Portia’s Office Makeover

June 10, 2011 3:03 PM

Portia Corman is a bold, bright and creative woman and is the Senior Producer of two national cooking shows on CBC Television. Those words – bold, bright and creative – governed our vision for her office makeover. She loves color, so we gave it to her, and she had only a few minor requests: blue paint, a rug and a mirror. She fearlessly left the rest in our hands. Here are the before and after shots and our advice for achieving this transformation…


Get The Look

Scavenge the office – If you ask the right people at your company, you might discover discarded furniture from other offices. We scored the desk from someone who had upgraded and the white bookshelves. That saved us a huge portion of Portia’s budget.

Try a feature wall – Portia’s vision for this office began with a paint color: Tack Left P5008-24 from Para Paints, which is a light blue. We wanted to keep the office as bright as possible, so we used this as a feature colour on the largest wall and painted the rest a bright white, White Diamond OC- 61 from Benjamin Moore.

Situate yourself well – Portia originally had her desk against the wall that shared the entrance to her office, forcing guests to take their seats immediately upon walking in and pretty much wasting the space behind her. By putting her desk in the back corner, she gained a lot more space, got closer to the power sources (which made it easy to hide ugly power cords) and people now have a lot of room to move around in when they enter.

Browse discount sites – When you’re decorating on a budget, you need to exploit your discount options. We waited for the members-only site HomeSav.com, which has daily discount flash sales on furniture and home decor items, to launch a sale that featured office furniture and we lucked out and scored the white leather desk chair for 50% off retail. You can become a member for free to receive notice of their daily sales.

Balance color with white – To allow your favorite colors to pop and avoid overkill, balance bright colours with a lot of clean white or neutral base pieces like the white leather desk chair, guest chairs, side table, bookshelves and birch desk. We also made sure to incorporate as many white decorative items as possible and used all white canvases and frames.

Make bold art choices – Artwork is key for creating a bold and creative space, and since you can find great art from affordable sources, like Etsy, there’s no reason to leave your office walls bare. For Portia, we used a mix of purchased and personal artwork and kept your personal photographs to her desk.

Use real dishware – Given the hours many of us spend at the office and the general move away from waste and plastic, having dishes for 1-4 people isn’t a bad ideas. For a producer of food television, it’s absolutely essential.

Use unexpected vessels – One owl to hold pencils and two more as bookends, an Oleg Cassini crystal dish for paperclips and cactuses planted in antique teacups… these are the things that make a room interesting and special. You should strive to have beauty in items that serve even the most practical of purposes.

Decorate with books – Show off your interests and personality by stacking and layering books in vignettes. Group the ones with the most beautiful spines together and don’t be afraid to top them or bookend them with interesting decorative items.

Frame interesting cards and flyers – Keep the postcards and invitations you love over the years and give them a special place. The Breakfast at Tiffany’s Cat is a greetings card, the God Save the Queen card was the invitation to the re-launch of The Room at The Bay in Toronto and the bright kitchen-inspired prints are art cards from Ikea purchased years ago.

Bring nature in – It was very important to Portia that she have plants in her office. You can seldom escape the fluorescent lights and crazy-colored carpets of corporate offices, but you can bring a little greenery in to remind you of the world outside. We gave her one large plant (just enough to maintain at work), a few cactuses and our favorite fake plant from Ikea.

Add a little sparkle – A room looks flat without a few reflective surfaces. We added a modern mirror to the wall and used both crystal and mercury glass decorative items to give the room a little shine.

The Shopping Guide

Free finds:
The desk
The bookshelves

Thrift store/antique market finds:
Antique teacups
World globe
Mercury glass vase
Clear plastic tray

SNILLE Guest Chairs
, $29.99/each
LACK Side Table
, $7.99
OLEBY Rug $9.99
VIRSERUM Frames, $7.99/each
SLOM Jars – $3.99, $2.99, $1.99
VARLIKT Vases – $14.99, $19.99
KVARTA Clock – $5.99
KARDEMUMMA Plant Pot – $4.99
FEJKA Artificial Plant – $6.99
RIBBA Frame – $9.99/each
FLYT Magazine Holder – set of 5/$2.99
KASSETT Box – 2/$7.99
SUCCULENT Plant – $3.99
DOKUMENT Paper Tray, $9.99
NYTTJA Frames, set of 2/$4.99
DOKUMENT Wasterpaper Basket, $5.99

From HomeSense:
Lamp, $38
White owls used as bookends, $9.99 each
White pencil holder owl, $12.99
Yellow jug, $19.99
Mugs, Glasses, Bowls $4.99/piece
Bamboo Cutlery $3.99/set
Small baroque desk frame $5.99
Oleg Cassini crystal bowl, $16.99
Yellow owl, $12.99
Glass paperweight, $7.99
Famous Faces greetings cards, $7.99
Assorted cookbooks

“Red Feathers”, “Indian Bride”, and “Summer Dress” Watercolour Fashion Illustration prints custom print requests from the Silver Ridge Studio Etsy Shop.
“Forever Heart”, “Whimsical Letter P” and “Fruiti” prints from Ingrid’s Art Etsy Shop.
“Cupcake” and “Cake” pieces by Nicole Perry, $35 for two canvases
LOVE pop art canvas tribute to Robert Indiana, $40 for canvas

White leather desk chair, HomeSav.com
Matryoshka Measuring Cups, $12.00, Urban Outfitters
George the Terrier, $18.00, Urban Outfitters
Pink Kitchen Timer, $20.00, Drake General Store
Mirror, $40, Umbra


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