De-Stress THAT MESS ®


Every surface of this accountant's office was so covered with papers that he wouldn't let Judy in to see it on their first meeting. Since all of his clients' files were active for a full year, he felt they needed to be available to him -- lying on his desk or some other piece of furniture in this small space. (This Park Avenue firm allotted all of the accountants the same size office, partner or not -- and the furnishings were mostly '50s and '60s.)

Only when the client file was completed (at the end of the fiscal year) would he allow it to be placed in the filing cabinet. This had a disastrous effect -- an office in which it was impossible to work, with every surface covered with piles of papers 2 to 3 feet high. An office which was such an embarrassment to him that clients were never allowed to enter. It was a wonder to everyone how he found anything.

Judy understood that for this client the mantra was "Piles, not files." She worked around his habits, not against them. She also didn't argue with his desire to keep his artwork, desk chair, desk, guest chair, as well as some other existing furniture for the new conference room. Judy had the pieces refinished that were to be reused, choosing a design palette that included those colors and highlighted the artwork. The rug and multi-colored nubby fabric of the sofa (not visible in the photo) tied it all together.

She then completely redid this senior partner's office and also turned an unused adjoining office into a library/conference room for his and others' use. Wallpaper, paint, moldings, window treatments (note that this was the '80s), a pocket door and new hardwood floors were added. Everyone but he would enter his office through the library/conference room. He had a workspace more appropriate to his position -- and at his request, that felt more homey.

Judy created a system where the in-process files remained horizontal, but hidden, and his desk was the only surface he could reach. This kept the clutter and paper to a bare minimum, and gave him a system that was so easy for him to keep up that he was able, and proud, to see clients in his office for the first time in over a decade. The system was so customized to his work habits that he had no trouble maintaining it.


The first thing a client would see upon entering his office was a small area where they could comfortably discuss the account. This was defined by a small rug --with a loveseat, re-used guest chair, new end tables and new lamp.


The position of his desk was reversed so that he no longer had the windowsill surface to clutter. To further clear the desk surface, a lamp was wall-mounted.

The closed front barrister bookcases in his office held plastic-covered wire trays, each of which held a different client's work and was labelled by a side tag. When he wanted to work on a client, he merely took the horizontal tray out and moved it to his desk, then put it back when he was done, closing the bookcase. This was especially crucial due to privacy concerns -- no client should ever view any financial information relating to another.


The adjoining library/conference room had matching barrister bookcases, but with the traditional glass fronts so that the books could be seen, but would not get dusty. The chairs the client insisted on using were not all the same, but the space still worked.


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