My Home Office: Before And After

You may remember that I decided to turn my spare bedroom into a home office approximately seven million years ago. Slowly but surely, I've finally got it how I want it, and I'd love to show you how it all turned out. (If you're just catching up on The Great Home Makeover That Will Forever Consume Our Lives, you can see before and afters of our kitchen here, and before and afters of our stairwell here. And there is so much more to come!)

For the first year that we lived in this house, the spare bedroom—which is on the main floor of the house, facing out into the backyard, right next to our bedroom—functioned mainly as just that: a spare room. I don't have the greatest before pictures of it, unfortunately, but when we moved in, it looked basically like this:

And then, over the space of a year, it became a repository for all the stuff we couldn't figure out what else to do with. Simply put, it ended up as the graveyard where all our other furniture came to die. I had my desk in there, sure, but I hated sitting at it to write; the room just felt empty and messy and cold and unfinished. When guests came to stay, we did our best to make it all look neat and cozy and welcoming, but most of the time, if I'm honest, it kind of looked like this:

It's not awful, it's Boring and messy and full of crap. Note the artful placing of the printer on the floor! The mostly useless guest bed that isn't made up! The paint samples I'd been toying with on the walls! (To be fair, we gussied it up a lot better than this when people came over. You seeing this picture is basically me letting you in to my own personal shame, kind of like that part on Hoarders when the homeowner shamefacedly opens the door to three feet of garbage on the floor, much of it dessicated cat carcasses.) (I have no dessicated cat carcasses. I don't think.)

And then, in June, I started a new job with a company in Austin, requiring me to work from home full-time. I did the first few weeks with the room looking like it did above, and then I cracked: if I was going to be spending forty straight hours a week looking at those walls, those walls needed to look pretty awesome. The entire room needed to look pretty awesome. I decided I wanted a home office that made me happy when I walked into it every day, even if my commute was only two steps from my bedroom.

And so I created it.

First of all, I painted the walls with Behr's "Peaceful Night." There was much trial and error involved in trying to find the perfect navy blue (I think I tried every sample offered by Benjamin Moore, Valspar, and Olympus), but I had this weird obsessive need to paint a room navy blue and fill it with crisp white furniture and turquoise accents, and so I persevered. I'm really happy with how the color came out; it's a true navy—not too grey or purple or black—and it looks pretty consistent at all hours of the day.

With my walls painted, I set to work on my desk. My old one was a cheapie Target special that I'd had since my days in Charleston and painted a zillion times; it was on its last legs, so I put it out on the sidewalk one night—after whispering it a teary goodbye; we'd been through thick and thin together!—and it was gone by the time I woke up. Then I bought a VIKA FURUSKOG pine tabletop, the VIKA MOLIDEN chrome legs, and two HELMER file cabinets from IKEA (like you couldn't have guessed from the names) to make my own custom desk.

I took one of the drawers from the HELMER file cabinet to the hardware store and found a creamy-white paint that matched it almost exactly; with this, I painted the pine tabletop, along with the two EKBY JARPEN shelves (those came in white, but it wasn't the right white to match the HELMERS, which is why I painted everything. Are you still following me? I feel like I've switched over to Swedish at this point.) My desk chair was a Christmas present from my parents a few years ago and it's the most comfortable desk chair I've ever sat in. I bought the magazine racks at IKEA, the storage boxes on sale at the Container Store, and the gold bust of George Washington for $1 at an estate sale. I've had the globes and typewriter forever. (You may remember their cameo appearances in my wedding!)

I made pretty much all the art on the walls: the Paris prints are from the calendar my mother bought us for our first wedding anniversary (because it's traditional to give paper!) and I made my Great Wall o' States from a pack of kids' place mats, if you can believe it, that I found in TJ Maxx for six bucks, then framed in cheap frames that I spraypainted white. You've seen the DIY turquoise whiteboard before, of course, and I got the vintage math flash cards on ebay and framed them too. I kind of like how it looks like they're some super creepy numbers that mean something to me—like the numbers on LOST, perhaps—but basically I just chose all the ones with sevens in them (plus a 415, since that's our area code) because I like the number seven.

I made the "You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling" print from sticker letters I found at Michaels one day when I was feeling crafty. It's a quote from Inception, much to my chagrin, as I should have far preferred it to be Philip Larkin or something, but what can you do. The huge black and white picture is a blown-up photograph of my grandmother on vacation in the late 1950s or early 1960s, and it is pretty much my favorite thing in the room. I made it all by myself for super cheap and I'm pretty proud of it, so I'll be back in a few days with a tutorial for how you can make your own.

We took down the boob-light that used to be on the ceiling (come on, you know what I'm talking about) and Sean replaced it with a simple paper globe from IKEA. In a stunning move of lazy genius, he wondered aloud whether it wouldn't be easier just to put a ceiling medallion over the mess he'd created, rather than spackle and paint the whole thing, and was caught off guard, I think, at how excited I got about the prospect of a ceiling medallion, which is one of those things I've always, always wanted in a house (and I don't even care that it's not an original.)

The rug is this one from Overstock, which I stalked forever before it finally went on sale, and the striped pillow is something I picked up at Marshalls orginally for outside but loved even more in this room. The other pillows are Kelly Wearstler knock-offs and they're from the garden department at Target, randomly enough. The little wicker ottomans are from Target too, and we have had them for about seven hundred million years. They're really useful to have in my office, because when I want to show Sean something on the computer, he can just pull one up to my desk and sit right next to me. They're also great for putting your feet up on the couch.

And man, did we get lucky with that couch. Our friends were getting rid of it, and wouldn't take any money from us for it, despite our protestations. It's the EKTORP sleeper sofa from IKEA, which means it has already done double duty as a guest bed several times (though we have a sleeper sofa down in Sean's study too, so this is just for emergencies!) When we got it, the sofa was tan, so we bought a white slipcover on the black market—by which I mean ebay, since IKEA seems not to sell slipcovers for the EKTORP sleeper sofa anymore, WE KNOW BECAUSE WE BOUGHT THE WRONG ONE—and gave it new life. White might not be the best choice for a sofa, I realize, but it's not in a highly-trafficked area, and the slipcovers mean we can just throw it in the wash whenever we need to.

Whew! Is that everything? I think that's everything. There are a ton more pictures here, if you're interested, and I'm happy to answer any questions if there's anything I've forgotten to mention. (There don't seem to be any photos of the wall under the Paris prints, by the way, which is where I keep my printer, in case you were fretting that I didn't have one; it sits on top of the painted white dresser with the white ring pulls, pictured somewhere above, which also doubles as storage for craft supplies. Apparently, I have now crossed over into the type of person who needs dedicated storage for her craft supplies.)

All in all, I am supremely happy with what I created and how it turned out. I know it sounds corny, but walking into an office I love at the beginning of every work day helps to keep me organized, motivated, and inspired. And it sure beats the hell out of beige-paneled cubicle walls, I can tell you that.

Oct 26, 2011

The office turned out great! I have the same file cabinet from Ikea and use it as a toolbox.
Oh you might want to check out – they sell slipcovers for Ikea couches, and I'm pretty sure they have the Ektorp (they sell a few discontinued models).

Oct 26, 2011

*Steals the navy walls idea*

This is just PERFECT.

Oct 26, 2011

Oh, how I love this. We recently moved, and I just bought my own VIKA-based Ikea desk, which is still pretty much the only thing in the room. I need to gussy it up more than a little. The blown-up image of your grandmother is so so fantastic. Thanks for the inspiration!

Oct 26, 2011

Wow what a fabulous room to work in. I have the same Air France poster and the light fitting so you have good taste! I've been wanting to paint our kitchen navy blue and now I think I might just be able to pull it off after seeing this.

By the way how do you manage to keep everything so organised?

Oct 26, 2011

I love this and I too will have this in a weeks time! I get my new carpet on Monday, then my darkly painted (albeit quite purple, not pure navy) office can finally be filled with the white furniture I have been waiting a month to install! Love it looks great! And the huge photo of Granny is a stealer.

Oct 26, 2011

Your office looks amazing, and very Holly-ish! Your DIY posts always inspire me to do something creative and beautiful like your results. Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Brown
Oct 26, 2011

This is gorgeous. I am super impressed with all your DIY, because it actually seems doable. Your before shot looks like my bedroom on a good day, so this is inspiring. I need to own my own house soon, I think.

Oct 26, 2011

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your office. It is crammed full of beautiful (inexpensive, and super-cool) crafty things, that even I could pull off. We have an elliptical trainer in my office, and there is just no way to decorate around that bad boy. Maybe in our next house we will have a work out room in addition to an office. I hope to steal some of these ideas from you. I especially love the maps. So inexpensive and so "rich" looking!

Oct 26, 2011

So, I've been lurking for a while, but now I'm moved to comment. This is so incredibly spiffy. Also, you have a South Carolina in your wall o' states. Sniff! Ol' dopey SC. I know you lived in Charleston, but I always get a thrill of seeing it mentioned.

I think this is going to inspire me to get off my duff and finish some projects I've let fall by the wayside so that I have somewhere pretty to live in every day as well.

Oct 26, 2011

Gorgeous! Your whole house should be featured in a magazine, Holly.

Anna Louisa
Oct 26, 2011

oh my gosh...this space is so gorgeous! now I'm off to dream about a job which necessitates me creating my own home office...

oh, and that photo of your grandmother is STUNNING. where was she vacationing?

Oct 26, 2011

I simply LOVE this. It's stunning. I love the navy, who would've thought navy!? Its so nice. Enjoy!

Oct 26, 2011

I LOVE this room. Love.

Oct 26, 2011

Fabulous! I just Pinned it.

Oct 26, 2011

I love the chair, I am looking a new one, where can I get one?

Oct 26, 2011

I love the picture of your grandma! I have been scanning old photos lately and ran across some really cool pictures of my grandma. I am making memory books but I think now I might blow up one for the wall. I wish my office was even a fraction as lovely as yours... great job!

Camels & Chocolate
Oct 26, 2011

I have to admit when you were Tweeting about painting your office navy, I was a bit fearful for your sanity...after all, it *could* make the room all that more dark and dreary.

But as usual, you've blown me away with your knack for home design--seriously, why don't you work at a design magazine again?--and it looks AWESOME. I want every one of those maps--where did you find them? As for me, I'm currently thinking we're going to have to plan our entire future home around our globe collection, which is now at 25 thanks to acquisitions in Ghana, South Africa and India.

Oct 26, 2011

Oh goodness, we totally have an awful boob light in our bedroom too! Is that just the cheapest overhead light fixture for rental apartment landlords to put up or something? We've actually noticed the same light in an apartment across the street as well. Anyway, changing lighting kinds of scares me a little, any chance of a tutorial on that? I love the ceiling medallion too!

Anna K
Oct 26, 2011

Holly, you have the nesting gene. It's a gene many of us wish for. It's a beautiful room; the picture of your grandmother (is this Omi?) stops the heart, what a beauty she is. So graceful.

Inspirational quotes next to desks are a must, I have "Well-behaved women rarely make history".

Oct 26, 2011

Can't wait to see the tutorial on how you made that massive print of your grandmother. It's a great piece. And I've been dying to see your navy blue walls because I have about 10 paint samples up right now and none really seem perfect. I also work from home full time and your office really puts mine to shame (we're renovating our entire house while living & working in it, so I suppose getting heat was a bigger priority than painting my office - so says my husband...). Really great space!


I am so envious of this space! Well done, you!

Amy --- Just A Titch
Oct 26, 2011

I adore that "You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling" print! I want to buy a million stickers and make my own! What a great idea. Love this room, Holly.

Oct 26, 2011

And at least 2 new pins onto pinterest for me (I'm closetangel on there btw if you wanna follow).

Also - SO JEALOUS of that "dream a little bigger" sign. Immediately started googling/etsy-ing it, hoping to buy it. I adore it and now have determined I must make it.

Its beautiful - very nicely done!
- Auds

Oct 26, 2011

Would you mind coming over to my house and decorating, oh I don't know, ALL the rooms? I really appreciate your sense of style...I just wish I could recreate it! Thanks for sharing!

Oct 26, 2011

This is SO PRETTY! Oh, the navy is such a bold color choice for the walls and I'm not sure I could do it (how many coats did it take?) but it looks AMAZING! The white furniture is just fantastic in there. Gorgeous job.

This kind of makes me want a job so I can dream up a home office. (But, only KIND OF.)

Oct 26, 2011

LOVE! gonna get busy pinning these gorgeous images :)

Oct 26, 2011

I love it! Now, how do I make my tiny gray cubicle look just like that?

Oct 26, 2011

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I work from home, too, and my "office" is also the spare room and it's half-empty and neither here nor there and it makes me depressed every time I walk in, so I mostly just sit in the living room and work on my laptop, avoiding the office altogether. A sad state of affairs. Your makeover is inspiring!

Nothing But Bonfires
Oct 26, 2011

Thanks for the lovely words, all!

Jane: I keep things organized by stuffing everything in the closet on the right! Seriously, it's a state, and I keep meaning to take everything out and sort through it and figure it out. Also, it helps to have lots and lots of drawers and storage options to put things away!

Anna Louisa: I'm not sure where she was on vacation, but I am almost certain it was somewhere in Germany.

Julia: the desk chair is from Overstock. It's this one, which appears to currently be out of stock (sorry!)

Camels & Chocolate: the maps were part of a set of place mats for children that I bought for six bucks or so in TJ Maxx. They came with perforated edges and you tear them out of a book -- I guess they're supposed to be used once or twice so kids can familiarize themselves with the states, but I decided to tear them out and frame them instead! The set had all 50 states, but I could only fit 12 on the wall!

Oct 26, 2011

That's a photo of your grandmother?! I'm in love.

Oct 26, 2011

Gorgeous. Love the navy walls, the rug and the artwork in particular. I love that your makeovers are always livable - not fussy or too styled. Very well done, Holly.

Beth B.
Oct 26, 2011

Wow that is one gorgeous office! I love it and I'm so impressed that you did it yourself! And so envious that you get to work in that environment every day!

Oct 26, 2011

Probably my dream office. Love it.

Champagne Lifestyle on a Beer Budget

Oct 26, 2011

ooh, that does look lovely. I have the Target pillow myself. Nice job!

sarah ross
Oct 26, 2011

when can i please come and live and work in this office ; )

Oct 26, 2011

A little over a week ago, J surprised me by installing a floating desk along one of the walls in my home office, and it's completely changed my working day. And would you believe that the first thing I put on my desk was a turquoise typewriter? And that every time I look at it, I think of Holly Burns?

Oct 26, 2011

Thanks. :)

This is absolutely beautiful, Holly. See what I'm saying about your sense of color? You did an amazing job.

Oct 26, 2011

are you KIDDING me? this is a dream room. i want everything about it. pinning for when i have a house.

Oct 26, 2011

Stunning! Makes me want to settle in for a long, inspired work day. Which essentially means WELL DONE, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Oct 26, 2011

AMAZING! And now inspiration when I have a home office...which won't be for a long time most likely BUT I am keeping these images until then. FAB job!

Oct 26, 2011

You have the best taste! I can't wait for the giant picture tutorial! I'm super loving your rug and pillows. You certainly knocked this one out of the park, yet again!

Oct 26, 2011

i gasped when i saw the rug. i covet it. we have a very similar chevron striped rug in blue/gray we got from ikea but i do love yours. pinning it! [is that weird to have your home decor pinned?]

Oct 26, 2011

Hey look at me on your to-do list! That's one you can tick off. So obviously your new office is making you very productive as well as being simply gorrrrgeous x

Nothing But Bonfires
Oct 26, 2011

Anna, it IS you! I was wondering if you would notice that -- hahahaha!

Oct 26, 2011

wow your office is amazing, love it. and love all the unique details, so chic.

Oct 26, 2011

Holly, I fear that I will never invite you over because THIS IS RIDICULOUSLY GORGEOUS and I don't want you to fear that my lack of interior design capability is contagious. (It is not.) (I don't think.)

I love it!

Rebecca S
Oct 26, 2011

Love that you love Philip Larkin. And your beautiful room. Thanks for sharing.

Oct 26, 2011

So in love with the room... love and I mean LOVE the color and the crispy white with the shots of dark blue... it's cozy and happy and bright at the same time.

I'm been looking for that screen saver FOREVER… and I cannot find it - HELP!

And the chair is on my wish list.. I now sit in a Ikea chair and my butt complains every single day. But I'm convince that if I wait for a bit longer I will find it and find it in the cheap!

Sensibly Sassy
Oct 26, 2011

WOOOOOOW (I initially thought the extra O's in Wow was a bit much, but have now decided they are entirely necessary). I am loving these design posts. And for a split second they make me want to do the same thing and then I get lazy because it sure does look like a lot of work. So if its ok with you I will just come over on Monday and we can hang out in your office-because that isn't weird at all. See that way I can enjoy your style and still hang on to my laziness- win/win.

Oct 26, 2011

Holly, I have a question. Where are the cables/cords?
Well I know iMac has cordless keyboard and mouse.. but where is the power cable? Power cable from your printer? hehe... sorry if I sound like a detective but in our study the cables/cords are the first ones I see everytime I enter, it is soo annoying. Even though my husband tried to hide it at the back of the desk, some of it just really want to stick out! ):

Oct 27, 2011

This is so gorgeous! As you probably can't come to Ireland to renovate my office, can I just come and live with you?

Oct 27, 2011

Love it, looks gorgeous, and makes me want to work in an office that looks like that. You have such an eye for design and a great attention to detail. Clever Holly!

Oct 27, 2011

That looks amazing! Although I don't think you know the meaning of the word messy, the before photo looks ok to me and I think of myself as a pretty tidy person (maybe I'm not really...)

Oct 27, 2011

Place mats, huh? Well, who'd have thought? Lovely!

Oct 27, 2011

Love this! Every time I read one of your Before and After posts I want to redo my entire condo. Sigh.

Oct 27, 2011

PS. What exactly is the layout of your house? You mention main floor, is that upstairs, by the hallway & amazing kitchen?

Nothing But Bonfires
Oct 27, 2011

Monica: You can find the flip clock screensaver right here. It's free to download!

Zaren: Great question about the cords, because I am fastidious about hiding them! You are right that the mouse and keyboard are wireless, but the power cord to the computer just goes behind the desk and plugs in (along with the cord to the lamp) to the right of it. You can JUST about see it in the picture where the time on the screen is 5:07. The printer is wireless, so it doesn't have to plug in to the computer and can therefore go on a totally different wall, but its power cord situation is similar: it just runs down the back of the cabinet its on and plugs in to an outlet right behind it.

Starla: The layout is as follows: You walk in and there's a hallway with Sean's study, and a little bathroom off that. You go up the stairs and that's the main floor of the house: living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and office, all coming off the main landing.

Oct 27, 2011

Love your office! Great taste. I also love your picture frame on the desk. Where did you find it? I cannot have enough picture frames. Thanks!

Kim Fox
Oct 27, 2011

So I love what you did with the office! It looks like something out of a magazine!
Anyways, I work from home a lot too (web developer) and you said that the chair was really comfy...where did you get it?

Nothing But Bonfires
Oct 27, 2011

Sonya: The picture frame is super old, probably just from TJ Maxx or Marshalls, I think. I see similar ones in there all the time.

Kim Fox: The chair is from I linked to it above, but unfortunately it's out of stock right now!

Oct 27, 2011

Stunning! The white/navy/turquoise combo is beautiful. I agree with Kim, it looks like something out of a magazine :)

Oct 27, 2011

One word comes to mind: CRISP.

You don't know me so you wouldn't know that that is THE highest decorating praise in my book.

Here's the thing--I would want to do something exactly like this in a study. I mean even get to the point of white furniture, a chevron striped rug and blue walls. But then I would stop. And it's so clearly, albeit maddeningly, the little details and touches that bring this room together. The globes, the bust, the B/W photo, the DIY white board. All of it. And these are things that I simply have neither the creativity to conceive of nor the patience to create/procure. Quite sadly too becuase it means that my apartment (also in SF) looks rather nauseatingly like something out of a Pottery Barn catalog. Except not as nice. Wanna come over and "do" my place? Only partially kidding. Like, 10%.

Oct 28, 2011

I could not love this more, Holly. It's DIVINE. As are you. Perfection for miles, you. Brava.

Oct 28, 2011

love it, the navy walls really add a level of sophistication but the white keeps it clean and young and vibrant.

Oct 28, 2011

Holly, I'm obsessed with this makeover! And your whole house, really. You have wonderful taste that's made for some great inspiration for me. Thank you for sharing it!

Oct 28, 2011

your office looks fantastic! you should add it to your "splendid things" category right away. because your office is definitely a splendid thing. or rather, a splendid place. but you know, potato, potahto.

Anna Louisa
Oct 28, 2011

Thanks for responding, Holly! I was asking in part because my family's German, and we've always called my dad's parents "Oma and Opa" too...I like your twist on it, though! :)

Oct 28, 2011

Wow, this is just gorgeous! I need you to come help me update my home office. All I've done so far is paint the walls purple and plug everything in. :) Yours look super duper!

Oct 30, 2011

Love it so very much. (What's the program that turns your computer screen into that clock?)

Oct 30, 2011

Sorry! Just saw it in the comments, disregard!!

Savvy in San Francisco
Oct 30, 2011

Holly - I am swooning over your office from the colors to the print of your grandmother! Love!!!!

Nov 01, 2011

A fab office you have there! Prints & colors are lovely. Wishing you success on all the work you undertake here.

Nov 01, 2011

This room is beautiful! I love everything about it.

Nov 08, 2011

sigh... love!!

Sara Darling
Nov 09, 2011

I was on a similar hunt for a chair like that, and although the chair itself isn't on Overstock anymore, it's still for sale (yay!) here:

There are a few more like it, but this looks to be the same chair from your (it must be said) DELIGHTFUL office. I'm looking to redecorate my home office for similar reasons. Inspiration: noted!

Nov 24, 2011

What a beautiful make-over! May I ask where you found that chrome desk lamp?

Mar 09, 2012

Love it! Terrific Job....

May 06, 2012

The room is really pretty and thanks a million to the reader who posted the slipcover link ( Now I can rejuvenate my EKTORP sleeper sofa!

Jul 25, 2012

Love, love, love! Wow - the navy on the walls is very bold, but it works. In part probably due to the light from the large window - and also from all of the white accents.
What a delight! Thanks for sharing.

Jul 25, 2012

I love the huge clock on your computer screen. I would love for you to explain more about it.

Jul 31, 2012

love the "boob light" comment...your office looks great BTW.

Nov 12, 2012

Hi there! Just found your blog is the spindly worldwide web somehow and had to tell you how much I enjoy it!!!! Thank you:) I'd like to think we're decorating soul sisters because our offices have some uncanny similarities.. (Your room is cooler of course). Thanks for sharing.

Apr 21, 2013

I too have a home office. It was built for the purpose of me working at home, however it has not got the attention until now. I researched that blue walls helps in productivity, so with two different businesses that I handle plus regular household affairs I wanted something that would be comfortable as well as professional. I've pretty much looked at every color of blue which sounds like what you did as well. I had too laugh when reading about your crafty ideas and bargain shopping. I've already purchased all my bargains from TJ Max, Ross, Bealls Outlet and even the Goodwill. I had already decided to paint all my existing furniture & purchased the white paint weeks ago. I'm pretty crafty so I feel confident that I can paint & repurpose some items. I'm just hoping my office looks as beautiful as yours. You did a wonderful job.

Feb 05, 2014

I love how you managed to give it a fresh-air feeling, working in such a great office must be inspiring! I have a large family so probably I wouldn't have turned it into an office, I would be more likely to get the best bedroom furniture out there and turn it into an awesome bedroom for my daughters to share!

Feb 05, 2014

I love how you managed to give it a fresh-air feeling, working in such a great office must be inspiring! I have a large family so probably I wouldn't have turned it into an office, I would be more likely to get the best bedroom furniture out there and turn it into an awesome bedroom for my daughters to share!

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