Before and After: A Plain, Boring Desk Transforms Into a Creative Space—For Just $32

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

Welcome to Apartment Therapy’s $32 Design Challenge. Finding the perfect piece of furniture is hard enough… but then it can be surprisingly tricky—and expensive—to style it just right for your home. We challenged five staffers to style five different areas of the home, from the entryway to a desk, with a budget of just $32. Follow along with the whole series here.

Credit: AT Video

Challenge: Style a plain desk (we have this one) with $32

Where Austa shopped:

  • Muji
  • Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
  • CB2
  • Flying Tiger

What she bought:

  • Bookends
  • Books
  • Photo holder
  • Sticky notes
  • Bud vase
  • Notepad
  • Glass
  • Pens
  • Donut mug
Credit: AT Video

Big splurge: A photo holder for close to six bucks. But looking at memories while you’re working? That’s priceless.

Big saving: A “propagation station”—Austa bought two bud vases from CB2 (for less than six bucks) and then started to propagate clippings of friends’ plants. Way cheaper than buying your own!

One tip to remember: If you have a bunch of books to corral on your desk, consider color blocking them for a mix of form and function.

Check out how Austa’s full desk transformation (and find out whether she stayed on budget) in the video above!