Photography by Meta Coleman

Published on September 23, 2020

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Photography by Meta Coleman

When Becca Lloyd decided it was time to revamp a spare bedroom into an office and craft space at her family’s Salt Lake City home last year, the art history instructor knew she wanted to draw upon her memories of shelving books at Yale’s Beinecke Library. “I’d be pushing a book cart around a corner and come upon some of the most enchanting study spaces imaginable—little corners with beautiful stained-glass windows, hanging lamps, interesting doorknobs, and ancient globes,” says Becca, whose husband, Shane, was also at the university while attending medical school. 

To help re-create that nostalgia for New Haven, Connecticut, Becca enlisted local stylist and interior designer Meta Coleman, whose own thoughtfully layered home she admired for years via Instagram. “I could feel the heart that went into her design,” says Becca. “I study old things in my work, and I’m most at home in spaces that feel like they have been there forever.” However, the room in question was severely lacking that warmth and character: Six-foot-high wainscoting aside, it was essentially a blank canvas. 

First and foremost, Becca sought side-by-side desks for herself and Shane as a nod to how the couple used to study in their tiny college apartment shortly after marrying. Still, with three kids ages 8 to 13 now in the picture, they needed plenty of storage for books, an area for family crafting, and a comfy sofa (in performance velvet, naturally) that could double as a bed for overnight guests. 

Well into a year spent (very) close together, the Lloyds consider the office the most popular room in the house, where science posters and homemade scrunchie sewing projects come together and everyone has a place to hang out. Here’s how Coleman did it.

Flip the Perspective 

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Photography by Meta Coleman

To save on valuable floor space, Coleman designed overhead bookshelves with hand-carved fluting, decorative rosettes, and antique brass sconces topped with grasscloth shades. The shelves keep books within arm’s reach, but by painting all the woodwork in the room one continuous shade of pale jade, the low ceilings appear loftier. A pair of vintage desks tucked below are contrasted with minimalist white office chairs that offer form and function—a theme throughout the space. (Another double-duty piece: the TV that acts as artwork when not screening The Great British Bake Off and other family favorites.)  

Create Just the Right Glow

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Photography by Meta Coleman

Since everyone was going to be in the office not only during the day but also at night, it was important that things were well lit yet cozy. Coleman suggests having lighting “at different levels and throughout the room to get a great range.” She selected a classic Nelson Ball Bubble pendant to diffuse the overhead lights and placed individual sconces and table lamps at varying heights (all set to dimmers) where needed. The result is a space that can change to suit the mood.

Carve Out a Place for Everyone

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Photography by Meta Coleman

Initially, a custom brass and wood counter was appointed for craft and art projects. But since the pandemic, the surface has transitioned into being a trio of school desks. Coleman incorporated a built-in shelving unit to house individual corkboards and hooks for headphones, custom ceramic desk lamps (an update of the old-school library lamp), and Aalto stools with comfy seat cushions. By allocating each family member their own zone, no one is forced to shuffle materials from one spot to the next—vital to keeping a small space functioning. 

Make the Backdrop the Main Event 

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Photography by Meta Coleman

The final touch? Coleman proposed wallpapering the remaining 2 feet of wall above the wainscoting and the ceiling. She removed the generic crown molding and added a William Morris Golden Lily print to create a continuous flow that, she says, “makes the room feel bigger, more special, and cozier.” While Becca and Shane were initially hesitant, the detail has had an unexpected benefit as classes and medical visits have gone virtual: The family’s fellow Zoomers regularly comment on the space, and Coleman gets frequent thanks from the Lloyds for “providing the best Zoom background ever.”

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