the evolution of my house | part 3 | the home office

Marian ParsonsBefore and Afters, My House43 Comments

Thanks so much for all of the great feedback on this series.  I’ve enjoyed going through my house in a bit more detail and seeing how far this home, that was not love-at-first-site, has really come along.  If you missed parts one and two, here they are…

Part 1 – the evolution of the living room

Part 2 – the evolution of the dining room

And here we go with part three, the home office.



This was the room that had me most stumped when we first moved in.  It was originally the kitchen in the 1940’s part of the house, but when the addition was built on the back, including a new kitchen, this room became little more than a glorified hallway.  An ugly glorified hallway at that.  One I would just slink through on the way to somewhere else.  The floor was a patchwork of linoleum with some exposed plywood that was put over the old oak floor.  The gas pipe that went to stove was still sticking up out of the floor…


And there was a fridge just hanging out in the corner.  Some of the original 1940’s cabinetry was still hanging on the walls as well.


I don’t have any pictures of the room when we first got settled, but it was basically a catch-all sort of space.  I threw a few pieces of furniture in there to hold my craft supplies and we used it to store paints and tools as we worked on the rest of the house.  We painted the walls white, since they were dingy, but I didn’t know what color I wanted them.  We moved the fridge to the basement, which seemed like a no brainer.

A funny story about that, though.  My mom and I decided we would disconnect the fridge and, at least, move it out of the way to clean.  We unplugged it and realized it was still connected to a water line.  The line looked clear and I assumed it wasn’t actually attached to anything, so I cut it.  Well, as you may have guessed, water started shooting out of the line.  It wasn’t a trickle or a drip, it was shooting out like a hose turned on full blast.  My mom and I started grabbing buckets to catch the water and finally were able to kink the line to stop the flow of water until Jeff came home and we could figure out a more permanent solution.  Lesson learned.  Don’t cut water lines with a pair of scissors and just hope for the best.

When I painted the trim in the house white, I decided to put a little color on the office walls.  I mixed up some yellows I had leftover from our last house, enough to paint the walls for free.  While this time of working on my house with a super tight budget was frustrating, I can see in hind-sight, how good it was for me.  It forced me to be resourceful and creative in ways you don’t have to be when you can just go out and buy something.

My biggest priority for this room was the flooring.  The patchwork of linoleum and plywood was driving me nuts. It never looked clean and never looked nice, no matter how many rugs I scattered or how creatively I tried to arrange the furniture.  So, my plan was to pull up the layers of linoleum and plywood and expose the original hardwood flooring.  After quite a lot of research, I realized that would not only take days of really hard work, but there was almost certainly asbestos in the glue that was used when installing the old linoleum.  We would have to put down new flooring.  Which would cost money we didn’t have.

So, for my birthday, I asked for hardwood flooring.  I did my research and found the cheapest raw oak wood flooring I could find, that would match the existing wood floors in size and appearance.  I pooled together all of my birthday money from family and bought the flooring and rented a nail gun.

I was so excited the day of the installation.  We’ve applied hardwood over a cement subfloor before, which was a challenge, but this was over a wood subfloor, so it would just be nailed in and it would be a piece of cake.  Two hours max.

Famous last words.

The layers of linoleum and glue slowed the nails to the point that they couldn’t shoot in all the way.  This meant the tongues wouldn’t fit in the groves, because part of the nailhead was still exposed.  We called the tool rental company, we looked around online, we explored our options.  With the nail gun already rented and my birthday money exhausted, we had no other choice, but to work around the problem.

Each board that was installed required hand-cut notches in the tongue in order to fit around the nails.  A project that should’ve taken a couple of hours, ended up taking two very long days…working almost constantly to get the project completed and the nail gun turned in on time.  It was one of those “why us?!” DIY moments, but once it was done, it was totally worth it.  We refinished the floors in a dark walnut stain, along with the original 1940’s hardwood floors, and the home office was starting to look like an actual room.


When I had a little spending money, I bought a custom-mixed green paint and painted the walls for the third time in just a couple of years.


Jeff built a cover for the radiator and I repainted the room two more times.  Once, in a beige that looked pretty in my mom’s house, but looked very pink in mine and the second in a cooler, paler beige.  You see, when I get stuck on a room, repainting it used to be my go-to solution.  I know the rooms that have bugged me the most by the number of coats I applied to the walls.  The home office had seven coats by the time I got it “right”.  The master bedroom, though, comes in first place at eight coats.

home office 1

The biggest problem with this room wasn’t the wall color or the decor or the furniture.  It was the functionality of this space.  What, exactly, was this room?  I had thought about turning it into a casual eating area, since it’s right off the kitchen, but it’s also right off the dining room, so I thought that would look odd.  It’s also a tricky room for placing furniture, since the furniture, with the exception of one chair, can only go on one side of the room.  I kept circling back to the idea of making it a “landing zone” or more formally, a home office.  We decided built-ins were also the most efficient way to make use of the space.

Here’s how it looked as I was waiting until we had the time and money for the built-ins.

home office 3

I originally planned to have a chalkboard wall over the hooks, but decided it was really too high for anyone to write on, so I ended up doing the chalkboard wall in the kitchen.

home office 2

home office 4

For months, my “built-ins” were simply tape on the floor.

home office 5

And then, finally, we were able to build and install them.  Prior to doing so, I painted the walls in Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore and that is the color they still are today.

home office 13

Jeff and I designed the L-shaped built-ins around our space.  They included two base cabinets, one with doors that would house our router, modem, etc. along with office supplies and the other with three drawers for files, batteries and more office supplies.  A bench with hidden storage butts up to the cabinet with the drawers, fitting perfectly, so everything can open and close.  We backed the wall behind the bench with bead board, trim and hooks for coats and bags.  The desk top is oak boards joined together and finished with dark walnut stain and a clear furniture wax.  Jeff also built upper cabinets for storage and display and to flank the window.


We also added crown molding to make the built-ins look more integrated and polish off the room.  The cabinets were painted in the same bright white paint I used on the kitchen cabinets as well as the same hardware, so they would flow nicely together.


I found the “tourists” sign at a local antique shop and I just love it there.  Sometimes people ask me what it means and it doesn’t really mean anything.  It’s just an old sign that I liked and it fits perfectly there.



This room has stayed pretty much the same since we completed the built-ins.  I’ve been making some tweaks here and there, though.  I painted the inside of the “cubbies”, so they looked a little bit more finished…

home office 11

home office 12

…and changed out the light fixture, first to a $5 yard sale find…

home office light

…and more recently to a school-house style light I bought with some Joss & Main credits.  The chandelier looked a little too dark for the space and it hung too low for my taller friends and family members.


I’ve also rearranged and cleaned out the accessories a bit over the years, swapped out the chairs and the rug…

home office 10

…and we sanded down the floors to the raw oak in January.  It was a shame we had to sand these down, because they still looked beautiful.  Since this wood was new, it accepted the stain and poly really well.  We had a lot of peeling on the older wood floors, but since one room flowed right into the other, they all needed to be sanded down.

home office 9

And here is how it’s looking today…






mms-8177 mms-8176 mms-8174

While this isn’t a room we are in very often, it’s a hard working room that we pass through multiple times everyday.  It also provides a place to keep backpacks, shoes, lunch boxes, etc. so they aren’t scattered through the house.


If I was designing a house from scratch, I certainly wouldn’t draw up a floor plan like this, but given that it’s what we had to work with, I think it ended up being a great use of the space.

The next home evolution post will take us into the kitchen…

If you missed the other room tours, here they are…

Part 4 | Kitchen

Part 5 | Family Room

Part 6 | Master Bedroom

Part 7 | Bathrooms

the evolution of my house | part 3 | the home office

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43 Comments on “the evolution of my house | part 3 | the home office”

  1. again, LOVE the transformation….I think this room would be used a lot, very functional……AND, to the person who asked about the sign “what does it mean?”…..does it have to mean anything, does everything have to “mean” something????? can’t you just love it for what it is ??? !!!!!

  2. I know it will probably sound strange, but this room is my favorite transformation. The fact that it didn’t have an obvious purpose presented a lot of challenges that you worked through, and it looks great! You added a lot to the story of your home. (Also, built-ins for the win!)

  3. LOVE IT! It is so much fun to see the evolution of your rooms! It gives me confidence and assurance that great things do take time 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to put all these posts together! Happy Healing! I can’t believe that you’re blogging even during recovery! That’s dedication!

  4. These evolution posts are great, really gives you an idea that almost any space takes time to evolve into your ideal room. You should do a post on how your husband built the built-ins and other items in your home. I would love to recreate these items in my own home! Thank you!

  5. As usual, it’s gorgeous. Everything you do is. I’m curious, though. If this is a little desk area, I don’t see a computer. Where do you usually blog from?

    1. I usually work on my computer at the kitchen bar or family room sofa. My “office” is at the studio and I just carry my computer to and from.

  6. I am so inspired by your office room! As I type this note to you, I am seated in front of a giant, unpainted, scratched up piece of mdf floating on top of a dented old file cabinet at one end, and a pair of ikea table legs at the other. Our makeshift desk area has bothered me for ten years. It works, but it’s UGLY. It’s in our front room, so you see it immediately when you walk into our house…not a great first impression. I am very interested in the process you went through to make your desktop. How exactly did you join the oak boards you mentioned? It looks so flat and seamless. How did you do that?

    1. Yes! I too would love to know how Jeff made the oak top look so seamless. I can picture this in my laundry room over the washer and dryer…

    2. I too have a room like this in my house and have decided to turn into a home office. My question is, did you buy the base cabinets at a big box store? I’m finding if you buy a kitchen cabinet then your office chair has to be higher. I notice the chair in your office is of normal size. Did you custom build the cabinets? Love your website!!! Thanks!!

  7. I just love this room and how its evolved. What a transformation! I love the old typewriter and now I am kicking myself because I found a vintage typewriter in great condition recently and didn’t buy it!

  8. I love it. Is so fun see how things evolve and take shape! I love that you do much of the work yourself!

  9. I am really enjoying seeing the evolutions of your rooms. I also have to tell you how much I LOVE the raw wood floors!!!

  10. Hi Marian,
    Your room evolutions are so fun to look at, you are such a talented stylist and photographer! I love your photographs as they are so crisp and inspiring. My daughter has been inquiring about a camera as a graduation gift and I was wondering if you could advise me on a camera and lens for her.
    Thank you for always sharing your knowledge and beauty (and many thanks for the Miss Mustard Seed t-shirt, I love it!),
    Laurie (from Wisconsin)

    1. Thanks, Laurie. I use a Nikon d800 and love it. Not sure how high end you’re looking, though. I used a Nikon d7000 prior to that one and it was a nice camera, too. As far as lenses, it depends on what she’s shooting. I have the 50mm on my camera most of the time.

  11. I love how this room turned out. I also love the realness of these evolution posts. Not everyone has the money to have their rooms exactly the way they want them. It can be very frustrating having a vision and not being able to complete it. But like you said, and show, you work with what you have and come up with a way to get key items for bdays, xmas, etc. I’m curious if you had the Gray Owl Paint lightened or if it just looks lighter because of your awesome pictures and actual lighting in the room? Thanks ♡♡

  12. I love seeing the evolution of your home. This room is one of my favorites. I think the rug makes the space!

  13. It’s an office, where is the mess??? I have an office and everyone complains about how messy it is and I try, but there is ALWAYS going to be miscellaneous notes and other papers on the desk top, etc. etc. that make it look messy!!!

  14. Marion, I just read a post by Catherine at A Country Farmhouse, now called In the fields. Do you know the one? She fell in love with her stripped and sanded down floors too and found the perfect product to seal them with. Please check it out…thank you for sharing your home transformation with us. It is so inspiring. God bless! -Kim

  15. You know I have a little mischievous side. Every time someone would ask about the meaning of the sign, I would create a new story.
    One time in the Budapest airport…
    I was traveling by train through the Australian outback when suddenly…

    The stories would get more outrageous each time! Probably a good thing I don’t have that sign.

    Anyway, this is one of my favorite rooms in your home. I wish I had a landing zone/office. I’m enjoying the fast forward looks at your home.

  16. Thank you, thank you, thank you for these lovely evolution stories. I’ve been reading your blog for almost a year now and these are by far my most favorite. I can hardly wait to see the other rooms.

  17. LOVE it! I’m curious why you didn’t use Curio as a stain for your floor or for the top of your desk? I recently used it on an oak toy box I had built for my son and it turned out beautiful. I’m currently having a barnwood desk and barnwood floating shelves made and I plan on using Curio as a stain for both of them. I’m pretty excited to see how it turns out!

  18. Loved this post…a new favourite! What a thoughtful, useful and beautiful transformation of what could have become a glorified storage closet and dumping ground! LOVE!!!

  19. Magnificent little room! Loved the water pipe and tongue in groove stories – DIY x 10 is always my calculation.

  20. These are so fun. Your style is just gorgeous. Love the honest, “Why us?” DIY. I feel like almost everyone we do falls into that category and wonder how you bloggers make so much progress. Very impressive how you made an awkward space so functional and beautiful. Bravo! P.S. You find the coolest signs.

  21. I am enjoying these posts so much! I love hearing the good and the bad.,.. and can really relate to trying to make things pretty on a tight budget. Sometimes it really is cool to have to do things that way, it makes one more creative i think. It turned out to be such a great little room, and so totally functional. That is one serious before and after!


  22. This is my favorite room so far, the function of the room is perfect and I love LOVE the raw oak floors. I would’ve been stumped as well but I think you came up with a great idea and its beautiful. I love the beadboard “tourist” station and its so bright and fresh in there so a nice space to work in as well.

    Lauren Baxter | LB Designs

  23. I really love everything about your office! I would do this exact thing in my spare bedroom. I, however, will not do the built ins only because I plan to sell my house in 2 years. But I can
    do a corner type of desk space with two desks painted white. Thanks for the inspiration ! I love how you have made it so functional and stylish, too!

  24. This is by far the best room of the series!! The space is just beautiful! I think the sign can have meaning, we are kind of like tourists in the world and in this life. Experiencing things as we travel through each day. Waiting on the day God takes us up!

  25. Your home office has always been my favorite room in your house. I just love the rug, the built ins, the wood top, the chair, the paint color essentially, just everything. It has such a warm and comfortable feel about it. It still looks modern yet classic. I’d love to have a room like this.

    By the way, you might want to check out the blog called, “A Country Farmhouse”. She just wrote a post about sealing the wood floors. She actually likes the look like you do of an unfinished floor and they are choosing to seal them. I think it might be the solution you are looking for.

  26. Just re-read this post and am again in awe over your lovely office and those fabulous built-ins! Still hoping you will share more details about the process of creating your beautiful desktop. How did you join the boards? It looks so seamless and smooth.

  27. What a great use of the space!! Where is the beautiful oriental rug from and how much? I am trying so hard to find one that looks like this to use in front of my kitchen sink and doesn’t cost too much!

  28. Love everything about this room! Making my own tourist sign. Thought I would share, I read this about vintage “tourists” signs: “during the 1920s through the 1940s, beginning just after automobiles became ubiquitous among middle class families and highways were being established and improved, the word “tourist” was used to lure burgeoning road traffic into lodging establishments, gift shops, restaurants and dubious roadside attractions all across the country.”

  29. Couple questions…. How tall are your ceilings? What is the height of the beadboard and trim where the coats are? We are looking to do something similar to your landing pad in our long hallway but are considering doing board and batten down the entire hall. The height is a good proportion!

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