Archive for June, 2010
One of the major questions facing us when figuring out how to add some office-y function to our guest bedroom was: where does the desk go? Correction: since there are two of us, were do the desks go? Bear in mind that this isn’t the easiest question when you’re working with such a modestly sized room (it’s just 10′ x 10.5′) that also needs to accommodate our new sofa (which folds out into a full bed for our occasional house guests). So we decided that a little pre-planning would help us answer that very question. Allow me to introduce my simple (not-to-scale) floor plan to demonstrate the desk placement options that we weighed:
- Zone #1 sounded great because it meant one of us would get to peer out the window and enjoy a nice view of the backyard. But with the couch so close, it meant the other person might be a bit cramped. Plus, we had big plans for a bookcase on that wall (to balance out the height of the uncentered window) so it was on to the next two options.
- Zone #2 felt like a better choice since it was the longest uninterrupted wall, but it would require a very custom sized desk because of how long that wall is and how far the sofabed would need to fold out when it’s in use.
- Zone #3 only offered up space for one desk, although putting one of us there (and the other person in zone #1 or #2) would take pressure off of finding one long two-person desk. But it also meant that we’d have our backs to one another, which isn’t always helpful when we’re working on something together (seeing each other’s screens would be more convenient).
So what did we decide? Zone #2 for the win! It made the most sense since it was the longest space. Plus we loved having a blank wall in front of us to hang art, pinboards or whatever other productivity-inducing wall decor we decide that we need when it comes time to tackle the art-factor in the room.
With that decided, our next challenge was finding a desk to fit that wall. We had about 7ft between the window and the door (when it was fully open) to work with, but only 21″ of depth before we’d start bumping into the folded-out sofa bed. So after lots of hunting (and even some thrift store trolling) we came up with two decent options – the IKEA Besta Burs and something like the Crate & Barrel Sloane Leaning Bookcase Desk (with two work areas instead of one).
Sadly after checking out both solutions in person, we weren’t won over by either one. The IKEA option was close, but at 5’10″ long and only 15″ deep, it didn’t fill the space as much as it could have (and we’ll take all the desktop that we can get!). Plus the $249 price tag was a bit steep for two cheap-os like ourselves. And the Crate & Barrel option wasn’t only more expensive ($379), but it didn’t accommodate two desk areas (so we would probably have to build something similar that would) and it also meant there would be an abundance of bookcases in the room (remember, we’re already planning to place one next to the uncentered window to balance out that wall and add tons of functional storage space. It was beginning to look like we were all out of desk luck…
But then, infused by some of the confidence leftover from my self-building experience, I decided that I should build a custom desk for us. I’d been eager to try out the Kreg Jig on something bigger, so this seemed like just the project. Plus – how hard could it be? Just gotta screw some legs onto a big slab of wood, right? But when it comes to getting “big slabs” of anything home, we always have to think a bit harder since our only vehicle is a Nissan Altima (which isn’t really something that a 7 foot piece of wood just slides into).
So we put on our thinking caps and our figuring-things-out pants and – in a moment of inspiration – Sherry remembered that we still had the hollow-core door that once lived on our bathroom linen closet residing right in our garage. Check it out in the photo below on the left. It was always in the way so it had to go (and you know we have a thing for open storage anyway), but now it was poised for a comeback.
Sherry had seen a few other folks around the blogosphere repurposing doors to create tabletops and desktops so she convinced me that we should join the ranks. And lucky for us, the door was nearly a perfect fit for our floor plan without much altering (it was just under 7ft long, and about 18 inches wide). Plus not only was it free, but it required absolutely zero hauling. Picture us with some serious jazz hands thanks to this fortuitous development.
As for the rest of my supplies, I didn’t turn to woodworking plans like a normal person might (I wasn’t planning on doing any fancy drawers on my first attempt at furniture building, so perhaps I was feeling a bit adventurous). Instead, I poked my head under our dining room table since it had the same basic legs and rail design that we decided we wanted for our simple DIY desk. Of course it was a different measurement than our desk would be, but the basic construction was perfect to mimic for my pending project.
With a few quick measurements, we headed off to Home Depot to pick up enough wood for four legs and a rail on all four sides. We came home with a nice little wood collection that looked a little something like this (oh and we added the existing bathroom door to the mix before snapping the photo):
Our bounty included a few planks of 1 x 3″ (poplar) for the rails and four chunky 3 x 3″ lengths (also poplar) that we’d be cutting down to create legs. In total, it cost us about $70 – which would end up being our only out-of-pocket expense for this project. Not bad considering the smaller skinnier Ikea desk was a whopping $249.
Before I could get to the fun screw-everything-together part, there was quite a bit of prep work to be done. Let’s start with the door hardware. Obviously we didn’t need hinges or a handle mechanism on our desk. So first I removed the hinges and used some wood putty to fill the indentation they left behind (since that side would become the front of the desk). This is because we decided to leave the hole where the handle had been in place so it could conveniently become the spot at the back of the desk that we fed all of our wires and power cords through. And you know this cord-wrangling feature appealed to that type-A wife of mine.
The other prep project that I had to do was whip the door back into shape. Living in the garage for two years meant it had some peeling paint and a bit of scum on it. But it was nothing that a good scrubfest with some vinegar-infused water (for the scum) and a light sanding (for the peeling paint) wouldn’t fix. Well it wouldn’t completely fix it, but it would get it ready for some priming and painting- which would.
I also had a bit of sawing to do. Even though the door was already slightly shorter than the 7 foot space between the open office door and the opposite wall, we wanted to shorten it by a few more inches just to leave some breathing room on either side of our future desk (so it didn’t look crammed into the space too tightly). I measured and marked where we wanted to cut it, and then – to help prevent the wood from splintering – I taped it off using some painter’s tape (then I just traced my cut line over the tape again so I could see it).
Then out came the circular saw. Hello old friend.
Now if anyone has ever wondered what the inside of a hollow-core door looks like, here ya go. Obviously this needed a bit of sanding to smooth things out, but since this is the end that would face the wall, I didn’t go through the extra effort to seal it over with a new piece of wood. Call it a short cut, if you must. Or a place to hide stuff that you don’t want anyone to find. Oops, I just told the internet about it so that’s out.
In the above photo, you can already see my other prep project sitting on the bottom of my sawhorse: priming. I decided to prime all of the wood before constructing the piece, but saved painting until after it was all put together. Knowing it would get a little roughed up during construction, I didn’t want to feel bad every time I got a mark on the wood.
Now for the fun part. With everything primed and dried, I could start construction. I began with the legs, using the Kreg Jig to drill one pilot hole on the two inside faces of each leg. Check out this post to learn more about how the Kreg Jig works.
With my pilot holes drilled, it was a simple next step to screw them into the door (which was finally on the verge of become a desktop!). Since I wanted the legs to be set in from the edge (instead of flush) I used some furring strips leftover from our bathroom project as impromptu guides to ensure that I was setting each leg at the same distance from the edge.
And with the help of my trusty clamp, I screwed the leg into place no problem. Whew. Note that the door is still looking a bit rough in this picture – those are some of the scrapes that occurred as I pieced things together. I had a few more than I anticipated because I realized too late that I should’ve used oil (not water-based) primer. Oops, my bad. But a good once over with the oil-based stuff before painting solved the problem.
Once all four legs were in place, it came time to attach my rails. I carefully measured and cut those four pieces using my miter saw and then drilled pilot holes using my Kreg Jig again. As you can see below, on each rail I prepped pilot holes to go both into the legs and into the door itself (roughly 8″ apart). And since I wanted the rails to be set back even further than the legs, I used another impromptu guide (this time a leftover 1 x 3″) to make sure I was setting all four at the same depth.
Now, since this is a hollow-core door I feared that I wouldn’t be going into solid wood with these screws. But fortunately, with the exception of the end where I sliced off a few inches, all of my screws were angled enough that they went into the solid frame on all sides of the door. Here’s what it looked like with two of the rails in place.
Now this is the part where “through the magic of the Internet” I put my ingredients in the oven and they come out fully baked (mainly because I won’t bore you with some wood puttying, repriming with the oil-based stuff, painting, and poly-ing – but we used the same method that we used to paint the top of this dresser). And voila! Here’s our brandspankingnew desk:
I realize it’s a bit hard to get excited about a plain white table – but we were pretty pumped back when I finished this project (yes, this is something I actually tackled right before Clara’s arrival – she just distracted me from writing the post about it once she came along so it’s just hitting the blog now). Anyway, it fits the space perfectly (since we made it, gotta love custom measurements) and it provides plenty of room for the two of us. Plus it’s out of the way enough for the sofa bed to be fully folded out. We realize it looks crazy skinny in the shot above, but it’s actually 18″ deep, which easily accommodates our two laptops (which are only 9″ deep) along with everything else we’ll need to have on hand. It was also the right price (just $70- since we already owned the door, all of the screws, wood filler, primer, and paint). And we have the satisfaction of having done it ourselves. Score.
Oh and now we’re getting to the best part – turning it into a actual functioning workspace for both of us. That means chairs, storage, more storage, electronics, wall decor and anything else that we find ourselves pining after in order to be productive parents / bloggers. We’re gradually piecing everything together, and although we’re taking a slow-and-steady approach to this project (kinda out of necessity, given that we have a newborn daughter and all) we can share that we’ve already clocked a few days of work at our new door-turned-desk and so far it’s working out fantastically well. In fact I’m writing this very post on said desk right now. Of course the walls are still bare and we have a ways to go, but I can also divulge that we’ve taken on two more office projects (since Clara’s arrival no less- we’re so proud!) so stay tuned for the play by play on those two exciting undertakings soon…
But enough about us. Have you guys seen any other unique desk solutions recently? Or have you creatively solved any of your own where-do-I-put-my-workspace dilemmas? Feel free to throw in any other fun and/or functional office ideas that might come in handy for others who are planning their home offices as we tackle ours. Share and share alike.
When Bethany sent her fantastically creative low cost kitchen makeover our way we had to share the eye candy. Here’s her letter:
This spring my hubby and I got busy refreshing our tired kitchen. Our goal was to make changes that improved the look of the space without spending a million bucks. With a little paint, some new cabinet hardware, a new rug, and a light fixture and window treatment, our kitchen now has a whole new look! The best part was standing back at the end of the project and realizing that these small changes really made a big visual impact. I love my “new” kitchen, and the fact that we only spent around $400 is the icing on the cake. I detailed the entire process–from inspiration to completion–on my blog, for those who want the full story.
Here are the before shots of Bethany’s ho-hum kitchen:
And here are the amazingly crisp and updated after photos:
Here’s the budget breakdown:
- Cabinet glass: (clear, double-thick) from local hardware store, $130
- Bamboo shade: from Menard’s, $22
- Grasscloth wallpaper: from Menard’s, $18
- Cabinet paint: (Behr Ultra, custom matched color) from Home Depot, $15
- Trim paint: (Behr Ultra, Ultra White) from Home Depot, $15
- Wall paint: (Behr Ultra, matched to M.Stewart ‘Flagstone’) from Home Depot, $33
- Cabinet hardware: (by Amerock) from Home Depot, $116
- Pendant lamp: from Home Depot, $35
- Miscellaneous: screws, sand paper, paintbrushes, etc, $30
- TOTAL: $414
And since the “after” pictures were taken, we replaced all of our beige switches and outlets with white ones, which really finishes off the room nicely, and only cost us an additional $15. So worth it. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy it! -Bethany
Didn’t Bethany do a great job working with what she has? We love the creative uses of the grasscloth wallpaper in those cabinets and the gorgeous paint colors that she chose. Even the hardware, the window treatment and the pendant lamp polish things off without breaking the budget, and it’s amazing how the same space feels like an entirely new room after so many small and affordable changes. It all adds up.
So what do you guys think? Didn’t Bethany stretch the heck out of her 400 beans to create a space that’s both serene and functional? What’s your favorite part? We’re torn between the use of the texture-rich grasscloth behind those gleaming glass cabinet doors and the perfectly serene color scheme that Bethany landed on (which really makes the space feel a lot less closed in). Delicious.
Since we’re moving our work area into the new office / playroom / guest room (read more about that here and here) I figured I’d give my old work space one last hurrah in the form of a four-part makeover. Just for fun.
From a potted plant to a scented candle, many people have different preferences when it comes to their home office must-haves. And of course everyone has a different organizational needs as well, so it’s always interesting to ponder what systems and approaches will work for people in both the form and the function department. So when I decided to have some fun adding different accessories to achieve a few different takes on my modestly sized home office- I brought in some just for looks and some for usability and organization. Of course the only person’s needs I was trying to meet were my own (and I’m a pretty chill girl) but it was still a fun little adventure none the less. And there was one rule: no spending a dime. So I just played around with the items I already had. Because who doesn’t love a free desk makeover?
So now that you’ve seen what my desk looks like most of the time (above), let’s get to the little tweaks I had fun playing around with for a few new takes on my basic parsons desk (and some new function as well).
When it came to arrangement number one I was all about fresh spring color:
I added a cheerful little potted plant that I snagged a while back for $2 (including the chic turquoise ceramic pot!) along with a pretty pink vase full of pencils and a cute blue ceramic fish (purchased on clearance from Target two years ago). Brightly colored books stacked on top of our modem hiding boxes topped by a cardboard rhinoceros (10 points for a bit of office whimsy) completed the look. And we can’t forget the colorful coaster and handy notebook paired with a brightly colored pen and green mini scissors.
So the basic needs that this arrangement met were:
- A place to put an ice cold beverage without worrying that it’ll sweat all over my paperwork
- A notebook, pen and small scissors at arm’s reach
- A ceramic fish and a cardboard rhino (ok, so these aren’t needs as much as cheerful little smile-inducing desk pals)
- A plant to provide fresh air and a bit of life (they’re one of my favorite things to gaze at when I’m not staring at my computer screen)
- A place to wrangle a bunch of pens or pencils (a colorful vase is a fun departure from hiding them away in a desk drawer)
Then there was desk arrangement numero dos. And this time it was less about pops of spring color and more about chic and layered metallics.
Storage was the name of the game here, so I added two pretty capiz boxes (along with some ceramic birds for good measure) and three gold cubes introduced even more concealed stash space. Two glass votive holders full of office supplies (one full of paperclips and one full of staples) were added along with my reading glasses and my trusty notebook. And a scented vanilla candle along with my homemade reed diffuser (which is actually just made from store-bought skewers in a vase full of watered down lemon verbena Mrs. Meyers soap- more DIY details here) upped the smells-so-good factor.
So the basic needs that this arrangement met were:
- A ton of boxes to hide bills, notes, receipts, office supplies and other paper clutter
- A notebook (along with some paperclips and staples) at arm’s reach
- A clean, all-natural, and flame free scent to enjoy while I work away thanks to the DIY reed diffuser
- A scented soy candle for a bit of flickering ambiance if the mood strikes
- Ceramic birds (what can I say? I just like having little faux friends at my desk in case I get lonely)
So a beachy blue vase full of dried hydrangeas along with a faux clam shell, a shell ball, a capiz storage box, some faux coral and some sea glass-looking votives injected a bit of ocean ambiance. And of course the blue books stacked on those Ikea storage boxes along with the blue glass cup full of pencils and my notebook topped with a faux urchin and starfish hammered home the whole beachy vibe.
And what exactly did I decide to use the faux clam shell to contain?
A slew of paperclips along with my reading glasses and a pen. Gotta love something so cute and practical (I like my faux clam shells like I like my men…).
So the basic needs that this arrangement met were:
- A large capiz box to hide bills, notes, receipts, etc
- A notebook (along with some paperclips and my glasses) at arm’s reach
- Two sweet flickering candles for added chill-factor
- A pretty glass cup to house pens or pencils
My fourth arrangement was all about natural accents with texture to spare.
So I brought in an easy care plant in a textured Ikea planter along with a woven cup full of pencils and a frame with a big textured burlap mat (paired with a smaller round capiz one for a bit of layered interest). Then I just added my favorite leather journal (which also doubles as a great place to jot down notes in a pinch) and the ceramic egg crate that I snagged over five years ago back when I lived in NYC.
I really liked the layered woven cup and the cork-ish planter paired with the burlap-matted frame. And I think the egg crate was my favorite detail of all.
See, instead of using it to store my jewelry (which I’ve done since I grabbed it back in NYC at Crate & Barrel), I thought it would be fun to take it for a spin as a desk supply organizer of sorts. It easily contained paperclips, push pins, safety pins, staples and even stamps that are usually tucked away in a drawer. And it looked pretty charming while doing it. Especially since I added one more naturally inspired addition: four wood block letters that spell out the word love (we snagged those a while back at a DC flea market).
So the basic needs that this arrangement met were:
- An easy on the eyes (and air purifying) house plant to add some freshness and life
- A ceramic egg crate turned office supply caddy
- A nearby notebook for jotting things down
- A woven glass cup for holding pens or pencils at arm’s reach
- Two picture frames (featuring the “people” I love most) for a bit of morale boosting charm
And there you have it. One desk arranged in four different ways to meet my very basic blogging needs (and provide lots of not-real animal friends for my admittedly odd enjoyment). Of course set-ups like these might not work for an architect who needs space to spread out (or for anyone else who isn’t accustomed to working in a tiny corner of their den) but they definitely made me want to sit down and get my bill-pay on.
I must admit that I don’t even really know which one I like best, so I’d love to hear which setup you guys prefer. Does the punchy spring arrangement do it for you? Are you partial to the understated metallic setup? Is the beachy vibe your fave? Or do you prefer the natural and textural approach? And while we’re on the subject of desks, what’s your must-have home office item? Whether it’s an über functional system or just a smile-inducing good luck charm we’d love to know what you gaze at when you sit down to pay bills or google yourself. Do tell.