have a very small home and we finally decided on a drop-lid secretary desk that would fit in our small foyer near the front door which we rarely use. We have a bookcase for our printer in the closet directly across from the desk. I have not put anything into the desk yet. I would like some type of bulletin board or white erase board on the wall above the desk. What would be the best type considering that it is in our foyer and visible from the living room? Any other tips for setting up a desk in a limited space?

I love the pretty framed bulletin boards at Ballard Designs.  Click here to view their selection. Bulletin boards can quickly become catch-alls.  To keep neat categories, I like to divide the board with ribbon, creating sections for unapid bills, coupons, etc. I did a video on this that you can watch here.

As for other suggestions on limited space, the main thing is to make sure you are only keeping what is beautiful or necessary, as everything is on display.  Drawers or nice boxes with lids will be crucial for hiding things, while keeping them on hand.  I love these letter boxes from the Container Store for stacking supplies if storage space is limited.

Hi Jura, I found these white tiles with single row of aqua tile in the middle for bathroom wall (only in the tub area). I was trying to find a floor that matches the tub and I didn't like the whites I saw. Is it too bad any idea to go with very pale greyish-light blue tile for floor? It's only a 5*7 bathroom, so the amount of visible floor will be very little. Your input is highly appreciated. So many times I remember you words about stay with classic look.

You are very kind! I think using the pale grey-ish tiles sounds just fine! It will still be classic! :)

It's been years since we've had a garage sale, but we're due for one now. Other than neighborhood signs, what's the best way to advertise, how much detail should we provide (toys, furniture for sale, etc) and what kind of pricing works best? Thanks!

If it's been years since you have had a yard sale, beware that the profits aren't as good as they used to be. Due to the many places to buy used items, from Craigslist to thrift shops to consignment, the crowds at yard sales are not as large as a decade ago. But, if you are motivated, you should still go ahead, and try to get neighbors involved as well as a multi-family sale is hard for drivers to resist. I would definitely make fun signs telling people about the fantastic stuff and wonderful bargains you have. Frankly, price the stuff to sell and to get it out of your house and storage areas. I used to like to do tables where everything is $1 or $5. It helps to get people's attention. Toys don't sell for much but it is terrific to get those large hunks of plastic out of your inventory. Good luck and have fun - don't wait too long as it will be chilly out there.

Hello. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for home office paint colors? I tend to like colors that calm me down and help me relax rather than than brighter colors (although not calm enough to put me to sleep!). I'm in the process of writing my doctoral dissertation so I'll be spending a lot of time in that space and want to find something that is soothing and yet stimulating at the same time. My desk is gray and the floor is oak but I don't have any other furniture in that room yet. Thanks so much!

The sky's the limit on this one.  Here are a few great colors that come to mind:

Country Lane by Beher - very light peach that strangely goes with everything.  Lots of colors pop against this one. It's the color of my guest room now.

Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore - light, soft gray

Reticence by Sherwin Williams - a muted, light putty, the color of my bedroom and kitchen

If they're too muted for you, you could always do a bright white and a bold color-pop accent wall.  I dream of creating a room that is white and bold Kelly green!

I'd update to sliding glass doors. Many benefits and less mold.

I am not a fan of those.

I just wanted to share my experiences with Blik wallpaper and other temporary wallpapers. I used it to cover the front part of our stairs. It looked great. The only problem was that they were not at all waterproof. When I went to clean the stairs (lightly wiping the stairs with damp towel) the print started to smear and fade off the paper. I'm not sure if this is the same case for other temporary wallpaper, but just wanted to caution everyone about it. I bought clear contact paper thinking I could "waterproof" it, but it ended up looking horrible - shiny, rough, and bumpy. It might have worked better if I put the contact paper over the wallpaper first before putting it up but I can't say now since the paper is already up. So if you're looking to use these types of temporary paper - check the description and contact the company and see if they would work for you. I looked at the blik website and did not see warnings about it not being water resistant.

Thanks for sharing. Does anyone else have experience with this?

The stairs to the second floor of our house are near the front door. The house was built around 1994. The stairs are wood and stained the same color for the part you step on and the "kick plate" (what's the right word?) part. I would like to make the kick plate part white with contrast to the wood step on part to match what appears to be the current style. My question is, would any professional painter be able to do this or is it a specialized job? I know a regular painter would give me a bid, I just want to be sure that a regular painter is who you would use to paint stained and varnished wood. Thanks very much. Thanks for the chats each week.

I would think most professional painters could handle this.

still hoping chatters will help with last weeks question re sealing the marble bath. I know there must be some of you that have had an experience, either good or bad....please help me find the right person to do this! Thanks a lot!!


Castors. If space is limited, make it easy to move around and out of the way. Wheels work wonders. Keep rolling!


Have some experience with these waterproofing systems. Yes, they are worth the money if properly installed. I've seen people try to save $$ by just using it in the bath/shower area. Others also use it under the entirety of their floors. If you ever have a leak and have to remove/repair the tiles (or shower tiles), you'll wish you'd "splurged" for this type of system.

Wow. Thanks.

I replaced two sets of sliding closet doors with regular doors that open wide. My neighborhood handyman did the work with stock doors and molding from Home Depot, and added shelves at the top. The metal track is still at floor level, but he removed the upper track. In terms of access to my closet, it was the best $1500 I ever spent.

It's great when an improvement like that in your home gives you pleasure each day.

With everyone using notebooks/laptops/IPads etc. my question is the room dedicated as a home office going away? We have a bedroom designated as our office but I need the space and in all reality we don't use it except storage for files. If I purge to only what files and documents I need, where am I to store them? Also, if we all use electronic files why must we keep paper files anymore? I do all my bill paying online and all my receipts are scanned and tossed (I file my taxes electronically so who needs paper?). Just my thoughts.

I'm so glad you asked this.  Yes, as a whole, we're moving towards the paperless office.  With that, there are still countless office that are burried in paper.  For them, it's hard to go from A to Z on the journey to the digital office.  You have to master the hard copies before mastering the digital world.  For many, the paper beast has to be tamed first.  Then, they are in a better frame of mind to conceptualize their plan for making electronic payments, scanning, etc.  If you are comfortable with electronic files, then by all means, don't go back to paper! 

To answer your first question, I think the home office is becoming more of a "mothership."  It is a place where people come to pay bills, file medical records, etc.  Indeed, people are more and more mobile throughout the home with the laptops/iPads.  We're not married to our desks as much. I think the home office will slowly get smaller and smaller.  There is something comforting though about having a designated work room.  With the mobile office, lines between work and personal life are blurred.  Folks might return to offices to draw a line in the sand.  Will be interesting to see the state of home offices in 10 years!

I want to install bamboo shades in my living room. We have no curtain panels yet (and I wouldn't want to admit how many years the windows have been bare). Is an inside mount okay even though someday I will have curtain panels mounted up higher on the wall? Is it okay for space to show above the window frame? I would like to find some inexpensive shades, but everything I see in the store or online that is not custom has strange dimensions. My windows are 31"x 60" And the I stock shades are 72" long. What do I do with the extra 12"?

Since you have waited this long, I would call a professional blinds company and splurge on a custom installation. You will not be happy chopping up something yourself. If you have to, save up for it. You will be happier in the long run.

Just make sure they're the kind of casters that can be locked. You don't want your desk rolling off with a $1000 monitor sitting there precariously.

So true!

It's easy to tell whether your sale was a success. At the end of the day, ask yourself one question: "Do I have to spend money to get this crap out of my house, or did I clear the decks and maybe make a little beer money?" Price it low, get it gone.

Totally agree.

PINK! Paint for a cure. That could raise millions and you have to paint anyways.

How about Sherwin Williams IN THE PINK.

Where do I begin? I wished I still lived in the DC area so Kacy could come help me. Because we have a smaller home, my "office" is in the area that would normally be used for dining, which is right off the kitchen and one step up from our living/family room (office/living room all connected and open). I have two IKEA cabinets (waist high), a regular file cabinet, a desk, and bookshelf in it. Plus lots of other "stuff" (yes, it's become a catch-all area). It looks terrible from the living room. But, I don't know where to move it -- to master bedroom? (really only other space it could go). I've been thinking about putting the desk in the tiny nook area in the kitchen area where our dining table currently is, and moving all the file cabinet and bookshelf to the master bedroom (IKEA cabinets could, I think, stay where they are-could feasibly be used as a buffet, if need be). I hate the thought of separating things, but, I like the idea that my desk is in the kitchen so I can do things while making dinner, etc. (but this too is dependent on me keeping it clean!). Any thoughts or suggestions? ANYTHING is welcome, I don't even know where to begin!

I think the dining room or kitchen are the lesser of two evils (DR vs. MBR).  The DR is by nature a more public space.  You really have to weigh your pros and cons on this one.  Ideally, yes, all of your pieces would stay together.  In this case, ask yourself, which pieces of furniture hold items that are accesses less frequently?  I once had a similar job where we kept the desk in the kitchen and moved the files to the nearby coat closet.  We created a desktop system for daily files (kids' school, bills, invitations, etc.)  Everything that was accessed monthly or more seldom, was moved to the closet.   Long story short, break it up and create a desktop system only for the essentials (anything to be acted upon or anything that is coming in daily).  Hope that helps!

We redid our master bathroom and put in frosted glass shower doors. And guess what? We have to leave them open or mold grows like crazy. We have a new exhaust fan, too!

Oh dear.

I think that one of the challenges with organizing a desk is keeping up with the technology. I bought my desk at home 10 years ago and since then the computer, monitor, and accessories I use have changed several times. Thankfully, monitors, while wider are also narrower. But, I seem to always need to add/move something new onto the desk, either a new portable device, external drive, or whatever. The furniture is here to stay but what goes on it keeps changing.

This is so true. I have one of those ten year old desks myself.

Riser. If not painted don't paint unless you want to repaint later. It'll get marked up. More expense.


Kacy, you inspired us all with your thoughtful answers. Lots of great ideas and product suggestions. I'm going to reorganize this weekend. Thanks to Kacy for joining us.  Enjoy the long weekend, if you get one. See you next week.

Like many people, I don't know which cardboard boxes to keep. Every piece of technology, from laptops to Verizon cable boxes, arrives at my house in a box sized perfectly for it. Do I keep these boxes in my office (and if so, how do I do it nicely?)? Or should I throw these out and hope I never need to mail something back to a manufacturer (like if it breaks)?

Ha!  People seem to have strong opinions on keeping their beloved cardboard equipment boxes.  Again, you have to weigh your pros and cons.  If you have a huge basement, then you could talk me into letting you keep them.  If they are taking up precious real estate in a storage closet or a space out in the open, then you have to be more discriminating.  Do you know anyone who has rejoiced in the fact that they still had their printer box?  I almost always have people throw them out.  I don't know one person who has regretted it.  It's really a peace-of-mind thing more than anything - and one that isn't worth the space it occupies.  Recycling these boxes is one of the quickest ways I know of instantly buying you more space.

seems to me that I have seen, in offices or boardrooms, what look like cabinets when closed, but open up to a white board for presentations. Don't know where to buy them tho.

I know exactly what you mean.  You can start to find these hinged boards by clicking here.  On a similar note, check out www.ideapaint.com.  It's a paint that allows you to turn any flat surface into a dry erase board!  

So glad I could help!  Thanks again for having me on.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Kacy Paide
Kacy Paide of The Inspired Office is a Silver Spring based Professional Organizer of 11 years who focuses solely on offices and paper. Many of her clients are self-described creative types who have misplaced one too many things at home or at work. She prides herself on delivering highly customized office organizing systems that keep working long after her work is done.
Recent Chats
  • Next: