How Designer Diana Sfera Redecorated A Small Office In New York City

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In Be My Guest, Bustle takes you inside cool homes and spaces so you can gather design and décor inspo for yourself. In this article, born out of our Instagram Stories series, we give you a glimpse of an office designed by Diana Sfera.

Aside from your home, your workplace is probably where you spend the majority of your time. That's why it’s so important to make it a pleasant environment to work — and just be — in. But if you’re working in a small office, it can be challenging to make it personal, not to mention, make it appear more spacious than it actually is. That’s where Diana Sfera comes in. At Ultraviolet, interior styling and design are among the variety of services she offers. Sfera’s latest task? Giving a makeover to the office of Lindsay Mannering, Bustle Digital Group’s SVP of Editorial Strategy. Through Sfera’s magical handiwork, she made a modest 8 x 10-foot space look even larger.

Home or office design is an extension of a person’s individual brand identity,” Sfera tells Bustle. “There’s no ‘one size fits all’ — it’s an incredibly intimate and personal process.”

She says that the first thing she does with a client is spend time with them to understand who they are and what excites them. “I see how they’ll function in the space, colors they’re attracted to, and personal objects or pieces that mean something to them,” she says. “Once I extract this, I’m ready to build my creative roadmap.”

Sfera said that Mannering wanted a chic, yet comfortable space with a “California Cool” vibe. “It needed to be inviting enough for meetings and brainstorms with her team, but elevated enough for interviews and entertaining important clients,” Sfera says.

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From “Before” To “After”

Before Sfera stepped into the picture, she says there was a large, black desk that took up most of the small, 8 x 10-foot office space. “We essentially started with a blank canvas, or what I would liken to a cookie cutter office space — white, blank walls and industrial office carpeting,” she says. “The space lacked character, texture, and dimension, and there was no sign of life — certainly no sign of Lindsay.”

How Sfera Revamped The Space

Sfera says that her mission was to infuse life and Mannering’s personality into the room. First, she opened up the space with a new coat of paint. “I chose Silver Mist by Benjamin Moore in a high-gloss, reflective finish, which immediately made the room feel larger while adding a bit of intrigue and depth,” she says. “These days, with sites like Thumbtack.com, it’s so much easier to find the resources you need for virtually any of these types of handy projects.”

But Sfera says that the new desk is her favorite piece in the office. “It’s from Kathy Kuo Home and is the crowning glory of this makeover — for obvious reasons,” she says. “It’s sleek, modern shape and striking brass legs add instant drama.” After that, she brought in other essentials. “I added a beautiful, maple wood shelving unit from Room + Board for storage, and the sleek, plush club chairs from Arhaus, which also added a bright pop of color,” Sfera says. Then, she layered in fun décor, like the desk accessories, artwork, greenery, and personal items from Mannering’s own collection.

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Sfera says she found a magnifying glass and letter opener at Jet.com, which is a go-to resource of hers when it comes to home décor because of their attractive price points. “I thoughtfully mixed high and low pieces throughout the space, as I do with most of my projects,” she says. “The artwork is my other favorite feature — I secured all these fun prints from Society6, including the colorful Frida Kahlo hanging above the console.”

Timing And Compromising Are Key

If you’re thinking about redoing a small space of your own, the timeline will vary depending on what, exactly, you do. In Sfera’s case, the project took a couple of months from start to finish, which she says is pretty typical. “And luckily, we had no hiccups — when designing, the moment you add a custom detail or finish, you can expect to wait upwards of 12 weeks for delivery, so it’s important to manage timing expectations and build in a cushion.”

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However, she says that even if you do your best to prevent delays, projects don’t always go as smoothly as you’d hoped — furniture may get backordered or discontinued, and items can arrive damaged. “Simply put, designing is a process — you have to know when and how to course correct on the fly and, above all, be patient,” she says.

The Biggest Mistake People Make When Designing A Small Office

When working with a small space, every foot — and inch — counts. Sfera says the 8 x 10-foot space she worked on is not terribly big, but you get used to being resourceful and crafty with smaller spaces when you live and work in a city like New York. “For most people, the biggest challenge lies in understanding scale,” she says. “What may look like the perfect size in a large showroom or online could be monstrous in your home, and vice-versa.” She says that getting the measurements right is highly critical, including the door frames. “I can’t tell you how many times people order furniture that can’t fit through their door,” she says. She also recommends using apps — magicplan, Room Creator, and Rooms — that can help with furniture placement and layout.

Although a desk is likely the centerpiece of your work office, Sfera says that the biggest mistake people make when designing a small office is buying an oversized, clunky desk. “This leaves no room for other, critical furniture pieces, let alone the ability to navigate the room comfortably,” she says. “Instead, the office suddenly becomes ‘desk island.’” To solve this issue, when you’re designing a small space, you have to section off and compartmentalize the area. “Then, choose smart, appropriately sized, dual function pieces,” she says.

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Sfera says that before you commit to a furniture or design plan, you should use the space with the bare essentials first. “This way, you’ll quickly realize what you need,” she says. “All too often, people feel compelled to fill up their space right away, so they spend a ton of money on furniture, only to realize it doesn’t work in the space or it’s way too big or isn’t comfortable.” In an office, she suggests starting with the desk and a chair — the bare essentials — and then slowly building and layering from there.

The End Result

All in all, Sfera says that the office space now definitely exudes the “California Cool” feeling that she and Mannering were going for, as well as a bit of glam. “But more importantly, it’s inviting,” Sfera says. “It makes you want to come in and stay awhile, which is exactly the impact we wanted.”

She says while the process can be a little intimating and stressful overall, it’s not rocket science. “You should have fun with your space design: This is a place where you spend so much of your time, burning that midnight oil, doing important things — so surround yourself with objects, pieces, and an ambiance that inspires and stimulates your best creative energy.”

Below, you can check out the décor that Sfera used to make over Mannering’s office — and other ways to get the look.

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1. DESK: Mr. Brown Mid Century Modern Mercer White Desk, $3,348 at Kathy Kuo Home

Another way to get the look:

2. DESK CHAIR: LumiSource Master Adjustable Office Chair with Swivel in White, $259.27, Jet.com

Another way to get the look:

3. DESK LAMP:

Note: The exact lamp pictured above has been discontinued. However, this is a similar one by Williams Sonoma.

AERIN Leith Table Lamp, Antique Brass, $995, Williams Sonoma

Another way to get the look:

4. RUG: Pieced + Patched Leather Rug, $699.99, West Elm

Another way to get the look:

5. THROW BLANKET: Alta Throw Platinum, $298, Intiearth

Another way to get the look:

6. POTTED PLANT: Bird of Paradise Plant + Pot, $177 (price of both together), Greenery NYC

Another way to get the look:

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7. CONSOLE: Ming Console in White, $1,105, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

Another way to get the look:

8. DESK PLANT: Anthuriums, price varies, Seaport Flowers & Home

Other ways to get the look:

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9. LETTER OPENER & MAGNIFIER: A and B Home Desk Letter Opener and Magnifier, $51.38, Jet.com

Another way to get the look:

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10. ARTWORK:

Indigo Mountains by SpaceFrogDesigns (10” x 12”), $45.99, Society6

Another way to get the look:

Pinky Swear by Explicit Design (10” x 12”), $55.99, Society6

Another way to get the look:

Reaching Nude in Matisse Blue by Artist & Human (15” x 21”) $77.99, Society6

Another way to get the look:

Beach dreams II by Ingrid Beddoes photography (20” x 26”), $108.99, Society6

Another way to get the look:

Frida con Amigos by Nettsch (26” x 38”) $156.99, Society6

Another way to get the look:

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11. SHELVING UNIT: Woodwind Two-File-Drawer Bookcase (Two Drawer), $1,299, Room + Board

Another way to get the look:

12. BOOKS:

California Captured, $59.95, Books are Magic

Sharon Hayes, $49.95, Books are Magic

Black Refractions, $45, Books are Magic

13. DECORATIVE TRAY: Leopard Printed Paper + Metal Tray, $195 (on sale for $116.97), Williams Sonoma Home

Another way to get the look:

14. DRINK GLASSES: Macassar High Ball Glasses, $51.95, Williams Sonoma

Another way to get the look:

15. BASKETS: Taylor Baskets, $185 (small), $260 (medium), Intiearth

Another way to get the look:

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16. SEATING AREA: Pratt Chair, $199, Arhaus

Note: The chair no longer comes in blue, but is available in rust or green.

Another way to get the look:

17. LUMBAR PILLOW: Shipibo Lumbar Pillow, $80, Intiearth

Another way to get the look:

18. WALL DISPLAY/PLANTER: Umbra Trigg Wall Display Large, $34.51, Jet.com

Another way to get the look:

In addition to the items above, another essential part of the design process is the paint. Sfera used Silver Mist in a high gloss finish by Benjamin Moore, and the price varies from job-to-job, depending on how much paint you need. For Mannering’s office, Sfera worked with Brian Bedenbaugh, founder of Blue Sky Painting, through Thumbtack.com, a service where you can hire a local professional to help you out.

Overall, no matter what type of small space you’re redesigning, hopefully you now have plenty of inspiration to get you started. And that’s the first step.