Designer creates affordable home office that suits her style

By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kelly Porter had an office inside her Ellicott City home, but she never used it. Each day she would set up shop with her laptop at the kitchen island.

The home office, which her family of five shared, "never felt right," says the designer and color consultant ( "I never felt comfortable. I never felt inspired."

Understandably so. With wall-to-wall hunter green carpeting, beige wallpaper and a combination of dark and medium-toned wood furniture, the 10-by-12-foot space felt much more masculine -- and much less colorful -- than Porter, 42, preferred. While the look satisfied the men in her house (a husband, a 14-year-old son and 11-year-old twin sons), Porter pined for something that was a little more her style.

So, earlier this year she convinced her husband it was time for a change.

Using bold paint colors and a list of budget-friendly resources, Porter transformed the fusty family office into a modern and colorful space that she now calls her own. "It's really become my sanctuary," she says. "If I shut the door, I really feel like I'm in a different place. I call it my mom cave."

Even better: The entire makeover was done for less than $3,500. "You don't have to spend a lot of money to get good design, says Porter, who shopped at HomeGoods, Ikea and Target. "I think the best-designed spaces are a combination of items in different price points. It gives the room character."

First she picked her palette, which just happened to be her three favorite colors: lavender, aqua and chocolate brown. For an accent color, she chose orange. "It adds a lot of energy to a space," she says.

Then she balanced the color with white furniture. "With all these colors going on in a small space, I needed the eyes to rest on something. The white breaks up the room and makes everything more peaceful."

She finished by adding family photos, cushions and practical yet pretty accessories.

Although the room is hers, Porter wanted the whole family to enjoy it, so she chose furniture that would encourage company. "I set up two desks so my sons could do homework in here while I'm here. But they won't come in and work because it's too girly."

Not that she's complaining.

"I love being surrounded by pretty things," says Porter. "Color: It adds beauty; it adds energy. Why would you not want that?"

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