My husband and I bought our house during the summer of 2011. It was ready to move in; no fixer-up work was needed. We spent the first year doing a lot of smaller projects like painting the eat-in kitchen or hanging some pictures on the wall. It wasn't until the summer of 2012 when I was ready to think about renovating an entire room.
Since I was doing more and more An Inkling work, I decided my office was the first room we needed to redo. Before we owned the house, the woman who lived here was a justice of the peace and my office was her office. However, it was used in a very different way. While I do use my office to meet with clients, just as she did, I also need to print/cut/assemble stationery and that takes a different sort of layout. The first thing I really needed to do was figure out exactly what I wanted my office to look like.
The office was painted a pretty harsh yellow. It wasn't a good color and at night, it felt especially dingy. The trim wasn't helping. While the living room and older parts of the house have beautiful dark stained trim, this was painted a generic brown to try to emulate that staining, but it wasn't working. The curtains were dated and bulky. All-in-all, the room felt small and cluttered.
I pinned many ideas on Pinterest and took a lot of shopping trips to Ikea, Pottery Barn and most importantly Home Depot. I looked at many, many paint swatches and spent easily an hour determining which swatches just to take home. The paint color would be incredibly important as I would be working out of my office, so it had to be clean and neutral, not screaming for attention, like my Caribbean blue eat-in kitchen.
I needed to find an object that would inspire me. Usually, I see something and I build an entire project around it. This time the project would be a whole room, so I needed a fun and bold source. I found my inspiration in a rug from Urban Outfitters.
It's a great color and has a pattern that is strong and can be the central focal point of the room. From this one rug, I started to plan out the rest of my office.
Getting to work
I needed a neutral paint for the walls to make sure that the color of the rug really popped. I had to decide between a gray and a beige color. I opted for the beige color because it was a little warmer. I wanted the room to feel warm and inviting. Even though I would be doing work in this room, I wanted it to still be a part of my home and the color I chose was able to really capture both sides.
The trim in the rest of my house is a beautiful dark wood from the 1920s. The trim in the office may have been that beautiful dark wood once upon a time, but as I mentioned above, it was now painted a pretty horrible brown and I could tell there were other layers of paint beneath. I decided the best thing would be to paint the trim white. There was also a large, thick and standard baseboard attached very well to the bottom of all the walls. Instead of fighting it or attempting to take it off and ruin the walls, I chose to add a decorative trim to the top of the baseboard. It made such a big difference without being costly or involved.
Creating a Functional Space
Now that the room was painted and essentially a clean slate, I began to imagine what desks I would need and what would work best for the type of work I do. I needed a desk for my computer and designing, then another desk for slicing and assembling. I went to Ikea and purchased simple white desks with legs. I knew I would need storage, so instead of two sets of legs per desk, I chose to have a set of drawers on one desk and a cabinet on the other.
Storage is something that's incredibly important for me. I have reams of paper, packages of envelopes and other miscellaneous stationery elements that couldn't be out all the time. In addition to the cabinet and drawers, I also picked up a TV stand at Ikea. The great thing about Ikea furniture is that you can use it in multiple ways. Instead of seeing a TV stand, I saw a wall cabinet. I added a sliding glass door to keep one side closed for smaller objects that may be too big for drawers, the other side I use as a bookshelf.
When I got the desks and the cabinet assembled and in place, I couldn't believe how much room I still had. Instead of having the desks on opposite walls like I was planning to do, I placed them side by side on one wall. I decided that I would buy a third craft desk and use the second Ikea desk and a printer table. My printer is a work horse and as such, quite large. I was excited that it would finally be getting its own space.
Now that I knew I had the room to get a craft desk, I needed to figure out what type would be best. I needed something that would fit against the opposite wall that left enough space for the closet door to open freely. It had to be sturdy and have a smooth work surface. I started by searching for desks with the dimensions I needed.
I found the perfect desk from Martha Stewart available through Home Depot. It was the right size, within my budget and even had storage drawers. It was the perfect fit for what I needed. It's important to buy a piece of furniture that fits in with your style and taste, but it still has to work with your needs first. It won't do any good if it looks great and doesn't function well.
I found a matching "Cubby Organizer" on sale at Home Depot for HALF OFF! As you can see in the photo, I have storage underneath the desk, on the desk, and in the desk. I also have a photo ledge above the desk to showcase pieces I'm currently working on. I had an old file cabinet that was black. I spray painted it white to match my office and that also fits under the desk. This is really the most important thing to remember, if you want to be organized (and if you are working out of a home office, you really have to be) you need a place for everything and more places for things you don't have yet!
The functional main furnishings are just one part of the redesign process. I still needed to add things to really make it my office. I put the computer and printer in place on their individual desks. I set up the lamps and put all the supplies in their proper places. The only two things I had on the walls were a cabinet and the photo ledge. I wanted more on the walls that could be functional as well as great looking.
I had received a Pottery Barn gift card about 5 years ago and I had never known what to get. I just kept waiting to find the perfect thing that would speak to me. I saw their Daily system in a Pin on someone's Pinterest board and I thought that would be perfect!
I bought two letter bin systems and one office organizer. I hung one letter bin and the office organizer together on one wall and I put the other letter bin next to my printer so I have a place to immediately put contracts or invoices once they're printed.
I put a decorative mirror I found at Target above my computer (as seen in one of the photos above) to have some extra light reflecting at night.
I have a print of all the neighborhoods of Boston from Ork Posters I received as a gift. Boston is very important to me. It's where I went to school and ultimately met my husband. I lived there for over 10 years until I moved to the 'burbs. Granted, I'm only 14 miles away, but it seems farther, so this poster is very special to me and the focus of one entire wall.
I still have a lot of work I need to do in terms of hanging things on the walls. I have some of my work that I really liked doing I want to have framed and hung. I have my bachelor's degree I want to have framed too. My parents are where I get my DIY'er talent and they just made me a great ribbon board that I also need to hang up. Essentially the one part of my office that still needs work are the walls. I will update this entry with additional photos once I get more things up!
Finding My Focus
Knowing I needed to be able to come into this room and work, I wanted to make sure that I had minimal distractions. I am facing the wall while working at my computer. By facing the wall, instead of out at the room, I increase my focus. I won't notice thing like the mail coming, a car driving by or a cat walking around. It's like having blinders on which is essential when working at home.
I invested in high quality blinds. They're top-down, bottom-up blinds from Blinds.com. I have multiple ways I can open and close them. Most of the time, I have the top of the blinds down. This lets light in through the top of the window. By keeping the lower part closed, this gives me not only privacy, but keeps me from being distracted by what's going on outside. If it's beautiful out and I want to open the windows, I can move the blinds back up. It's important to invest in good quality, long lasting products that enhance your workspace.
I mentioned in an earlier section that I spray painted an old file cabinet to make it work in my new office. In addition to that, I also spray painted an old, cracked, ornate gold frame white and will be putting my logo inside. I'm not sure where that will be going yet, but I want some signage in my office since I do meet with clients in here.
Speaking of clients, in addition to my chair, I needed someplace for them to sit during a consultation. Here's where my DIY'er tendencies kick into gear!
I went to a local antique store to find chairs that weren't in very good shape so I could completely redo them. I found a pair of harp back (or lyre) chairs from around the 1940s. The upholstery was in bad condition. The frame of the chair was nicked, scratched and the finish was starting to crackle.
When I removed the first layer of fabric, I found it had been poorly reupholstered with pushpins relatively recently. Under that layer was a professional reupholster, but the fabric was faded and threadbare; not worth keeping. Under that layer was the original upholstery which was yellowed, stained and in terrible condition. It was being held in place with tiny, rusted nails that had to be carefully removed. Eventually, with a lot of patience, I got the fabric off and could see the broken, half-decomposed padding and wooden seat base. One seat base was able to be salvaged, but the rest needed to be thrown away.
Again, I'm not very good at remembering to take before photos, so I don't have records of the layers of upholstery, but the "before" photo above definitely gives you an idea of how these chairs looked prior to redoing them. Once I got them down to the frame, I filled in any gouges and sanded down the finish. I spray painted with Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch Semi-Gloss White. I only bought two cans thinking that would be enough, but I had to do 2-3 coats on each chair, so I needed 4 cans. Luckily spray paint is affordable and has a pretty good finish on furniture.
I went to Home Depot and had them cut a new seat base for the one chair that I couldn't salvage the original. It was angled, however, so when I got home, I needed to trace the original base and use a jigsaw to cut proper angles for the seat. I went to Joann's Fabrics and bought two foam cushion bases, cut those to size and wrapped batting around each cushion and seat base.
I cut the fabric to size and stapled everything in place. This is a lot of trial and error. Fabric can have a mind of it's own. Be prepared to staple, pull, staple, pull, remove staple, re-staple, repeat. Patience and taking your time will result in cushions that look great. I screwed the reupholstered seat base back to the frame.
I couldn't be happier with how they came out. They're very comfortable and for less than $30 a really great bargin!
Working out of your home can be difficult. There can be lots of distractions and it can be hard to get motivated with the TV and couch beckoning you to catch up on your DVR'ed shows. Making a clean and organized workspace that fits your needs and your personality makes it so much easier to find focus and bring out your creativity. This is the one room in my house that is completely mine and has only my own work and supplies in it. If I had to share my office with the dining room or living room, it wouldn't work. I am lucky to have an entire room I was able to convert into a home office. If you don't have that kind of space, turn a closet or a curtained-off section of a room into your workspace. You need a completely you, completely separate space to work and create in.
All of this redesign came from the inspiration I felt from a simple rug. Keep an eye out for objects that immediately grab your attention and that you have to have. These objects speak to us for a reason. I built an entire office around this one element. It doesn't have to be a large object either! Something as small as a vase or a photo frame could be your source of inspiration.
Research before buying anything, unless you absolutely love the object and have to have it. Even then, make sure it has a return policy in case it really doesn't work out the way you thought it would. Don't be afraid to experiment! I bought five different yards of fabric to choose for my client chairs. I chose the yellow Suzani print, but I still have four other yards to use for different projects! If you decide something doesn't work, you can always remove it, repaint it or return it.
Take your time! I did this room over the course of two months. I still have things I want to do even now, six months after the redesign. Just like any other room, it's never really completely finished because you'll get new things or want to adjust and update the room in some way eventually.
The most important thing I can say about any major project is that you are putting yourself into it; your time, your emotions, sweat and hard work. When you are finished, it's incredibly rewarding. While some aspects may be frustrating or hard to figure out, have a good time! You're making something for yourself that you'll actually get to use when it's finished. There's no better feeling than knowing you made this and it's yours!
You can view most of my office purchases by following me on Pinterest.