This happened a while back (the weekend before Valentine’s Day this year–I think the aftermath of a blizzard had just melted and I was itching to do something), but I thought I’d share it with you in preparation for a smallish before-and-after project I’ll be writing about later this week. Our office, when we moved in, was a dark little room (fun fact: there are no windows in our condo–only doors, one in each room) with dark green paint and a big closet. Other than putting up a bright yellow pegboard, we basically ignored the place, throwing stuff in there at random and only cleaning it when we needed to do something in there. In addition, the yellow pegboard had the charming effect of making it look like the headquarters of the John Deere fan club (which, being in mid-Missouri, is probably actually housed a couple of blocks away).

It’s incredibly embarrassing to show these “before” photos, but our relationship is new and fragile, dear reader, and I’d hate to start it with dishonesty. So…here’s the mess in its previous state.

the office before

Oh, no. Oh, oh, no.

So aside from its state of general disarray, which was terrible enough, these were the problems with the office:

1. Too much furniture, not enough planning. Our previous place was a 250-sq-foot apartment, with no room for any decent-sized sewing tables, desks, etc. To get around this, I’d accumulated small pieces–the butcher-block-topped kitchen cart, the 3-drawer green storage thingy, a bunch of plastic bins under the folding table that served as my desk. With a reasonably-sized room to use for the office, there was no need to make do with all these scattered little pieces.

2. Useless items cluttering the place. Unfortunately, my brain was ruined by Toy Story as a child, and I now seem to be under the impression that inanimate objects have feelings. To keep myself from turning into an episode of Hoarders, I have to step back and purge once in a while. Jimmy is helpful with this, as he’ll gleefully throw away half my stuff if I let him. Chief among my concerns here: getting rid of the no-longer-in-use old gaming PC in the corner, arranging the stuff on the wall into an aesthetically pleasing configuration, moving non-office things into other rooms (crystal champagne flutes from New Year’s, cans of Lysol and Febreze that belong in the bathroom, electric blue wig on styrofoam head).

3. General lack of aesthetics. When we moved in, I thought a yellow pegboard would make the place look cheerful. Jimmy liked the green walls and didn’t want to paint them, and since I coerced him into painting practically every other room in the house, I conceded this point. Once I painted the pegboard and hung it, though, it looked horribly tractor store-like, but we said “eh” and left it alone. Combined with the awful stick lamp, the dark, damaged folding table standing in as a desk, the old black swivel chair, and basically everything else, the lack of planning here was painfully obvious.

So, in a fit of righteous fury, I tore everything out of the office and declared that at least half of it couldn’t go back in. We listed most of the furniture on Craigslist, took the cash we got from that, and went shopping. I had a little money saved already, so I imposed a budget of $200 to get the office in shape. We decided that keeping the green walls meant we needed to brighten up the room with the accessories, so I planned to make everything else in the room glossy, modern white.

I straight-up hated the yellow pegboard (although I like yellow!) so it was the first casualty: I brushed on three coats of white paint, followed by two coats of glossy polyurethane, with it still mounted on the wall. While it was drying, we tackled the desk. We decided quickly that a new desk would be too expensive, and while the folding table was ugly, it was functional. So we bought plywood and trim strips and built a new top for it. While we were at it, we put up a shelf at the same height along the perpendicular wall, to use as a little “counter.” Here’s an in-progress shot (with Jimmy diligently working on the trim):

office-in-progressWe cut a piece of plywood to size and glued it to the top of the table (hence all the heavy objects weighing it down so it didn’t bow). Then, we took 1/4″ by 2″ flat trim strips and nailed them all around the edge of the table with teeny-tiny finishing nails. We didn’t glue them first, but if we were to do it again, I would–it’s a lot easier for the paint to crack if there’s no glue holding it in place. Once the wood was all assembled (we continued the trim onto the “counter” to make it look more like one seamless piece) we painted it with the same paint/poly combo as the pegboard and it was lookin’ gooooood.

Then it was time to deal with the wall decor. After getting a coupon in the mail, I hit up Kohl’s. There I picked up some white cube shelves (2 sets), a sticky chalkboard decal, and a handful of brushed nickel frames with nice white mats. I made some paper cutouts of the new wall decor and arranged them until I was happy with them, then got them up on the wall (along with an awesome Ben Folds poster made by my friend Ben Chlapek). I hung a white paper lantern from Pier 1 in the corner to replace the horrible stick lamp, and then hung a gauzy white clearance curtain to cover the cord. Here’s a (sadly blurry) photo pre-curtain…

wall decorOnce all that hard work was over, it was just a matter of finding some finishing touches and getting it all organized. Are you ready for the “after”? Here goes…


office-afterAhhhhhhhhh. Isn’t that better? Organized, cohesive, and making a lot better use of the space. We came in under our $200 budget, so mission accomplished! Here’s the breakdown:

  • Wood & paint: $40 (from Lowe’s)
  • Ikea Jules chair: $0 (given to me by my friend Josh, who was also renovating)
  • White Flokati rug: $20 (from Wal-Mart)
  • 2 sets of cube shelves: $17 (Kohl’s, originally $17 each, with 50% coupon)
  • Chalkboard decal: $10 (Kohl’s, originally $20 each, with 50% coupon)
  • 3 brushed nickel frames: $13 (Kohl’s, originally $26, with 50% coupon)
  • Paper lantern with cord: $20 (Pier 1)
  • Gauzy white curtain: $2 (Wal-Mart, on clearance)
  • Desk lamp: $21 (Wal-Mart, $15 for lamp, $6 for shade)
  • Clear book stands: $4 (Wal-Mart, $2 each)
  • Porcelain swan and lotus bowls: $5 (Pier 1, $2.50/each)
  • TOTAL: $152


To organize all the tools and writing utensils that wouldn’t work on the pegboard, I took some cans, designed covers for them in Illustrator, and printed them on cardstock I already had. I just used regular double-stick tape to attach the covers to the cans.


Here’s a closeup of the corner of the desk with the lamp, cans and one of the picture frames (with one of my favorite pictures of my bridesmaids from the wedding).

desk accessories

And my cute porcelain swan bowl and lotus bowl from Pier 1 on clearance.

We’re a lot happier with the result; it’s a nice, usable space I actually want to spend time in now, with a lot of room to work. There are one or two small projects to finish up, and I’ll be posting about those as they happen. What do you think–improvement??