Our homes have become the settings for most everything we do – from streaming new Oscar-contender movies on the couch to unfurling yoga mats on the floor. Homework at the kitchen table is nothing new, but suddenly last March the spot resembled an internet cafe with Chromebooks and laptops, coffee mugs and juice boxes. Over time, some of these set-ups fashioned in haste became more permanent, and with the pandemic not quite in the rearview mirror, it’s likely many will remain because they’re useful. We checked in with a trio of talented Ocean State designers for tips and tricks for making the most of unexpected spaces – some for their clients and some for themselves.
Taking full advantage of natural light – a known mood and wellness enhancer – Nicole Martel of Three Sparrows Design in Warren created a work space for a client by positioning a narrow table and chairs along a row of windows, making it an ideal place for remote learning, crafting, even daydreaming. Martel completed this prior to the pandemic but notes, “I bet they are so happy they have it. Out of the three spaces I designed for my client, I do believe that this will likely get used most.”
Architectural styles like Capes and farmhouses are known for awkward spaces courtesy of sloped roofs and chimneys. In her own home, Martel made clever use of a narrow nook by fashioning it into a small office for one. A shelf above keeps essentials within reach and a fitted plank fixed at the proper ergonomic level provides ample workspace. Wallpaper in a light herringbone pattern draws the eye up, adding visual height. Completing the scene are metallic touches, like the sconce – a necessity for late nights.
In her living room, Martel once again takes advantage of an area along a wall that could easily be overlooked. “This crisis has taught us to live better in our homes both for the short-term and long-term. Multi-purpose spaces will still be utilized long after the pandemic, especially if they are designed right,” she offers. By fabricating a desk from file cabinets and wood to fit, a zone is now ready for Zoom sessions with family and remote learning. “More and more people are tackling those home projects that have been on their to-do list. These projects will not only immediately add joy to their daily living but will also be something that they continue to
enjoy for years to come,” says Martel.
Blair Moore of Moore House, a Tiverton-based family business that restores “forgotten homes,” wanted to create “somewhere fresh for the foreseeable future,” for herself and got started by clearing out the entire space and then opening paint cans. “Dipped datum lines are always a fave of ours when designing spaces,” she says and advises using green painters tape for detailed lines like these. “Usually the home is not completely level so using your eye and standing back is the best way to create a level line. Mark out the height from the crown moulding around the room but use your eyesight to tape out the line. You will need one person to hold one end of the tape line taut.” For the window, Moore ordered sheer linen, clipped and hung six inches below the crown moulding to add drama and make the ceiling look taller. “Since our team never purchases pre-made curtains, they are usually not the correct length or width. I just clipped these but was purposeful on folding the fabric into the clip to give the illusion of custom curtains. I also used the fabric orientation on its side so that the selvage edge of the fabric is at the top so there was no sewing needed and it won’t fray.” Moore made pin boards from homasote boards, purchased at a hardware store. “Added a rug I had and viola! Fresh flowers, some design books, and a Moore House candle, and I was ready to work!” she says.
When a Swedish-American retired professor wanted a space to work and entertain, he looked to the expansive backyard to add something that spoke to his Swedish roots, and turned to his friend Pernilla Frazier of Pernilla Interiors in Providence. “The tea house or ‘lusthus’ was ordered in a kit from Sweden and carefully assembled by local carpenters,” Frazier begins. “The professor is still doing research, even if he doesn’t teach anymore, and the idea was always to make the house as a home office and a place to relax and entertain. The completion coincided with COVID and of course this made it a truly special home office.” Electricity was part of the construction and the charming outbuilding has a small space heater as well as Wifi. The sun warms it up so insulated roman shades were installed to both keep warmth and also provide shade when needed. Says Frazier, “It has been a joy to decorate and still a few more details to do. Lucky client has the most unique home office in Rhode Island!”