• Tue. Apr 20th, 2021

Clever conversion: create an office and guest bedroom in one

If you have a question for Luke about design and stylish living, email him at [email protected]. Follow him on Instagram @lukeedwardhall

We have a loft space that is not very big and we want it to combine as an office and a guest bedroom. What are your thoughts on how to do this? Space savers such as drawers under a bed? I don’t think a murphy bed would work given the wall angles — and I can’t help think of 1970s sitcom gags when I think of folding beds.

Now that working from home is the norm for many of us, it’s no surprise we are thinking of ways in which we can incorporate an office area into our interiors. Those with separate rooms dedicated to working in are lucky —
for the rest, working from the kitchen table or sofa probably lost its appeal back in the summer.

In the Cotswolds, I work in an outbuilding — one that I wouldn’t class
as totally waterproof — because I need space to make a mess. It is also very cold: my daily uniform since November has included two jumpers and at least three pairs of socks. I am close to having to draw and type in gloves.

My partner Duncan works in much cosier circumstances in the largest of our two small guest bedrooms. (On a truly grim day I’ll forgo the icebox and remain at the dining table.)

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As you suggest, spaces we perhaps had not considered taking over, such as lofts, can be utilised cleverly and existing rooms can be reworked, allowing for more than one purpose — guest or spare bedrooms often being the rooms that get remodelled because they’re, well, spare, and not essential for daily life.

A bed with storage is certainly a good idea. I wish that I had bought divan bases with storage built in for our guest bedrooms, because the extra space is much needed now that one of them is a bedroom-cum-office. We could have used the space to store papers and files.

Ensemblier’s Erskine headboard
Ensemblier’s Harrington headboard
Ensemblier’s Harrington headboard © Mark Bolton Photography

Many styles of ottoman bed are available — these beds’ entire frames can be lifted up to reveal storage space. I haven’t seen any that I particularly love, however. My preferred option would be to buy a basic divan with drawers and then add one’s own headboard. London’s Ensemblier makes many good options — the curvaceous Erskine and restrained Harrington being two favourites.

For even more storage, consider building shelves and cupboards rather than bringing in bulky freestanding furniture. Built-in storage space works well in lofts, which are often full of awkward nooks and crannies. Make the most of the space you have by tucking cupboards under eaves and shelves into alcoves. You could even construct your own daybed with storage included.

Richmond Park wallpaper by Zoffany
Richmond Park wallpaper by Zoffany

Or buy one. Ikea’s Hemnes daybed is pleasingly simple but functions in several ways: as a sofa (ideal for daytime breaks from your desk), a single bed, a double bed when pulled out, and storage space with drawers. I like the idea of painting this a bright colour.

With regards to decoration, I have seen attic office-cum-bedrooms with tongue and groove panelling installed on the walls and sloping ceilings, which I very much like the idea of — it would create a feeling of being ensconced.

Windsor House Antiques’ kidney-shaped George III writing table
Windsor House Antiques’ kidney-shaped George III writing table

A patterned wallpaper would do the same. Something botanical might be fun, such as Zoffany’s densely leafy Richmond Park. How fun to work and sleep in a treehouse?

A desk will be required, of course, and make sure to place it close to a skylight if you can. Go for something the opposite of utilitarian. No frills might do in an office, but not in a guest bedroom. You’ll want something that, when work is done and guests are installed, won’t look out of place, and can be used as a dressing table.

Style and age is up to you. I like Windsor House Antiques’ kidney-shaped George III writing table, with its elegant lyre-shaped supports. But at the other end of the spectrum, I am also a fan of the superminimal 1960s desk in wenge (a completely new type of wood to me) and perspex being sold by The Modern Warehouse.

Wenge and perspex desk from The Modern Warehouse
Wenge and perspex desk from The Modern Warehouse

Although space may not allow for one, I also rather like the idea of a bureau bookcase in a bedroom — the benefits of one of these being the desk part can be closed when not in use, concealing clutter, and space for books is included above it.

For the ultimate in fabulous bureaus, see Alexander George Antiques’ exquisitely exceptional early 18th-century pagoda-topped and triple-finial-surmounted version in figured walnut.

Alexander George Antiques’ pagoda-topped bureau bookcase
Alexander George Antiques’ pagoda-topped bureau bookcase

I love the idea of a bureau with a grand table lamp on its desk, a silk shade, perhaps a folding screen to one side, rugs on the floor. All very cosy and decadent, and not very office-like at all. The only issue you might face? It may all be too precious to give over to guests when they do turn up. Best check them into a hotel.

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