How I Turned an Unused Space into an Awesome Home Office

This room is finally getting some use!
This room is finally getting some use!

Last fall, I quit my day job and started working from home.

I loved almost everything about it. The flexible hours, the great coffee, the ability to work in yoga clothes all day long. But there was one tiny catch: I hated working in our home office. That is, if you can even call it an office.

Sure, there’s a desk in there. There’s also a bed, a bookshelf, and a ton of crap that we haven’t exactly found the right place for. It’s basically a guest-bed-storage-catch-all-office-room. It has one measly window and is always so dark. Oh, and the desk is covered with my hubby’s stuff for grad school.

I’ve maybe worked at that desk once. I quickly discovered that I preferred working at the island in our bright kitchen. For the most part, I loved it. Close to the fridge, the radio and easy to monitor something simmering on the stove. The downside? No storage, and every time we cooked or sat down for dinner, I had to move my computer and all my crap. My junk sprawled everywhere. Plus, my laptop was always out when Josh and I shared meals together… a constant and totally unnecessary distraction.

I needed to create my own workspace.

But where?

We live in a 1,200 sq ft apartment in a duplex we own. Two bedrooms (well, one bedroom and one catch-all room), a bathroom, small kitchen, dinning room and living room. I mean, it’s not exactly small, but we don’t have a lot of excess space. I tried all sorts of configurations, even spending a day working in our creepy basement. Nothing seemed right.

And then one day, I saw it.

We have a small space just off our living room. It’s a nook, really, used only for housing a bookshelf we barely even use. It’s kind of a pointless space. Until I realized it would be the perfect home office.

Bye-bye, bookshelf. 
Bye-bye, bookshelf.

I approached Josh with my crazy idea, and he immediately agreed. We both couldn’t believe we’d lived here for three years and were only seeing the potential now.

We moved the bookshelf into the catch-all room (obviously, because that’s where we put all our crap).

Here’s the mostly nekkid room:

The empty room & the adjacent closet. 
The empty room & the adjacent closet.
Pardon the mess, but we live here. 
Pardon the mess, but we live here.

Last fall, I saw some photos of home office on A Beautiful Mess, which sort of inspired our direction. As it turns out, a simple, plywood standing desk actually looks pretty darn nice.

I’d like to tell you I went to Menard’s all by myself, picked out some plywood, then used some power tools to build a beautiful desk. What I actually did was pick out an engineer, marry him, and then asked him to do most of this for me, pretty-pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top. 

Josh and I ended up selecting a 3/4″ piece of walnut plywood (about $100), which he cut to the nook’s dimensions– a little tricky as the wall has a six-inch indentation on one side. We had enough material to double-up the plywood, making the desk extra sturdy.

Molly's life advice: marry an engineer.
Molly’s life advice: marry an engineer.

He then stained the wood and added a nice coat of poly-something-or-other to seal it. Though we liked the matte finish better, we went with something a little more glossy ’cause you know I’m not always going to use a coaster on this thing.

That's my hot husband. 
That’s my hot husband.

Josh stained large wood brackets and fastened them to the walls (into studs, obviously).

Here’s the finished product:

My new home office!
My new home office!

Okay, okay, okay. There’s more than just a new desk in here, but didn’t Josh do an awesome job? I love that guy!

Prior to becoming an office, this room had an antique wall sconce and no other light source. We found this awesome mid-century chandelier from Wayfair.com. It was a bit expensive, but it’s a total statement piece and I love it. We also got the stool from Wayfair— it was about $150 and required minimal assembly. It arrived with a few chips in the veneer, but nothing noticeable.

This isn’t an ad for Wayfair or anything, but I do love a lot of the stuff on their site, and it’s free shipping if you spend over $49. So there’s that.

Other awesome stuff in the space: the gray area rug and those cool, circular gold mirrors come from this little boutique called Target.

Josh wishes he'd stained the bottom of the desk too... but I still think it looks great. 
Josh wishes he’d stained the bottom of the desk too… but I still think it looks great.

I don’t really looooove motorcycles, but I do love the motorcycle photo hanging above my desk. It’s my husband’s and I think of him every time I look at it.

I bought the Patsy Cline print on Etsy & hung it with painter’s tape… not because I am cool, but because I am lazy.

The shelf came from Home Goods and set me back $12. I got the Herschel backpack (on the floor) for Christmas. It makes lugging my big-ass computer a breeze. Sometimes I panic and think, oh crap I forgot my computer! Nope, it’s just that crap feels lighter when you’re carrying it in a backpack.

Office, sweet office. 
Office, sweet office.

One of my favorite-est things is this custom needlepoint my friend Allison made me for my birthday. How cool is that?

Also, my Contigo tumbler I got in a Costco three-pack (I literally drink 40 more ounces of water daily because of this thing! You can get them on Amazon, too.).

And there’s my favorite coffee mug that I *accidentally* stole from the Grand Canyon. Actually, it was my dad that accidentally stole it, and then I purposefully stole it from him. Long story long: Sorry, America!

Key to working at home: many, many drink options. 
Key to working at home: many, many drink options.

I bought this sticky whiteboard calendar about a year ago, but only recently put it up. Hullo– I didn’t even have a real office before! I love being able to visualize what’s up next. Below that, a gator head my hubby bought me in New Orleans (I love taxidermy), a fancy candle, a cuppa markers and my beloved Yeti microphone— which I use for podcasting and interviews. It’s so easy to use and fairly inexpensive.

A sneak peak at what's coming. 
A sneak peak at what’s coming.

I also found this gem of a print on Etsy– none other than Mrs. Roosevelt & another one of her famous quotes: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I have to remind myself of that pretty much every day.

Eleanor, watching over me, hopefully approving. 
Eleanor, watching over me, hopefully approving.

So that’s it: my simple home office, put together for a few hundred bucks.

I thought I would hate not working in the kitchen, but I actually love it.

Having a dedicated space makes the rest of my home life less stressful, less cluttered and makes my business feel more legit.

Investing in creating a place I want to work every day is one of the best decisions I’ve made professionally. And probably personally, too– no more computer at the dinner table!

Obviously, my work space is always this tidy. hahahahahaa
Obviously, my work space is always this tidy. hahahahahaa

* * *

More stories from people working at home: Why I quit my awesome job; what it’s REALLY like to work from home; plus how Jessica quit her corporate job and created her own company.

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Comments (8)

  • Audrey 2 years ago Reply

    Molly, I’m in love with this! I’ve got a tiny apartment compared to my hobbies – this is inspiring me to take a look at a couple unused corners in my place to be reimagined. The desk turned out beautifully!

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    Thank you– I am obsessed with it!

    I think we all have those spaces in our homes that don’t get used as often as we’d like… sometimes it just takes seeing your space from a new perspective to truly envision the possibilities!

  • Cindy 2 years ago Reply

    I love the desk and the look of the plywood edge! My husband is an engineer, as well, and I often task him with projects I could probably do but don’t want to do.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    Thank you! I love it too.

    marryanengineer

  • Kathy 2 years ago Reply

    LOVE it! "Marry an engineer" was my life strategy as well. Gotta say, I think we’re onto something! ("Befriend someone who knows cars" is another good one, along with "… someone who knows how to cook.")

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    It’s a great strategy and i plan on devoting an entire post on it one of these days.

  • Ashley 2 years ago Reply

    This looks great! Congrats on the dedicated office space. I am waiting to redo our office so I will work there again (and maybe it will pick up less random clutter).

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    I love having a dedicated office space. Mine is mostly clutter-free 🙂

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