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Home Office Makeover Part Two: What a Difference a Pro Makes

28 Feb
Home office makeover before

Not exactly what we had in mind.

As you know, we’ve been making over our home office to better serve as a command center for world domination.  In Part One of our chronicles, we shared the process of getting the built-in bookcases installed.  Once installed, we thought we were done, just slap those books up there and get back to work!  Well, it turns out that just slapping those books up there made our gorgeous new investment look pretty crappy.  So, once again, we turned to a professional.  Enter Mary Pullen of Redux Home Staging and Redesign, who whipped us in to shape.

You may recall that our little space has to serve a multitude of functions: the Red Chair Market command center (i.e. my office), Mr. Handsome’s office, the family bill-paying and filing station, the guest room and the music room.  It is also the first thing guests see when entering the house, so it has to look good.  That’s a lot of multitasking for 120 square feet, but Mary was undaunted.

In case you haven’t worked with redesigner before, they are generally focused on using what you have in new, creative ways. So the first thing we did was wander around the house to give Mary a sense of our style (or lack thereof) and scope out pieces we could use to spark up the room.  We then retired to the soon-to-be fabulous office to brainstorm a bit.

Her first suggestion was to consider covering the back of the bookcases with burlap.  Hmmm. But, I figured she’s the expert (and she’d done it before) so I agreed to give it a shot.  She thought the sofa area could be more inviting; I had kind of ignored it,  but once she suggested adding a pillow, lamp and small table I could see how neglectful I had been.  We both agreed that a more interesting light fixture was in order, the current one was a basic builder version. Finally, she suggested covering the functional-yet-ugly corkboard with some fun fabric.

Home office makeover burlap shelving

In progress.

So after our first meeting I was armed with a list of ideas and a few things to purchase.  My big score was the $5 chandelier from the Habitat Re-Store,  re-wired by my friends at D&W Lighting.  We reconvened a week later and went to work.  First we tackled the upholstering of the bookcases, which was actually pretty easy.  We just cut pieces about 4″ bigger than the area we were covering (we won’t mention that one little mishap) and folded the top over to make a nice straight line. Then starting at the top, we stapled it to the wood with a light-duty staplegun.  Once the top was in place, we could fold in the edges and staple down the sides, smoothing as we went along.  Burlap is pretty forgiving and even hides the staples, so it was a great way to try out the technique.  I’m totally amazed at how it changed the look of the room, somehow the jumble of books looked less jumbly already.

Next we went to work putting the books back up.  Mary “shopped” my house to find some doodads to break up the books and add some visual interest.  She asked me about my work habits (I fudged) and made sure that things I needed and used every day were accessible.  I think she would have liked to have culled a few books, but when I mentioned it to Mr. Handsome he got a little crabby.  Apparently he thinks bookshelves are for books.  So they all stayed.

Home office makover bookshelves

Nice mix of books and doodads.

Next we re-arranged the console area, using it to house the less attractive items like the printer.  I still had a million papers that I felt as though I needed immediate access to, so she suggested putting the baskets under the console for additional storage. Finally, we found a tiny, forgotten lamp handmade by my Aunt to add light to the sofa area, and added a fluffy pillow and side table.

As you can see, the transformation is amazing.  Most importantly, the Command Center is completely conducive to world domination; not only organized, but a beautiful place to while away the hours.

Home office makeover after

Ta Da! I look like quite the professional sitting here, even if I’m just surfing Reddit.

The “guest room” is also much more enjoyable and functional, both when the bed is open and when it’s not.  The pillow, lamp and table added to the spacealso make it a nice area for me to retire to when Mr. Handsome takes over the desk.

Home office makeover sofa area

Imagine sitting here reading Raymond Chandler with a glass of wine…

Home office makeover guest bed

Cat included, whether you like it or not.

While not ideal, we also have a space for the keyboard for when the kids want to work on their scholarship opportunities; they can use it on the desk and it slides under the sofa when not in use. (It’s not a very interesting picture, so I didn’t include it.)

And finally, we found one more use for the room.  It makes a perfect romantic little place for a dinner celebrating all our achievements.

Home office makeover dining room

Celebration time!

Here are a few other ideas from Mary (and one from me) that made the room a smashing success:

  • We painted all the storage baskets a dark brown (actually an “oiled bronze” which she calls magic paint) so they kind of disappear in to the background.  There are two baskets under the console, see if you can find them!
  • We installed a slide lock on the French door next to the sofa – when that door opens it significantly reduces the usable area of the room.
  • (This was my idea) I covered some foamcore boards with the leftover burlap and used them to cover up the open back of the console, hiding the cords (for some reason cords fill me with great angst).

So! We’re finally done, and it was all worthwhile, especially the help from our pro friends.  Below are a few of the Austin-area resources we used on the project.

Austin-area resources

B-Squared Woodworks

Redux Home Staging and Redesign

Bolt Fabrics – pillow and corkboard fabric (isn’t that faux-bois awesome?)

Capital City Upholstery Supply – cheapest burlap in town

D&W Lighting – rewiring several of my old and “found” fixtures

Habitat Re-Store – vintage chandelier

Home Office Makeover – Know When to Go Pro (Part One: Power Tools)

10 Jan
Before: Not conducive to world domination.

Before: Not conducive to world domination.

Since March, yours truly has been running the soon-to-be-world-d0minant Red Chair Market conglomerate (a division of Erichope Industries) out of her home office.  For those of you who work from home, you know that the joys of working until 3 in your PJs and taking calls while unloading the dishwasher are sometimes offset by the tsunami of stuff most of us have to cram in to our “work” space.  My office doubles as Mr. Handsome’s office, the family filing center, the room of banishment when the kids get loud, and the guest room.  I’m all for small-ish houses, but I would KILL for a real guest room.  And a basement.  My sister, Ms. Almost Perfect (but thankfully dorky enough you can’t hate her) has an enormous basement, and I came home from her house seething with more envy than I ever felt in our adolescence.

But back to the office.  My mother (Ms. McGuyver) visits two or three times a year, and I think this last time it finally was too much for her.  After tripping over a huge stack of papers in her “room” she offered to finance the built-ins we have been dreaming of.  My mother truly deserves her McGuyver moniker (remember the carpet story?), so I’m lucky she didn’t suggest that she and I “just” build them ourselves like she suggested that we “just” re-drywall the living room.  I am proud to say that I can hang drywall, but it’s kind of like saying I’m proud I survived a plane crash.  Not something I want to do again.

Cabinets in progress

Cabinets being built with real tools by grownups.

So I turned to a pro, David Benitez from B-Squared Woodworks, who had done some kitchen cabinets for us.  He is a true craftsman and did absolutely amazing work the first time.  Among my  many home-improvement misadventures I can count the attempt to put up crown molding with just a hand saw and a hammer (if you’ve ever tried this you know it was a disaster). David not only knows how to make everything fit together perfectly, but  he does it with grownup tools with electricity and everything.  And lasers, he has lasers.

Laser level

A laser level is better than “eyeballing” it, trust me.

While he was building them, we cleared out the old bookcase and cabinet and sold them on Red Chair Market (natch).  However we clearly did not do enough weeding out.

Where do we get all this junk?

Where do we get all this junk?

Mr. Handsome and I spent New Year’s Day filling them up with all our stuff, and we have somehow ruined them. Turns out we have a lot of crap, and most of it’s not very pretty.  Given all the functions this room has to serve, we can’t just put up a few leather-bound tomes and sit back with our brandy.

So we’re turning to a pro again, this time Mary from Redux Home Staging and Design, who is going to help us make sense of all this stuff. Stay tuned for Part Two!

A couple of tips for making built-ins office-efficient:

  • Make a list of all the things you’ll need to be storing so that you’ll have a place for everything (we had a file drawer built in). Do you need more or less covered space?  We considered having doors put on the right side shelves to hide the junk.
  • We happened to have several outlets along the wall we were covering, so David worked around them so they’re accessible through the lower drawers and cabinets. He cut the corners cut out of the shelves so you can run cords through them; this way we can have electronics on the shelves. I highly recommend you have outlets put in if you don’t have them, your carpenter can help you design them in the right spot.
  • Make sure at least some of the shelves are deep enough to accommodate bigger items, like a printer.  That’s why we had the lower cabinet section made at 18″ deep.
  • Make sure at least some of the shelves are adjustable so they can accommodate larger items like a TV.
  • Mix up the storage, we have a pull-out file drawer, a top-opening drawer and three small cabinets.

Update: See how it all turned out in Part Two!