Office Makeover

I am an incredibly lucky freelancer. Although I live in New York City — a place notorious for cramped apartments and ridiculous rents — I have my very own home office. It’s not big, but it’s all mine. And it used to be a pretty sad space.

Sad, sad junk yard

You can’t tell from the photo, but this tiny room held two desks, two bookshelves, two filing cabinets, and a bunch of other random crap (that black thing sticking up behind the ‘before’ is Soren’s guitar case). Cramming all that in was quite a feat when you consider that I had to work around the room’s three doors (two entrances and a closet), two windows, and one radiator. In the above photo, you’re looking in from the hallway. I should have taken a few more shots of the old office, but you can’t blame me for not being inspired. My office needed a major overhaul. And FINALLY it got one. 

Here’s a view of that same corner today. SO. MUCH. BETTER. Even the cat thinks so.

New and improved!

Is it perfect? Of course not. I still have too much stuff. I’m a journalist and hoarding is in my blood — hence the boxes piled up under my desk and the stacks of magazines. My home is never going to look like something you would see in a design magazine. Still, I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.

My husband, Soren, is a weirdly excellent drawer of floor plans. So I asked him to whip up a sketch of my office to give you a better sense of how everything is laid out.

Want to see some more photos? Let’s just pretend you said yes.

Here’s a shot of my new standing desk (really just a wide shelf set at standing height). I think this rug (in turquoise) would look killer laying in front of it.

The chevron desk skirt I made hides two filing cabinets, a space heater, my sewing machine, a bunch of cords, and some other miscellaneous junk.

Here’s the door that goes to the hallway (left) and Soren’s closet door (right). That shelf would look so much better if it were white. Or if it were styled. Or if it were this shelf. (The hand saw is there because . . . well, you never know when a saw will come in handy. Best to be prepared.)

I received this tiny dog stapler as a gift from a very thoughtful seven year old, and I picked up the clock at a flea market in Bogota, Colombia.

Here’s a shot of Soren’s closet and the window that looks out on the backyard that we aren’t allowed to use. (Bah, landlords!) Those blinds aren’t doing that window any favors. And that lamp is really ugly. Maybe someday I’ll get a new one. Maybe someday I’ll replace the board on top of the radiator with an actual radiator cover. But probably not. It’s a rental, after all.

Izzy (aka cat, kittens, tiny tot, lemon). She is a terrible secretary.

Some of you may recognize this cow. It was at our wedding standing next to the cheese plate.

The muse most journalists need.

These boxes have been great for storing craft supplies. I used letter stamps and shipping tags to make the labels.

Sometimes I take pictures of myself holding informative signs. This one helps me remember that I’m self-employed. Just in case I forget. Because that would be really embarrassing. You can tell by my expression that I take my job very seriously. (Yes, that is a headset I’m wearing. Just call me Janet Jackson.)

The photos in the white frames (like the one behind my head) are shots of sea urchin babies my colleagues and I took with a high-powered microscope during our week in Woods Hole.

Thanks for visiting my new and improved home office. Stop by anytime. I’ll feed you cookies and let you play with my headset. Maybe we can sing some YouTube karaoke. I’ll be Janet.

Where did you get that wonderful/hideous . . .

Paint: Martha Stewart Lagoon 
Desk: Hand-me-down from Soren’s parents 
Cord management: Ikea Signum 
Red desk chair: Ikea (discontinued?) 
Gray filing cabinet: Ikea Erik (I also have this Erik hidden under the standing desk)
Map of South America: Etsy 
Frames: Ikea/Michaels 
Hanging lamp: Ikea Jara plus Hemma
Magnetic bulletinboard: The Container Store
Tall globe: Wedding present and family heirloom 
Storage boxes: Ikea Kassett 
Standing desk: Elfa freestanding system from The Container Store (Purchased on sale!)
White file holder: Ikea Spontan
Fabric for the desk skirt: Premier Fabrics Ash/White Chevron
Bookshelf: Ikea Billy 
Laptop stand: Rain mStand
Headset: Plantronics 
Cat: In an alley behind our friends’ house


Filed under design, DIY

11 responses to “Office Makeover

  1. Lovely! The pastel blue and white combination makes the room looks so fresh 🙂

  2. Mark Dahlen

    Nice make over! Hard to work in a dark and cluttered workspace. I didn’t see the portait of the yellow monster in the initial photo hanging in the newly renovated space. What’s its name and were can I find one?

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  4. Laura

    Hi there, how did you make and affix the desk skirt? I have something similar I want to hide and have been wondering how to do something like this. Room looks great!

  5. Thanks, Laura!

    To make the skirt, I simply measured the space and cut two large fabric panels that would cover it. I added about 2 inches to each measurement and then hemmed the sides, turning each side over half an inch, and then another half an inch. Along the top of the panel, I stitched sew-on velcro (the soft side). I placed stick-on velco (the scratchy side) around the sides of the shelf/desk. When I hung the panels up, there was a gap in the center between the two panels, which bothered me. So I sewed a third skinny panel to go in the center. That one is stuck behind the other two, hanging from velcro on the bottom of the shelf. (I adjusted the measurements accordingly.) I am going to sew some trim around the whole thing and then I’ll post with more specific instructions.

  6. I love the contrast of the blue walls and the white trim/shelves with the wood of the floor and the desk. Was it hard to pick the color? I am now in a very bright house with orangey oak floors and am having a terrible time picking out wall colors!

    Also, from here it looks like the frames above your desk are very close together and could actually be spread out a little more, vertically. Is this just the pictures? It looks like you have nice high ceilings and the upper pictures could scoot away from the map a little bit.

    And I just realized, I think I just bought those same green magazine holders, are they from the Container Store?

    • Anne, I think I just lucked out with the color. I knew I wanted a blue-green, so I just went to Home Depot and picked one out. Yes, the floors have been problematic. We own a lot of wood furniture and so it ends up being lots and lots of different shades of wood.

      With respect to the frames, they can definitely go higher. The ceilings are tall. And I did leave more space at the sides than at the top — probably the result of poor gallery wall planning rather than a conscious decision.

      The green magazine holders are from Ikea.

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