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From The Curb To The Office

Before we dive into our recent office progress, we just wanted to send out a heartfelt thanks to everyone who left such sweet comments on yesterday’s announcement. To say that it has been completely surreal and that we’re so grateful are two of the biggest understatements we could make. But back to the office. You might remember on our initial planning post, we left off saying “We’re still letting the concept simmer in our heads, but we’re fairly confident that we’ll start heading in that last layout’s direction since it feels like it makes the most sense for the way we work.” 

We still wanted to tape things off on the floor to really get a feel for things, and after 700+ comments rolled in with ideas and suggestions, we had fun mulling over every last alternative. After a whole lot of thinking (and debating, and sketching, and standing in the room with tape lines all over the floor) we decided:

So with those three slow realizations (sometimes it takes us a while to get there…) we determined this layout might give us more function (and less wall-staring time) than the one we were initially leaning towards in our last office planning post.

We even dragged the comically small desk into the middle of the room just to picture things a little better. We both LOVED being sort of cradled by the bay window, and sitting in the middle of the room, so it confirmed that we were finally on the right path. Psst- the plants are fiddle leaf figs from Home Depot (on sale for $59 with a 1 year warranty) so here’s hoping I can keep them among the living…

Ever since we’ve been keeping an eye out for something to use as a double desk that could float in the room. We assumed we’d need to adapt it in some way to make it wider or longer to accommodate two people, but we knew a good solid piece would be just the “bones” we’d need to begin, so we’ve been hitting up thrift stores, checking out craigslist and freecycle, and even the occasional yard sale (theeeeeey’re staaaaarting up again guys! hooray spring!). After at least eight failed missions/searches, this nice big, packed with storage, solid wood desk popped up on craigslist as a curb alert.

It was sheer luck that I saw it about twenty minuntes after it was initially posted (free curb alert items don’t usually last long) and it was even better luck that it happened to be a Wednesday, because on a weekend I think it would have been gone in a minute. We dropped Clara off with John’s parents so we could fold down the seats to make room for something big, and raced over to the curb… hoping to see something on it.

Oh happy day, we made it! And it fit into the car by about two inches (if the legs weren’t removable it would have been too tall).

There might have been happy tears from this highly emotional pregnant lady. I also cry during commercials and the occasional youtube video about puppies.

Anyway, once at home we set it up on a dropcloth with four small pieces of wood under it to lift it up a few inches off the ground. The drawers were still out from our travels, and the other side was a cabinet with a faux-drawer front. There was even a pull-out thing on the right.

It was pretty beat up, so we were glad we were both sold on painting it white from the start.

We’ve been craving a clean/light/airy office from day one (we have dark walls in our bedroom, and more planned for the dining room across the hall from the office – but we always envisioned a light and bright work space). So although we LOVE a good old piece of furniture that’s unpainted, like our media cabinet, which we just cleaned up and brought back to its original beauty with a combination of this method and this method; and Clara’s dresser, which we just stained with a painted top; and this hand-me-down dresser from John’s dad that now lives in our closet

… painting the desk a no-brainer thanks to the combination of more wear and tear along with our desire for a clean and light office.

We also removed all the hardware, drawers, and doors to prep it. That’s when we saw this tag with the maker’s info. Doesn’t “Administrator TM” sound official? I loved squinting at the old drawer lock that said 1968 (it kinda looks like 1999 in in this picture, but up close it’s definitely ’68). In fact in googling around for “Alma Administrator Desk 1968″ I found one (albeit in a lot better shape) on eBay for $1000! Is that crazy or what?

How cool is this world we live in, where people leave things they no longer want on the curb and they just might happen to be exactly what someone else is looking for.

I’m sentimental these days, huh? It’s just a desk.

Anyway, next up was the “remove all the other random stuff” stage. This included using a straight razor to scrape off some paint blobs, weird raised areas of glue, and some old tape that had been stuck to the surface.

Then it was sanding time, so John donned a mask (sanding old wood can be particularly dusty) and used our hand sander to really rough things up.

Once it had all been sanded down, we applied wood putty in a few spots, just to fill in the divots and low points. We sanded those areas again when they were fully dry, and we were good to go.

Next I wiped it down with liquid deglosser, just to remove any leftover sawdust or grease/build-up that might be lurking. Then John broke out the Kilz Premium primer and applied one thin and even coat with a small foam roller. It’s what we used to paint our kitchen cabinets, which didn’t give us any issues with bleed.

One coat only took about an hour, and we did the back and fronts of the cabinet door, and the fronts of the drawers (so we left the interior of the cabinets and the drawers wood, which we did in our last office as well).

Before painting it, we decided it was probably smart to bring it into the house so we didn’t risk dinging up our paint job by moving it afterwards. We used the same dolly that came in handy for getting the fridge on the back porch a few weeks ago but this time John and I got ‘er done. The dolly did all the heavy lifting, so John pulled and I just sort of steered it, opened various doors, and made sure we weren’t hitting anything or falling off the front pathway while we pulled it along.

Once inside, we set up the same drop cloth + four scrap pieces of wood system to slightly lift the desk off the floor and used the same Simply White Advance paint that we used for the upper cabinets in the kitchen (it’s self leveling and specifically made for painting cabinetry or furniture). Once again we applied it with a small foam roller – using a small angled brush to get into some of the areas a roller wouldn’t reach, and then rolling over them as much as we could to blend everything together.

John did the first coat, and tagged me to do the second one the next day. If you can imagine, I looked even less graceful doing this part. Thankfully there is zero photographic evidence.

It just took those two coats to get it covered, and the following day I applied some satin Safecoat Acrylacq to the desktop just to seal everything and give it added protection – once again with a small foam roller (I did two thin coats).

We also decided to have some fun with the legs and the handles by painting the wood parts the same Simply White color as the desk itself, but once that dried we taped off the freshly painted parts (or disassembled the handles) so the old silver metal could get a subtle metallic-champagne color (I used Champagne Mist by Rustoleum).

It definitely has that light/airy office vibe going on now.

You can catch a glimpse of the legs in this photo.

Overall, we’re really happy with how it came out. Especially since it was a free secondhand find, which means we can put more money towards other things we want to do in here – like window treatments, an awesome overhead light, storage systems, nice new office chairs, etc.

So here’s how the room is looking now:

With more of a handle on our layout, we’re excited to move on to other steps, like painting the office (so far we’ve only done the trim) and working out how we’re going to make a wall of organization (we’re planning to use the wall behind this shot, since it’s hidden from the foyer (that way the room won’t look messy even if our command center gets chaotic).

As for adapting the desk to work for two people, we think it’ll be a pretty simple cut-a-hole-in-the-back-and-trim-it-out process, and we might add a wider top down the line (wouldn’t soapstone be cool?). But we didn’t want to rush into that just in case over the next few weeks as this room comes together we change our mind and want a single desk for some reason (with another desk area somewhere else). So we’re resisting the urge to rush into any decisions that we can’t undo, like cutting this baby open.

Update: Apparently using laptops for scale would have been helpful to show how two people can easily fit at this desk (it’s 34″ wide and would be 38″ if we added some sort of counter with a 2″ overhang) so here’s that pic for you guys! Our first house’s double desk was 18″ deep, and we each had ample rooms for legs and computers, so we think this plan should work well – but of course we’ll keep you posted…

What secondhand finds have you guys been hunting down lately? Have you ever actually gotten in on a curb alert before someone beat you to it? This was our very first time. Gotta say, I liked it. I liked it a lot.

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Wallpaper In The Nursery?

I know it sounds kinda crazy, but after painstakingly removing five different wallpapers from this house… we’re considering putting some up. I think I even passively mentioned it in this post about the nursery mobile.

Ever since we imagined the idea of these built-ins, we pictured making the space between the two of them sort sort of accent – either with a color or pattern or treatment of some sort (in our first post we even mentioned a planked wall). Those ideas fizzled a little bit after completing the built-ins and realizing they had a lot of stuff on them (so we didn’t want to clutter up that space between them above the crib too). But neither of us could quite shake the idea of still doing an accent of sorts somewhere in the room. And one night while perusing possible wallpaper ideas for the showhouse, this puppy caught John’s eye.

He went rogue and without even consulting yours truly (cue your outraged gasps) and ordered a sample of it and its darker counterpart, for $5 each. With tax and shipping it was $13 total. Thirteen bucks that would either earn him a sour look from me, or make him a hero.

Well, he got the sour look alright – not for the $13, but because I can still vividly remember the claw-hands I had from wallpaper peeling. The good news is that when he explained that Spoonflower wallpaper is removable, all was right with the world again. And I really liked the pattern too (it feels like something that could grow with the bun, and not be too fleeting or “young baby”). The hero part is still TBD though.

The samples arrived a couple of weeks later. They’re nice and big, and they revealed a detail that John hadn’t detected online: a subtle linen-like texture in the gray tones that I also thought was a nice touch.

We ran upstairs to tape them up on the walls, just to get a feel for them in the room, and John went rogue again and put them on the wall with the bike prints. He must be getting braver (I think it’s the beard, guys). Since we’re both less tempted to mess with the look of the built-in wall, he said he thought that wall might be the answer instead. Forgive the terrible phone pic.

We snapped that with my iPhone so I could mock-up a full-wall version of the space in Photoshop. For those wondering how I did it, I just dragged the photo I shared above into Photoshop and laid it over another picture I took of (almost) the full wall. Then I just adjusted the size of the overlaid detail photo of the wallpaper until the patterns matched up and were the same size (I had the opacity of the top layer down a little so I could see when that happened).

Once I knew the wallpaper pattern was the right scale, I put the opacity back up to 100% and cut out the rest of the iPhone pic so I was just left with a rectangle of wallpaper that I could manually tile until it filled the whole picture. Lastly, I cut out around the objects like the frames, doors, and the changing table (which were still in the image behind the tiled wallpaper) so as I deleted the wallpaper in front of them, it appeared to run behind them.

I also tried a version where I adjusted the color to look like the darker sample that John also ordered, but it was pretty clear to both of us that we preferred the lighter one.

I thought it was a little hard to judge without seeing a plain wall meeting the accent wall to give it context, so I used the same technique to mock things up on this photo that I already had of the room. The colors probably aren’t perfect (the curtains look neon here), but it definitely helped us to picture everything – and it confirmed that the light version wouldn’t clash with the wall color or anything.

I still wasn’t convinced that was the right wall for an accent (I feared it might look too busy with the bike art in real life) so we also mocked it up on the crib wall to see if our original idea was better. We stared at it for a second, but I think we both prefer the bike wall. It just felt too crazy over the crib with all the items on the built-ins, the mobile, the patterned crib skirt, etc.

I also tossed some bold green up there just to see if a hit of that above the crib would be fun. It’s not great photoshop (looks pretty flat) but we didn’t really love it.

I also tried something sort of charcoal-ish to balance the chair out. This one made both of us do that “eh, not bad” face while staring at the computer. It looks kinda nice with the white crib and the mobile.

To add yet another possibility to the ring, a sweet reader named Annie had emailed us this quick mock-up she did with some chunky stripes painted behind the crib, which also gave us pause. You know we love a striped wall

We’re still sort of letting things simmer, but we’d love to hear what you guys would do. Would you go for the wallpaper on the bike art wall? We like that it’s removable, so it’s not too much of a commitment. Do you prefer a solid wall of green or charcoal or even some stripes behind the crib? Or should we just stop being crazy and leave things the heck alone? Part of us is really excited to add one more layer of interest into the room (we’ve never put up wallpaper so that would be a new adventure – and most of the elements in here are really neutral). Then again, we still want this room to be a mixture of playful and cozy (as opposed to that’s-just-straight-up-crazy). What do you think?

What would you do?
[check one]

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As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by HouseofGold
by WanderingKate
by kschrav
by stclaircatherine

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