One Room Challenge

Before and After: A Home Office Goes from “Oversized Closet” to Stylish Work Space

published Jul 28, 2023
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Not every room makeover happens all in one go. Sometimes it takes a few phases of renovations to get a space that looks — and functions — exactly the way you want. That was certainly true in the case of this home office belonging to Charles McAlpine and his husband, Astolfo Licea.

Credit: Charles McAlpine

When Charles and Astolfo bought their 1971 home, the office was filled with built-ins containing file drawers, shelves, and a partner desk. Over the course of two decades, the couple removed the retro office trappings, but they struggled with creating a usable room out of the space. Low ceilings and the angle of an entry door made it difficult to move furniture into the space and, inevitably, it became a catch-all storage space.

“When you have an empty and under-used room, it becomes an oversized closet pretty quickly,” says Charles, who had a dream of widening the doorway and turning the space into a functional, artsy office they’d both be happy to use.

Credit: Charles McAlpine

He turned that dream into a reality by planning his office redo as part of the One Room Challenge. And as luck would have it, the couple’s friend — general contractor Luis Medina of Home and Office Tune-Up — had a conveniently timed opening in his schedule to help with some heavy lifting. Charles and Astolfo hired him to create a new double door opening to make it possible to move furniture into the room, drywall the room, and patch where the old doorway had been. After Luis handled the structural stuff, it was time for Charles to step in with his .

Credit: Charles McAlpine
Credit: Charles McAlpine

Charles started with wallpaper in a rich blue color and a classic botanical pattern. It was a DIY first for him, but video tutorials helped him get it right. “I figured if I messed up it could all be scrapped and the walls could be painted,” says Charles (thankfully, everything went right on the first go!).

Next up came the board-and-batten. A 6’ x 2.5’ work of art intended to float comfortably above the top of the molding served as a great reference point for how high the trim should reach. And because Charles installed the wallpaper first, he discovered a clever hack for determining where his stiles should be placed. “I used the repeating pattern in the wall paper to determine when each vertical piece would hang,” Charles says. “No measuring and math to work out.”

Credit: Charles McAlpine
Credit: Charles McAlpine

A deep gray-green paint color (Behr’s Night Mission) adds a sophisticated air, but Charles used different sheens on the walls (flat) and trim (semi-gloss) for extra dimension.

The finishing touches included bold, regal colors to brighten up the otherwise moody, subdued palette. A vibrant mustard yellow velvet daybed and a vintage-inspired ruby red rug bring some color. Recessed lighting and a modern fan help further the fresh new look.

Credit: Charles McAlpine

And there was one more unexpected and unconventional decision that now completes the space by proving less is more. As Charles debated over the new door for the room — wood or metal, clear glass or translucent, pocket or hinged — he realized the decision didn’t need to be made at all. They decided to go without a door, and it’s made all the difference in the way the room relates to the rest of the home. “We are glad we decided not to add a door because of the natural flow it gives to the main areas of the house,” Charles says.

Credit: Charles McAlpine

Now the office isn’t just a great background for Zoom calls, Charles says. “It makes the main area of our home feel more spacious and, by adding the double opening to the office/den, it makes the entire place feel larger.”

This project was completed for the Spring 2023 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.