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

Marian ParsonsBefore and Afters, My House, Office

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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

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…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.

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

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…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.

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And here is how it’s looking today…

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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.

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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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