My Home Office: Before and After

December 10, 2009

I’ve never had a problem with brown.  I love brown, especially chocolate brown.  I think it looks amazing when paired with crisp white or warm cream and a really hot color.  But I was totally over brown in my home office.  Everything in there was brown, the walls, the furniture, the curtains.  Blah blah blah brown. 

The home office is the first door just off the entry way, and was always closed whenever visitors came over.  Quite frankly it was more of a storage space and less of an office for many years.  The first thing I ever did when I heard the doorbell was close the office door.  

When I spied some bookcases on clearance for $20 dollars each at a local outlet that was closing its doors, something clicked in my brain.  “I spy with my little eye a home office remodel.” 

It took me five months to finally get around to completing the entire space since I’ve been busy with other things (ahem, life) but it got a complete overhaul from floor to ceiling and now I can say it is finally finished.   

Here the After:

home office after final

Here’s the Before – these are the ‘uncluttered’ pics:

office rear before

Here’s the story. 

We’ve owned this dark furniture for almost ten years but this space was way too dark and way too masculine for me.   Mr. CG has his own office off campus so I was reclaiming this space as my own.  A space for me to keep one foot in the legal field, and one foot in the DIY blog world.  I wanted it to be light and bright, sophisticated and feminine.  In other words, the complete opposite of the way it was. 

It’s hard to tell in photographs, but this room is rather narrow.  It is less than 10 feet wide and only 12 feet deep.  The back of the space was a wall of white closet doors.  The challenge was to maximize both form and function.  So it was out with the dark wood, and in with the fresh white cabinetry and furniture.   

Here’s the window side ‘Before’ in a suprisingly organized state: 

office before

And After:

left side of home office

The first thing I did was sell the desk on Craigslist and then I built a media center for my guest space with the smaller wood bookcases.  I replaced the bottom heavy dark wood desk with this fresh new writer’s desk I transformed from a table.  I spray painted the table, stenciled and hand painted the surface, then I had a glass top made for it.  You’ll recognize my Cinderella chair from way back in April when I transformed this $3 dollar thrift store chair with some paint, fabric, and nailhead trim. 


desk and chair


chair and painted desk


The table gives me a huge work surface but don’t be fooled by its clean surface.  As I write, it is already cluttered with my laptop and mounting files, bills, and To Do lists.

I confess I do love sitting at this window.  I watch squirrels play in the trees and hummingbirds come into my front garden.  I also watch preschool children come and go from their school across the street, the same school my children attended. 

You can’t even see it – it is so washed out – but hello, LOVE my Lucite-look acrylic lamp.  Tar-jay people !



How kind of my narcissus bulbs to bloom just in time for the big reveal.  It’s fate, I tell ya.

blooming paperwhites

I like to keep my pens and business cards in pretty containers.


  business cards in champagne glass


Fixing up and installing this pair of gigantic bookcases took a ton of work, and were the final hurdle to completing the space.  I picked them up from an outlet that was closing its doors for $20 dollars each.  They were butter yellow, but not anymore !  They have tempered glass shelves and built in lighting so they were a complete steal – but I still had to refurbish and repaint them.  They help to maximize every inch of space from floor to ceiling, at least where they stand.   They also make the room appear a whole lot bigger than it is. 

Finding these bookcases was the motivation to overhaul this space from the very beginning but ironically they were the very last thing I finished ! 

One sits behind the door. 

left side corner


Up on the wall are those memo boards I made from recycled cabinet doors.

memo boards


On the other side, the bookcase holds an additional work space for sewing, crafting, or most likely, the piles of paperwork, bills and other clutter that amass quickly around here.   

bookcase with table finished


They do provide a ton of storage space and display space – that I love. 

extra shelves and table


favorite texts


The other side of the room used to hold file cabinets and boxes.

Here it is Before:

office wall copy

And After:

right side after

Now the space has a fabulous conversation area !  This is where I love to have coffee in the morning with my hub or a glass of wine at night.  Also a great place for any future clients ! 

I repainted the closet doors to provide a more interesting backdrop.  The walls were all recovered in spa blue grasscloth wallpaper that I hung all by myself back in August.   That was a huge chore !  Then I took some pictures from my garden this past summer, converted them to black and white, enlarged them and framed them to create an inexpensive backdrop in silver frames.   

Grasscloth texture = yum.

grasscloth and frames


The Drexel Heritage sofa was a thrift store find – I took the skirt off by hand (a million staples…) and had it professionally cleaned.  The circular rug is from Tar-jay and really completes the space with its dark contrast and blue swirl design.  The thrift store ottoman I also recovered myself

conversation area


I also repainted and recovered this thrift store chair earlier this year and then finished it with some hand painted silver detail.  I made the pillow out of suit material and finished it off with a dark brown suit button. 

revamped chair and mirrored tray


The cordless phone and fax machine are hidden behind the sofa.

hidden fax and phone


This mirrored tray is from Tar-jay (love it!) and the silver pitcher is a flea market find.  Chenille throw is from Tar-jay too.   

flowers on ottoman


On the other side of the sofa is the second tower that I revamped earlier this year, thanks to my favorite spray paint: Rustoleum’s ‘Heirloom White’ !! 

What would the world be like without Rustoleum’s ‘Heirloom White’  ?

right corner


Above the conversation area sits the Montserrat chandy from Ballard Designs. 

ballard chandelier


I went back and forth on the window treatments for this room.  I originally wanted very tall panels, then I thought I’d install a shelf above the window, so I made this no-sew swag valance.  After I installed the huge bookcases, the valance looked way too small in proportion, so I went back to tall window treatments.  I chose these 96” Seville curtains from Overstocks – they were a total steal, and you can pick them up in various colors right here

I found these brass scales in an antique store a few months ago, and I’ve been waiting for the perfect place to display them.  They remind me to (try to) keep my life in balance – my constant daily struggle. 

antique scales and curtains


You might be wondering where I keep my office supplies if I plan to do any real work.  The printer/scanner is behind closed doors, and the rest of my office supplies I keep in the thrift store highboy I restained earlier this year.  That handy piece stores all my staplers, scissors, hole punches, envelopes, and paper right outside my office door, and also keeps those supplies accessible to the family.   

Believe it or not, overhauling this space from top to bottom cost me less than a thousand dollars !   No joke.  A huge chunk of savings came from the lucky find with the bookcases, writer’s desk, towers, and thrift store sofa.  Surprisingly, the most expensive thing in this room was the wallpaper at $240 dollars, but I saved a ton installing it myself. 

Cost breakdown:  Cabinets $80 dollars; writer’s desk (table) $40;  glass top $80; thrift store sofa $150; rug $60; chandelier $140; refinished side chair $25; refinished thrift store chair $20; recovered ottoman $20; grasscloth wallpaper $240; curtains $75; paint and supplies $65.

Total, not including accessories:  $995

So that’s the story behind this space – it took me five months from start to finish between all my other projects, but it is finally finished !

home office after final

Of all the spaces that I’ve revamped this year, this one makes me the most happy.  It’s proof that with a lot of elbow grease and patience, a sense of frugality, and a little bit of luck, one can transform something from the completely drab into the totally fab.  When I look around this space I can say that I am most proud of the fact that I transformed it from top to bottom, detail by detail, in a cost conscious way, and without sacrificing style.

Finally, after all these years, the office door will remain eternally open . . .


209 Responses to “My Home Office: Before and After”

  1. TidyMom says:

    I LOVE ALL of it! LOL


  2. Tanya says:

    It is gorgeous! You did such a good job on all of the projects that pulled the room together. I am so jealous of your bargain shelves.

  3. Barbie Jones says:

    I just want to hug you!!!!! IT’S BEAUTIFUL! I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL WE BUY OUR FIRST HOME!!!

  4. Jen says:

    You are amazing. SO SO pretty and YOU. Love it! I can’t believe that sofa was only $150. Enjoy your new space & leaving the doors open :)

  5. My jaw was dropped for this whole post, but it dropped even more when I saw the final price tag. Amazing! It is really a beautiful space!

  6. Have been out all morning and haven’t had a chance to comment until now. WOW! This room just makes me smile. :) In case you didn’t know it, you are so brilliant, Kate!! The colors are so calming and I think the white furniture makes the room look soooo much bigger. I would love to have your help with my master bedroom, which is a COMPLETE blank slate (you’d probably cry if you saw it) and needs a look, any look, desperately. ;)

    Bravo!!!! This is one for the record books. (and HGTV too!) :)

  7. So pretty! Those are the colors I’m going to do in my bedroom. I was going to do more of the tan rather than brown, but now considering the brown too. It looks like you used a grasscloth on your walls. Is that what it is?

    You should come help me with my bedroom! LOL

  8. Kristin says:

    I wish I had your eye for design. This space is stunning. I absolutely love it.

  9. Kristin says:

    So beautiful! Amazing….truly! I love it! Can you tell.. ;)

  10. Pixie says:

    Kate, wow, you’re a superhero! We’ve seen bits and pieces of this room in various posts. All put together, it’s just gorgeous.

    My extra guest/office room is the exact same size. I’m hoping I can do something along these lines for it!

  11. jenn says:

    Oh wow. What an amazing transformation! You give me hope and lots of ideas for my cramped little home office. THANKS! :)

  12. Corinna says:

    What a wonderful make-over! It must be so serene in there with the light shining through. I always got a little desk to put right into a window nook so I can watch teh squirrels run around and the weather change… though it can be hard to stay in my seat when the weather is nice! One of the most transformative elements are your closet doors- they know look so expensive and really help give the room depth. I do hope you found somewhere to put your diplomas! Tonight is my criminal procedure final…I can’t wait until I have my ‘paper certificate’ proving I made it through!

  13. Blair says:

    AMAZING!!! I love every detail!

  14. Christine aka The Stampin Ninja says:

    Shut up! That is NOT the same room! WOW! I mean that’s all I can come up with, WOW! What a beautiful room! How can you not be inspired when sitting in there! Great job! Wanna come help redo my scrapbook room/office space?! :0)

  15. Katie says:

    OMG I LOVE it! The touches of aqua are beautiful and I love that you’ve got a clean and sophisticated look that coud’ve come right out of a magazine but still have personal touches. The photos of your garden are great.

  16. Lorri says:

    Oh my goodness! You amaze me. I’m just sitting out here in blogland wondering how you manage to it all. What a beautiful space you’ve created for yourself! You inspire me.

  17. Gorgeous. You got this just right. My favorite parts are the grasscloth wall coverings and the blue jar for pens. Where did you get a blue Mason Jar? Must. Have.

    This is so inspiring, I’m going to have to share it with my readers. Thanks for sharing with us!

  18. kristin says:

    can you tell me the details on the grasscloth, I love it!!!

  19. Julia says:

    I am happened to stop in here from a friend’s blog and was just amazed by the transformation of the room. All I can say is WOW! Awesome work!

  20. Brenda Moore says:

    WOW! LOVELY SHADES to make every visit to this room a breath and sense of “AAAHHHH” .
    Nice job!!

  21. Megan says:

    I really love your office transformation. I’m so impressed by your creativity and thriftyness. Thanks so much for sharing all the details with us.

  22. Roeshel says:

    I LOVE IT! Kate, you did a beautiful job! Every detail is gorgeous. I could just sit in there all day. What a beautiful place to work! :)

  23. Wow. You just became my husband’s worst enemy…

    (My life will from now on be dedicated to redesigning each and every room in my home.)

  24. susan says:

    this is absolutely gorgeous. i can’t take my eyes off of that rug, either!!! target, really??? it’s all very beautiful and i love your color choices. GREAT JOB!!! i’d want to hang out in that room, too!

  25. Heather says:

    <3, its awesome!

  26. celia says:

    What a difference!!! Woww, that’s an extreme makeover! lol… Even though I liked the before pictures and furniture too!!! But now it’s fresher!

  27. Melissa says:

    I absolutely LOVE this room. Gorgeous!!!

  28. Cerentha says:

    Hi there
    The office looks great – could I reblog it? I’m editing a blog for Herman Miller and this would be perfect.
    You can reach me at cerenthaATmacDOTcom.

  29. amy barnes says:

    so very cute! You inspire me!

  30. Andrea says:

    Great room. Wondering where you found your great rug??

  31. amazing! you are seriously just amazing. can i come take a tour of your house sometime? :)

  32. Shannon V says:

    What an amazing room! I love it. Did you make the sewing table or did that shelf come that way? I love that idea. I am always looking for ways to get my sewing machine off the dining room table!!

  33. Erika says:

    Oh I love it, in fact I am in love with this makeover! Such a great job :)

  34. I am seriously about to shed a tear bec. I love your office so much! I amo in your old boat of running and closing the office door when we have visitors and I just can’t seem to get inspired. I love everything about your space, especially the price :) I would love to feature it on my blog!

  35. Kate says:

    Maybe it’s the fact that we share a name, but holy cow, this is pretty much EXACTLY the kind of home office I dream of having one day. If I ever live in anything larger than a 1 bedroom NYC apartment, that is. And truth be told, I might have to throw in some extra masculine touches since I’ll likely have to share said imaginary future office with my husband. But that’s what suit fabric throw pillows are for.
    It’s truly amazing. And the fact that you did it yourself gives me hope that its not out of my reach either….someday.

    AMAZING job. I’m might just have to make your new home office the desktop picture at my real office. Is that weird?

    I love it!
    (this is my first comment)

  36. My home office is right inside the front door too, currently a large porch that is being winterized. It is set to be done this week (finally!) and I can’t wait to finally get everything back into place. Yours looks amazing!

  37. This is sooooooooooo pretty!!! That Ball jar is a great one!! It is an older one in case you have not researched!

  38. Val says:

    I am in love with this office! everything about it-i seriously would not change one thing! I love the deals you found and crafted-very good -no- great job!

  39. WOW!! I love your office. I would be embarrassed to show mine… but I think I will change that in the new year.

  40. Megan says:

    OMG, its gorgeous! The bookshelves, the closets, the couch, ugh just everything. You are extremely talented. Your office should be in a magazine. Please come over and do that with mine?
    I am so going to start following you now!

  41. Sally says:

    Wow! This is absolutely stunning. You are an inspiration! My new years resolution is to follow your lead & revamp my miscellaneous thrift shop furniture in off white. So happy to have just discovered your website!

  42. Evelyn says:

    I am so impressed with this transformation. This post serves as an inspiration to me, asking me to rethink unused space in my own home. Wow!

  43. Ivonne says:

    Love everything you do, thank you for inspiring me and others!!!

  44. Brooke says:

    Love your before/after. You have a fabulous eye for how things should look and I applaud your creativity at seeing a diamond in the rough and transforming odd pieces from here or there. Really beautiful.

  45. Becca says:

    Oh wow – this transformation is amazing. The before photos look like a room in a regular house, and the afters look like a magazine!! Very well done. I’m wondering if you could tell me where you picked up the wallpaper? I’m looking to do the same idea (match paint up to one wall of grasscloth) in my master bedroom. Thanks!

  46. Melissa says:

    Amazing. So fresh and airy and light. Looks like a great space to work every day.

  47. Oh my goodness!
    That is the most amazing transformation and you made it look like a shot out of a magazine.
    Absolutely stunning. I’m bookmarking this post to get tips for when I start decorating my own home.

  48. Melynda says:

    Oh my word! This is incredibly gorgeous, thanks so much for sharing. I am in the middle of creating my craft room/knitting studio- this is now bokmarked!

  49. Beth H says:

    Wow! That is an unbelievable room transformation! I am so impressed. It looks absolutely stunning! You are the queen of remaking thrift store finds! I have many remodeling/revamping projects of my own in the queue, so your blog is a real inspiration. thanks for sharing!

  50. Shannon says:

    Hey! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this office and want to do my office in similar colours. Could you tell me the name(s) of the paint you used for the closet doors? And what colour grass cloth did you use? Thanks so much and congrats on such a beautiful space!

  51. Candy says:

    I just stumbled upon ur blog and am BLOWN away by your rennovations. We just bought a new house and are at square one. You have given me such inspiration for all my rooms!! THANK YOU!

  52. erin says:

    BE STILL MY HEART!!! Your room is INCREDIBLE – fantastic choices!!! Would you mind sharing your wallpaper selection? I would love to find the same one for my home office. You have fabulous taste – WELL DONE, and thanks for sharing with us!

  53. Sharmin says:

    I am sooooo inspired by your beautiful office makeover!!! Thank you for sharing this. I look forward to seeing more of your lovely ideas.

  54. WOW! This is an amazing transformation. That is my style all the way, transitional, serene, elegant, crisp, clean, airy and bright. I love all thelight that room has and the softness of the color palette you chose. Good job on scoring those shelves too! You must be SO proud to leave the door open and show this room off now!

    I’m inspired to stop procrastinating and get mine done. It’s actually the same color palette. It happens to be our guest room though, so there is less room for comfy furniture like a sofa. It will eventually be our future baby nursery so I’m hoping to only have to paint it once. The soft blue is what I chose so far.

  55. Jessica says:

    This room is stunning! Oh my! I read your blog daily (or so I thought) and I don’t remember this reveal! I have been waiting for a while to see it. It was well worth the wait! I can’t believe you pulled that off under a thousand dollars. It truly is stunning. Well done!

  56. Amazingly lovely! Beautiful job.

  57. Helen says:

    I am absolutely blown away! We are “tidying” things up here at home and this might make me change the colour scheme we were thinking of using. Gosh, I’m super impressed! And it looks like such a beautiful and serene spot to work in. TFS
    Helen — Firenze Cards

  58. Janelle says:

    Love love love this times a million!! While I also totally love the wallpaper I think I’m too timid to hang wallpaper…so I think I will try and color match it w/ a nice paint. Want color are the blues on the closet door??

  59. This is just beautiful! I have been itching to start painting the house a similar blue…but am a bit scared. But seeing your pictures remind me of how stunning it can be! The courage is slowly building. :) This is my first time visiting your blog and it seems lovely. I too am from Northern Ca!

  60. Peacock says:

    I just happened upon your website and I’m in love. Your quickly made it to my ‘favorites’ and i’ll be a regular visitor!

  61. Emily says:

    This is fabulous! I can’t tell you how excited I am to see the painted closet doors. I’ve just added a new project to my list – thanks to your creative show and tell. ;) Enjoy your revamped space!!

  62. meredith says:

    I adore that rug — do you happen to remember the name of the pattern?

  63. ConstantlyRedecorating says:

    This room–can I live there? It’s beautiful, functional, serene…did I mention beautiful? Your blog has a new reader!

  64. Midwestdiva says:

    Where did you purchase the pillows on the sofa?

  65. Judy says:

    I Love that rug, but I can’t find it anywhere on the internet, can you post more info or a link to where I could get it?

  66. What an inspiration. We are moving soon and one of the bedrooms will be a combo guest room and MY office. Our current Queen size bed will reside there. Our bedding is chocolate brown, sage green, and a similar spa blue that you used. I may have to run with the spa blue color which will hopefully be relaxing in that space.

    Love what you did!

  67. Katie says:

    Drooling over this!! I SO wish this was my office.

  68. Dot says:

    Hello, Do you remember the name or item number of the rug? I can’t find it at Target. Thank you!

  69. That was brilliant, great job! ^_^

  70. kirsty says:

    OMG !!!! this is amazing I want to live with you and see how you do all of these gorgeous things (meant in a nice not strange way !!) I love the colours and how the desk is placed in the window I just wish I had a house where I could have an office truly inspiring thank you for showing us x

  71. melissa says:

    LOVE the whole room…but the bookcase with the sewing machine is exactly what I’ve been searching it two separate pieces or one and if you don’t mind any ideas who makes it? Thanks!

  72. Cathy says:

    I just featured your space on my blog: I absolutely adore your office space transformation! So refreshing and elegant!

  73. […] my office, my ceilings are nine feet high, so according to the formula, my chandelier can drop up to 27 […]

  74. absolutely creative! it’s amazing… before i met with your site i was thinking i know a lot of things about decoration but now gave up! :)) keep up good work ! love

  75. Cassiopeia says:

    I absolutely adore your office makeover. I hope you don’t mind if I use it as an inspiration for my sunroom office in my new house. As soon as I saw it I knew it was perfect.

    Thanks so much for sharing and for inspiring me. I sincerely appreciate it.

  76. Amy says:

    I love the way you made the bottom half of your bookcase accommodate deeper shelves. I sooo need to figure out how to do that. Would you mind sharing how you did it? Thanks for all you have already shared – what a cool office!

  77. naomi says:

    OMG! i’m so glad i found your web site. i feel like i found a tresure(there are a lot~~of DIY websites but this is it!!)
    can i ask where did you get your grasscloth wall paper?

  78. […] home office?  My living room?  My master bathroom?  Yep, they’re mostly blue.  I make no […]

  79. Priscilla K. says:

    Your office is absolutely amazing! You’ve got serious decorating talent! I’ve looked at Target online for the rug in your space with no luck. Could you please give me the name and any other information, so that I can find one for myself? Thank you in advance.

  80. Love the room. Did a roundup of some office redo ideas on our blog and included yours. Will be watching your blog–lots of great ideas!

  81. […] Great !  Cause guess what?  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  As much as I love my home office, and even though I spend most daytime hours and late night hours writing in this space . . […]

  82. […] for me, I spend most of my blogging hours in my home office, but when the kids are home in the afternoon, I plug in at the island in our kitchen in order to […]

  83. Sarah says:

    This remodel just blew me away!! But, one question, what is the type and name of the paint you used on your closet doors? I just love that color!

  84. traci says:

    i would not leave that room!!

  85. stacy says:

    beautiful!!!!! saw your post on the savvyphotographer….i will now be a regular!!!!! i was once a successful business woman in the corporate world of apparel…now i’m a stay at home mom w/ 5 kids! I am also in the beginning stages of my photography business. It’s hard to feel like a success at anything these days…not a very good stay at home mom…but i’m trying!!! and i have a deep desire fro diy….i think your blog will be a wonderful inspiration for me! i’m so thankful i stumbled across your blog today!!!!! thanks!

  86. WOW! Beautiful office!!!!!

  87. Stephanie says:

    Your office is amazing! It has inspired me to makeover my own office. I also love the trellis pattern in your bedroom and will be using that idea in my new office too! Thanks so much for blogging. I truly love reading your blog daily!

  88. Michelle says:

    Wow this room is a true masterpiece. Absolutely love it and can’t wait to get to and finish off my home office which also has grey as the base colours.

  89. Anita A says:

    This is so pretty and love that dollar amount. I am signing up for your blog today.

  90. […] around these parts too!  I happen to be a habitual mover of furniture, so the sofa that was in my home office was moved into the living room over the weekend.  I like it here!  It makes for a pleasant […]

  91. […] year I remodeled my home office, and it’s been a genuine pleasure working in this pretty and personalized space.  For […]

  92. […] my work space.  I like to be surrounded by girly glamorous sophisticated things in my home office, and the color pairing I’m fixated on lately is raspberry and teal, can’t you tell by […]

  93. Jeannette says:

    Can you tell me if the table/shelf for your sewing machine was custom made or did you buy it like that? If so, can you tell me where you found it? Thanks

  94. Sharon says:

    This is truly inspiring – i’ve started doing my office in similar tones and have been struggling to get through the last 20% to making it look fab – reading about your patience and the hard yards you put in to get such an incredible look has helped me greatly, plus all your sensational design ideas!

  95. Diane says:

    What an amazing transformation!! I love what you have done to this room, it looks spacioius and just gorgeous! You are one talented lady, kudos to you! You have inspired me to try my own makeover soon I may be moving and I know I will take some of your wonderful ideas with me!! Thanks for sharing~Diane

  96. Jackie B says:

    So that’s where my old sofa ended up!!!! It does look better without the skirt and cleaned up!!! The room looks amazing!!!

  97. angela says:

    just found your blog. just fell in love with your blog =)

    i’ve decided recently to have a little, or big, crush on grays, and this blue is fabulous with it! thanks for the inspiration!

  98. Sachkia says:

    Just discovered your site and I feel I’ve missed half my online life!!!!!! You are very talented and I’m so very inspired!

  99. sobrina says:

    I’m trying to create a small office space at home and found your site while looking for inspiration. this is so awesome!!

  100. Kathy Zour says:

    GORGEOUS,GORGEOUS,GORGEOUS! What a great WOman Cave!!

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