fbpx Making a brief case for a homey home office

Making a brief case for a homey home office

Photography by Virginia Macdonald

Posted on Apr 12, 2019

Pick up the May issue of Canadian House & Home for a room-by-room tour of this coastal Connecticut home! 

Tommy Smythe & Lindsay Mens Craig, Connecticut

Tommy Smythe and Lindsay Mens Craig set out on a coastal adventure to redesign a classic New England clapboard and shingle style,1920s build in Connecticut on Long Island Sound. Over the course of 3 years, Team SRD transformed this 8-bedroom house into a classic vacation home for our clients who craved summer proximity to the ocean. Here's an exclusive look at the home office reveal that you won't see in the magazine! (See the full 10-page makeover in the May issue of House & Home Magazine, on newsstands now!) Keep reading for Lindsay and Tommy's lessons on how to create a functional home office that is unexpectedly beautiful.

Home office designed by Tommy Smythe & Lindsay Mens Craig, Sarah Richardson Design

Get the look

Benjamin Moore, Stanley Park CC-602

Benjamin Moore: paint for trim, beams, doors, closet

Stanley Park CC-602

Thibaut Herringbone Weave Straw Wallpaper T7052

Thibaut: paper weave wallcovering

Herringbone Weave Straw T7052

Scalamandre Elsie de Wolfe Fabric

Scalamandre: fabric for drapery and sofa pillows 

Elsie de Wolfe 16378-001

Colefax and Fowler Appledore Check Leaf F4140-06

Colefax and Fowler: fabric for sofa

Appledore Check Leaf F4140-06


Vacation property home offices are all about bathing suits, not about business suits! Comfort is key! As designers, we have to acknowledge that summer holidays these days, always require doing a little bit of work. So why not create a work environment within a summer home that feels like a getaway in and of itself? In our view, it’s always rewarding to create a home office space that functions exactly the way a client needs it to function, but one that looks as unexpectedly beautiful as any other room. Speaking of views, excuse us as we shut our laptops and take in those Atlantic blues.

Home office designed by Tommy Smythe & Lindsay Mens Craig, Sarah Richardson Design

Productivity can be pretty

An office still needs to have important decorative elements like window treatments, artwork, upholstered furniture, floor coverings, and things that make you feel comfortable. I tend to steer away from officey-looking furniture because I like home offices to feel cozy rather than clinical. The design direction for this space was inspired by the wooded areas inland Connecticut. The gorgeous and classic Scalamandre fern fabric was the jumping off point for the room's colour scheme. Earthy browns and greens make for a moodier space, meant for quiet contemplation and focused work. This room has a masculine palette done in a sort of feminine way, with soft upholstery and patterned fabric. Lindsay wanted to give a nod to the area's colonial past by painting the trim and the beams in a darker tone. The olive green was specifically chosen in this case to reference a classic, historic colonial colour. This is one thing that differentiates this room from any other room in the house, where white trim is the program throughout.


Our views on desk placement

Sure, you could sit and look at a wall, or you could position your desk so that it offers up sweet views. The placement of a desk in a home office is really critical. We chose to peninsula the desk between the two windows because the views of Long Island Sound are magnificent. The Atlantic Ocean is right there - you can see it from the window! The importance of having a desk with a view is twofold: ventilation and contemplation! In between thoughts you have something to look at and be inspired by, and the fresh air will make you feel alert and focused.

Home office designed by Tommy Smythe & Lindsay Mens Craig, Sarah Richardson Design


An old world approach to storage

Pay attention to new ways of using old furniture! We took a fresh approach to office supply storage utilizing old world craftsmanship and furniture. Instead of bringing in metal filing cabinets from Office Depot or installing built-in cabinetry, we chose to repurpose a beautiful antique linen press which enhances one's experience of the space. In a home that’s otherwise antique filled (as would be the expectation of any visitor to a home of this kind), walking into a home office filled with metal and glass furniture would be a total disconnect, so we challenged ourselves to come up with a solution that would not only function well, but fit the overall design mandate. This antique linen press was designed to hold household linens in the 1700s; the doors open to reveal a series of drawers that slide out. This makes for a great alternative to open storage because you can close away the clutter, or open the doors to reveal everything at a glance. Just know that you have options beyond metal! 


When it comes to deciding which room in your home to turn into a home office, ask yourself the right questions: what kind of views are available through the window? Is storage necessary? Do you want the option to work outdoors? Do you want to create a buffer between bedrooms? This home office has a walkout to a covered deck that has shared access with the master bedroom. Originally this space was a second floor bedroom. The reason we chose this room to become the home office is because of its proximity to the master bedroom and the walkout deck. In the summer months, the home owners can choose to be outside to take a call, or they can come inside with their laptops where there’s plenty of upholstered furniture for a soft landing. We were lucky to have had room enough to install not only a desk and chair, but also a sofa and an ottoman for optimal comfort. Placing the home office between bedrooms also creates a nice buffer for when guests are staying over. 

Home office designed by Tommy Smythe & Lindsay Mens Craig, Sarah Richardson Design
Home office designed by Tommy Smythe & Lindsay Mens Craig, Sarah Richardson Design
Home office designed by Tommy Smythe & Lindsay Mens Craig, Sarah Richardson Design

Tasking in the light

You may have noticed that there's no overhead lighting in this home office. All of the lighting is lamp lighting, which has the effect of bringing everything down to a more intimate human scale. If you’re working in your home office at night time and you’re using screens (the modern way) more than paper, what you really need is atmospheric lighting that will set a mood. You don't need overhead lighting - your screen is already well lit! Here we have lamp lighting on every table, and a floor lamp by the chair, so that wherever you may sit down, there’s a lamp to turn on that will provide you with task lighting. Just in case you, like our clients, still read the actual newspaper. 


Source Guide:

Scalamandre: drapery fabric & sofa pillow fabric (Elsie de Wolfe, 16378-001), ottoman fabric (Bukhara Verde, CL 001236403) | J&D Oriental Rugs Co.: rug | D&E Lake: pear artwork | Chairish: floor lamp | Lee Industries: sofa | Colefax and Fowler: sofa fabric (Appledore Check Leaf, F4140-06) | The Antique & Artisan Gallery: ottoman, sofa side table | English Country Home: pair of bobbin chairs | Lee Jofa: chair pillow fabric (English Leopard Cocoa, 8015170.68) | John Young Galleries: desk, linen press | Vintage Fine Objects: brass side table | Christie Antique & Vintage Show: lamps | Sharon O'Dowd: basket | Thibaut: paper weave wallcovering (Herringbone Weave Straw, T7052 | Benjamin Moore: paint - trim, beams, door, closet & patio door (Stanley Park, CC-602) | Farrow & Ball: paint - ceiling (Matchstick No. 2013)