A few weeks ago we started tackling our last remaining room upstairs: my home office (our third bedroom). This room is pretty small at 9.5 x 9.7, and thanks to a closet that bumps into the room, an off-center window, and a radiator, it feels even smaller and more awkward than the overall dimensions indicate.
For those of you who follow along on Instagram, this is certainly a belated post – for me, designing is like a puzzle, where once I nail down one item, the next one becomes a bit more clear, and so on, so scarcely are my initial designs for a space quite where I land up, so I didn’t want to jump the gun with a design that wasn’t even half-baked.
A year and a half ago, I very nearly tackled this room for my first official One Room Challenge, and then, at the last minute convinced my husband that we should instead take on our guest bathroom. I have zero regrets about that change of plans, but it does mean that this room has been sad and neglected for a very long time. In honour of that post, below are the before photos of the room from 2017 (to be fair, the only thing that changed before we started on this room was that we refinished the floors at the end of the 2018).
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE
A few things that should be pretty apparent from these photos: this room was sorely lacking organization, the desk is way oversized, the room isn’t optimally laid out, and I hoard WAY too much fabric. Oh, and this room has absolutely no character. And finally, hanging a fan with this significant a drop in this little a room will make the ceilings feel much shorter than they actually are.
So, since I always find the evolution of a room’s design and the behind the scenes process to be interesting, let’s talk about how I initially concepted this space.
I had this vision of turning the only uninterrupted wall (the one with the framed design board) into a feature wall using a mural. But, here’s where I’m going to be a bit controversial: I don’t love traditional accent walls. I often find the transition between an accent wall and the adjacent walls to be visually jarring. So, I wanted to do a mural that would blend more seamlessly into the abutting walls. And, lately, I’ve been heavily inspired by chinoiserie (and by lately, I mean, for years), and love the contrast between a traditional chinoiserie wallpaper and modern aesthetic. Not to mention that exactly that mix is what I’m always striving for in my home: traditional with a modern spin.
Some of the images that I just couldn’t get out my head that exemplified this modern take on chinoiserie:
THE FIRST PLAN
I just couldn’t get over how chic the chinoiserie wallpaper looks against a modern, clean desk set-up. So, that brings me to my initial design plan:
Using Nam Dang Mitchell’s home office as my primary inspiration, I dreamed up a crisp, clean space, but focused on the using the walls as a way to envelope the space in colour, pattern, and gravitas. After a lot of research, I discovered that Tempaper recently launched a line of chinoiserie wallpaper that is insanely beautiful and far more affordable and attainable than the traditional chinoiserie wallpaper brands. I will be doing a post on the actual before and after, and application of the Tempaper wallpaper, so stay tuned!
If you’re looking for chinoiserie panels that can be framed artwork, I did, however, find an Etsy shop that does just that, and hand-painted no less, based in Beijing that has amazing reviews. I’m currently contemplating having two silk panels painted and framed for my downstairs, but, if you end up using them, please let me know how it turns out.
THE DESIGN EVOLUTION
Once I received some samples of the Tempaper wallpaper, I fell in love with this Metallic Champagne colourway, which turned my design on its head. I found a coordinating paint colour, Ammonite by Farrow and Ball, which I planned to still go all the way up to the ceiling. But, it meant that the room was going to be a lot more toned down in terms of colour than I’d initially planned. So, I knew I would need to pull in another source of colour.
And then, I went to look at the desk in the above moodboard in person and noticed that the floor model was already chipped, which didn’t give me a lot of confidence that it would hold up to my daily abuse. So, I started to hunt down desks in hopes of finding the right one, which resulted in a whole bunch of Photoshop mock-ups.
This Anthropologie desk had lovely proportions and a white-washed wood. The vibe was slightly more rustic than I had imagined, but the modern task lamp and caned chair seemed to do a good job of balancing it out.
And then I tried a few more variations, which I mostly didn’t love:
The legs on this desk were distracting, and the lack of drawers, while chic, seemed like a missed opportunity for a little storage.
The all-black was a visually heavy, and pulled attention away from the gorgeous paper.
And this was the white desk that I didn’t think would hold up.
So, I went hunting for the perfect desk. My general philosophy is that if I’m going to spend money on furniture, I want it to last and be high-quality. To me, it’s better value to buy vintage furniture that’s super well-made rather than spend the same amount for a lesser quality piece at your standard big home decor stores. Not all furniture can be purchased this way, but casegoods like dressers, desks, and nightstands are perfect candidates. Every time I went shopping for vintage furniture I kept my eyes out for the perfect desk and scarcely saw anything that piqued my interest (I saw one that fit the bill, but it was in Scottsdale, AZ and had already sold). I was trolling Chairish and EBTH daily, I was on eBay and Etsy, and of course, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplaces.
For weeks I saw nothing.
And then, two weeks ago I spotted this desk at a local auction house, to be sold via online auction. Every day I went to the listing to see if there had been any action. And I told myself that if I found something else before the auction came up, I’d let it go, but if I didn’t, that desk was the one.
The desk wasn’t what I’d initially imagined: it was raw wood, with tons of patina, a bit larger than I’d planned and nowhere near as modern, but it spoke to me. It was a late 1800’s Chinese Elmwood writing desk that had been stripped of its painted finish to reveal the craftsmanship: it was built using a traditional Chinese furniture building technique with no nails or screws but only wooden dowels that held the piece solidly together.
Long story short, I won the desk at the auction and picked it up over the weekend. Now that I have the desk in the room (and adore it!), it’s time to find a chair that works well with it.
Also, after sharing this desk on Instagram Stories yesterday, a lot of you wanted to know more about how to find online auctions. The auction house I purchased the desk from was local to me in Connecticut, but to find auctions nationally, Live Auctioneers is a great source, and I found a lot of local auction houses through searching for my zip code on EstateSales.net (also a great resource for estate sales in general).
WHAT WE’VE DONE AND WHAT WE HAVE LEFT TO DO
On our completed list for the space:
- Installing crown moulding
- Selecting a wallpaper
- Painting the room
- Installing a ceiling medallion
- Installing a new (errr… vintage, upcycled) light fixture
- Getting a desk
And what’s still remaining:
- Painting the doors for the room and the closet
- Getting a desk chair
- Finding a rug for the room
- Picking up some more components for our IKEA Besta console (we stole the bulk of the unit from our living room)
- Building a radiator cover
- Organizing the closet and console unit
- Creating new, sleeker cork design boards
- Installing the wallpaper
- Cable management for hidden cords
- Window treatments
- Finding a chair for the corner (intended to be a chair Cory can pull up to my computer as we learn SketchUp together)
Can’t wait to see how it all comes together over the coming weeks!
Here are a few quick iPhone in-progress photos on a very dreary, rainy day: