How I Revamped My Home Office On A Budget
When we moved into our house, one of the selling points was that it had what was elaborately termed as an 'outside office'. This sounded madly glamorous - the previous owner was a theatrical agent so ran her business from home in this small room that used to be a brick shed in the courtyard. We moved in and swiftly realised that it wasn't really suitable to be used for the purpose in it's current state. This was for several reasons. Firstly, it had no heating and was bloody freezing. Secondly, I made the mistake of leaving a rug on the floor and within days it was accosted by snail and slug trails. And finally, it was separate from the main house so I couldn't hear the kids. This was obviously a massive bonus but unfortunately, it meant that they were constantly barging through the door asking for a) food, b) money or c) X Box Live credits. The luxury of the outside office was short lived and it soon became a 'storage room'. Basically this meant that you could no longer enter through the door because your entrance was blocked by underused bamboo furniture, cardboard boxes that 'might come in useful one day' from my interiors purchases and a plethora of plastic outdoor kids play stuff such as Swingball, AKA shit that they are desperate for and then never use again once it's out the box. The floor was littered with Nerf gun bullets which I had furiously thrown in after one too many times of being accosted whilst watering the herbs. Joe refused to even open the door as it would send him into a spiral of stress, caused both by the pile of rubbish and the fact that he would eventually have to deal with it.
Inside the main house, we had what was termed as a 'family room'. Again, this sounds madly glamorous. It wasn't. Next to the kitchen, it had been painted in what can be described at best as blood red on one wall combined with diarrhoea on the rest. The previous owner had used it to watch TV and as a result, there were huge cables hanging out the wall which had been chopped off with what looked like had been a rusty saw and rendered unusable. Added to this, it had some weird remote control contraption that was allegedly for the lights but didn't work so you could only enter the room with your iPhone torch. We decided very quickly that we would paint the whole lot white, bar the blood wall on to which I slapped blackboard paint as a quick fix. It was improved but still not perfect in any way. It became the office.
I've mentioned before that Joe is totally obsessed with anything vaguely resembling a gadget. As I work from home, he convinced me that a Mac desktop was an absolute essential and that without it, I would be unable to complete any task to any sort of standard whatsoever. My life and career would fail miserably should I not allow a Mac to enter our home. Brow beaten by his technical man arguments, I eventually agreed. And I am ashamed to say that I absolutely bloody love it. Like, in a totally obsessed Mac mad convert fashion. For me, Air Drop is the best invention of the 21st Century. Unfortunately, Leo also loves the Mac. Every morning he eats breakfast whilst watching You Tube videos on several core subjects. People opening packets of Match Attax is a favourite. People opening Kinder Eggs is another. Oh, and people watching Minecraft videos is a winner every time. It's mental, quite frankly. When I was young, computers were only ever seen being used by Tom Baker on Dr Who and we didn't even have breakfast television. BBC and ITV were the only channels and broadcasting stopped at midnight. Noel Edmonds Swap Shop, Hong Kong Phooey and The Banana Splits were my Saturday morning routine and The Generation Game and Blankety Blank were my evening viewing. Nowadays, my kids only turn on the TV to watch Netflix, TOWIE or some random illegal movie download site where you can see La La Land before it's even hit our cinemas. Sigh.
So I decided that since I was going to be spending lots of time in the home office, I needed it to be a bit more practical and also look good. Obvs. This is what I did.
Put The Crap Where I Couldn't See It
The home office is the dumping ground for all random crap that enters our house. There is no filing system to speak of. Anything that has to be dealt with goes in a pile. Then neither of us deal with it and we have last minute panics regarding lack of house insurance or worse, overdue H&M bills which mean my account is on hold. So I had a huge clearout and got rid of all of the out of date paperwork and shoved anything that needed to be kept into another Narnia style chest of drawers in the hall. Out of sight, out of mind. I threw everything that was not essential for my new executive style office environment and career on to the stairs. This included but was not limited to three cans of dry hair shampoo, Trivial Pursuit, a Sheffield Wednesday match day programme from 2010 and a book called Developing Mental Toughness written by Adrian Moorhouse. I decided I didn't need Adrian's help with that one. I replaced these items with my Cole & Son wallpaper sample collection and several colour chart blocks. There was no stopping me.
Created Storage For The Crap I Had To Keep
After perusing La Redoute (a regular occurrence), I found a magazine holder that was perfect for the side of my desk. I applied the 30 percent discount and it was a winner. Joe got his drill out (not a euphemism) and erected it (nope again) and I filled it with my samples and colour charts, plus all my work files. Perfect.
I put wire baskets from Wilko on the shelves of an old Habitat unit that I bought years ago from eBay, it's kind of like the IKEA Expedit but weighs about ten tonnes. I allocated one for each of the kids for their school books which generally they chuck brazenly over the island bar and then have fits when someone spills squash. Nice and neat and squash free. I kept a shelf free for all their writing equipment, calculators and stuff so that it was all in one place. The remainder of the shelves were used for our vast collection of books that are never read, including Joe's collection of University text books that he hasn't opened since 1995. Only in my home office does Exploring Corporate Strategy sit alongside New Toddler Taming and Kylie: La La La.
I added strong paper storage sacks from the lovely Fay at homewares brand Henry, Fred & Felicity. I used one for chucking the school bags in when the kids come home and the other for storing paper, magazines and extra bits. Perfect.
Corked The Wall
I decided that a cork wall was the way forward. Not only was it perfect for planning projects but it was ideal for pinning all the things that were overspilling on the fridge, plus some favourite photographs that I always wanted to have up but had nowhere to put. Plus the additional bonus of being an excellent Instagram photo opportunity and super on trend. So I went to my favourite go to, eBay, and found a company that produced cork tiles for floors and walls. In my usual slap dash style, I didn't measure it properly and ordered too few self adhesive tiles. They were super easy to put up and I had stuck all 50 within twenty minutes. I ordered more online, only to find when they arrived that they were non adhesive. After a quick outing to B&Q, I bought some carpet tile fixer spray and finished the job. I ordered 4mm thick cork which is plenty thick enough for a standard thumb tack drawing pin. There were more expensive options that were thicker but for me, this one worked fine. With my styling head on, I ordered 50 rose gold thumb tacks from eBay for £3 only to then find them in my local Post Office for 50p a pack of 100. Dammit.
Wallpapered A Map
In our previous house, we had a full room of map wallpaper which we all really liked. Everyone should have a huge map in their home. It's educational for the kids and it's always a talking point when people come round. So when we moved into this house, I was desperate to put one up again. Previously, the only place you had been able to get map wallpaper was Stanfords and it was quite pricey. A trip to B&Q turned up a wall mural that virtually fitted perfectly on the back wall space. It was about ten inches short at the bottom but at £34, I wasn't too bothered about that. It comes in four huge quarters. I put it up myself using paste the wall wallpaper paste and it only took about an hour. I'm super pleased with it and even the kids like it.
Added Colour With A Rug
I'm super fussy about rugs. Generally, I veer towards four styles - cow hide, rattan, Moroccan or Persian. But I decided I wanted something a bit different for the study so chose an ochre berber style lattice that fits brilliantly from Kukoon. It looks great alongside the map which is yellow toned so I am super pleased. More excitingly, I'll be running a Valentines Competition later today to win a £50 voucher from Kukoon so watch my feed!
Added More Unsuspecting Death Wish Plants To My Collection
In my eternal attempts to be at one with nature, I attached a wooden dowel rod to the top of the cork board and hung a hanging pot from it. It does actually look quite good and I'm considering entering the world of macrame and adding more. Dee Campling very generously bought me a palm which I put in a belly basket from Aubeterre Blue. I brought in my always versatile cactus and it really brightened it all up. Plants are brilliant. I just wish I could keep them alive for more than five minutes.
Stopped Myself From Buying Any New Furniture
I already had an old dining table that I used as a desk. I bought it on eBay from Hopper & Space - it's a Pieff smoked glass top on a chrome trestle and at £50, it was a bargain. It's got plenty of space for the printer and the Mac. Unfortunately it's also big enough to hide the multitude of Hula Hoops packets and Rice Crispy Squares wrappers that my kids devour daily. The office chair was, again, an eBay buy - a replica of a classic shape. In the corner is one of my favourite all time buys - a Pieff chrome framed brown leather easy chair which I picked up cheaply years ago. I moved the Prada Marfa canvas from my bedroom to the blackboard wall where it fitted perfectly - full creds to Emilie from Stella And The Stars for the blatant copy of office location.
Light It Up, Baby
Due to the poor lighting situation as explained earlier, I reused an anglepoise that I bought as a birthday present for Joe some years ago (see previous blog post on self gifting). Plug in festoons from Festive Lights added extra light around the blackboard wall and a huge light up star from Nickie Kelly looked fab next to the map.
So How Much Did It Cost?
Map Wallpaper from 1Wall.com available from B&Q: £34
Solvite Paste The Wall from B&Q: £8.62
Cork tiles from BHF Unlimited: £70 (spend £100 and get a £5 discount using code 5POUND at checkout)
Evostik carpet adhesive from B&Q: £6.99
Plug In Festoons from Festive Lights Ltd: £14.99 (enter code LISAFEST to get 10% off festoon light purchases until 9 May 2017)
Magazine rack from La Redoute: £49 with 30 percent off £38
Metal baskets from Homebase: £4.78 each (Wilkos discontinued)
Berber trellis rug from Kukoon: £119.95 (enter code LISADAWSON10 to get 10% off all rugs on the website)
Custom made copper print storage bags from Henry, Fred & Felicity: £9.95 each (custom made to order - enter code FB20 today only to receive 20% discount)
I'm really pleased with how it looks. The wall map looks really cool and it's brilliant for holiday planning and Ella's GCSE Geography homework. It's much cosier with the new carpet and the cork board makes it ridiculously practical although obviously the same rules apply to things pinned on it as apply to my Christmas tree decorations. Move away, kids.