Before and After: An Empty, Underutilized Room Becomes a Functional Office Thanks to DIY Built-Ins

published Jul 5, 2022
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Office & Dens
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: Empty room with gray walls and gray carpet

While working from home has plenty of perks — ahem, zero-minute commute — one thing that can be tricky is finding a space to do it. The ideal setup is something that is both out-of-the-way enough to minimize distractions and stylish enough that you don’t dread spending hours at a time there.

That was what Stephanie Thain (@styledbystephthain) was wrestling with when it came to her own work-from-home setup. Stephanie, an attorney, was working full time at home already, but her workspace was lacking. “I needed an office that was closed in to help with sound control whenever I was on calls,” Stephanie says. “I also wanted to have a room that was open and inviting.”

Stephanie’s formal living room was a great candidate. It had plenty of natural light, was open to the rest of the home, and still had walls for sound coverage. Stephanie didn’t love the way it looked as it was — the gray paint on the walls looked purple in some lights — but she knew that could be remedied with a little sweat equity.

While she expected her office transformation to take a few weekends, Stephanie says in the end it was a months-long process owing to a few unexpected setbacks. Number one: Once she started to prep the walls for fresh paint, Stephanie found that the old paint was peeling off in sheets. That meant that instead of jumping straight into painting, she’d need to peel off all the old stuff, skim coat the walls, and then repaint. And after that, Stephanie’s dog had an injury that required extra attention and care for a couple months — leaving her with no time to work on her reno. Stephanie resorted to a folding table in her bedroom in the meantime.

“Always be prepared for a surprise or two, and budget in extra time,” Stephanie advises fellow DIYers. (She knows from experience!)

When Stephanie finally got back at it, she was able to pull off the redo almost entirely by herself for around $1,750 (including her new furniture). Aside from fresh paint, Stephanie added board-and-batten to the walls; the classic wainscoting look is great for elevating plain surroundings. Stephanie’s dad, an electrician, taught her how to wire her own sconces so that she could give herself some functional task lighting, too.

Stephanie created her own custom desk using butcher block that she mounted to the wall. “I had originally planned on doing one desk in the middle and installing some shelves behind the desk,” Stephanie says. But when her husband needed some desk space, too, Stephanie made her desk extra long to be able to accommodate two chairs.

A refurbished cabinet underneath the butcher block helps divide the work spaces and adds practical storage. The bookshelf on top was a Stephanie custom creation.

The arched entrance to the living room was beautiful, but not practical for Stephanie’s purposes. To give her some extra sound proofing, she closed up part of the opening with new drywall and added a pair of doors, too. The glass fronts ensure that the room still feels bright and open, but give a little privacy when Stephanie’s on calls.

Now, the once under-utilized living room is a cornerstone thanks to Stephanie’s $1,750 redo. Even though it took longer than she thought, Stephanie says, she loves the way it came out. “I love all of the little details — tall board and batten, the trim on the bookshelves, and how the colors tie into the rest of the house,” she says. And, she adds, she’s proud that she was able to design and execute it on her own.

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