Small Scale: Balancing Act

A great home office strikes a balance between work and life. 

By Jamie Siebrase


Who says form has to follow function? While the maxim might guide modernist architecture or industrial design, designer Fifi Lugo needed a little more leeway to develop a design concept for a hardworking home office in Glendale. “We didn’t want it to feel like an office,” she explains. So often, the home office winds up being too much “office” and not enough “home.” The uninspired cure is to hide a cluttered study behind closed doors and call it a day. 

But Fifi had a different plan, and it started with welcoming guests — and additional light — through elegant, six-panel French doors. Describing the homeowner’s taste as “feminine but not floral,” she created a sophisticated space that flows with the rest of the house, which celebrates traditional design without shying away from contemporary finishes. 

In the office, for instance, the ancient technique of block printing gives a quintessential wall-covering (Clarence wallpaper) and a classic pattern (Chinese vases) a fun, Millennial reboot. While there’s no strong centerpiece, per se, “The fireplace provides a nice, quiet focal point,” Fifi points out, adding that the wallpaper acts as a subtle backdrop. 

“It’s a nice juxtaposition,” says Fifi, turning attention to a few time-honored furnishings: a wooden desk with sculptural legs and two unfussy, upholstered barrel chairs separated by a tufted gray ottoman. Despite its humble status as a home office, smart furniture choices give the room a warm, lived-in look that allows it to double as a sitting room during social gatherings. 

Fifi admits she doesn’t create “magazine shots” for her clients — and that is by design. “I hate when everything matches,” she says. “A home is more interesting — and more inviting — when there’s a sense of evolution with the furnishings that are selected.” 

As a finishing touch, Fifi enhanced the environment she had created with accouterments the homeowner loves, including an heirloom wall clock, a gilded mirror and plenty of built-in shelving for collector’s items and treasured books. “My client is a big reader and I wanted her to be able to sit in a soft chair by the fireplace and enjoy life when she wasn’t working."  

Interior Designer: Fifi Lugo Interior Design