Updating A Craigslist Desk For 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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Hook, Line, and Bullseye

It’s been nearly three years in the making, so it’s hard to believe that the day is finally here that we can share our longest-stretching side-gig to date. We’ve been designing a collection of products… and a bunch of them are now being sold exclusively at Target (!!!). Cue the sound effect of a cat sprinting out of a bag.

We designed three or four dozen pieces before the final mix was chosen – and those designs, which are an assortment of wall storage and hooks, are available right now at Target.com and will be on endcaps in most US stores starting March 31st.

You’ll be able to find them in the Home Improvement section where they’ll be hanging out for 14 weeks. Did I mention that we’re freaking out like Clara next to a furry mascot that she “just wants to hug and squeeze”?

To say we never thought something like this would ever happen to us might be the biggest understatement of our blogging careers. And even when this process started rolling waaaaay back in July of 2011, we never expected that it would end up here.

When you look at the collection you’ll notice that we’ve adapted a lot of things that we love – from bees and old skeleton keys to a certain ridiculously handsome chihuahua. And everything’s priced at $14.99 or less.

We even included a bit of DIY customization in the mix, thanks to these raw wood hook rails (one with a picture ledge on top, and one without) that you can personalize with paint, stain, wallpaper, decoupage, or whatever else you have on hand. Then you can choose any of the four hardware styles in either oil-rubbed bronze or white and screw them into the predrilled rail holes.

But let’s rewind back to July of 2011, when this whole thing started. At that time, a company called Liberty Hardware was a sidebar blog sponsor of ours and they asked to come interview us for some research they were doing about the do-it-yourself trend. A few months later, that research turned into an invitation to explore the possibility of designing some products with them. When we said yes there was no part of us that ever envisioned them ending up in a store like Target.

The next two years were an exciting and sometimes intense process of design and development. Never again will we underestimate the work that goes into making those everyday products that we see on store shelves. We were primarily responsible for the creative direction, which involved providing everything from rough sketches to color/finish input along with design tweaks and feedback at every step of the design process. Liberty’s team was great to work with, and had things like manufacturing feasibility and sales analysis covered – which was a huge necessity to taking our ideas from paper (and visions in our heads) to real-life objects.

The development process was hugely interesting to us because it was like nothing we had ever seen. From the drawings & images that we provided, the Liberty design team would illustrate some options, the best of which then got modeled either on a computer or in clay by hand (sometimes both). Those then became 3D printed models that could get cast to become real production prototypes and eventually the final product was born. There was feedback, tweaking, and even a few “back to the drawing board” moments at each step in the process. Questions of scale, symmetry, functionality, finish, price, etc. were always being considered – as well as how everything would fit together as a collection. Heck, there was even a focus group held at one point! So all-in-all we probably designed forty or fifty pieces before they got narrowed down to the current mix.

While lots of the design work happened virtually (through email and conference calls), The Liberty team – which is primarily headquartered about 3.5 hours from us in Winston-Salem, NC – traveled to Richmond on several occasions. We also found ourselves traveling to see them in North Carolina, meeting with their design team in Chicago (that’s Adam pictured, who has been bringing our ideas to life from day one of the project), and even flying out to the Target headquarters in Minneapolis at one point. Despite that meeting happening in late April of last year, we still happened to catch a major snowstorm. We’re not sure how you Minnesotans do it.

That trip in Minneapolis was especially surreal, since it happened just a few months after we had been there for our book tour. It was weird to be secretly traveling there after so freely Instagramming our previous tour travels. We actually got recognized a couple of times while standing outside of the Target offices, so we were pretty freaked out that our cover was blown (to the folks who said hi to us, we can now apologize for being SO INSANELY AWKWARD). Secrets are no fun.

We shot the images you see in this post (and that appear on the packaging) in our house last November. It felt a lot like our book shoots when we were trying to create a diverse mix of backdrops in a house with very few painted walls, so we had to get a little creative. You can see in this photo that we used a remnant piece of grasscloth wallpaper to spice things up behind the Burger hook. And that’s our brother-in-law/pro-photographer Todd who did all of the shooting. Nothing like keeping it in the family.

Once it was cropped, you’d never know there was painters tape and blue trim lurking just out of frame.

After all those months, all those trips and meetings, all those designs and redesigns, and all of the shooting/writing for the packaging, it still feels completely unreal that this project is out in the world now. And we’re even more excited to hopefully roll out more products as the year goes on. Yup, we’re actively pitching new designs that go beyond wall hooks and storage (Target prefers the idea of tight collections, so we’re working on different home/DIY themes that could be switched out seasonally).

We owe a huge thanks to all of the people who’ve been a part of this, especially those who have put up with our silly questions or nit-picky changes. So a big virtual hug goes out to everyone who saw something in our ideas, and helped bring them to life.

And of course we have an insane amount of love for you guys for sharing this crazy journey with us (and for putting up with our “secret project” for so long – we really wished we could have told you, oh, 32 months ago). Never in our wildest dreams did we think that first post back in 2007 would lead us here. Oops, I think the orchestra is playing me out, but picture me waving my chihuahua hook in the air while Sherry gracefully trips over her gown on the way down the steps. She’s the J. Law to my J. Leto (I just have to work on my flowing man-mane).

You can browse and buy everything now over on Target.com, and then it’ll be in most stores beginning March 31st. Fingers crossed that the sight doesn’t send Sherry into labor!

 

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