How to Decorate Your Home If You Work All the Time

How to Decorate Your Home If You Work All the TimeReaders, how do you feel about your home decor — does the vibe match what you want to feel when you come home from a long day at the office? What are your best tips on how to decorate your home if you work all the time? Did you decorate your home yourself, or did you hire help to do it? How often do you change your decor? Do you prefer a cozy home with lots of books and accessories, or a more minimalist, clean look? Colors or neutrals?

I’ve talked before about how I intentionally chose bright, uplifting colors (hot pink, yellow, and navy) for my first apartment out of law school because I knew I’d be working long hours, would probably only be home when it was dark outside, and wouldn’t be able to “build” my decor slowly (because I expected to be working all the time). I’m still grateful for the fun, girly space I came home to every night and I’m glad I took the time and energy to decorate it a little bit ahead of time. I lost a lot of the pink and yellow accents when my husband and I married and moved in together, and right now it seems like we’re mostly hostage to all of the toys and other colorful kids’ things in our home — definitely not a planned, restful space!

Readers, over to you — do you like your home decor? Did you spend a lot of time on it and/or do you feel like home decor comes easy to you? On the flip side, for those of you who suspect or know you aren’t gifted at home decor (like me, honestly), have you worked with an interior designer? There are a ton of online-only services cropping up these days, including HutchHomepolish, Curio Designs, Decorist, and more! Have you used any of these more affordable online-only interior design services, ladies? Any reviews to share? In general, what are your best tips for how to decorate your home if you work all the time?

Psst: We’ve talked about where to buy grown-up furniture, when to buy “nice” dishes and other things you may associate with wedding gifts (even if you’re single), and how a good cleaning service makes it ALL better. We’ve also, of course, talked a lot about office decor.

Image source: to decorate your home if you work all the time

Women lawyers and other professionals discuss how to decorate your home if you work all the time, including whether to use an online interior decorator like Hutch, Homepolish, Curio Designs, Decorist, or more.  What are your best interior design tips? Come share with us.


  1. After two years in our house, we are still unpacking boxes (although having to clean out for the nursery sped up that process exponentially). I know they say if you haven’t opened it in a year you don’t need it, but unfortunately a lot of the boxes left are my husband’s work files – not something to easily blindly pitch – and there have been a lot of life/health issues in the past two years that have eaten up what little free time we have. My parents came up a few weeks ago and hung a bunch of pictures for us that had been leaning up against the living room wall for 1.5 years and it has made such a difference in it feeling like a home to me (my husband barely noticed). Since my husband and I mixed and matched our furniture for the house, and we have a baby on the way, I don’t feel like our home is “designed” so much as existing. Once the kid(s) are older, I will probably put more of a mind to “finishing” the space. For now functional and not an eyesore is the goal. I do love the rugs we have (came from my previous living spaces), and my mother and I reupholstered the hideous fabric on the lovely dining set we bought off of the previous owners, but other than that, as long as the furniture is comfy and relatively kid-proof, we’re pretty happy.

  2. Anonymous in Charlotte :

    For me, it’s probably about 40% what it looks like and 60% how clean my space is. When I come home from working 16 hours, I just want to know that there are no dirty dishes to clean, no trash to take out, no laundry to fold, etc. Oh, and that everything is where I left it, so that if I need to look up something on my computer, or read a few pages of my book, that item is exactly where I left it so I’m not wasting time looking for it.

    • KateMiddletown :

      How do you make this happen? My husband and I were just talking about what things to outsource, and I’m hoping we can make a biweekly cleaning service part of our budget.

      • Our biweekly cleaning service is the best money we spend (we even kept it in our budget when DH, our primary breadwinner, was laid off for a few months). The highlight of my day is walking in the door after work when the cleaning service comes. It is so nice not to spend weekends deep cleaning and scrubbing, yet it still forces us to pick up/organize/toss things to get ready for the cleaning service every few weeks.

        Also, some services will do laundry or at least wash your sheets and towels. I was initially opposed to this but our housekeeper recently started helping with some laundry when it got out of hand after a few back-to-back trips and it’s been amazing.

      • Anonymous :

        We have the house cleaned twice a month, and rely heavily on a laundry/drycleaners that delivers. It reduces the daiky chores to bearable.

      • Anonymous in Charlotte :

        It’s a combination of things – I have a husband who loves a clean house a little bit more than I do; we don’t have any kids or pets; and we have an every other week cleaning service; my husband works in house (more flexible schedule) so he takes on most of the in between housework chores. So, it some ways, it’s not possible for people.

      • We have someone come in once a week and do the bathrooms (2), and floors (all hardwood so vacuum and wash). Best money we spend. some weeks that is all that gets done (other than the daily kitchen clean post meals), and that is ok. At least I know the bathrooms are clean! Every couple of months we pay for extra time and get her to do more deep cleaning if it is getting out of hand.

  3. I’m constantly changing and updating my home, finding furniture and paintings on craigslist and at thrift stores around DC. (My work schedule isn’t challenging.) It’s my favorite hobby!

    • Me too. I work all the time, but will be buying all new furniture when I move to my new apartment. Even my dad wants me to start fresh. No stained mattresses or couches. Yay!!!!

  4. We have finally saved up the money to do some major home furnishing and decorating, but now I’m working all the time and up for partner this year and spending the little spare time I have with my kids, and I can’t figure out how to find time to actually figure out what we want. I know hiring an interior designer is the answer, but how to find one, just interviewing, looking at portfolios, etc. takes time, and then trying to figure out what we actually want. We have to give them some parameters within which to work, but I have no idea where to even start. I am so ready to have a beautiful bedroom to come home to instead of hand-me-down furniture and bare walls and windows.

    • KateMiddletown :

      Once I’m in the position to do so, I’m just going to pick a store (C&B or PB) and have them pick stuff for our space. They get paid to sell me furniture so they can have at it.

    • Anonymous :

      I bought stacks of design magazines as my bath reading. Both my husband and I just tore out pictures of what we liked and dumped them in a file. From that, a decorator was able to tell what style and colors we liked and did a plan for us. We picked a decorator by looking at the local decorator award submissions — published in a local magazine — and picking a couple of folks to interview whose other work we liked. The local design center also has decorator portfolios, but we never managed to get there. You could do something similar with Pins or Houzz boards, and browse Houzz for designers.

    • I have had really good luck with Havenly. We had them do our bedroom and I was happy with the result. There are other services out there like Decorist and Laurel and Wolf.

  5. My place isn’t really “decorated” because my furniture is half hand-me-downs from my parents (who believed in buying solid wood pieces — all of the stuff they gave me is decades old and none of it looks it). I have spent a lot of time and energy hanging art and pictures on the walls though, and putting out standing picture frames.

    A place feels like home to me when it has pictures of the people I love. Getting a dozen (or however many) pictures printed and going to target or bed bath and beyond and picking up a dozen frames to put out on surfaces is the easiest way to decorate, for me. Hanging things on the walls is both more work and harder to change. If the idea is a quick step to feel like home that’s easy to change, I’d go for standing-frame photos.

  6. Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

    Very minimalist but comfortable. My husband and I like clean, modern lines in neutrals. And we like open space for the sake of open space. Tan floors, white walls, large windows with lots of natural light, glass/stainless steel lighting fixtures, brown/grey/black/glass/steel furniture. We have several blown-glass vases/accents that I really love. I like reds and oranges, so our kitchen does have somewhat of a red theme and we have some red/orange/yellow throw pillows for our brown leather sectional. That’s about all the color we have.

    We never really change the decor. What we have doesn’t really go out of style quickly. But we are in need of a new sofa/chair for our living room due to over a decade of wear and tear…

  7. Veronica Mars :

    I spend a fair amount of time/money on my home decor, but I think I’m held back knowing that I won’t be in this apartment much longer, and my general unwillingness to upgrade my couch/living room furniture to something a bit more stylish. However, I think that I have great taste for all of my wooden furniture (I love the long lines of shaker-style pieces) and that has actually been really affordable (my solid wood, made-in-NC bedroom set was $500 on Craigslist, and my crate and barrel table and chairs was $200–yes, $200!–from a company bulletin board sale. I actually wasn’t planning on keeping the table because I thought it would be too big, but it ended up perfect). I’ve also been very into collecting original art from local artists (as well as some I’ve found online). That’s been a blast because I know I can take it with me to my next place very easily.

  8. I have friends who could make a tent look cozy. One of them actually lived in a yurt for a while and it was the most fantastic looking yurt you could imagine. My place looks semi unfinished, I’d say. We moved in the last year, lived through construction, have some more construction coming up next year, and it’s just hard to decorate through and around all that. I also have very specific taste and so, for me to find things I like, I have to really put the time in (as budget isn’t unlimited); with work and a toddler I just don’t have that time. I hope in a few years we’ll get there. Our last place really only came together about 4-5 years after we moved in.

  9. Before starting my first job in Washington, D.C., I “furnished” my apartment in one Ikea trip on my haven’t received-my-first-paycheck yet budget. This year, I chose one area of my apartment each month (entryway, bathroom, kitchen, home office, patio, bedroom, living room) and “finished” it. While I kept most of the Ikea furniture, I upgraded the accessories (rugs, lamps, pillows, throws, kitchenware), hung artwork, and selected some purely decorative pieces (candles, faux plants). Because I worked on one small section of my apartment at a time, it didn’t feel overwhelming time- or budget- wise. I cannot tell you what a difference it has made in the look and feel of my place!

  10. Any advice on decorating in a rental, or motivating yourself to make your rental feel like home? I find myself hesitating to commit to decorating because we’ll likely only be in our house another 12-18 months. I know that it would probably make me really happy to have our home feel more decorated and lived in, but with work and a baby on the way, it also seems like a bit of a waste of time and money.

    • Anonymous in Charlotte :

      Hanging stuff on the walls. You probably have some lying around your house already and if you live near a Michael’s they have a great “custom frame express” program that they don’t really advertise which helps give artwork and photographs, etc a custom look. If your item that you want to hang, and it’s a “normal” size (e.g., 8×10 picture) then you can pick out one of the normal sized, in stock frames at Michael’s, take it to the custom framing counter, and they will cut a custom mat for you and assemble the whole thing.

      If the frame is on sale and your item isn’t giant in size, then it will likely cost you less than $50 to have this done.

    • EmIpsaLoquitur :

      Ditto on the wall hangings. We did most of ours through photo prints and frames we caught on sales. If you want some artsy looking stuff, check out online design tools like Canva to build your own inspirational posters/prints. If you’re wary of nails, command strips and hooks are a Godsend.

      A lot of places also sell really cheap throw pillow covers, which will let you switch our designs if the next place needs a new color scheme.

      Also, it’s amazing how much homier a place feels with some indirect lighting. A good floor lamp with a dimmer, a table lamp, etc. will make your rooms feel more lived in than overhead lighting.

  11. We hired a designer for a remodeling job and ended up using her services for decorating too. She charged for the initial consultation, and the design, as a lump sum; the construction oversight was hourly. It was costly but we love love love our townhouse.

    We were consolidating 2 homes and wanted a fresh start. We stuck to contemporary, clean lines with lots of grey, blue and wood. Ditched the dining room in favor of an oversized kitchen island with seating on 2 sides, and have a family room and a living room. We added texture with one wall of wallpaper in the family room behind the TV/bar, another in the “gym” where we have our bikes etc. set up, and more on the master bedroom ceiling. Most of the design centered around a single lighting fixture we fell in love with early in the process that hangs over the kitchen island – I know it sounds odd but it established the theme of straight lines which led to changing arched doorways to squared, round/oval sinks to square/rectangular, squared fixtures, horizontal window treatments etc. All of these choices were made after sitting down with our designer and looking at 3-5 options and selecting one. My efforts to find an alternative ceiling fan taught me very quickly that there’s way too much choice out there, and she knows best what will work in terms of size, function, texture, quality and color. How she figured out the perfect shade of grey to blend with existing travertine floors in a not-so white shade of cream I’ll never know.

    Now we are able to select specific pieces that “fit” because we have an overall theme, color palette so we know if we need to blend or contrast – for example, we have a black leather sectional with multi-colored primary color throw pillows over which we have a very colorful Britto piece hanging. The hardest part has been letting go of things that just don’t work in our space, and forcing ourselves not to purchase things that are on sale because, in spite of my bargain-hunting nature – they just won’t add something special.

    And to echo the others, a cleaning service is such a luxury but after spending this much to get the space we wanted, it’s well worth the $100/2 weeks.

    • Anon prof :

      This sounds terrific. What city are you in, and how did you find the designer?

      • turtletorney :

        seconded. I would love to meet someone like this.

      • Miami and we found the designer because a friend of my mom, who lives in a condo, was using her and she came to the condo to give a brief presentation on the services offered which I attended with my mom. The key was that not only does she do design/construction, she offers unpacking and arranging for people moving, free consultations, and single day “you leave for 8 hours and we’ll rearrange everything to make it look new and be more user-friendly” services. I have to think people elsewhere do this too.

        My mom was so impressed with our project that she had this done on Monday and the designer came in, told her she thinks the condo basics are great and will put together a proposal for a new valance and black-out drapes in the 2nd bedroom, a new bed for the master, and rearranging/downsizing my mom’s own furniture, rugs, art and decor – perfect for mom, and not going to cost her a fortune either.

  12. Best decision I ever made was to make my bedding all white. White sheets, white duvet, white throw pillows, white blanket throw. All different subtle shades and textures. It’s as soothing as a high end hotel or a spa. I really look forward to my soothing bedroom at the end of a long day.

  13. Anon for this :

    We moved in to our new home a month ago now – from our 2 bed rented apartment, to buying a 3 bed, 3 storey townhouse. At the moment about half of the the windows have curtains/blinds, and we have two lampshades in the entire home… hoping to get all the curtains in shortly!

    We have a general colour scheme that we are using: the same grey and white neutrals throughout, plus cool toned pale pink, duck egg blue, teal and touches of mixed metals and black. The best tip I heard is that to help your design flow better, make sure that when you stand in one room the colours are complimentary in all other rooms that you can see into from where you are standing. We’ve decided to make our biggest ‘design choices’ in our master bedroom, which takes the entire top floor, as it has less impact on the rest of the house.

  14. I want to know how people find furniture if they work all the time. We are tired of our 10+ year old furniture but furniture shopping is such a pain — the stores we like are all far apart, we have a 2-year-old, my husband is adamant about sitting on a sofa before we buy it. How do people do this?
    (Yes, I have considered sending him out to just pick something out that he likes, but I’d like to be involved too.)

    (Also BOO to stores that don’t put their inventory online.)

    • EmIpsaLoquitur :

      As much as it sucks, the only good approach might need to find someone to hang onto the two year old for the day and do a marathon of different stores. Even better if you can swing a weekday to do it (less crowded at furniture stores). Maybe it would be easier if you found some examples of what you’re looking for online and brought them with you to the store? That way you can say “We would like something like this” and the sales people can help direct you?

    • Veronica Mars :


  15. Timely post! I’m decorating challenged and recently took on redoing our living room. I am using the online service Modsy. You take pictures of your space and fill out some surveys and they build a virtual design of your actual room and then let you go through some edits with the designers (I think its $70 if you are ok not talking with the designer directly and $200 if you want a phone consultation after the initial design; I signed up for the latter). They are even incorporating the couches I already have. I think the greatest part of the service is that you actually get to see how things will look in your room; takes a lot of the guess work out. My design should be ready in 9 days!

  16. My house is fully decorated and it took me about 3 months, when we originally bought it, with small upgrades here and there. I love decorating though :)
    My strategy is general to collect lots of ideas, I use Pinterest to save all my ideas. If I have a free moment (waiting on my coffee, sitting in a plane, etc) I will jump on Pinterest to browse and pin for future project and decorating ideas.
    A lot of times the pins will link to the actual products! Otherwise I like to shop at Pottery Barn (and their outlet!),, craigslist and Havertys for furniture.
    For decorations I like Home Goods, Kirklands and Target. You can find almost anything there.

    I like keeping the same colors throughout the house, mine are grey paint, white linens, and darker brown woods. I have turquoise/mint accents, that can be changed easily if the color goes out of style, e.g. throw pillows, blankets, vases, etc.

    For a quick fix, some pillows, a vase with fake flowers, some candles (that smell good) and pictures (travel pics or family pics) will make any place more homey and decorated. You could find all of that at Home Goods-the one near me has long hours (open until 10pm) so that should also work for somebody who works late.

  17. While I have seriously considered hiring decorating assistance, I have found satisfaction in doing the work myself, perhaps too slowly. My peers rave about the merit of hiring cleaning help, and I am close to making it happen for myself.

  18. I used a couple of decorators whose niche is affordable decorating. I gave them a budget, we discussed what I liked and needed, they did the shopping and decorated my condo living room in one day while I was at work. I loved it…..almost made me cry when I walked in and saw the transformation!

  19. Hello guyz for any type of fashion or style related blogs go to and get updated.

  20. Thanks for the shout-out Corporette! We love working with busy moms and young professional families!

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