My office makeover: before and after

On a Friday afternoon in March 2020, I grabbed my laptop and a few files from my desk, thinking I'd be working from home for a week or two until the whole Coronavirus thing calmed down. And here I am, two years later, still working from home. I miss seeing my coworkers' outfits and gossiping with them after meetings, but I really don't miss commuting downtown in a packed bus every day, nor do I miss my tiny cubicle with zero privacy. At first, I worked from our living room—it's nice and sunny there, plus our couch is super comfy—but when it became clear that I'd be working from home for much longer than a week or two, I decided a more permanent setup was necessary. I am lucky enough to have a two-bedroom apartment, and in the nearly eight years I've lived here, our second bedroom has functioned as a kind of multipurpose space—part guest room, part game room, part office. But as I noted in my bedroom makeover post last year, spending so much time inside has caused me to re-look at all the rooms in my home with razor-sharp focus. Since I'll be working from home indefinitely—and at least half the time once my office reopens—I decided that the second bedroom needed to be a dedicated office space (sorry, visitors, you can stay at the hotel down the street!). Here's how I gave my office a complete makeover. 

The before

My second bedroom is a 12-foot-by-12-foot space with high ceilings, a small closet (with a substantial crawl space above), and a north-facing corner window that looks out into a tiny courtyard. In other words, it's dark and on the small side. I somehow thought that painting it a dark blue would make it appear dramatic and cozy, but that just made it feel darker and smaller. It was a room I did not want to spend much time in, so it slowly became a place where we stashed a bunch of stuff that we wanted to hide: a couch that got bleached by the sun, Sean's DJ equipment and records, books I haven't touched in years, our ladder, oh, and my actual desk. When I started spending eight hours a day in this room, I became depressed and claustrophobic. Clearly we needed to make a change, so I called in the professionals. 

The design

I was approached by Havenly to partner with them on a social media campaign, and as part of that agreement, they waived the fee for their service (normally $179, but you can save 25% off any package with code CHERYLSHOPS). I am not going to go into too much detail about the steps involved in working with them because, full disclosure, the account manager I was working with left the company midway through the campaign, I ended up not getting paid for the rest of it, and it was a whole thing. I will say that the designer I worked with was lovely, but basically Havenly is more of a shopping service than an interior design service—they actually get paid based on how much you buy from them. What I found frustrating is that she advised painting the room a lighter shade but couldn't recommend any specific colors, so I had to do that research on my own. The other issue is that while I loved her idea of an L-shaped desk, literally the only options she could recommend were all MDF, and I was willing to invest in  real wood, so I had to track that down myself too. Long story short, if you just want a designer's advice on what to buy and where in the room to put it, Havenly should work for you. (I will say, they are really helpful with incorporating what you already own into the design of your room.) If you are high-maintenance and have very specific tastes like I do, expect to do a lot of your own legwork. For reference, this was the final design that they created for us. 

The after

I am so, so happy with how my office turned out! The biggest factor was the paint—after much online research, we went with Benjamin Moore Tissue Pink, which is a very pale blush color. Because we were going from such a dark color to a light color, we decided to splurge on a professional painter, which was $600, including the paint. I'm glad we did, because he had to do two coats of primer and two coats of paint; it probably would have taken us multiple days to complete, and we wouldn't have done nearly as neat of a job ourselves. I can't believe what a difference the paint color made in brightening up the room. I actually like being in here now, and I don't feel like I'm in a cave!

The desk is the key piece in this room, and since I spend a lot of hours sitting there, I really wanted to invest in something that's going to last a long time. So much furniture is made out of MDF and while I'm sure some of it is the nicest MDF money can buy, it's still glue and plywood. No judgment if you have MDF in your home—the white shelves above my desk are laminate, by the way—but like I said, I really wanted a solid piece that would hold up. It was challenging to track down an L-shaped desk made out of actual wood, but I finally found this one at West Elm, and it was worth the wait. It's made of sustainably harvested mango wood, and the finish works really well with the coffee table and side table that we already owned. I mostly sit facing the window but can swivel to face the wall if I need to spread out with some papers. I love the little footrest underneath, and the fact that it has two drawers plus a filing cabinet built in. (We'll be getting rid of the white metal filing cabinet to the left of the desk). One thing to note: I am not the biggest fan of this desk chair, which is Sean's, so I will eventually trade it out for a less ergonomic-looking chair once Sean takes this one back to his office. 

One thing that I've discovered working from home is that I need to change positions throughout the day—I especially like sitting on the couch with my laptop when I'm writing, whereas I like to be at the desk when I'm on a Zoom. We decided to keep our Room & Board couch  here but updated it with a few new pillows. This couch used to be in the window of our living room and got faded from the sun, so we're eventually going to get a slipcover for it, however I am enjoying the dark greige color as it adds a bit of contrast. The neon sign above was a gift from Sean: it's a sign—get it? We also kept the side table, coffee table, and orange lamp, all of which were from Sean's bachelor pad. (Have I mentioned that Sean has amazing taste?) 

DETAILS: Room & Board Jasper sofa | Jungalow Chi Chi Pom Pom pillow | AriannaBelle leopard pillow | EQ3 pillows | Jonathan Adler Capri lamp | Simi rug | Crate & Barrel table (old) | H.D. Buttercup coffee table (old) | Vintage throw blanket 

Another thing that was important to me was that this room needed to feel like a creative place, and not just where I sit and crank out a bunch of work (although that does happen too). I wanted to be surrounded by some of my favorite pieces of art, so while the Warhol stayed, I decided to pull a bunch of pieces from elsewhere in the apartment and create a gallery wall. There is no wrong or right way to do it, but as a general rule of thumb, you either want things to be very consistent (e.g. black-and-white photos in a single color frame) or totally all over the place. As you can see, I went with all over the place--paintings, prints, and photos in all different kinds of frames, and in all shapes and sizes. 

I should also note the wild amount of clutter that was in this room previously, and give a shout-out to Sean for doing a major Kon-Mari on his portion of it. He inspired me to pare down my book collection to the titles I truly love (and would read again, or loan to a friend) and rework them into a rainbow color scheme. It feels a little like an Instagram cliché at this point, but looking up at my bookshelves makes me happier than ever, plus it's much easier to find what I'm looking for. I also added pops of color with my plants and the curtain panel—Sean was very skeptical about the golden-yellow color against the pale pink wall, but I'm so happy with how it turned out. Both the curtain and the macramé hanging are from the Jungalow line at Target, and I will say, the quality on both pieces is amazing for the price.

So there you have it! The room is not 100% done, but is it ever? I want to bring in another tall plant, we need to decide on a slipcover, and, full disclosure, I did not show you Sean's racing simulator that's tucked away behind the record shelves, but I'm so happy with how it turned out that I just couldn't wait to share the results with you. Next on my renovation list: my bathroom, hopefully!


an said...

Congratulations on the newly designed space; it looks fantastic! I appreciate the honest review regarding Havenly. I'm currently reading the book by the company founders.

Nancy 's Fashion Style said...

Oh wow, so much better! Lighter! Cheerfuller! I can imagine it is a much better place to work in!

Mica said...

It's a shame it wasn't a smooth experience working with the company but OI love the finished result - you found such great choices for your room and the paint really makes a difference! I like the gallery wall against the pink so much!

We were lucky I worked form home one day a week for years before everything so when it hit and we all switched to working from home I had the home office set up. It was one of the first rooms finished in our new house actually, furnished well before the others, haha!

Thank you for joining the Weekday Wear Link Up! Hope that you had a nice weekend! Ours was a quiet one at home as we were flooded in on Saturday and are still flooded in now.

Away From The Blue

Nick Hunter said...

Finally, you did it. I must say that your newly designed creative space for your office looks amazing. It's so cool and comfy. I read your entire blog, and the reason that you created a new space for an office in your home because due to COVID, you are working from home even after two years. I am sure you must be very creative, and all the stuff you did for your home renovations is fantastic. Seriously??? It's not complete 100 % but still looking adorable.
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Anonymous said...

Congrats on the beautifully created place! It looks amazing! I value your frank assessment of Heavenly. I'm currently engrossed in the firm founders' book, and it's fascinating to explore their insights and experiences. It's a testament to the rich literary offerings that book publishers new York consistently bring to readers around the world.