Melinda Ritz, set decorator for the NBC hit comedy Will and Grace, makes televised spaces look comfortable and inviting without clutter. While Melinda, who is also the national spokesperson for Bernhardt Furniture Company of Lenoir, North Carolina, has a bigger budget than most of us, she also has tips for making your home office snazzy, fun and colorful -- that is to say, camera ready.
Q. Will and Grace really captures that feeling of small New York apartments, spaces that have to do double duty. Many of our readers have home offices that must do double duty, too, like bedrooms or dining rooms. How do you make those spaces work on the show and what are your suggestions for real working spaces?
A. The idea is to not make the space look like home office. It's still your home, and you want it to look like that but function on an office level. The pieces have to integrate with the decor of your home. For instance, you could have a fabulous chest -- large with multiple drawers -- and use it for storage and filing space.
Q. Where is the best place to put a home office, particularly if you don't have a spare room?
A. Anywhere in the house that you feel most comfortable working and has the best light and the best view -- any place that inspires you to do the best job you can at the best level you can achieve.
Q. Grace's workspace is in a loft -- very messy -- and yet she seems to function in it. Home office spaces can be very messy too. What can we do keep our space organized yet stylish?
A. Remember that the desk is the immediate work station, and you have to have a disciplined approach to office organization. You can never let the clutter get out of control. If you have things out that you don't need immediately, then you should put them away or organize them in a filing system or bookcase. Anything that isn't needed for the job at hand clutters your desk and your mind. It's like what we tell our kids: "Put away the toys when you're done."
Q. How can people decorate their home office to reflect their style?
A. I wouldn't be so concerned about personalizing every surface as I would about personalizing the room as a whole. When I walk into a room and see a desk, I know someone works in that space and that it's an accessory to the room. Skip the institutional looking furniture and integrate with the decor of the room. Trade a chair with casters for a beautiful side chair that is comfortable but matches the rest of the room.
Q. What five things members can I do right now to make my work space functional and creative without spending a mint?
- Work with the furniture you've got; you don't have to spend a lot.
- Find the most comfortable spot in the house and own it.
- Use flowers or green plants to create ambiance and improve air quality.
- If you're in a space used by the family, put away nonessential items.
- Use color and lighting. Color can improve your environment dramatically and lighting creates the mood in the room. Paint or wallpaper a wall or two, add track lighting or recessed fixtures and use colorful accent lamps.