Q&A: Young Huh on making your home office look and feel better

Jun 04, 2020

New York interior designer Young Huh founded her firm in 2007 and has gone on to create many memorable interiors. Her rooms have harmony and personal style and combine classic and modern elements. She was named to the 2019 Elle Decor A- List and has been part of the annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House. Last year's Kips Bay room was a romantic artist's studio on the fifth floor of a Manhattan mansion that she transformed with custom painted leaf wallpaper and lots of artworks, vintage finds, antiques, textures and fabrics. An antique seating arrangement takes center stage under

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Young Huh heads a full service design firm in New York that specializes both residential and commercial interiors. A native of Detroit, Huh attended the Cranbrook School, Smith College and received a law degree from Fordham. She founded her firm in 2007 and has received accolades from many design publications including Elle Decor, House Beautiful and Vogue. You can read more about her home office advice and product choices in this article I wrote that ran today.

Hello Jura and hello readers!  I'm excited to chat with you all about how to make your home office a comfortable, practical, and beautiful place to work.  Many of us have needed to adapt our homes to create real working offices and it has been quite a challenge - even for myself! 

Do you have any recommendations on desk surfacing that is durable, resistant to wear and tear and beautiful?

Yes! if you have a desk that is starting to wear poorly and can consider a new surface, I highly recommend getting a quartz or other manufactured surface that you can lay over your desk surface.  Dekton is a product that can be very thin and would work perfectly for that purpose.  If you're in the market for a new desk, think about getting a wood antique or vintage desk.  That wood has lasted someone's lifetime and will likely last your work life too! 

Does a computer lamp have to be something adjustable or can it just be a standard lamp?

You don't have to have an adjustable lamp but I love articulating lamps for work.  As the daylight changes throughout the day, you can adjust the lighting to reduce glare or to light things differently.  If your office has pretty consistent lighting or you don't notice differing lighting needs, you can go with a standard lamp too! 

What are the 5 must haves for the perfect home office?

Wow this is a great question! I would say you need 1) a really comfortable chair.  You can work at almost any kind of desk if you have a chair that feels comfortable to you.  2) a desk that is as large as the space you have allows.  Most of us need as much surface space as possible. 3) good lighting will improve your ability to work as well as your mood!  Overhead lighting, task lighting is key.  Remember that we tend to light bright white lighting during the day, and softer warmer lighting in the evening so consider different colored bulbs or fixtures for those differing needs.  4) Storage- whether its a small wheeled caddy or a tiny cabinet we all need a place to store papers and personal effects in a convenient location.  5) things to make your work space pretty.  Art on the walls, pretty containers or cups to hold your pens, even a vase with flowers will make working from home delightful.

Can you give us some suggestions on how to make a small spare bedroom function as a professional office and an occasional guest room? I hate sleeper couches and there is no room for one anyhow.

This is a great question.  A lot of us are turning guest rooms into personal offices.  You can create dual function by installing a day bed instead of a regular bed.  The day bed can function as seating or alternative work area for you and a bed for your guest.  You could also consider some really cool murphy beds that when you lift up reveal a desk and when you pull down, the desk disappears and becomes a bed.  This way, the bed and the desk take up the same surface area!

What is your advice for spouses sharing a home office? What is the best arrangement and approach to design?

I had to face this exact issue with my husband.  We normally have side by side desks but with both of us on conference calls and zoom calls all day, this no longer worked for us.  I relocated myself to the dining room.  I added a small bar in a corner that holds my work materials.  I also took over the butler pantry.  I think finding separate spaces and outfitting new corners for work spaces can really save a marriage!  

I would appreciate your advice on the best overhead and task lighting for my home office. Considering that we are conducting video conferencing and working all hours of the day and night, what would you suggest for fixtures and also the best type of LED bulbs (soft, bright or cool white)? Thanks for your help!

I think its a good idea to have a mix of warm and bright light and to use a variety of fixtures.  If you are using LED bulbs use a very bright 3000k plus bulb for daytime, and for afternoon and for afternoon and evening use something that is 2700k.  The sun in the morning is at about 7000 kelvin and in the afternoon it is at around 2700.  There are some bulbs that will adjust to different colors too! 

Hi there! I have a standing desk that’s basically white shelving, and my big dual screens take up all the visual space where I might otherwise hang some photos or other decorations. It’s totally functional, but I’m dying for some technicolor amid all the white and grey. What can I do to add some personality to my workspace when there’s not much room for wall-hangings or knicknacks?

I suggest you paint the back wall and extraordinary color that will make you happy!  Maybe royal blue or a pretty coral.  Also you could try pattern.  There is a company called Tempaper that makes stick on temporary wallpaper.  Try one of their patterns and if you dont like it, you just pull it off and try something else!  Its like contact paper for your walls but in very cool colors and patterns.  

Can you share your favorite sources for accesorizing?

To accessorize in a jiffy, I turn to Fetehome.com where i can get boxes to hide things, bowls for my paperclips, and a vase pretty up my space.  Also consider placing a tablecloth over your desk or table to pretty it up!  Other favorite sources for accessories are CB2, and Jamali.  I use the CB2 trays and I use the Jamali silver plated mint julep cups to hold all my pens and markers.

I have so many cords -- two monitors, the laptop, the external hard drive, keyboard, mouse. How do I corral these? I'd like a calm space

Oh this is a real pain and i also hate seeing all the cords.  My favorite tools for hiding these are from Mockett.  You can drill a grommet hole on the top of your desk and the get a cord cover or wire chase that goes along the legs of your desk or the back of your desk and keeps them from being unsightly or exposed.  Many offices are offering work and home equipment money.  If you have the funds, get a matching keyboard and mouse, harddrive and mousepad so the surface of your desk looks nice. The reason why all the apple products look so good is they make sure everything matches and looks peaceful!  all black or all white is often good.

I am fortunate to have a spare bedroom to use as a home office. I have two desks, which I would like to move from the edges of the room to the middle. However, I don't know what to do about all the cords. I have two laptops and two lamps (one on each desk). I know there are cord tamers, but I don't like the idea of the cords running across the floor -- and I understand it's not a good idea to hide cords under carpet.

Complaints about cords and wires seem to be popular today!  you can run cords under a rug as long as you have a cord cover meant for that.  There are rubber wire chases that you can purchase online to hide them.  if you do not have a rug, you can run a small wire chase the color of your baseboard all around your baseboard to the location of your desk.  then you could have just one cord chase on the floor that runs from the baseboard to the desk.  Let me know if you have more questions on that! 

I would like to redecorate my office/living room area but I don’t have the budget for a complete makeover all at once. Where should I start?

I think we are all feeling and wishing we could redecorate our offices!  I have fantasies of installing a coffee maker and a wine fridge!  But reality hits and all of us have limits.  The biggest change you can make is paint your room.  Paint the office a beautiful rich color that you may not have considered before such as oxblood or a bright sweet color that brightens the room like a Marie Antoinette blue.  Get a pretty new chandelier to replace your existing one that came with the house!  Buy a fun new lamp for your desk.  Art on your wall would do wonders.  There are many affordable prints you can buy online.  Finally get some good looking desk accessories that reflect your new look!

Home offices are my least favorite feature in design magazines because the gap between the photos and reality is so huge. (See the front page of today's print Local Living section.) In photos, you see a desk bare except for a few color-coordinated books and bins and rarely any storage. In real life, there are lots of files, books whose colors I don't get to choose, cords, a printer, a case of printer paper, etc. Grr!

Listen I hear you! We decorators do a lot of styling and editing for photography and the rooms tend to look a lot neater  than they may in real life.  However, clutter and real life can be very attractive!  One of my favorite magazines is World of Interiors and it is all about embracing frayed, crumbling, and cluttered spaces.  You can embrace that look by just adding a bit of organization.  You can pile books on the floor- but maybe consider putting spine colors together or showing the paper side out.  Hide the huge case of printer paper under a console with a tablecloth.  The printer can sit on top.  Buy some magazine holders to hide the random papers and reports.  Adding accessories adds to the clutter, but can also add charm and life! pretty cups for your pens, trays for papers, bowls for clips and rubber bands.  But make those pieces reflect your style and have them coordinate whether you go all traditional or all modern- you can certainly mix if you feel up to it!  

Can you please share a few tips on how I can make my home office feel more relaxed, feminine and like it is not part of my house. I want it to be my own quiet space.

Virginia Woolf said every woman needs a room of her own and I agree!!  If you're able to have the space to transform into your own sanctuary, make a list of the things you love.  What are your favorite colors, patterns, textures.  Then pick the things that will evoke the feeling you want in the space.  Quiet and feminine sounds like you should have a pretty chaise lounge with a throw and a silk pillow, maybe a soft lambs wood or flokati rug underneath.  Ballard Designs and Wisteria have some lovely Louis XVI style desks and chairs you could use for your work space.  Shop on Chairish for some vintage mirrors and pretty prints for your wall.  Paint your walls a soothing color- oyster, soft pink, soft gray, or an ever so slight blue.

Where can I buy the white desk and white drawers seen in the photo in your article on pg 5? Thx!

That is Loi Thai's own custom desk. You can show it to a carpenter if you want one like it. That way it totally fits your needs and your space.

The biggest problem with our home office - what to do with the files and office supplies. They seem to take up so much room, and our home office is only 7x7

Storage is always tricky isn't it? If you can, get a roller drawer to fit under your desk.  The bottom drawer holds files and the other two supplies. There are also many slim consoles with shelves out there that can store many things.  If you have the space or a wall you can have that purchase one.  A fave is a clear perspex one from CB2.  You can unwrap your printer paper and stack it so its clean and white.  You can buy storage boxes from ikea to store the more unsightly supplies and papers and place them on the floor under the console.  Boxes and magazine holders do wonders to hide and store things.  Dont forget you can stack boxes too!

Two adults working from home in a one bedroom rental. We put a desk in the bedroom and the other works at at our small round dining table in our open concept living/dining/kitchen. How the heck do we make this function? So far we've figured out the wi-fi printer and keep that on a shelf out of both of our workspaces. Thank you!

This is the situation that many of us have found ourselves in!  If you can, purchase a small not too deep storage console with doors to fit in your main working space.  This should hold supplies and papers.  For the bedroom buy a really narrow free standing set of drawers.  Ikea has these and they're great for tight spaces and holding additional supplies and personal effects for the person working in the bedroom.  Glad you have a wifi printer! Thats key!

Hello! We are self-renovating an extra bedroom to turn it into an office and have just finished installing hardwood and painting. Now we are thinking about how to furnish the office. There are two small, unconnected closets that take up one wall (each 44" wide by 24" deep). Do you have any ideas on what to do with these closets so the room still looks like an office? They're too small to use as desk space; an idea is to set up printer/office accessories in one of them. Thanks so much!

You could consider taking the doors off the closets and outfitting them with storage shelves and drawers.  You can do this through home depot, container store or California Closets.  One could be a printing and supply station.  The other closet could hold files, records, boxes and papers.  It will look like built in shelving!! 

Thank you everyone for joining our chat today!  I hope everyone will be safe and well and enjoy these work from home days as best they can.  Feel free to contact us with any more design questions at info@younghuh.com! 

Young has inspired me to tart up my office and make it work better for my needs. Thanks for all this great advice. And I'm happy to report that next week's chat topic is paint, which is always a lively discussion. Sara Peterson editor of HGTV Magazine will be my guest. Hope today was helpful and sending good thoughts out your way. Thanks for clicking in.

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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 and organizing.

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