Our Office Makeover!

… aka How I Spent My Summer Vacation 😛

Can you believe summer is over already? I can’t. But as sort of a goodbye to it, I wanted to post pictures of my summer project, a complete makeover of our home office.

It all started back in May. After taking my sabbatical I decided not to use my work laptop but instead to get off my butt (and out from in front of the TV) and use the computer in our home office. There was only one problem, our office looked like this:

(Now to be fair these pics were taken after I’d cleaned off the junky brown bookshelf and cleaned and moved the Kat Corner, a corner bookcase we used to store her food and other non-related junk.)

But STILL!!! It was disgusting… and disorganized … and an overall disaster. So I decided to clean it up. And in doing so, I found that the process was broken down into 4 easy steps.

Step 1

I took everything out and moved it to the guest bedroom to be sorted into 3 piles: keep, trash, donate.This is actually really important. For most people, this is all they need to do. A little organization can go a long way, you’d be surprised. But I knew I wanted to do more than organize. When I took everything out, I found that I had a blank canvas (white walls, cream carpet) and so I needed to do more.

Step 2

I talked to James and we agreed to a budget and a plan. Before I got too happy, I needed to talk to my partner in crime and my personal banker and we came to a few understandings: 1) This would not take forever. I had until the end of the summer and since it was my project, I did it on my own and only on my time. No family weekends in the office. 2) This would not cost a fortune. I had a budget of $500. It went up to $2000 if I had to replace broken existing furniture. Lucky for him I’m careful and cheap. More on that later.

Step 3

I started looking for inspiration. At first I started on Google where I found shots like these:

and this…

… and for a while I STRONGLY entertained the idea of creating an office/bedroom with a Murphy Bed. But pretty soon, I let that idea go because:

  1. Ikea stuff can be expensive ($100+) and even more expensive to ship ($150+)
  2. Murphy Bed Frames, Hardware, and Memory Foam Mattresses are even more pricey than that!
  3. Our house can already sleep 5 adults plus James, Lauren, & I, so we don’t really need extra sleep space. Please if we do we’ll just get an air mattress.

So then I went onto Pinterest and started looking for ideas on how to makeover the office we had. I fell in love with images like this…

and this…

… and this…

… and I knew right away what I wanted:

  • Grey Walls
  • White Furniture
  • Modern/Elegant Design
  • Tons of Pictures Everywhere

I talked to James and showed him my ideas and he had a few must haves of his own:

  • Must be a fully functioning office.
  • Must use existing equipment.
  • Not too “girly”.

Now that I had my parameters, I was ready for Step 4.

Step 4

Get to work! Don’t get lost in the ideas. Start doing something. As for what I did, thank GOD for You Tube and other people’s blogs. I researched a TON and learned so much as I went. I could write about it in painstaking detail, but instead, let me take you on a tour. So without any further ado, our new office.

This is the view from the door as you come in. Much better huh? :) To start off, after I cleared everything out, I painted the walls grey and touched up the baseboards in white. Then I removed the top half and moved the desk to the center of the room. Also since it was on a wall and backless, I hand cut, hand nailed, and hand stained a piece of plywood to the back to match the overall look of the desk.

On either side of the desk are the bookcases. The one on the left is the brown on from the “before” picture which I hand painted white. The one on the right is just a $30 white bookcase from Walmart. I hand-miter wood trim and hand nailed it into the top of each bookcase. Then I attached a cafe rod to the front of each and hung fabric over them.

A moment on this: I often notice on other diy images, the bookcases look gorgeous on the inside when they’re done. However, going back to the rule that this had to be a functional office, ours aren’t so nice on the inside. To illustrate, I’ll pull back the curtain:

See the one on the right holds camera equipment, books, old DVDs, and our photo albums…

.. and the one on the left holds office supplies.

Even prior to the make over, anyone who’s ever been into our office comments on the infamous Whiteboard. It’s a place where we write out family goals and note our progress. It’s actually something James has had since long before he and I ever met. It’s origins in our family are rooted in the biblical passages Habakkuk 2:2-3 and Hebrews 12:1. And so of course we had to keep it:

And as you can see it’s got a new little friend…

Yep, Lauren’s got her own magnetic whiteboard complete with washable dry erase markers.

As you can tell from our pre-nap test run, she loved it! And for $25 it was worth passing on the tradition.

Between the two bookcases is a small gallery wall made up of 4 – $10 frames from Target.

I simply printed out 4 random photos I’d taken in black and white and hung them up.

I also installed a 12″ deep shelf for added workspace and to create a nook for the trash can and paper shredder. They actually sell the shelf at Lowe’s. You just have them cut it to the length you want, install your brackets, and you’re done! Top it off with a $5 lamp from Staples and you’ve got a workspace.

Above the desk is a small diy lamp.

I bought a $10 plug-in light from World Market and a $13 lamp shade from Home Goods. I used a file to cut a small opening in the lamp shade, stenciled a pattern on the outside and hung it from the ceiling.

The filing took about a solid hour, but it gave me a newfound appreciation for anyone who’s tried to saw their way out of prison.

If you’re sitting at the desk here’s the view:

I LOVE THAT CHAIR! It is quite possible the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat in. And at $215 it is also the most expensive thing in the office. After shopping around for what to do in that corner I knew I wanted a chair, and that a nice one would cost some $$. So last Sunday I sheepishly ran the figure of $250 by my post-lunch-sleepy husband and as soon as he said yes, I ran to Home Goods before he could change his mind!… then to TJ Maxx… then to Pier 1… then back to Home Goods. I wasn’t going to beat that price for that quality: real leather and made by Serta. It was mine, and I love it.

Another interesting story is the plaque. It says “Follow Your Intuition, Be Smart, Be Brave, Tell the Truth, and Don’t Take Any Sh*t!” It’s actually a quote I heard one morning while folding laundry and watching “The Hills” on MTV. Kelly Cutrone, a major fashion designer, said it to Lauren Conrad, her then intern, when Lauren asked for advice on how to branch out on her own. I think it rings true and definitely inspires me… Plus it’s kind of edgy, which I like 😉

Speaking of accessories for the office, there’s the pillow I made from Target napkins (yaaay fusible web!)…

… and the Target mirror that I love…

… and the diy wall art I made after seeing this Pinterest link…

It’s supposed to represent our family with a little heart over the city where each of us is from.

And last but not least, the gallery wall:

Back in the old office we had a ton of frames piled in the corner, so this was my attempt to get them on a wall. It’s got important stuff like all our diplomas…

… and certificates…

And it’s got sentimental stuff like a photo of the first project I ever built…

… a Dallas Cowboys poster Gummy gave us for Christmas…

… and plaque of James and his boys from college Brian and Cory…

… just a good mix of stuff.

And that’s it! That’s our new office. Is it perfect? No! In fact, there’s still a ton of little tweaks I want to do like put real doors on the bookcases and get this one data cable off the floor…

But it’s definitely come a long way from what it was and we’re pretty pleased with it.

So for anyone considering maybe taking on their own home improvement projects, try using my 4 steps. Start small, work with what you have, and be sure to give yourself a break. DIY isn’t easy, but in the end it’s so worth it. 😉

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  1. Jessica says:

    Wow!! Props where props are due. This room looks really nice. I love how you offset the grey with pops of yellow. And the overhead lamp is really cute. Now for those pesky wires :-)

  2. Poppa Hales says:

    Wow honey,
    A very intense blog post. Yeah, i noticed the “post lunch – sleepy husband” comment. Yeah I was not in my right mind to veto the chair….but all and all I’m glad you got it. Really makes the office look great! Glad you do good work and good “cheap” work :)

    On to the next project…you got 5 weeks before you go back to work……I need a new mailbox.

  3. Linda says:

    The office looks great!!! The colors suit everyone in the house….I’ve got a couple of rooms you can work on. I’ll call you to get some ideas!!!!!

  4. Ricky says:

    Forget four steps. You and James may have to make a trip to Laurel! That’s amazing on a $500 budget. I’m sure that mailbox is going to go to the post office and get the mail itself.

  5. Edwina says:

    Ash you did such a great job!!!! You can see the love and care you took to making this room truly represent your inspiration. Great job!

  6. Edwina says:

    Oh and be happy you have a husband that is open to you painting walls, Kimothny says that’s a no no, so I have to add color with accessories however, we have the House of Brown :-)

  7. admin says:

    Thanks guys! And thanks Edwina!! James insists on brown for everything, so I’m just happy to have my one room of color… even if is grey 😉

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