Imagine operating your entire creative business out of a 200-square-foot space (roughly the size of a formal family dining room). Many would consider this challenge to be too daunting, but the Charleston-based PR firm Gray & Co. took it on with enthusiasm. Today, we’ve invited the company’s founder, Ellie Somerville McNevin, to share some space-saving suggestions!
Office space can be hard to come by in Charleston—so when our friend mentioned that she had extra space for rent in her 19th-century building, we jumped at the opportunity. Even though the room was less than 200 square feet, its fireplace, tall ceilings and windows looking out onto Society Street were hard to turn down. (We also share an office with our friend Betsy of B. Berry Interiors, so maximizing space was a key concern.)
We turned to the team at West Elm, which is opening its first South Carolina store—in Charleston—this week! Since the brand offers access to home (or, in our case, office) stylists who provide free design services, we asked Matt at the Chelsea store in New York City to help us transform our 195-square-foot space into a charming yet functional new office. Below are the tips and tricks we learned throughout the process, which could very well push your office makeover into action!
Identify work zones.
It was really important to us that, even in this small office, we would still have a way to entertain clients and have a functional meeting space. For that reason, we moved our desks along the longest wall to make space for a small round table in the center of the room. Designers don’t usually recommend pushing furniture against the far corners of a room, but in this case, it worked! It also helped that our desk chairs have a slim profile and don’t take up much room.
Play with scale.
Part of the fun of being in an older building is having 14-foot ceilings. They allow us to incorporate larger items into the space without crowding it. An oversized chandelier from West Elm makes a grand statement when you enter the office, and an antique mirror above the bar makes the space feel bigger. Having full-size dining chairs around the center table makes the conference area feel significant (plus, if meetings run long, we stay super comfortable!).
Add art for a lived-in feel.
It was important that our office reflect our personalities and brand, so we brought in art from some of our favorite artists to make the space feel welcoming. The gallery wall above our desks features pieces we’ve collected over the years, plus one from our new client Sally King Benedict! The large abstract piece above the mantle by Dorothy Shain was originally used for a Tink & Tiger photo shoot, but it has thankfully found a home in our office. Also on the mantle is a zebra print from Jenna Snyder–Phillips, and a sculptural Indonesian shell necklace from Arsenal Designed. Last but not least is a sweet floral painting by Lulie Wallace (hanging next to the built-in-bookshelf).
Mix vintage with modern.
The secret to decorating any space is to mix things you love, no matter their style. It was fun to start with a base of great contemporary furniture pieces and then add antiques from some of our favorite Charleston dealers. This method is especially evident at the bar, where we used a marble console from West Elm as a base and accessorized with an antique mirror, lucite lamp and vintage barware.
Be creative with storage solutions.
In a space this small, nothing is off limits! We keep our wireless printer in the non-working fireplace and try to use vertical storage whenever possible. To keep our magazines organized, we mounted a wall unit above a dresser (another place for storage!) and took the doors off of a closet so that we could fit a bookcase inside it. We’ve both lived in Manhattan, so we’re very aware of the importance of utilizing every square inch!
Desk chairs: West Elm
Desks: West Elm
Brass table lamps: West Elm
Leather chairs: West Elm
Marble console/bar cart: West Elm
Chandelier: West Elm
Lacquer tray on bar: West Elm
Gold picture frames: West Elm
Ellie’s dress: Troubadour
Lindsay’s necklace: Candy Shop Vintage
Charleston cocktail napkins: Candy Shop Vintage
Abstract art above fireplace: Dorothy Shain
Zebra art print: Jenna Snyder-Phillips
Necklace sculpture: Arsenal Designed
Charleston framed art print (behind Lindsay’s desk): mac & murphy
“I Might Forget” notepad: mac & murphy
White stapler: mac & murphy
White tape dispenser: mac & murphy
White pens: mac & murphy
Lucite pen/card holder: mac & murphy
Striped memo cube: mac & murphy