For production design coordinator and full-time education student Crystal Hopkins, color isn't just a passion, it's business. "I'd say about half of my work in production design is focused on color values," she says. "The way hues and tints read through a lens is totally different than in real life."
When it came time to turn the guest room of her 1,100-square-foot Encino, Calif., home into a multipurpose space where she could work or study, Crystal turned to her favorite color, orange, as the room's inspiration.
"Although the room was lackluster, it had this awesome midcentury modern wall-mounted desk, which I knew I had to use," Crystal says. "It was stained the perfect shade of dark brown, one that when paired with orange creates a really warm, autumnal feeling."
To make the room work not only for job- and school-related purposes, but also as a place to relax on her days off, Crystal decided to break the space down into three zones: one for studying, one for production design planning and another for reading.
As Crystal began planning for her orange creative space, she tested different choices for the walls and ceiling. "At first, I really wanted to tie in the same tone of orange outside the window on my orange tree," Crystal says. "The best match was a paint color called Energetic Orange, but it was way too energetic, so much that I wouldn't be able to focus!"
Instead, she decided to stick with burnt orange for the walls and coral for the ceiling. The layering of the two was colorful and warm, but energetic enough for a creative space.
The Scope of the Remodel
To accomplish this creative workspace remodel, Crystal set a budget of $2,500 and a timeline of nine days to knock out the following design elements:
- Replace a ceiling fan with a vintage pendant from the dining room
- Paint the walls burnt orange and the ceiling coral
- Add custom window coverings
- Relocate the existing wall-mounted rail system desk to the opposite wall
- Transform an old dining room chair into a custom rolling desk chair
- Repurpose the flea market tables and an old desk into a one-of-a-kind display system
- Create a small seating area near the window
Creative Desk Display
Crystal removed the wall-mounted desk from its original spot, then gathered four different tables and an old desk to create her one-of-a-kind display system. "I saw the idea on Pinterest, except it was in purple," she says.
To execute her vision, Crystal worked with a set carpenter, from one of her recent TV jobs, who helped configure the tables and desk to the proper size and shape. "I used an HVLP paint sprayer to give them a professional finish after heavily sanding them," Crystal says. "Spraying set pieces was a cinch, but after much trial and tribulation, here is what I learned: It's all about where you cut the legs when repurposing tables into a wall system."
Crystal discovered each piece of the design works with the other in relation to the placement of legs. She initially planned to stack all of the pieces on top of one another above the desk, alternating the depths of each table by sawing pieces in half, lengthwise.
While deciding on placement, she realized the legs of the tables took away valuable space from the desktop. The solution was to spread the tables out, left to right, randomly graduating upward, rather than simply stacking one on top of the other. With this idea in place, the rest of the project went swimmingly.
After installing the cut tables to the wall using small "L" brackets screwed to the underside of the tabletops, then into wall studs with a drill and wood screws, Crystal and her carpenter reinstalled the wall-mounted rail system desk. "That was easy," Crystal says. "It's a handful of screws, a stud finder, a drill and a level, but dealing with paint touchups afterward was another story."
Due to adjustments made to keep the wall-mounted desk flush, Crystal scratched some of the newly applied orange paint off the wall.
"When repainting or touching up walls painted with super-saturated colors, it's important to consider how deep the scratch is before trying to fix it," Crystal says. "If it's surface deep, two coats should be fine. If it's deeper and you've dinged the actual drywall, it's wise to first hit the area with a little drywall mud, then a little tinted primer before adding the actual color."
Adding Orange Throughout
As all of the hard parts came to fruition, Crystal got to focus on loading in the space. To add an extra layer of orange, she brought in a traditional area rug packed with several shades of orange, as well as blues and reds. Not only did this add to an overall layered look, it helped ground and soften the space. "The rug has become one of my favorite things because I can be barefoot and comfortable," says Crystal. "In the rest of my hardwood-floored house, my feet are always freezing."
To break up the orange-ness of the room, Crystal installed custom drapery panels of white dupioni silk with inverted box pleats. Since the window treatments were pricey, she kept her budget in check by installing them on affordable, oil-rubbed bronze rods and rings. The finish also creates a warm, autumnal feeling. "We don't get a change of seasons in Los Angeles," Crystal says. "So keeping my creative space somewhat autumnal reminds me a bit of being back in Texas in the fall."
After placing the furniture, window coverings, art and accessories into her room, Crystal realized she learned a few things by designing her own real-life space, instead of one meant strictly for TV and film. "I'm used to working on spaces which are neither permanent nor functional, and the biggest difference between working on a set or a temporary location is that things are meant to tell a story which isn't real," Crystal says. "In residential design, not only does everything need to tell a story in a non-literal way, but also it needs to be livable."
So how does she feel about her first attempt at real-life design? "My creative space is packed with my favorite things, as well as my favorite color," Crystal says. It's soothing but not sleepy, and it feels like me in there! What's not to like?"
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