For the last several years, I’ve been working from a wall in my living room (NYC apartment rents and a start-up entrepreneur’s salary do not a 2-BR make…). At first, the setup was merely part-time as I continued to hold down “real” jobs at real offices while trying to grow Style Girlfriend into the world-dominating enterprise that it is today. But when I made the leap to full-time on SG last year (a year this month actually! April is my work-iversary!), I knew something had to change.
My bland work area and barely serviceable ladder bookshelf/desk combo no longer cut it.
The “desk” was a stable surface that protruded from under my laptop by about 3 inches on any given side. I didn’t have anywhere to put my “to do” notebook, so I sat it on my lap while I worked, and steadied my coffee on one of the bookshelves hovering around my shoulders. My “chair” was an ottoman I kept blankets in that I’d pull over from the couch.
In short, not really an ideal workspace for someone who works from home.
So with the help of design service Homepolish, I completely overhauled my work space.
Because I’m a masochist, I took on this home office project at nearly the exact same time I started tackling the site’s redesign, so for the past several months I’ve been working in a state of limbo, literally and figuratively. I got rid of the desk and shelves wa-a-a-y too early..before the furniture company had even begun building my new desk, and took everything off my walls (and moved it all onto the floor of my bedroom) in anticipation of painting..in a few weeks.
I know, not great timing on my part. So I was working from my kitchen table (and lots and lots of coffee shops) for over a month. Closer to two.
But it’s done! And I love it, and everyone involved. Plus, Apartment Therapy featured it, and Homepolish did too, and I’m excited to humblebrag as my beautiful office bounces around Pinterest as “design inspiration” for years to come..
Shelly Lynch-Sparks, my HP designer and new Brooklyn pal, came to the table with a great plan that was very “me” but also listened to my ideas and incorporated them seamlessly into the final product. We’re already planning our next drinks date.
The space reflects so perfectly what my work is all about, with the combination of the navy wall and its new, pink accents. A perfect, and perfectly grown up, mix of the masculine and the feminine.
So, what have we got?
DESK: Recycled Brooklyn
This desk was built for me by Recycled Brooklyn. I love it. I want to sleep on this desk. It’s made from reclaimed wood, with hairpin legs and a locker basket for a drawer. The guys, brothers Matt and Steve Loftice, were great to work with, so easy going and pretty much exactly the kind of guys you’d expect to run a furniture business from Red Hook, Brooklyn. I sent them a picture of a desk I’d seen and loved, and what showed up when they carried it in was exactly that desk.
CHAIR: West Elm
I love midcentury modern design but have never wanted a living space that looks like a set from Mad Men. This chair is a beautiful – and comfortable! – nod to that era of design, while the stripe makes it feel modern. I was a little worried it would feel TOO comfortable and that all I’d want to do was curl up in it and read a book, but it’s surprisingly firm, so when i sit in it, I really do feel “at work.”
Ikea, baby! But man, rugs are expensive, huh? Even this Ikea number wasn’t exactly cheap. But it’s cool, I love it, and the navy and yellow are colors picked up in the wall and the plants’ holders.
PLANTS: The Sill
A friend of mine from my old life in advertising reached out to me last fall, letting me know he was working at a new start-up called The Sill. The gist? They’re interior designers…for plants.
We talked about what I wanted, what I needed, and what I could handle (i.e., nothing that required watering more than 1x a week), and they showed up on my doorstep with everything ready to go in beautiful vases and pots. They even set it all out for me. In a city like New York, where one trip to Home Depot requires a ZipCar membership and half a Saturday (at least), this kind of “at your door” convenience is really worth every penny.
ANTLERS: “Mahzer and Vee” Etsy shop
This was a last-minute find, and I’m very psyched it worked out. I had been thinking about getting some sort of antlers for decoration, but 1) don’t love the idea of the spoils of hunting hanging in my apartment, and 2) wasn’t sure if they’d look too stuffy in my apartment. Well, Etsy shop owners Mark-Anthony and Christine solved both conundrums. These antlers are faux, crafted from resin, and the shop offers them in pretty much every color imaginable. I was on the fence between gold and pink (though the mint look pretty great too). And they made it all happen in about two days, too, with a smile on their faces (or rather, in their email), shipping expedited from the west coast.
MAGAZINE HOLDER: cb2
Utilitarian, but still nice to look at. From CB2, and the next time you’re wondering, “Should I have this rather bulky and surprisingly heavy wall accessory shipped to me for a mere $4.95, or take two trains to go pick it up in the city by myself and lug it back home?” Choose the former. Always choose the former.
WALL ORGANIZERS: Urbio
Since I’m a sucker for good design, I immediately fell in love with the way the pieces can be rearranged, and used for so many different things. I’m keeping pens, papers, and office supplies organized and off my desk (I’ve got more desk space than I did before, but it’s still a precious commodity), but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg with these little guys. Check out the company’s blog for clever ideas on more ways to use them – everything from storing diapers at arm’s reach in a baby’s nursery to growing herbs in your kitchen. As a city dweller always facing the issue of not enough counter space, being able to utilize storage on your walls is really smart.
Shelly and I knew that a dark wall necessitated some bright colors to keep me from “Downton Abbey drawing room” territory. Which is why it was so perfect when the folks from ARTtwo50 reached out. They help people discover original art by emerging artists, all at consistent pricing – everything is $250. The piece we chose was by a California artist named Matthew Seigel, and makes me smile every time I look at it, which as far as I can tell, makes it well worth having.
PAINT: Benjamin Moore “Hale Navy”
We went with Benjamin Moore – Hale Navy, one of their classic colors. Can we just quickly talk about how stressful it is to choose a paint color that’s anything but white or eggshell? I mean, this is DARK BLUE, guys, and I’m going to be staring at it EVERY SINGLE DAY. Honestly, the whole ordeal was enough to make me want to give someone else the decision to make. But I’m so, so happy with I went with it. It really makes me feel like that corner of my living room is truly my office. It feels different enough to really give me that “on duty” feeling whenever I sit down to work.
The standing lamp was a great – and inexpensive – find from Target. I’d never had floor lighting in the room before, and chuckle to myself every time I turn it on at the difference it makes in how warm the room feels.
OVERHEAD LIGHTING FIXTURE: Restoration Hardware (copper sold out, but still available in silver)
The overhead light fixture is Restoration Hardware, and let. me. tell. you. That was not an easy purchase. Not because I don’t love it – I do, it was one of the first pieces Shelly brought to me and I was like, ooh, yes, tooootally.
And then I saw the price.
Believe me when I tell you that this whole project really tested the principles I preach to you guys ever day. Quality over quantity! Spend what you can on investment pieces! But when (nearly) every piece you’re buying feels like an investment piece, and when you’ve waited way too long in your grown-up life to really invest in your home, it can get expensive quick. Thank goodness for the home makeover budget I’d been squirreling away, which made it more palatable to pull out my credit card each time (it helped too, that Shelly did some of the buying for me – it’s much easier to let someone else spend your money – no eye bulges at seeing the receipts right away.
A huge, huge thanks to everyone involved. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes every day I sit down to work on Style Girlfriend. Hey, look good feel good, right?!
What’s the last major renovation you went through in your home? How’d it go?
For more pictures of the (terrible) before and (amazing) after, add SG to your Google+ circle!