Michael Murray, Rach’s go-to design guru and general manager of Rachael Ray Home, is a pro at creating pretty, personal spaces. He tells you how to ready your home for whatever lies ahead.
white home office with built-in shelves
1. Homey touches keep your home office from feeling sad and sterile. Add soft accents like cozy throw pillows and blankets, as well as personal pieces like your favorite art and photos to make the room a happy one. 2. If you can, arrange your office near a window—it’s good for your eyes and your mind. No window? That’s OK! Liven up the space with warm lighting and natural touches like real or dried plants. 3. You don’t have to buy all new stuff to create an at-home work space. Build it around what you already have, like a simple dining table and mix-and-match chairs.
| Credit: Photography by David A. Land/OTTO

Q: With so many of us spending more time indoors, home improvement projects are on the rise. Where should I invest my time and money?

Two thoughts here: First, zero in on a room in your home that you use daily but dread going into because it's not beautiful or fun. Maybe that's your laundry room; maybe it's your home office. Whatever it is, invest in transforming it into a place where you love being. Paint the walls, improve the lighting, find pretty and practical storage solutions, add a few plants or art pieces you really like. That will give you the biggest bang for your buck (and a serious mood boost). 

Second, create a small space for you. Odds are good that you're doing everything for everyone else all day and failing to give yourself even five minutes and five feet of space. Find a quiet corner of your house and turn it into your corner—a small chair and a lamp, a nice pillow or throw. You don't even have to buy anything. Just curate! Go around your house, find your five favorite things, and put them all together so you have a space that's truly yours.

"Create a small space for you. Odds are you're doing everything for everyone all day. Give yourself five minutes and five feet of space." —Michael

Q: How can I create a flexible work/learn-from-home space if I don’t have a spare room?

One space people often overlook is the open area behind their sofa. If yours is floating in your living room, tuck a small table and chair behind it and you've got an easy office. Keep it simple: A narrow console table works perfectly. If you don't have room behind the sofa, take the doors off a closet, enhance the lighting, and turn it into a semi-open work space or office storage. 

Q: When it comes to style, do I go with future selling points or what I like?

If you don't plan on living out your days in your current home and you're changing something that's attached to the place, go with future selling points. For lighting fixtures, have fun—you can always change those again. Play with paint and pick whatever trendy furniture you please. But for things you're installing, like appliances and cabinetry, make sure they're fairly classic and widely appealing. You don't want to build in an objection for a buyer. 

Q: What are easy ways to upgrade my patio for outdoor hosting?

The first thing you should do is clean the patio. You don't realize how grungy it is until you do. No need to buy a pressure washer; just go to your local hardware store and find the little brass nozzle that turns your hose into a pressure washer. Then go for a simple, eclectic look: a grand, welcoming table, a bunch of random chairs around it, and market lights strung overhead. You can even use two or three inexpensive outdoor tables to make one long table. That's what Rachael would do. She buys vintage chairs and puts them all together. It's about the celebration at the table, not the actual table, so don't stress too much about it looking perfect. 

Have a home design question for Michael Murray? Email us at editor@rachaelraymag.com for a chance to be featured in a future issue!

This article originally appeared in our Winter/Spring 2021 issue. Get the magazine here.