Before and After: A Bare Home Office Becomes a “Hardworking Hub” for Work and Play

published Jun 29, 2023
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About this before & after
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Double French doors open showing storage in room before home office renovation.

When homeowner and DIYer Yelena Berndt (@afinishedhouse) described her vision for the spare 11×11-foot room in her house, she described what many would envision for their dream home office: She wanted “a place you can be productive and efficient, but also a good spot to curl up with a book, daydream, and create,” and she wanted “a hardworking hub for all of our clutter,” she says. 

As far as aesthetics go, Yelena wanted the room “to have a moody, dark library feel with cozy finishes.” It’s the first room you see when you walk in the house. Before, it had neutral gray walls that Yelina says were “lacking character” — but it also had great features like a large window and French doors. Yelina wanted to make the whole room feel a bit more stand-out and streamlined.

“I decided to create a multifunctional space,” Yelena says. “For me, it’s a place to work from home and concentrate; for my husband, it’s a favorite place to read; for my kids, it’s a place to draw, do crafts, listen to music, and play with their friends; and for all of us, it’s a place where everything is neat and organized.”

The biggest factor in making the room an organizational hub was adding the new built-in cabinetry on the back wall. Yelena used unpainted stock cabinets from Lowe’s for hers. “They are the most cost-effective and had a variety of sizes to choose from, which helped me pick just the right configuration,” she explains. 

Yelena used four base cabinets for the bottom part and four upper cabinets (stacked two high) for the sides. She added shiplap between the vertical cabinets for some extra character, and used butcher block to create the floating shelves, the countertop, and the desk. “I have NEVER done anything like this before,” she says, adding that the cabinet installation was easier than she expected. “After the first couple of days, this room started to look like the vision I had in mind, and that was the biggest motivation for me!”

The hardest part of the project was installing the floating shelves and getting the size and spacing of the drilled holes in the shelves just right so that they would match up with the brackets and studs in the wall. Yelena calls that a “varsity-level DIY.”

“Every single step of this project was a first for me,” she says. “I watched some process videos, took it one step at a time, and told myself that the worst thing that could happen was that it wasn’t going to turn out — but the best thing that could happen was that it was going to be exactly how I hoped it would be.”

Yelena painted her new custom cabinets and shelves with the dark and dramatic color she was after: Valspar’s Chimney Smoke. Her best painting advice? When in doubt, watch video tutorials, make sure to use a foam roller on cabinets, and, when painting shiplap, paint the groves of each board before you put up the next one for best coverage. Lastly, don’t be afraid to mess up. “It can all be fixed!” she says. 

After her cabinetry was installed, Yelena gave the space a few glam details — crown molding on the walls, a sparkly chandelier in place of the ceiling fan before, and linen-like wallpaper near the ceiling. “The rest was just picking the finishing touches: the rug, a leather chair, and decor for the shelves,” she adds.

Yelena says eventually, she’d love to have a piano in this room and two smaller chairs instead of the one bigger one, and in her dream world, the French doors would be sliding pocket doors. “That would save a lot of space,” she says. “But I wouldn’t change anything that’s already done; it matches the vision I had for this space pretty closely.” In all, her project took about a month to complete and about $3,000.

The new space is just as practical as it is beautiful. “I love how hard this space works for our family,” Yelena says. “Everyone uses it daily, and everything stays organized and available; everything has a spot. I love that this is not just another gray room in our home.”

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