Prettify A Home Office
July 10, 2021 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving in 3 weeks; in the new space, I get a much better home office. This is my chance to make it look fantastic - but how?

This office is kind of a Silver Lining for me - I'm going to lose a LOT of closet space with the move. But I will be able to have enough storage space in the new office - thanks to an entire twelve-foot wall of shelves - to make up for it, so I'm gradually getting excited. I'd rather things not just look utilitarian, so any ideas for bringing the pretty?

Here's the current specs.

* This office is actually one of the apartment's bedrooms, and measures about 12x9 feet. There is a standard-size clothes closet in it that I will be using for Generic Storage for items like Christmas decorations, the vacuum, a couple camping items, off-season clothes, etc. That closet is tucked into a corner, and the door into the room is similarly tucked the opposite corner directly facing the closet. I won't need every day access, but I do need access.

* There are two windows in the room - but they look out into an alley and the natural light sucks. But the indoor lighting in the room is decent and I have a good desk lamp, so I'm going to get some full-spectrum grow lights and a timer and use the sills as my herb garden. That leaves the top half of each window just sitting there.

* I own four blond wood Ikea Kallax units - the 4-cubes-by-2-cubes kind - and there is room to put them ALL along the wall facing the windows, and get yet another 4-cubes-by-1-cube tower. I also have a worktop desk that clips onto one of the units, and an antique desk I got from my uncle; there is enough room to set up these both up as an l-shaped workstation, with a shelf at my back, the Ikea worktable to my left, and the antique desk at my front. I would be facing the fugly windows, but there would be a METRIC ASSLOAD of workspace and storage space, so I'm thrilled with that. I have a couple of cool-looking antique crates I may stack on top of the shelves for even more storage.

I'm probably going to go a little nuts with Cool Storage Bins to contain things on the shelves (I'll be waiting until I unpack to get them, and then order with an eye towards aesthetics instead of just getting plastic tubs). Aside from that, and "put up a big cork board between the windows to pin things up", I'm not sure what else I can do to make this look like a super-cool "I meant for things to look this way" space as opposed to "I could fit the furniture in here and so I did". ....I may have some space on the shelves for more decorative as opposed to utilitarian items, fortunately, but I really want to make sure I have enough space for the stuff first. Fortunately, some of the stuff I'd be storing is various craft supplies, which I likely would not be replacing once they get used up and so the space I'd need for them would diminish.

Another important note - I rent, so I can't do anything too permanent.

Help? Any leads on any super-organizery hacks for the famous Kallax cubes, or leads on especially pretty bins or other tricks? A funky window treatment? Maybe I should put another corkboard on the other wall? Line the back of the Ikea units with funky bedsheets for a pop of color? Get two roll-down shades and paste a poster on each, and leave them half-rolled-down so the poster shows? A lot of the Pins I'm seeing on Pinterest either throw plants all over everything or assume I already have room on the shelves for decorative crap.

Oh - if it matters, the specific stuff I'd be storing is largely yarn, papercrafting stuff and maybe some craft paint, basic office stuff like printer paper and home files, and books for things like home decorating, crafting, a couple movie books and travel.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For the fugly windows, what about something like rainbow window film? It can be a bit fussy to install but I have some in my bathroom window, and I like the effect a lot. It peels right off so no landlord issues. And then you wouldn't have to stare at an alley all day if your desk is facing the window.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:05 AM on July 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

Sweet! Sounds like a terrific setup! This is how I'd approach this:

A fresh coat of paint is simple and effective magic. If the room hasn't been painted in a while, get a fresh coat on before you move in. I'm partial to creamy whites--faint hint of yellow--and that should look fantastic with the blonde wood.

The window film suggestion is great. Let the light in but obscure the uninspiring view. Sheer curtains are also good for this. For that matter, so is layering opaque window treatments--you could use them both. Depending on your layout, the size of the windows, etc, etc., it might work to "inside mount" the sheers inside the window frame with tension rods. Very rental friendly.

Doesn't matter how pretty your office is if the ergonomics are bad. Here's a basic reference for adjusting chair height, desk height, monitor height. I use a split/angled keyboard on a keyboard tray to keep my arms/wrists at the right angle and it makes a world of difference--might for you too.

If you don't have a knockout desk chair you could splash out on something like an Aeron chair, which IME actually does live up to the hype. For something about as comfortable (and expensive) as an Aeron, but much prettier, the Ethan Allen Harding chair is Really Good Furniture in the form of an office chair.

My home office (as in, in my living room) has light wood in it as well and I favor light colored/silvery/glass office equipment instead of standard black black black, when I can find it. My secondary monitor is a small LG Smart TV with a white and silver frame, mounted on the wall with a white swing arm. My laptop stand is chrome and glass.

Finally, if you have a green thumb and want to completely steal the show from whatever unappealing thing is happening on the other side of the window, an over-the-top decor item that is as much sculpture as a plant stand and will be gorgeous every single day you live with it: the Story Planter.
posted by Sublimity at 12:00 PM on July 10, 2021

Best answer: Put a shelf in the window frame and put more plants in the top half? Ideally you’d be able to screw these in, but depending on the setup a tension shelf or a narrow shelf in front of the sill, maybe with wider panels attached to use the sill depth, could work. If you’re using grow lights, pay attention to how close they need to be to your plants, you could probably mount them under the upper shelf for the plants below
posted by momus_window at 12:01 PM on July 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Where would I obtain a tension shelf, because that sounds perfect.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:18 PM on July 10, 2021

someone already said rainbow film on the windows, but I just wanted to say the state of the art in decorative window films is incredible these days.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:33 PM on July 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Inspired by my university desk space: have a Wall Of Heroes you can see from your desk. Get postcards and photos of people who inspire you, and either stick them to the wall with white tack, or get a magnetic board, or a bulletin board that you cover with some nice wallpaper or wrapping paper and then pin your heroes to. I definitely did better work when I had Chaucer, Shakespeare, Molière, Oscar Wilde, George Sand, Bowie and Prince gazing at me.

(mine were arranged in rows, so I had fun deciding who should be in which tier. I'd promote & demote, introduce new faces, and rearrange at times, which was also fun.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:42 PM on July 10, 2021 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: One last note and then I will sit on my hands -

I will not actually be using this home office to work from home. This would be for at most occasional "I need a place to sit while I am writing out the rent check" or "I'm dashing off a blog post really quick" or "I am designing a printable gift tag for my niece" kind of actions. Any really long-term computer work I do tends to be on a laptop which I take either to my couch or my bed where I can shift position as needed. So while the ergonomic advice is helpful, it's maybe a little overly-ambitious for what I need; I'm looking more at the aesthetics.

And I'm on a budget - think, like, I just decided I will be recycling bankers' boxes from the move and covering them with contact paper to use them as the storage bins because that's only 7 bucks for a roll of contact paper.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:50 PM on July 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I got some inexpensive curtain lines (the wire kind that attaches to tension screws), strung several of them across the wall behind me (so it's what people see on zoom calls) about a foot apart, and it's where I hang all the lovely things I get from mefi card club and other folks who like me enough to send me things. It's such a happy wall and it makes me feel good every time I'm in the room.
posted by phunniemee at 1:25 PM on July 10, 2021

Best answer: Craft supplies and books and other objects look great when arranged in color groupings. In the shelves of my craft room I have fat quarters stacked in pretty rainbow piles on some shelves, and yarn in a basket arranged by color. Other things that aren’t pretty go in boxes (hole punches, glue, etc).

I also have mason jars of things so it’s not just a solid wall of boxes. Buttons and colored pencils and ribbon are stored in the jars.

12x12 scrapbook paper is cheap and available in more colors and patterns than contact paper. You could use spray glue to cover your boxes quickly.

For extra display space on the shelves you could get a plate stand and clipboard from the dollar store. Cover the clipboard with colorful paper or paint and then prop it up on a shelf and use the clip to hold a photo or card.
posted by MadMadam at 1:40 PM on July 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Tension rod across the top of the window, string up and down to the tension rod, vining plants. You’ll be there a lot, you can choose sprawlers and tie them in. Mm, indoors jasmine.
posted by clew at 4:07 PM on July 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Fairy lights to brighten/cheer up the space.
posted by emjaybee at 8:58 AM on July 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Target makes 13" fabric cubes that fit in Kallax spaces. They have lots of cute styles.
posted by radioamy at 4:49 PM on July 11, 2021

Just putting this out there, but maybe a different approach worth considering: rather than "How do I fill this space with stuff and things?", perhaps "How can I keep this space as empty yet still useful as possible?"

I've long fancied a bit of empty floor to set up either as a permanent yoga space (which would encourage me to start doing yoga again, possibly, as my present excuse is nowhere nice to do it and too much stuff everywhere), or as somewhere to set up a kind of chilled-out Turkish floor cushion zone.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:17 PM on July 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To help guide any future answers (and just for fun while I wait for Ikea to come to the phone for the call I'm making for work), I've got the beginnings of a plan to share, and respond to some of these:

rather than "How do I fill this space with stuff and things?", perhaps "How can I keep this space as empty yet still useful as possible?"

There just plain isn't room for that; I am trying to downsize from a 1300 square foot apartment with five closets to a much smaller space with two closets, and I need the storage that the shelving would provide. However, I've looked at the layout in question on a floor plan app and even with things set up thusly, the space will still have enough room that it will feel cozy instead of cramped; a lot of the things on the shelves will be the craft and hobby stuff that got tucked into one of the hall closets at my current space, so I also may end up more likely to use it, and may even get to the point where I can get rid of a shelf because I just don't need it any more. But for now I need it.

But there is enough floor space that I can get a pretty rug I have had my eye on!

A fresh coat of paint is simple and effective magic. If the room hasn't been painted in a while, get a fresh coat on before you move in.

It was just painted - the building is near a university so there is a bit of a high-turnover situation, so it had just been gussied up from the last tenant. I like the idea of keeping the walls white as well; I tend to prefer white walls and then play with color in the furnishings because you can swap that up much easier if you decide "you know, I think I like pink better than green today".

Target makes 13" fabric cubes that fit in Kallax spaces.

Excellent! I am probably going to go with using a fancy-looking contact paper to cover some of the moving boxes, but I'm gonna have Kallaxes all over this apartment and may use that in another room.

I also have mason jars of things so it’s not just a solid wall of boxes. Buttons and colored pencils and ribbon are stored in the jars.

This is so my jam, it's not even funny. I am forever re-using and up-cycling glass jars for pantry storage - this is pushing me beyond the pantry. This is perfect!

As for the grow lights - instead of getting something I'd have to attach to an undershelf, I found a way to put a grow-light-suitable bulb into a pendant light setup, which I can dress up with some pendant shades and set to hang over each grouping on the sill. But they'll be on for 14 hours every day, which might yield enough light in the room to get even more low-light plants for the surrounding shelves, so they can catch any overspill.

I don't think I will get enough light to justify the window films in the office - although they might work in my bedroom windows, which look out into a bike storage area and a tool shed which isn't the most attractive view. I was going to try hanging some plants there to disguise the view but that could be another option.

And then I think lining one of the big walls, and the doors to the closet, with some stick-on cork panelling so I can turn them into giant mood boards, and giving the space between the windows for some important travel-related art, and then I pop the antique globe on top of a shelf and I'm set.

Yay! Thanks!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:53 AM on July 12, 2021

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