The Office Madness Begins…

Two things first:

  1. We updated yesterday’s door-painting post with further-away exterior shots for everyone who requested those (and also updated our header- woot).
  2. Sherry knows she owes you a door hardware post (she’s editing pics and writing it up for tomorrow) but just to keep you dizzy, now we’ll dive into some office stuff. Told you we were all over the place these days!

Hot on the heels of our recent nursery furniture shuffle, we decided it was high time that we got shifty with our nothing-has-changed-in-eight-months office sitch (functional or comfortable aren’t words we’d use to describe that space thus far). Actually, adding a file cabinet was the first step (other than that it’s just been our old stuffed plopped down in a new, larger space). We went from a 10′ x 10.5′ office/guest room/playroom in the old house to a 13′ x 10.5′ in this one, but with windows and doorways in new places it’s not making everything come together naturally – or even remotely efficiently. So allow me to bust out some graph paper to illustrate the situation…

As you can see, we’ve got two doorways (a small one to the kitchen, a larger one to the dining room) and two windows (one looking into the carport, the other out to the front yard). It basically leaves us with only two functional walls and a couple of corners, which is why we’ve so far been living with this layout:

I’ll wait while you marvel at my paper cutting / marker drawing skills. While you do, here’s what the room looks like in real life. First, the view from the dining room:

It’s funny to think that this desk that once spanned almost an entire wall in our old office looks so dwarfed in this new room. But since it was the longest piece of office furniture we had, it made sense to plop it on the longest wall to begin with. Plus, it was nice to have a window to look out while we work (even if it only looked into the car port). We actually tried a few other rushed arrangements on move-in day and liked this best (which isn’t saying much). So it stuck for the last eight months.

Now here’s the view from the kitchen with the green sleeper sofa (technically loveseat) as centered on the window as possible without crowding Sherry’s chair.

And as for the one corner you can’t see (with the Effektiv file cabinet), here’s the best shot I could get before Clara and Burger came storming back in to re-mess the space (that ottoman’s full of toys and for some reason Clara doesn’t enjoy having them put away as much as we do).

But Clara wasn’t the only one about the mess things up, because we had some furniture-rearranging plans up our sleeves.

Sherry and I have had this itch to see if thing would work better with the sofa and desk swapped (we initially tried it when we moved in but it was before we got our secondhand desk chairs or turned the formal living room into a dining room) so we rolled up the rug and slid the pieces into their new homes. Our logic behind the switch was: 1) it’d be nice to upgrade our window view from the carport (which will eventually be an enclosed garage- albeit one with lots of windows to let in maximum light) to front yard greenery…

…and 2) since the sofa matches in the blue/green color scheme of the dining room, we thought maybe it would tie the rooms together better than our desk (while looking more living room-y and less office-y through the big dining room doorway).

But sadly, we knew almost immediately that this layout wasn’t gonna work. I noticed very quickly that getting into my chair (I’m the seat on the left) was very difficult. Not only because it’s a bit cramped (hello sofa arm!) but also because the chair doesn’t easily slide slide at all over the rug. So scooting my chair out was more frustrating than cutting Burger’s nails (which is definitely up there on the frustration scale).

One option would be to shift the couch and rug, but then things would start to get weirdly off center. Plus, none of that would solve having an AC vent right at our feet with the new placement of the desk (you can see a sliver of it above), which made us want to wear wool socks in the summertime. My toes are cold just thinking about it.

But it’s not the end of world, since we’re not married to this furniture 100%. In fact, we’ve been dreaming about upgrading our desk for a while now. Allow me to return to my graph paper to explain. Let’s start by looking at our current not-working furniture arrangement one last time:

We’ve always thought it’d be cool to create a “built-in” desk using materials like base kitchen cabinets and a wall to wall countertop. It’d give us a lot more surface area, plus it would add a ton of drawer and cabinet storage underneath. Sure it might seem like a major undertaking to some, but since we both work from home 24/7 we’d really love to make this room, well, work hard. And when aren’t built-ins a good idea? So we knew this desk-under-the-front-window shuffle would just be a test before we invested in (or built) something customized for the space, like this:

But of course we now know that would just exacerbate the sofa-cramping situation, cause issues with the whole rug/chair conflict, and most of all freeze the heck out of us every time the vent kicked on (and possibly roast us in the winter when it was heat). We know we could shift the sofa and rug a little to remedy the first two issues, but we think the room will just start to feel off balance with them shoved in a corner, like so…

… and it still doesn’t solve the whole vent issue (which we wouldn’t want to close or partially block since it’s one of the only ones in the room besides the one near the file cabinet).

So thanks to our little furniture shuffling experiment, we’re 100% sold on adding our built-in desk to the original long wall (which would look pretty sweet through the large doorway in the dining room). That way we’d also get an even longer workspace (we already dream of having space to spread out and as much storage along the bottom as we can). The slight bummer news is that we’re back to the carport view with the desk there. But you win some, you lose some. More storage/work space + no extreme temperature issues due to practically sitting on the vent trumps the view we hardly take time to enjoy since we’re nerdy bloggers with eyes that are glued to our laptops (or our baby) anyway.

As you can see it doesn’t totally solve the sofa situation, though. Which got us thinking that the sofa may need to find a new home, since he honestly doesn’t seem to fit perfectly, and maybe a smaller armchair + ottoman is a better fit. Like so:

After all, the priorities for this office are just (1) workspace for us and (2) play space for Clara. Noticeably missing from that list is (3) sleep space for guests, which was the whole motivation for fitting a sleeper sofa into our last office (which also had to function as guestroom – which definitely cramped our style when we were both working from home full time). But now that we have a dedicated guest room, we can relax a little on the must-sleep-guests aspect of the old office. Whew.

So next on our agenda is to start scoping out built-in solutions. We’d love to find something to retrofit at, say, the Habitat ReStore or on craigslist so we can avoid the cost of true custom built-ins and give some old kitchen or office cabinets a second life. So that’s all TBD for now. But hopefully not for long, since we’ve left the current office furniture where it was so we’ve got chilly toes and a janked up rug to keep us motivated to get ‘er going (for fear that if we put things back the other way they’d stay there another eight months).

Why are the rooms we spend the most time in always the last ones we figure out?

What’s your home office situation like? Do you work from home 24/7 or just do a little internet trolling during evenings/weekends? Are there any desk or built-in solutions that you love and would recommend? Or are you also dealing with something sub-par that you can’t wait to remedy? Any other freezing toe issues out there? Not fun.

Psst– We were having slow loading/site crashing issues from 10-11am for the third morning in a row. And it’s kind of a Groundhog Day-esque nightmare that we keep thinking we’ve solved (and then it happens again). We’re still working on it (pretty much constantly for the past 72 hours). So sorry for the trouble!


  1. Kim says

    We have a similar situation with our newly remodeled house, that now has an office. We looked at Ikea for drawers, but were trying to figure out what surface would go on top of them. We have a bank of windows to look out on, with side space for-what? Bookshelves? It’s hard to figure out. Can’t wait to see what you end up with. I will be following closely!

  2. says

    My husband and I had similar built-in desk dreams for our office! We decided in October to just pick up some inexpesive Ikea desk/tables for the time being until we can afford/figure something out. Lowe’s wanted $5,000 for the cabinets we wanted! Since my husband will also being working at home on his website full time in the near future, we figure we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Plus we’re not sure if we want to keep the office where it is or move it to a spare bedroom, so the built-ins got put off for now!

    Long story short, I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys whip up! :)

  3. Dawn says

    We have the opposite of the freezing toe problem. Our office is in the loft above our living room, so all of the heat just whooshes right up there. And we only have one tiny air vent which is just not enough to counteract all of the computer equipment (my boyfriend is an IT guy so we actually have our own server which puts out a lot of heat — who has their own server in their house?). Stategically placed fans have helped somewhat but it still stays about 82 degrees up there during the summer no matter how low we set the air conditioner.

    It’s also horribly unorganized and we’d love to do some built ins like you show but just can’t figure out how to arrange everything (have to have room for that server, you know! And his mixer. And his two monitors. And really elaborate sound system.)

    • Sara says

      What about a separate window air conditioner? That way you can keep the rest of the house at a normal temp and have a breezy office.

    • Dawn says

      We’ve thought about going the window air conditioning unit route but the problem is that the window has a storm window on it that is painted shut and can’t be opened (big fire hazard I’m sure). Right now we’re going to struggle to get through the rest of the summer and then spend some months figuring out the best solution (due to weird HOA requirements we can’t remove the storm window unless we replace the window entirely which is an option since it’s an old wood window and needs to be replaced anyway) and actually I’m not sure if the HOA will allow us to have a window unit in the first place. Hmm, hadn’t even thought about that potential obstacle. We’ve also considered the oh so tacky option of hanging curtains along the entire open area to block it off from the rising heat during the summer months but I’m not even sure if that would work.

      Eh, we’ll figure out a solution eventually but in the meantime, I just try to work on the laptop and avoid the office as much as possible.

    • Lisa says

      We are having our upstairs windows tinted this summer to help block the heat. You can also purchase what are *I think* called ductless air conditioners…they hang on an interior wall and have an output to the outside, but they are not window units and usually can be put above a doorway or someplace a little less conspicuous. You can also use the portable floor AC units..we have those in our server rooms at work to keep the rooms extra chilly. You do have to empty the drainage on those to keep them from spilling or leaking though!

    • Dawn says

      Lisa, do your portable floor AC units have to be connected to the outdoors in any way? We found some that have to have a small tube connected out the window (which I think might be easier to sneak past the HOA) but can’t seem to find any that are basically like a space heater that you can just pick up and move from room to room.

  4. Emily says

    Phew! I kept yelling ditch the couch! So relieved when I saw you were considering it.

    Check out Ikeas desk solutions. Very flexible, and inexpensive! Little Green Notebook just did an Ikea desk. Not quite built in, but a really smart looking solution.

    • says

      Yeah, we checked those out when we were looking at filing cabinets. I think we’re just married to the wall to wall idea for now, but if it doesn’t work out we definitely could defer to some freestanding desk options.


    • says

      Sherry, you mentioned that you love saving cabinets from ReStore but I don’t remember a project using cabinets (I remember the doors you used in your old basement as a screen). Can you point me to it?

      Thanks and can’t wait to see what y’all do!

    • says

      Haha, oops, I meant we love the idea of it! Never actually done it yet, but every time we go and see awesome cabinets we say “can’t wait to do something and use these someday!”


  5. says

    Love the new header, makes me smile. Darn that Sunshine yellow! I wish a yellow door would work on or house…

    Custom cabinetry desk sounds like the perfect solution. Good luck with sourcing the materials and can’t wait to see the results!

    I currently work off my teeny tiny computer desk from ikea that I used in university… not working so well for the crafting. I’ll have to take some ambition from you guys!

  6. says

    Love the new header, makes me smile. Darn that Sunshine yellow! I wish a yellow door would work on our house…

    Custom cabinetry desk sounds like the perfect solution. Good luck with sourcing the materials and can’t wait to see the results!

    I currently work off my teeny tiny computer desk from ikea that I used in university… not working so well for the crafting. I’ll have to take some ambition from you guys!

  7. amy says

    Hellooo—take the base cabinets from the kitchen when you do the remodel! Paint them a fun color to play up your dining room.

  8. says

    I hate moving furniture around and around. My dad used to do “to scale” models of our room and make us figure out where we wanted the pieces so he would only move them once.

    • Lindsay says

      My fiance does this! When I moved into my condo, he made little to scale drawings of the bedrooms & living room with movable furniture that was to scale as well. He’s an engineer and will sometimes even draw things with AutoCAD!

  9. Sharon says

    As an interior re-designer and long time DIYer, I delight in following your blog each day.

    Have you considered moving the office love seat away from the wall? With the built in desks under the front yard window, run the rug length wise from the dining room entry, and place the love seat facing the desks far enough away from the door to the kitchen to allow easy passage. This should also solve the rug interference with the dek chairs.

    • says

      We’ve considered completely nixing the loveseat (check out the last few paragraphs of the post) but it’s mostly the air vent that ruins the desk under the window that faces the yard for us. Too cold! Haha.


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