For those of us who have reached the milestone of having our own office, it can feel like a major accomplishment. You have finally crossed some imaginary threshold into legitimacy. To further legitimize this major milestone, the task of interior design and decor is now upon you. Initially, it may feel exciting because you can make it your own. But, the excitement can quickly wear off and leave you with a feeling of overwhelm. Purchasing furniture, artwork, décor, lighting, paint, and window treatments, and placing all of these items in a way to allow both you and your clients to feel comfortable can feel like a tall order.
While some of us were born to shop and decorate, others feel like they are in the magical land of make-believe and need a decorating spirit guide. Below are some tips for interior design and decor that can help you find your unique style, and save you a few headaches, all while using your five senses.
1. Visualizing Or Seeing The Space
We have all probably been in a therapy office that was uncomfortable, dated, or perhaps you just couldn’t figure out what was weird about it. When considering taking in the space visually there are some basic guides.
- Start with an inspiration piece and work from there. If your inspiration piece is a couch, for example, you can base your color palette, style of décor (traditional, modern, Victorian, etc.), and placement of other pieces around it. It is far easier to pick furniture first and then select paint, than it is to select paint and try to find furniture that will coordinate.
- Part of interior design includes the positioning of your furniture. Such that there is a clear flow and logical paths to walk when you come in the door. Putting the back of a chair, couch or other pieces of furniture in front of you when you walk into a room can feel like a wall you have to walk around and it isn’t inviting. In addition, it can feel like walking into a room with someone’s back to you. After all, people sit in the furniture. So, if you walk into the back of a couch you have to navigate around, it doesn’t feel welcoming because there isn’t a clear path to sit down. The back of a piece of furniture can feel like the back of a person Don’t forget to sit in your clients seats and see what they are looking at while they are there. You may have a great view, while they are gazing at an air conditioner unit.
- Placement of artwork or décor on the wall. Generally, artwork or photos etc. should be at eye level or the center of the piece should fall between 60”-62” from the floor. Some may argue 57”, but it feels too low to me and my research reflects the above is an acceptable standard. This rule applies if you are hanging a single piece of artwork on a wall regardless of the height of the ceiling. There are some exceptions depending on how many pieces you have, their sizes, and how to group things together. In addition, if the placement above furniture is too high, it may give a disconnected rather than anchored feeling. Some recommend sticking to the 60”-62” rule, or positioning the piece such that the center is 30” above the back of the furniture. If you have an enormous piece of artwork, this may not be possible or it may not be the best location for what you are hanging.
- When hanging hanging curtains, it is recommended that the curtain rod be at least six inches above the window and the curtains touch the floor. If you are hanging curtains wide (curtain panels falling on either side of the window trim), the fabric of each panel should be 2x’s the width of the window. Should you prefer hanging them in a standard fashion, over the trim of the window, then each panel should be 1.5x’s the length of the window. Curtains that don’t touch the floor can feel like pants that are too short and, if mounted too low, can make the ceilings feel shorter or more closed in. View this guide to gain some ideas.
- What is on the floor? Often times, when planning interior design, decor rugs are used to warm up a space and make it feel cozy. However, the wrong size rug can do the opposite. Tiny rugs can feel like they are a floating island, rather than grounding the space or adding texture. I think often times due to the cost one may opt for a smaller rug, but end up tossing it because it just doesn’t work. If you cannot afford a rug that is the right size simply wait until you can. Decorating can take time. Through the magic of television we often see places tied together and finished as though it were easy. However, in real life we don’t have the magic of television and you don’t have to rush to buy things just to fill up your space. Make sure you love what you are buying, you have to live with it 8 hours a day
2. What Can You Hear?
It might come as a surprise that part of interior design for a private practice office involves sound and or blocking sound. Protecting confidentiality and privacy with white noise is often standard, for a private practice therapy office. Beyond white noise there are many options for music that one may consider. I think often the idea is to have music fade into the background and not be in your face or highly noticeable.
I was once in an office that had music on the strangest Pandora channel in the universe. In addition, it was incredibly loud! I think the purpose was cover the voices of the office staff, but it was rather unnerving. The song selections switched from the Rolling Stones to, Jethro Tull, Kanye and Adele. I started to become convinced I was in the middle of a social experiment. Never the less, by the time my name was called I wasn’t sure if I came to party or have a breakdown.
People are often particular about music and they can evoke different moods, so I think something neutral is a good side to err on. Unless of course your niche clients are 80’s hair bands.
3. How Does It Smell?
An office that smells bad or strange is not relaxing. In addition, while some people love scented candles and incense, they can be highly irritating and produce allergic responses in others. The smell of incense almost instantly gives me a crushing headache and makes my eyes burn. If you want to have a light scent to your office you may consider an essential oil infuser or simply keep it clean.
In addition, if you have pets you bring to the office or therapy animals, you may not notice that they have a smell. I once had a friend who went to a therapist that secretly had three cats living in the office. As you can imagine, the smell got to be too much and she quit.
When taking your clients comfort into consideration it can’t hurt to ask how someone feels about what you may use for fragrance in your office. Furthermore, if you are eating food or microwaving things in your office, you may want to time when you do this, open a window and/or consider what you are microwaving.
4. How Does It Feel?
Have you sat on the furniture to see if it is comfortable? Are the fabrics soft or do they feel like burlap? If you have chairs, do they all have arms? If you are overweight, chairs with arms can be a challenge and really embarrassing if you don’t fit, so you may want to mix it up. Sometimes clients like to hold pillows or use a soft blanket for a feeling of security.
In addition, what is the temperature in your office? It can be the most beautiful office in the world but if it feels like a refrigerator, or like you just hit the equator, it can be difficult to relax and feel comfortable in the space. Furthermore, I prefer people don’t sweat on my furniture when considering longevity.
5. Taste Or Food
Offering, coffee, tea, water, a snack, candy, or mints can add to a feeling of comfort. The decision to do so can be based on a number of factors including budget. If you have small children in your office ensuring safety, such that they will not get burned or choke on things, is also a consideration. A lot of Keurig’s and water coolers have settings for temperature to make sure they don’t get to hot.
So, there you have it! Planning your space is a personal choice and can be fun with the right guide. There are also thousands of images on Pinterest to get inspired. But, hopefully the above gives you a good place to start. Happy decorating!
Tara is a licensed professional counselor, licensed alcohol and drug counselor and certified yoga teacher. She has worked in behavioral health for over 16 years and currently has a private practice in West Hartford, CT. Her writing has been featured in Wallingford Connecticut Magazine, Natural Awakenings, and she is a contributing writer on practiceofthepractice.com, TODAY Parenting Team ǀ today.com, psychcentral.com and she is a regular contributing guest on Radio 103.5FM WNHH “The Culture Cocktail Hour”. Having learned from personal experience she is passionate about helping women heal from the past and embrace their future. To find out more about Tara visit: