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Planning our Home Office

July 5, 2016  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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I mentioned last week that we’ll be turning one of the downstairs bedrooms into a home office and today we’re ready to share that blank-space-of-a-room that’s about to get a whole lot of function for the first time since moving in to this home almost 3 years ago. It’s a relatively small room, at just 10×11 and we decided to make it a place where Chris and I could both work, which means both of us have a lot of input on how this room is going to take shape, and naturally, we don’t always start out on the same foot. We’ll get into that in a second. But first! Here’s how the room looks now:

IMG_1791

It’s only a slight improvement from when we moved in (you can see those photos here), in that we’ve installed all new carpeting and baseboards recently. But nothing else has changed other than we jumped the gun and removed the closet doors before I snapped these photos, but I think we’ll leave them off for the long haul. It’s feels so much bigger!

IMG_1794

IMG_1795

Back to the plans! For us, the very beginning stages of a planning a room involves gathering a whole bunch of photos of spaces that we could see ourselves living in, or in this case, working in. It could be something particular about the room–the colors, finishes, layout–or it could be the overall vibe feels right on par. We spent a lot of time sitting on the floor in that room this week, looking at the walls and talking about possibilities with, ahem, lively conversations about layout options (if you listened to Ep. 07 of our podcast, you know the planning process is where we get all of our disagreements out). Then I pinned a bunch of home office images on this Pinterest board and we each chose just one image that inspires us the most and explained why.

Chris chose this one:

contemporary-white-house-5

It’s not exactly the masculine office I expected Chris to choose, but he explained while the tulip chairs and ornate chandelier weren’t necessarily his jam, he loved the large workspace and that was most important to him.

This was the image I chose:

6008619765ddeb46cca403100b408f8d

I loved the warmth of the colors and light above the large desk and the slate bookcases as a backdrop is just stunning.

It’s might seem silly to gather all of these images to just choose one, because the purpose of Pinterest, in my opinion, is to gather lots of ideas and then mesh them together and come out with your own take on it. However, I’ve learned it’s a good exercise to choose just one image because it helps us to pinpoint what inspires us most, or what we want the most out of the room. It’s also just a really good exercise in making decisions. Haha.

If anything, that exercise taught us we both want a big desk, which also answered our layout conundrum. The only way for us to have a nice wide desk in a not very large room, would be if worked on either side of it and it jutted out as a sort of peninsula from the back wall. Kind of like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 2.41.55 PMIMG_1791

For reference, Wall A is the window wall. Initially I was gunning for a big, floating desk in the middle of the room, but after we started taping things off, I realized that the desk had to be significantly smaller to make room to move 360 degrees around it. Not to mention, I started thinking about running computer cords from an island to the wall and I quickly agreed, peninsula desk it is!

In the above rendering, I made the desktop slightly translucent so you could catch a glimpse of what’s comprising the desk below–Ikea cabinets in front!

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 2.42.41 PM

This idea came from Chris’s inspiration photo where they used the Ikea Alex storage drawers and we tried to run with those for a couple hours, but in the end, we wanted something a little more polished and customizable, including varied drawer sizes, colors and total height. The other bonus about having the drawers in the front, instead of on the side, is a better workflow without interruption (I’m someone that likes to spread things out) and a few more inches on either side of the desk. We are thinking 2 sets of 24″ wide base cabinets with drawers.

The other thing that we both really wanted is the option to work comfortably, standing. Chris has a convertible standing desk at work that has done wonders for his back since his surgery and when I count how many hours I’m sitting at my little desk, I worry about the future of my own back and neck (and gut and thighs–oy!). Of course we’ll still have stools in place for the option to sit (standing all day is actually something you have to work up to), but we plan to customize the base cabinets to make them even taller with, perhaps, a crazy idea.

Ikea’s base cabinets are 30″ tall, and with the legs it adds another 3-4 inches, bringing them to 33-34″ tall. For our height, a 45″ surface is perfect elbow height, making that the goal for our desktop, so we’re short 11 with this setup. However, what if we cut up another base cabinet of drawers, each drawer is 5″ so we’d add 2 to each side to make up the height. We’ll definitely keep you posted on how that works out.

And a mood board is coming, too!

What do you think?

  1. Judy says:

    do you know the source for the second office inspiration image? would love to know where that table is from.

  2. Ellie says:

    I love the inspiration images! Did you consider putting the drawers on casters to add some height, and so you can move them away if you need to pull up extra chairs to your workspace? Can’t wait to see how this office takes shape!

  3. Shelly Pare says:

    Hello! Just got started on the podcasts, love them! Love that you work in real time as well. Something I’m curious about and have checked the archives but what type of surgery did Chris have if you don’t mind me asking? My husband had a Lumbar Discectomy 7 weeks ago and I was just telling him about a standing desk at work when I read this post! lol, great minds! Thanks in advance!

    • Julia says:

      That’s what he had!

      • Shelly Pare says:

        Thank you for the response Julia! I researched as much as I could on his surgery and recovery so seeing Chris active and doing house projects gives me hope!

      • Julia says:

        It was 12 weeks of not being able to do anything–that was hard. But the more active he is now, the better he feels.

  4. Monika says:

    I like it! I prefer drawers in terms of storage, anywhere. The only reason I see for a “door” is to put the printer behind it. In my case, that’s in the closet. Our office and my kitchen–mine, because I’m the only cook in the house–is comprised only of drawers. In lieu of the deep drawers you speak of I bought four architectural flat files and they have served as storage for everything: paper, supplies, samples and sewing crap galore. I like how easy it is to see so much, with one smooth glide. The height of the desk dictates that I either use an architect chair or stand up. Most days I just stand and visitors perch on the chair while I’m sewing. But I’m only 5’5″!

  5. Corissa says:

    Curious as to why you didn’t put the desk under the window so both had some natural light? Seems as if one person will have all the light or its glare on their computer. Is the window height an issue? Northern climate and low light and a basement would kill me without some sun. Also if you convert the closet for files or shelves it would be easier access for you both.

  6. Cassie says:

    Have you considered building a “box” that is 10-11 inches tall that you could put the base cabinets on top of? That will get you to the right height and also allow for a streamlined look. You can even add drawer fronts so it has a seamless look- they wouldn’t be functional but no one but you would know. Thrifty Decor Chick does something similar to build up her cabinets for built ins. http://www.thriftydecorchick.com/2016/06/how-to-create-custom-built-ins-with.html

  7. Megan says:

    Love both of your ideas – I can’t wait to see how this room turns out. You guys always do such a great job, so I know it’ll be amazing! :)

    Megan
    http://www.lifeonshadylane.com

  8. Callie says:

    You’ve probably already thought of this….But have you considered using upper cabinets as your desk base? Not sure about the drawer options for uppers, but you’d get the added height you need….Can’t wait to see the transformation!

    • Julia says:

      That’s true! Upper cabinets come in 40″ height, which would be about perfect, but I’m not 100% sure we could do the drawers we want. I’ll double check. Thanks, Callie

  9. Heather says:

    Have you considered a 80″ cabinet cut down to size? Cost would be a little higher but this would give you the option for some smaller drawers and taller drawers in one whole piece. I would think this would be easier to work with and more stable for setting a countertop on.

  10. Jamie says:

    I’m really digging the inspiration photo you chose! It looks so cozy. Can’t wait to see what you guys come up with! :)

  11. Allison says:

    Can’t wait to see this outcome! Would you ever consider movin Faye down here or is she upstairs for the long haul?

    • Julia says:

      We do have plans to move Faye downstairs later this year, but Greta and Faye want to share a room. There are three bedrooms down here, a guest room, Greta’s room and the office. In the long run, we’d like the upstairs nursery to be an office, but we also have hopes for one more baby so it doesn’t make sense for that transition to happen now.

    • Barbara says:

      Would love to see how the Franken-cabinets work out!

      We are planning on using IKEA cabinets for our entry way/living room division project (we dropped an old buffet there 3 years ago when we moved in and it’s time for something more functional!). We’re on using a combo of doors and drawers on the entryway side and doors and open shleves on the living room side. We need them to be between 44-48″ tall and we were debating building a cubby base for them to sit on with baskets in the cubbies. Shoe baskets on the entry way side and baskets for blankets, etc on the living room side.

      We are currently putting IKEA cabinets in on either side of our fireplace and I referenced your blog to convince my husband that we could use 30″ doors on the 40″ cabinets I picked out, so that the receiver would have the access he desired. If you do successfully hack up the drawer units, please be super detailed in your post so that I can convince my husband!

    • Barbara says:

      You could use this wall cabinet with drawers option on top of the drawer bases. Its 20″ tall so you’d be a bit over the 48″ you wanted and it’s only 15″ deep so you’d have some space to fill behind it, but I think it could be a useful space. It could be made into slots for active file folders, or cubbies with shelves and low baskets with frequently grabbed supplies!

      http://m.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/spr/79038590/

      I’m off to measure and see if this solves my dilemma!

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