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Video: What does your workspace say about you?

Image: Jenna Wolfe's office space - after remake
Today Show
In her newly refurbished space, TODAY anchor Jenna Wolfe will have the use of much more storage space.
By HGTV designer
TODAY
updated 10/1/2010 8:52:59 AM ET 2010-10-01T12:52:59

It's true what they say about your office space: It's a window into your soul. Whether a tiny cubicle in a dark bunker or the most-coveted corner office with a panoramic view, your home away from home is a chance to express yourself. And it often can tell a lot about the person.

A personal space can be a great indicator of how a worker feels at the job, and it's even seen as a window into how well someone performs. A cluttered office says one thing, a neat office says another — but clutter can be charming if it involves family photos and a neat office can imply lack of dedication if it's only neat because it's empty.

What office space do you have? Is there any hope to make improvements?

As a designer, I'm frequently asked to incorporate personality and character to work spaces. One of the first things I do is to survey the office to see how it's being used and what seems important to the person who works there.

Image: A glimpse into Jenna Wolfe's work space before makeover
TODAY
Jenna Wolfe's space prior to the makeover. It lacked personality and storage space.

This is what I did with TODAY co-anchor Jenna Wolfe's space, and I was extremely surprised when I first saw her office. Given Jenna's vibrant personality, I expected a space that overflowed with character, but was also tempered with a sense of calm and efficiency. Instead, I was faced with a tiny desk in one corner of the room, a lifeless little sofa on the other, and a shelving unit that was obviously purchased at the same place and time as the desk. The items were all too similar — not to mention sterile and inadequate.

There was a lack of storage, as evidenced by the numbers of shoes and objects collecting in various corners. And, if that wasn't enough, all four walls were painted a dark chocolate brown — Jenna's favorite color — certainly not an ideal choice for a small room begging for a sense of airiness.

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If I didn't know better, I would have thought Jenna was an untidy, brooding person who didn't like spending time at work — wrong on all counts. My challenge was to give her an office space that would do the following:

Reflect her personality — This is important not only to make Jenna feel at home in the space, but to ensure the office says the right thing about her when people visit.

Provide ample storage — It's surprising how quickly shelves fill up in an office, especially when your job demands things like wardrobe changes.

Create an area for having a conversation — This is difficult in a cubicle-size space, but it's crucial in an office. Sometimes you need a better place to sit than on an office chair at a desk.

Balance durability and efficiency with beauty and comfort — More than any other space, an office is dedicated to getting work done, making it that much more important to ensure it can be done comfortably and in a pleasant setting.

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Using these points as a guide, I went about giving Jenna's office a makeover. It begins with the most prominent item in the room.

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I discovered just the right desk — featuring file storage, open and closed shelving, and the right color (dark brown) — at BoConcept. The great thing about it is that the storage component is narrow and long, which allowed me to anchor the furniture in the same corner as the previous desk without wasting space. This effectively doubled the workspace but didn't encroach on the room.

Next, the sofa. Keeping in mind that Jenna has a strong modernist streak, I still wanted to find a seating solution that incorporated some of her femininity. For that, I selected a two-seater from Pier 1. Not only was it well within my budget of $5,000, it also had a nice tall back to anchor the far wall on which a TV is hung rather high. Finally, it had the color brown prominently within the paisley pattern.

The paint scheme is fairly simple, and it started with knowing Jenna's favorite color. I found a light, buttery yellow color that would supplement the browns within the room without making the space feel as small as the previous all-brown look. I kept the far wall of the office a dark chocolate as an accent wall against which the sofa sits.

Image: After the makeover, Jenna's office take on a whole new look
TODAY
What a difference: Jenna's office takes on a fresh and airy space.

Once the two anchoring pieces were in, it became a simple task of finding the right pieces of furniture and storage that would round out the space. For chairs I found two modern pieces at BoConcept in brown leather, which I softened up with cushions taken from the sofa in the same paisley pattern.

While there, I selected a coffee table that I use frequently in my designs. The table is sleek but it has many different kinds of flaps that fold out and open up, revealing storage but also providing work surfaces. It's perfect for Jenna as she doesn't like to confine herself to her desk when she's working on a project.

Video: What does your workspace say about you? (on this page)

One of the inspirations we derived from the other TODAY anchors was a coffee table with an incorporated bench in Ann Curry's office. We liked the versatility it provided and the neat design element of having something unexpected. I incorporated a similar element into Jenna's office with a cool storage bench by Herman Miller purchased at a great price on AllModern.com. I always look for licensed online retailers when I'm going for designer pieces because I can usually score a great deal.

The bulk of the storage is taken up by two wall-leaning shelving units I found at CB2. These are great because they have a lot of open shelving, but also include a few shelves below for Jenna's appetite for protein bars.

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To round out the storage options, I went to Container Store to get clear lucite shelves and some shoe containers. The shelves can hold knick-knacks that Jenna can rotate out as new things come and old things go, and the shoe containers give her an easy way to see which shoes she needs while keeping the rest neatly stored.

The finishing touches involved soft furnishings like pillows from Pier 1, a small square carpet from CB2, mirrors and overhead lighting from West Elm, fun coat hooks from Anthropologie and some photos Jenna provided that show her with people she admires.

All told, the makeover came in around $5,000. That included the labor, furniture and possibly a floor sample or two. The end result is an office that speaks to Jenna's dedication to her work and amount of time she spends at the office, while complementing her personality, femininity, and fun-loving nature.

John Gidding is a Yale- and Harvard-trained architect and designer for clients all over the world. His firm is based in New York City, with a new office in San Francisco where he is currently shooting the third season of his HGTV show, "Curb Appeal: The Block".

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