An Interior Designer Turned This Spare Room into a Bright Home Office

A new approach to an old greenhouse allowed designer Mona Ross Berman to take advantage of amazing natural light.

spare room home office

Windows that won’t be covered by blinds or shades can be UVA/UVB-treated to filter out harmful rays, and this office’s custom Gracewood Design canvas floorcloth is wax-coated so chair casters roll smoothly overtop. Photograph by Rebecca McAlpin

This office was featured in our “The Art of the Home Office” article. See more home office design inspiration here.

Sometimes, a simple reevaluation of your spaces can make all the difference. That was the case in this Gladwyne home, where designer Mona Ross Berman took a sub-optimally placed kitchen work area, shifted it 30 feet into a rarely used greenhouse space located just off the adjoining living room, and voilà! Okay, it wasn’t that simple — first, she installed new floors, reworked the window trim, and commissioned Germantown-based Boland Woodworking to install gleaming white shelves and two adjoining work surfaces — but it had the desired effect: Once-dead square footage was fully activated in both places (the old desk area became a walk-in pantry), and the wife had a place to work that was separate from and yet connected to the heart of the home.

“It’s nice to have a desk in the kitchen, but if you have kids and family life, you can’t close yourself off,” says Berman, who rounded out the French-door-enclosed room with a custom-designed settee upholstered by Richard Herzog, a vintage Eames office chair, and, across the room from the desk, a painter’s easel and canvas rack. “That’s one of the reasons we moved it.”

For those looking to turn their own unused rooms into dedicated WFH areas, Berman suggests an easy-to-follow evaluation process. First things first: Is the space somewhere you’ll be okay spending long stretches of time? If so, make a list of essentials you’d need in an office — maybe it’s a standing desk, maybe it’s a club chair and an ottoman — tape off areas on the floor to see where things might go, then pick out examples you like online to estimate how much you might spend.

“Can you get what you want, given your budget and given the cost?” asks Berman. “That will help you decide if it’s the right space.”

Mona Ross Berman of Mona Ross Berman Interiors, Northwest Philly.
Style philosophy: Every project is unique and should start with how you live.
Secret Philly resource: Lostine for artful lighting; Rikumo in Midtown Village and the Clay Studio in Old City for desktop accessories
Best WFH advice: Fill your office with things that make you happy. That way, you’ll actually want to spend time in it.

Published as “If You … Have A Room You Aren’t Really Using” in “The Art of the Home Office” in the December 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.