Cork-based interior designer Sinéad Cassidy transforms an uninviting room into a multi-functional space with some added sunshine for a busy family
In partnership with Fleetwod
Home offices and busy play rooms can often be neglected when it comes to interior design, even though these rooms should be stimulating, well-organised and comfortable. Yet how many of us tend to shut the door on messy playrooms and cluttered offices when guests pop round?
Interior designer Sinéad Cassidy’s clients came to her with a challenging space in their Douglas home that had lots of potential. The room was mostly being used as a playroom, and then also a home office when the pandemic hit. But the layout wasn’t working, with a mishmash of storage boxes, a couch and a long radiator against one wall.
“There was no unity, focal point or adequate storage, so it was cold, uninviting and underused,” Sinéad explains.
“The brief in this case was for the room to provide a triple function; a home office so that the clients could work from home in a professional capacity, a playroom for the kids, and it also needed to have lots of storage for toys and books plus documents and files belonging to the homeowners.”
Power of colour
Unusually, it was the ceiling that helped decide the colour scheme of the room. The original ceiling had three different levels because of a rolled steel joist that ran in two directions in the room. The ceiling was lowered in two areas in order to hide the joist but Sinéad decided to keep one level recessed and make it a feature of the room.
“I knew I didn’t want to continue with a white on the recessed ceiling part and chose a cheerful deep yellow colour, Pantone 14-0848 Mimosa,” Sinéad says.
“I am a huge believer in the fact that paint is the most useful design tool of all at our hands but it is also about choosing the right tone and the scale of the colour that you use. This yellow is an uplifting, happy colour and it really fills the room with sunshine once used in moderation.”
The warm shade lifts this north-facing room, and it was important to choose the right neutral to balance the vibrant yellow. The walls and the built-in units are painted in Fleetwood Popular Warm Grey, a nice neutral to create the illusion that the units are recessed into the wall. Knowing this space would be used by the kids, Sinéad chose Fleetwood Prestige Matt, as it is a washable, durable and scrubbable matt with a 2% sheen.
Sinéad designed a bespoke window seat to maximise storage, and it is a perfect height for a play area or chill out space for the kids to relax with the book. The shaker-style doors were painted in Pantone 19-4318 Mallard Blue, and Sinéad asked her upholsterer to create a long bench cushion in a hard wearing geometric pattern print in grey and yellow weave. Not only does this tie in the paint colours, choosing pattern over plain is more forgiving when it comes to marks, stains or spills, as this seat gets lots of use.
This project wasn’t just about styling and layout, as all the walls had to be built out and re-plastered in order to hide old cables and trunking visible on the existing wall surfaces. The client himself works in the construction trade, so he was able to complete a lot of the construction and electrical work.
The planning stage was vital. The space is quite small, measuring just 3.7m x 2.6m, and Sinéad needed to make it work as an open plan area with different functions happening in this one space.
“Creating a floor plan allowed me to assess different layouts until I felt I had the optimum configuration while incorporating the three key elements. With any open plan living, you need to be mindful of the different zones,” Sinéad says.
“I kept the study desk to one side of the space with its own stationery shelf unit and decided colour would help form a distinction between the office and kid zones. The different ceiling height also plays a part in the zoning.”
Full height built-in units provide ample storage for toys, books, documents and files, and push opening doors give a seamless look. Sinéad chose a freestanding desk for the office, to provide some versatility, so that it can be removed to provide more space as needed, for example for kid’s birthday parties. Contrasting charcoal and mustard cushions add texture, as does the desk chair in emerald green velvet.
Lighting in a multi-functional space plays an important role. The room was fitted with recessed spotlights along the office side to provide good task lighting. Meanwhile the ones in front of the storage units are on a dimmer, to allow for a calming atmosphere when it’s time to wind down with the kids in the evening.
Sinéad and her clients chose an original acrylic on linen painting by Cork-based artist Oonagh Hurley. It is called Safety Measures, and was painted during the first lockdown. Adding some colourful prints and house plants finished the look.
“Greenery is a lovely balancing element to add to any scheme but particularly here in a home office where it is valuable to have a connection with nature as you work. We sourced some air purifying plants from Ballyseedy.ie including Anthurium Red Champion and a Crassula Ovata,” Sinéad says.
“The main benefits associated with these indoor plants include; removing toxins from the air, enhancing our productivity, helping to reduce our stress levels and improving our mood.”
As for the clients, the room has brought much needed calm while working from home.
“It is a more pleasant experience and much more inviting than it was pre-renovation. There is also a serene sense of everything having a place, it’s easy to retrieve items as required and tidying up after the kids at the end of the day is quick,” Sinéad says.
“The kids love the playroom when it’s not in use as an office, as it is bright, cheerful and they have easy access to all their toys. The window seat is adored by all the family, and can accommodate them all when it is time to relax.”