Well known for her appearances as a DIY Queen on Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch, Jo Behari is an all knowing guru when it comes to home decoration and DIY.
At the Open University Students Association’s bienneal conference hosted in late January 2022, delegates were lucky enough to attend a presentation and Q&A where Jo taught us how to design the perfect study space.
Plenty of questions were submitted by delegates for Jo to answer, but we just didn’t have time for all of them!
We spoke to Jo to get the answers to the rest of your burning questions, and more.
The Hoot: Thank you for sharing more of your knowledge with us, Jo. What would be the top three main things we should focus on when trying to create a functional study space?
Jo: 1) Try and get as much natural light or simulated natural light in as possible, even if that means you need to reflect it into the space using mirrors or glossy surfaces.
2) Try to incorporate storage, even if it’s just a series of open boxes on the floor under your desk if they have a sense of order and purpose they will be suitable storage space to make your study area feel less cluttered and help you concentrate.
3) Get some nature in, plants will clear the air and provide a sense of calm in your study space making it easier to concentrate.
The Hoot: How do DIY and interiors affect mental health, and how can we manage this? What soothing ideas can I bring into my study room?
Jo: A cluttered home can create a stressed mind, and now we are all spending more times in our homes than ever before it’s really important to ensure we don’t feel stressed in our interior environments.
Decluttering is a great way to sooth the mind and having a place to store things in your home is equally important.
Plants, colour and soft furnishings are a great way to bring joy and happiness into our homes. Choose things that make your smile and it will lift your heart and soul when you look at them.
To make your study area more soothing choose green colours and some air purifying plants. Also something like an atomiser to bring in some aromatherapy to the space, this can be very calming but also different essential oils can also be very uplifting and motivating if you are struggling to get that essay written.
Devil’s Ivy is great at purifying air and also thrives in low light conditions, so it makes an ideal desk plant.
The Hoot: Why do you recommend green for use in a study space, and what if green isn’t right for me?
Jo: Greens are great for that calm zen like feel. Its a low wavelength colour and those are the ones that you need for concentration.
Orange is great for mood lifting colour to get you going, and blue is said to be the colour of productivity. But that being said, I am always an advocate of choosing colours you love. If you paint a space in a colour that makes your heart sing, then you’ll be happy to spend time in that space and feel motivated when you are in there.
The Hoot: Are there any plants that you would recommend that would survive in a space with very little natural light, or are particularly good for study spaces?
Jo: Devil’s Ivy is great at purifying air and also thrives in low light conditions, so it makes an ideal desk plant.
Spider plants are also very hardy and can weather most conditions. It’s another great air purifying plant and it’s trailing leaves can be great for that cascading look on a book shelf.
Finally a peace lily brings a little bit of colour and is super hardy so will work well for dimly lit areas and great for those people who forget to water their plants on occasion (guilty!).
The Hoot: You gave us some really good tips about room dividers at conference. If room dividers aren’t an option due to the placing of your desk; how would you disguise an ugly office chair in your living room or bedroom work space?
Jo: Soft furnishings for sure, invest in a blanket/throw that really makes you smile and chuck that over your ugly office chair. The pattern and the fact it makes you smile will stop you thinking about that ugly (yet ergonomically comfy) chair, especially if you accessorise with a nice cushion too.
The Hoot: You also spoke about using tension-rods in archways and alcoves to hang curtainsand hide study areas. What if I had an alcove but it is was narrow to completely enclose my desk – is there any way that I could hang a curtain when I don’t have two vertical points for a tension rod?
Jo: Yes you could use curtain wire and hang it off two hooks instead. Or even use curtain brackets hung from the ceiling above to hold a curtain rail. It really depends on the space but don’t think curtains need to just be hung over the window. Maybe try a movable clothes rail instead.
Essential oils can also be very uplifting and motivating if you are struggling to get that essay written.
The Hoot: Are there any places would you recommend for reasonably priced furniture for students on a budget, that is still fairly decent quality?
Jo: Yes, facebook marketplace, gumtree, nextdoor – all of these places are great for buying furniture secondhand.
Look for things you like the shape of and that work for you in terms of functionality. You can always change the look with paint, vinyl stickers, and by changing the handles – so don’t let the way it looks put you off it the functionality and the price work for you.
Ikea gets a bad wrap but it does actually do really good quality functional furniture. If you can’t get there yourself, there are companies that will buy, deliver and even build for you. Or buy second hand, that way it’s already built for you!
Don’t be afraid to look for second hand furniture in vintage shops and antique shops – they aren;’t always as expensive as you think and they often hold their value (as well as being robust to stand the test of time) so you may even buy a piece the increases in value and you can make money when you come to sell it. Remember if you love it, it’s worth the investment as you will be happy spending time using that item.
If you’d like to discover more of Jo’s wisdom, head to her Instagram or take a look at her latest book, The Tool Book.