Before and After: I Turned My Mom’s Office into a Colorful, Cozy Hangout for Mother’s Day

published May 9, 2021
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About this before & after
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Before: Living room with sky blue walls

My family of three normally lives in an apartment in Chicago, but last year around this time, the city was pretty much shut down and my husband wasn’t able to work. We are lucky enough to have my parents close by, so we all packed up and headed to their place for an extended stay.

While there, I made note of a few things that could use sprucing up — small things, but things that could help my parents better utilize and enjoy their home. As with most home projects, a small fix in my mom’s office became much, much larger (and much more fun) than we’d planned.

For as long as I can remember, my mom’s office has always been a mish-mash of “things ‘n stuff.” It’s an office, a place to kick back to watch a little TV (perpetually turned to HGTV, my mom’s favorite), and a catchall for odd furniture pieces that don’t fit anywhere else in the house. Most recently, the TV sat on a too-large end table, and there were two matching sofa chairs and a stray recliner awkwardly squeezed in. The office/den ended up being where I worked during the pandemic, and I fell in love with the feel of the space. It gets fantastic light all day long, so it was peaceful and cozy. It just needed a little extra attention. I shared my ideas with my mom, and she was on board to let me give the room a little sprucing up.

Since the room serves as a den and office, I wanted to create two separate spaces that would flow nicely together, and incorporate all of my mama’s favorite colors. We really hit the jackpot with the wallpaper. We looked at quite a few different options but once she saw this one, she knew that was the one.

I should note here that I’d only intended to do a wallpaper accent wall — but once we picked out the paper, the project spiraled out of control (in the best way!).

After the wallpaper went up it was obvious to me that the room needed a fireplace and bookshelves. With a little searching, we found a used fireplace surround on the local Facebook Marketplace for $60. My dad cut it down to better fit the room, then painted it bright white. We also purchased two BILLY bookcases (plus extensions) to flank each side of the fireplace. My parents were skeptical — my dad is a retired contractor and worried they looked too cheap. But once I showed him a few impressive BILLY hacks and explained that they were just a skeleton, and that I had plans to add trim and moulding, they were swayed (and now think the bookcases turned out beautifully).

The room had previously painted pale blue, but it was a bit too soft, so my dad was a gem and refreshed it with a darker blue we picked out (Sherwin-Wiliams’ Jacaranda). It’s much darker than before, but the room can handle it with all the gorgeous natural light it gets, and the bold color combined with the floor to ceiling bookcases actually makes the room look quite a bit bigger, too.

My mom has always talked about how much she would love to have these shutters in her house, and these from Blindster were a perfect fit. When closed, they’re great for privacy, and for the summer months when we want to keep the hot sun out of the room. (Full disclosure: Blindster provided me with the blinds for this project, but my mom now wants to buy the same shutters to put all throughout the house.)

We didn’t end up buying any new seating but rearranged what they already had. The recliner found a new room to live in, and I positioned the two blue sofa chairs together in front of the television. The desk stayed in the same place, but we swapped in a cute new chair that we painted to match the wall color.

As for decor, we hit up HomeGoods so we could maximize what was left of our budget using gift cards that HomeGoods provided me with for this particular project. My mom doesn’t like houseplants but I wanted to add some greenery, so we decided on a faux fiddle leaf fig in a woven basket that looks fantastic that fits perfectly into the corner of the room. Then we picked out a very cute canvas ottoman and as well as a playful wooden decorative side table to place between the chairs — perfect for holding drinks and the remote.

We also grabbed a nice selection of decorative throw pillows, wall art, and a few other decor pieces from HomeGoods — plus a rug that rang up at just $40. It’s always a dream when the rug that works perfectly for your space is also on clearance.

After that, we hit up the local thrift store and lucked out big time when we found old “Reader’s Digest” books for only 25 cents each. We bought them all! Finally, I went around the house and grabbed a few more mementos that had been hidden away in cupboards to finish decorating the shelves.

At each step, I was careful to stop and ask my mom, “Do you feel like this room is you?” She kept reassuring me it was. Now that I’m done, I know she loves it — I’ll get cute, random text messages from her that say things like “I’m hanging out in my happy room!” and that makes my heart swell.

This redo took a year, off and on, and we’ve finished it just in time for this Mother’s Day. It feels appropriate: I know everyone says it and believes it, but I truly have the best mom in the world and I feel fortunate that my dad and I were able to use our skills and resources to give her a space that makes her feel happy and reminds her of our time spent together.