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  • Writer's picturesianynleigh

Office Make Over

I am a big fan of DIY. It's cheap, provides a creative outlet, and is a great way to spend a weekend. But mostly cheap. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a beautiful piece of decor, looked at the price and shuddered, "Aw, hell nah. I'll just make it myself."

This isn't always the cheapest avenue, of course, but it makes me feel like I'm getting more value out of it because it was my labor that brought it into existence. Bonus points for getting to make it look exactly the way I want it to.

This is one of the reasons (okay, only reason) I'm a big proponent of owning your own home. You can do what you like to it and a landlord can't stop you. Shag carpeting on the walls? Sure. Elvis did it, why not you? A three story cattery in the backyard? Go for it. Nothing is too weird if it's what makes you happy.

Making some unorthodox changes can make some homeowners nervous. What if you want to sell the house later and nobody likes your improvements? You either deal with it and stay where you are, or spend just as much money, if not more, transforming it back the way you found it before you made it your own special den. (More on what renters can do to make their place more comfy in a later post.) You could compromise and not change it in the first place, or pick a style you're not excited about, but a nice couple from Wisconsin would be twenty years down the road when you're ready to move on.

Or, you could say screw it, your own happiness and comfort is more important, and do what you like. Yep, that's my approach.

Just as the vast majority of homes, my house had white walls. Or white-ish. Or what might have been white at one point but had somewhat yellowed over the years from sun, age, dust, and cooking smoke. But I digress. The point is, it was bland, devoid of character, lacking any spark whatsoever that made me feel happy simply to be within the walls of my own home. Great approach for selling, terrible for living.

I'm the kind of girl who likes to live in color, and lots of it. As long as my eyes still work, I'm going to dazzle them. When I set out to revamp my domicile and make it my personal habitat, I started with my office. It's where I spend most of my time and the place I need to be in the best headspace. My day job is dull and mindnumbing, so my space had to be the opposite to keep me going all day. I'm also a creative, so having an area that inspired me and kept me in the creative mindframe was also key. The bland, white on beige on brown look wasn't doing it for me. My furniture wasn't that great, either. My dual-desk set-up consisted of one vintage metal doctor's exam table a horrible color so treacherously called Biscuit, and a standard office-gopher desk in standard office navy. Boring. I didn't have shelving either, leaving no options to display my collections of random things.

Plain, no shelving, and a bit messy.

First thing I did was paint the metal desk a nice bright teal. This was more of an experiment, to see if I was even capable of transforming pieces on my own. I was! But I did make one crucial mistake. I forgot to seal the paint afterwards, so in the month since, several areas of the paint have scratched off from normal wear and tear. I'm going to live with it for now. When it really starts to bug me, I'll just paint it again and make sure I add a generous coating of protection.

Next, I painted the navy desk a lovely lavender. I learned my lesson from the first desk and added two coats of high gloss lacquer over the top to protect the paint job. It's holding up great. Then, it was time to move on to the walls. I needed a color that would be soothing, yet inspiring. I wanted it dark and just skirting the edges of neutral. Something I could look at day after day and always think, "I don't hate this color." I chose Black Amethyst, a deep, aubergine hue that blends well with a variety of other colors.

Some In Progress pics

My house is rather small, my doorways very narrow, and my furniture very big. There was no way I could move everything out of that room by myself, so I settled for shuffling it around in a circle every time I finished a section of wall. It was cumbersome, but it worked. Plastic sheeting protected my items from paint splash, because you better believe I was making a mess. The room is a standard small bedroom and didn't even take a whole day to paint. I layered on one coat, let it dry a couple of hours, slapped on the second coat and let it dry, then darkened any spots I'd missed. There were quite a few spots, as the wall is textured (damn whatever sadist came up with that idea). I left it to fully dry overnight.

The next day was the fun part - putting everything back in a layout that was both functional and pleasant. A few days before, I'd built a shelf for some of my books and figurines. Inspired by industrial luxury and my need for something with a classic yet elegant look, I chose a PVC pipe pattern in gold and silver. It's a full DIY project on it's own, so I'll have to do a separate post for it later. I still need a second shelf to achieve sweet, sweet symmetry and I'll be sure to document my process.

So many colors!

And there you have it, the finished product. Lots of rich, glorious colors and all the art and books I love the most to keep me calm, happy, and motivated. I hope to one day switch that hideously ugly carpet out with some schmancy laminate flooring, but that's out of the budget for now.

How did the cost of this project stack up? Wall paint came to about $40, plus another $30 on top of that for plastic sheeting, rollers, brushes, and trays. The paints for the desks totaled around $20. The only furniture I purchased for this redo was the DIY shelving, and I'm sad to say that ended up being pricier than I intended at a total cost of $115. That had a lot to do with the materials I used and it certainly could have been done cheaper. I also made a writeboard to hang on the wall with plexiglass and paint for another $20. The rest of the items I have been gathering over a long period of time, long before I painted the room, so I'm not including them in the cost. That put the total at about $235 for the room. Not dirt cheap, but I am happy with what I was able to manage.

If you ever embark on a make over project for your home, follow your heart and strive to make it look the way you want. You'll feel more comfortable in your space and have pride in knowing you did something in a way no one else could have done. You did you, and that's the most inspiring thing of all. If you decide you hate it or need to move homes, you can always change it again.

This has by far been the best work space set-up I have ever had, as well as the biggest. I don't foresee wanting to change it anytime soon. It's right where I want it to be.

The author, with a disapproving King Thranduil lurking behind.

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