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The awful office


The air is just a touch crisper. The mornings are a bit cooler. Stores are full of fall-themed merchandise. Fall bulb catalogs were filling the mailbox weeks ago. As much as I’d like to pretend it’s not the case, autumn, apparently, is around the corner. And the surest sign of that is that I’m starting to think about projects that don’t involve plants.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of garden blogging yet to come, but I thought we’d take a quick detour into DIY land to take a look at a project I have my eye on for the fall/winter.
If you follow The Impatient Gardener on Facebook you’ve already gotten a sneak peek of this project-to-be and it’s pretty scary. It’s also fairly embarrassing because you’ll see just what a messy office I keep. In my defense, these photos were taken in the throes of deadline and I generally let everything else sit until deadline is over and then do a big clean-up. Plus, you know you all love getting a real-life peek into other people’s chaos. I aim to please.
So here’s the situation: My office at work is a totally depressing space. I love that I have a nice big window but I  hate pretty much everything else about the room. I’ve gotten preliminary approval to make some changes to the office as long as I get clearance from the tower before I do anything. Oh, and the budget is basically nil. In fact, I’ll probably pay for most of the renovations myself which means we are talking about the thinnest of shoestring budgets.
Since I don’t really know exactly what to do in this space and the challenges require some serious creative thinking, I’m looking for any and all suggestions you all might have. So let’s get to the photos.
Let’s just start with the elephant in the room (well, the weirdest elephant in the room because I think there’s a whole herd of them in there): The sink on the back counter. This building used to be a doctor’s office and my office was the exam room. How would you like to be stripping down to your unmentionables in a doctor’s office with that big window? Anyway, the sink is leftover from that. But worse than the fact that there is a sink in the middle of my office is that we don’t think it works. Actually, everyone in the office is afraid to try it so we don’t know if it works but what would I do with it anyway?
Here’s some more information on the office:
• It’s 11′ x 12′
• There are actually five or six of those tall file cabinets in the room and they have to stay there. To make things more challenging, you’ll notice they are not all the same color. Their current location is really the only place in the room they work. They have to stay but they can’t stay the way the are.
• The carpeting is a very low-pile multi-colored deal with green, teal, gray and beige tones in it. The overall effect if you squint your eyes is sort of in the range of BM Lafayette Green. More than likely it has to stay unless someone can come up with a low-cost alternative. I considered putting Flor carpet tiles over the top of it, but after pricing them out I think it would be too expensive to do the whole room with them. This is certainly the biggest challenge to the rest of the color scheme.
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• All of the cabinetry WILL be painted. If it’s the last thing I do. It is what drives me the craziest in that space.
• Right now I’m thinking about having that sink removed and replacing the counter perhaps with a stained wood countertop like this one.
• As ugly as it is I really like the desk. It has tons of storage and I need a storage solution (you wouldn’t think that would be the case with all those cabinets but we use many of them for storage for office-wide items). It can’t stay the way it is, but ideally I’d find some solution to make it better looking.
• The wall color has to change as well, but I feel like I can’t figure out what color that should be until I get a color for the cabinets decided.
• I didn’t take a photo of it (I’ll get on that when I can), but one wall (the door is in the corner) is empty and in need of some art. I also have a guest chair there.
• The room cannot be too feminine. It is, after all, a business office, not a home office, so it has to reflect the company as much or more than it reflects me.
So that’s the starting point. There is no timeline for this, but since I obviously have to work in the space I’ll have to block off a few weekends in a row to crack it all off in. Lay it on me. What do you think? Do you have a vision for this space? Are you still stuck back at the picture of the disaster that is my office?

3 Responses

  1. This may seem like heresy, but…
    * Leave the cabinets and desk as is — but swap out the hardware. Go for something organic — like leather pulls (Amazon it) on the cabinets, maybe some black hardware pulls on the desk — not all that different than what you have, but more modern
    * Use dark, dark, dark paint on the walls – maybe Urbane Bronze from Sherwin Williams (I’m doing my kitchen in this…soon, really). This will make the wood pop in a good way and actually lighten the carpet to be a feature instead of a bug. I’d do the ceiling in the same color, but that might be something you’d want to run by your building squad.
    * That overhead light needs a modification or redo. It’s very sterile looking. See what’s available for the cheap at a big box store, or consider suspending a cover as simple as pegboard that’s painted (coppery?).
    * Paint the file cabinets black or a coppery/bronze color (spray).
    * Change out the blinds for linen roman shades. Relatively easy to make or commission from someone who sews. (Loose-weave linen in a mossy/bronzy color)
    * Now, you have a room that will act like a background canvas for some botanical prints. So you can sneak some of you in there.
    * Turn that back countertop into your work station — I’d just get some kind of kitchen countertop material cut at a big box store. Keep it dark and muted. Pull your desk away from the wall to center if more in front of the work station.
    * You could do a fun color for an office chair and maybe add one guest chair in the same fun color.
    * Doing this room light-and-bright is going to make it look like a kitchen, I think — I’m a big fan of all white/or nearly white rooms, but I don’t think this is the right room for that.

  2. These are great ideas, Jennifer! I'm still working on developing a plan, and the more I think about it, the more I think I need to find an area rug because the tealy green of the carpet is too limiting.

    Excellent ideas on the counters and the desk too. Thank you!

  3. Hi, Erin! I am right there with you…I'm starting to think about inside-house projects, too!

    I think your office would be pretty easy to update…DIY and on the cheap. I agree about painting the cabinets…I would also unify the filing cabinets and paint them the same color (not necessarily as the cabs but maybe). A new countertop would look nice. Take out the sink and either install open shelves in the space under, or make it a computer station with a chair.

    The carpet would be fine…you could add an area rug to warm up the space and bring some color in. Paint the walls and/or trim to freshen it up. Maybe take down the blinds and put up some curtains?

    If you love the desk…maybe paint it? Not sure if it's real wood…if it is, you could strip it and stain or paint.

    I think once you painted cabinets and replaced the counter, you could choose wall color based on those and the carpet.

    What a fun project!! Next on my list are our powder room and my laundry room. 🙂

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