Sarah’s Design Dilemma

Sarah’s law office is full of potential for a polished and professional space. Here’s her letter:

Yay! I am so excited to have a “Young House Love” law office makeover. My office is a place where I would like clients to come and be impressed, and not say “this is obviously a young girl just out of law school.” I’m looking for a traditional, sophisticated, elegant yet feminine office, that has a “library feeling” – one which I would be proud to bring a client into. The big desk, burgundy chairs, flooring and curtains must stay where they are, unfortunately. The white blinds can be taken out, the diplomas can be moved, and the printer stand can be relocated as well. While the chairs are a burgundy/wine color and the curtains have the burgundy/wine color and dark blue (to match some of the matting on the diplomas) I don’t mind pops of color to bring some interest to the room. Three design issues I have been having are: (1) there is a window behind the hutch of the desk, the top of which sticks out – something I’d like to cover, (2) the big empty corner to the left of the desk needs something and (3) the walls to the left and to the right as you enter the room are bare. As for paint ideas, yes please. Oh and I’ve been considering adding crown molding and a fireplace. Thanks so much for all of your help! – Sarah




This office is primed for a major makeover. Here’s the plan:


And now for the mood board breakdown.

1.  The new color palette for this room will really take it from cold and stark to warm and welcoming. For the walls we’d love to see a buttery squash color (much like the wall color pictured behind the red storage cabinet next to our swatches) – try Benjamin Moore’s Boardwalk. Then we’d love to see the window trim and the baseboards painted a crisp white tone to keep this room full of formal furniture feeling current and fresh instead of old-fashioned. With the crisp new trim, that warm wall color will really sing, and a few pops of red and tan will lighten up all the deep-toned furniture for a layered and lovely effect that feels established and inviting.

2. Popping a potted plant in each corner of the room on either side of the large hutch will add balance and a bit of life to a room that’s full of heavy furnishings (the splash of green will really liven things up). Of course that means the small table with the printer can’t live there anymore, but we actually have a plan…

3. We’d love to see this rich ruby colored cabinet (on sale!) on the empty wall across from the hutch instead of the existing printer table (by breaking up the set of heavy dark wood furnishings and bringing in something elegant in an antique red tone, the entire room will instantly feel collected over time and layered instead of purchased all at once). And look how amazing that color will look with our new wall tone – plus the red undertones in the leather chairs will help them fit seamlessly into our new palette.

4. Instead of an assortment of frames in different sizes and finishes, this framing system (on sale!) hangs on a handsome metal rod and will keep all of the diplomas and art (and anything else Sarah would like to display) looking cohesive and streamlined, just like the rest of her space. We’d love to see it hung on the blank wall behind the chairs (centered above the new printer table).

5. We know Sarah wanted the existing window treatments to stay, but we couldn’t resist suggesting these amazing open weave curtains which would look airy, textural, and sophisticated if they were hung high and wide on those two windows. The floor to ceiling length will immediately add height and elegance to the space, and the breezy free-flowing panels will feel more inviting and less formal than the shorter tied back curtains and valances in the room. Plus since we think she can do without a fireplace and can even achieve a seriously dramatic transformation without coughing up moolah for crown molding, we’re hoping that a curtain upgrade could still be in the cards…

6. We love the little pop of red that this seriously affordable table lamp can bring to the space, so we’d love to see one on Sarah’s desk and maybe even one across the room on her new showstopping printer table.

7. Sarah mentioned that she’d love some organizational systems for her space, so we dug up this handsome leather desk organizer for the form and function it will lend to the room.

8. Two of these handsome dark wood floating shelves will look lovely hung about 20″ apart on the wall between those two windows. Paired with the new breezy curtains they’ll be the perfect mix of dark and light textures and materials that will add to a dimensional and polished look that doesn’t go unnoticed. As for what Sarah can put on her shelves, anything from a few hardcover books (perhaps snagged at a book sale or even on ebay if she doesn’t have many) to some paperweights and cool pewter or wooden vases and bowls will add texture and interest to the space.

9. We couldn’t get over the idea of a gorgeous globe atop Sarah’s big L shaped desk to break up all that wood and add interest and shape to the space (not to mention the fuel for some amazing globe-trotting daydreams). This one’s a beaut, but Sarah could also find one at a thrift store or on ebay for mere pennies.

10. A natural weave 8 x 10 rug underfoot will ground the floating desk and add even more layered warmth and texture to the space. Especially with the new open weave curtains, this room will have tons of tan materials that feel elegant and interesting on every plane including the floor.

11. Since Sarah explained that the furniture must remain where it is in the room, we agree that covering that sliver of a window that peeks out from behind the hutch is the way to go. This long and lovely landscape print (for a major steal!) will do just that while working with the tones and the natural elements in the room.

12. And last but not least, even more function and style can be injected in the form of these woven baskets. They’ll look great interspersed among the books on her hutch to break up all that dark wood with a few lighter tan pops and store anything that she’d like to keep hidden out of sight. And you know they’ll look amazing with the new rug and those curtains, right?

So there you have it. A law office full of warm and welcoming style that still feels oh-so-pro. We can’t wait to see what you guys think!

Update: We sadly can no longer find the time to take on client commissioned mood boards (we now whip up general inspiration boards instead) but if we ever reinstate them we’ll make a big announcement!


  1. elizabeth says

    Great makeover…Glad you suggested new window treatments b/c the existing ones are a bit criminal (sorry, couldn’t resist some cheesy legal humor)!

  2. Amanda says

    Is that a baby swing behind the burgundy chairs? If so be careful with the plants. My neice seemed to really enjoy playing in the dirt and my nephew has developed a fondness for pulling on the leaves and branches.

  3. Jill Stigs says

    Great makeover…………..hope we see after pics soon because right now it looks like an old man office even though there’s lots of potential.

  4. Tracie says

    These are great ideas! I’ve been trying to mix my traditional furniture with modern tastes, and this does that seamlessly. Great job!

  5. stephanie says

    I know how hard it is to get rid of window treatments you’re used to, especially if you paid a chunk for them, but I think that the new window treatments will make such a huge difference in first impressions! It is all great. I love the red cabinet too. Looks great! Cant wait to see after pics!

  6. Cara says

    Great ideas! I also practice law and I think I may steal some for my little box – er, office. I’m especially jealous of her windows. Any suggestions for those of us without a view?

  7. kajr says

    Sarah, I like your chairs! I’d really recommend, though, taking the current room arrangement and rotating it 45 degrees so the hutch is in one of the corners and the rest of the furniture flows on the diagonal. It looks pretty awkward as-is. (Also, your diplomas/certificates will look instantly more cohesive if you just close up the gaps between them. I would start with a horizontal axis between the two largest items and just move everything in until they’re about 2 inches apart.)

  8. says

    I love that framing system to give all the diplomas and certificates a unified look. I might try something similar at home for mine and hubbie’s degrees certificates. I think that buttery wall color and white trim will make such a difference to the office – can’t wait to see “after” pics!

  9. Amara says

    Love the design! I think if you get rid of the curtains, the whole room will take on a new life.

    Btw, Congrats Youngsters on your New York Times mention!

    • says

      Hey Amara,

      Did you see it in the actual paper or online?! We’re so excited. We haven’t checked out an actual paper yet but can’t wait to get our mitts on one. So far we’ve read it online and it absolutely made our day.


  10. Kristen says

    If she’s in an office building that she doesn’t own, there may be certain parameters that she isn’t allowed to change(i.e. the curtains) however much she wants to. It would be odd if that’s the case, since she can paint and add a fireplace, etc., but you never know. Not sure why else the curtains would have to stay. If that’s the case, I would suggest she gets the new curtains shown, and mount them all the way across the wall behind the hutch to cover that sliver of window and still add that breezy, textural element.

  11. Pat says

    Wonderful ideas! I really like how you always cover every last detail of the space you’re working on. And on top of that, you explain very clearly why the things you’ve chosen will work. This is such a great service to those of us who are more “style-challenged” shall we say ;-) Keep up the great work!

  12. Jessica K says

    I have this same framing system from red envelope and I love it! Found it at a outlet furniture store for only $15!!! We have it displaying our wedding pictures right now. It’s so classy. This particular one probably wouldn’t work for diplomas since there are no large landscape frames (only 2 8X10 portrait frames) but the idea of a more unified look is awesome. Can’t wait to see the afters.

  13. says

    I love that you’ve tackled this office space! I’m wondering though, why would you want to keep the window blocked behind the hutch? Could the hutch move into the left corner behind the desk at an angle?

    Perhaps there is a reason why it cannot be moved, but I’m just a little curious.

    Great job, as always!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Kim,

      We learned from Sarah that all the big furnishings had to stay right where they were (we think they’re just such large pieces that they have to be placed longways in the room, and flipping them to the other short wall means you’d enter the room into the side of the desk). We’ve learned that some pretty major makeovers can come from spaces like this so of course we can’t wait to see how it all turns out! Stay tuned…


  14. Mandy says

    Love it, especially the red lamps and floating shelves, but I agree with Jessica K. – diplomas probably won’t fit in that frame design system, not to mention Sarah may have already spent a pretty penny to have those framed. Please share your afters!!!

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