It's time to share the behind the scenes of our office makeover with you all. If you follow along with me on instagram you know that there have been a few *ahem* challenges with this project. As a person who manages life with anxiety and depression, unexpected difficulties are a top source of overwhelm for me. So naturally, I decided that taking on a year's worth of DIY projects and accompanying blog posts was completely reasonable and not at all daunting.
While taking on this challenge feels a little bit crazy right now, starting here in my home office makes a lot of sense. One of the greatest lessons I have learned in successfully supporting my mental health is to compartmentalize the different aspects of my life, allowing better focus on the tasks at hand. Having a dedicated space to run the shop is a great way for me to separate my life as a wife & mother from my job as business owner even though they operate under the same roof. I am really loving the way that the office is shaping up, and I hope it will be as functional in practice as it is in principle.
The focal point of the room is probably the best place to start the discussion of our process. As I shared previously, we are undergoing these projects with a limited budget, using as many materials we have on hand as we can, and trying to limit our spending. In an effort to cut down on cost, we opted to recreate the look of built-in bookcases by fancying up some affordable bookshelves from Ikea rather than build or purchase a fully custom piece. Although budget friendly, these pieces represent the largest expenditure in the room, but they've also given us the most laughs and opportunity for creative moments.
I should have known things were about to go sideways with this project when we were about halfway to IKEA and it occurred to me that we were driving a Toyota Corolla. How on Earth were we going to put four bookcases (even flat packed in the most efficient Swedish way) in this tiny car? I brought this very fact up to Neil as we were driving and he just shrugged his shoulders and reassured me that we'd figure it out. Easy for him to say! After purchasing the bookcases, almost certain they would never fit, I inquired about their delivery service just in case we couldn't get them in the car. They would happily deliver them to us for $200! This would increase the cost of our shelves by 50% - it was not happening. Armed with a renewed spirit of determination, we somehow managed to get all four of those bookcases into the car and still have room for the two of us. I *may* have been squished against the dash the entire trip home, but we all made it back to the house without consequence, and for no additional charge. I only wish I had thought to take a photo at the time!
Assembly of the bookshelves went smoothly. I have put together enough Ikea furniture in my lifetime, that troubleshooting their instructions is a fairly straightforward process. However, once we put them into place, we discovered our next speed bump in the project - (I have to preface this story with the fact that I am a self-proclaimed math nerd, and numbers are typically my specialty) -the space that was going to perfectly fit my combination of four bookcases plus a worktop was not quite so perfectly measured. Somewhere along the way, I dropped about 10 inches from my figures and my worktop space was not the correct scale to visually balance the shelves. So while it "fit" on paper, it looked terrible in real life.
So, after a quick pity party, Neil pointed out a simple feature of the room I had overlooked- the French Doors opposite the bookcases are not centered on the room. The easiest solution to my problem is to mirror the design of the doors, and remove one of the narrow bookshelves from the right side. While the "built-ins" are no longer symmetrical (the horror!) they do mimic the shape of the room and are in balance with the doorway, so we are rolling with it. Crisis averted, problem solved, moving on.
Now before we began the process of creating the "built-in" look, I needed to apply wallpaper to my feature wall. Since we have orange peel texture on our walls, Neil went ahead and sanded the wall down for a smoother application and better finished look. We learned the hard way on a previous project that while wallpaper will stick to textured walls, it doesn't look as good as it can.
Then, I began the tedious task of installing the wallpaper. While I have used traditional pasted and pre-pasted wallpapers in the past, I used peel and stick paper for the first time with this project. I fell in love with the pattern and it was only available in peel & stick, so I figured how different could it be? HAHAHAHA It's very different y'all. In my opinion, applying peel & stick is way more difficult than a traditional pasted paper. If I ever recover from my frustration, I may write a blog post comparing them.
Despite my difficulties with the wallpaper installation, I absolutely adore the finished wall. I'll share more about this wallpaper and the very personal reason why I selected it in the project reveal post. With the paper on the wall, we could move on to creating our built-ins and building the worktop. Neil constructed the worktop from pine 2 x 8's fastened together by pocket screws, and cut them down to fit the gap between the bookshelves. One end of the table is mounted to the wall, and we used adjustable table legs on the other end. The worktop is counter-height since I like to stand while I prepare and pack shop orders. Yay for no more back pain!
Above the work table in between the two bookcases I wanted to put a pegboard so that I could keep all of my shipping supplies right where I need them. However, the pegboard needed to look finished rather than simply floating there, so Neil and I decided to use the extra narrow bookshelf (remember the one that didn't fit?) to create a bridge between the two sides. He measured out the gap and cut down the bookcase into a box. The box was then mounted to the wall in between the bookcases, but slightly higher, so I could maximize my pegboard space. It gave the bookshelves a really lovely built-in look, and tied the two sides together into one big unit.
Now that the bookshelves are installed, this is where the magic happens, and these budget bookshelves really start to look higher end. We purchased trim to create the look of crown moulding, and added some leftover lumber to the base of the bookshelves (there is not enough clearance for traditional baseboard!). In order to recreate the look of real baseboard, Neil used his router to add a decorative detail to the boards, then used a nail gun to secure them in place.
Once the decorative trim was added, it was time to finish the piece. This meant using caulk to finish off the edges where the moulding was added, and cover any gaps in between the bookshelves. I also opted to fill in the holes for the adjustable shelving with caulk to further mimic the look of traditional built-ins. If I ever need to adjust the shelves down the road, I can simply use a thumbtack to pop the caulk out of the holes. Then, I painted the new trim and the peg board to match the Ikea units. In order to get the right shade, and avoid repainting the entire thing, we opted to color match the paint, and only cover what was necessary. To do this, you just need to bring one of the shelves into your local home center or paint store and ask for a color match. We also purchased the paint in a satin finish, which was a perfect match to the factory sheen of the pieces from Ikea. After the paint dried, I added new hardware to finish off the shelves once and for all. I'll save the final look for the reveal!
One of the other major headaches in this room makeover was my chair painting project. Many of you followed along with this DIY fiasco in instagram stories. If you aren't familiar with my particular brand of crazy, I decided to repurpose a chair from another room in the house to create a cozy seating area in the bay window of the office. Since purchasing a new armchair was not in the budget, I opted to chalk paint an upholstered recliner we already had. (Yes, I know this sounds insane.) While the chair was in perfectly usable shape, the pattern of the fabric was not the look I was wanting for this newly refreshed room. So, I wanted to try a fabric painting technique I have seen on numerous blogs that I read and love. So with a 1:1 mixture of water and chalk paint, I began the painstaking process of covering the chair. After four coats of paint (with a 24 hour dry time between each!) I was frustrated and desperate for better coverage of the original fabric. This DIY was becoming an epic failure!
I really wanted to throw in the towel at this point. This was not working, it looked terrible, and I was feeling emotionally crushed by all of the discouraging messages that were sent by complete strangers on social media about how I should have never done this in the first place. But, I was at a point of no return. I had already come this far, and I still needed a chair for this room. So, I kept going, but decided to make the paint a little darker by adding a deep charcoal gray that I had on hand. This made all the difference! In a fortunate twist, I actually like this new color WAY better than my original choice. Two coats of darker paint, and this chair was ready for her new home in the office. After the final coat of paint dried, I sanded the paint down with 220 grit sandpaper (again, insane) but this did wonders for softening the finish. The final step in the process was to cover the fabric with a coat of clear wax, which works to moisturize and protect the painted surface. (Eventually, I will create a separate blog post for this project. I have so much to add about the experience, but this has already become an extremely long-winded post.)
The final steps for this room included adding new window treatments and replacing the ceiling fan with a new light fixture. We removed the original blinds and replaced them with cordless bamboo rolling shades, and added curtains to the window to add a little cozy softness. Adding curtains to a bay window can be a difficult (and expensive) task, but the flexible curtain wire we found at Ikea was the perfect solution to the window shape.
Now that the "building" portion of the makeover is complete, my most favorite part of designing any room can begin- the decorating. I'll be painstakingly styling my new bookshelves for several days until I get them "just right" in time for the reveal. We've worked so hard on this room over the last several weeks, and it is exciting to see it all come together, despite the obstacles we faced along the way.
Stay tuned for the reveal, I can't wait to show you our very first finished space!
If you've missed any parts of our renovation project, you can find them here: