Transformed Home Office Space: From Meh to Wow!

When we moved into our new home last summer, I was thrilled to have a dedicated office. At the house we’d been renting, my office space was an alcove off the master bedroom where the wifi signal was too weak to be useful and I could only use the printer when my husband was awake.

Even though I’d seriously pared down my collection of books prior to moving to Texas, I still needed a way to store and display what I had, so I purchased unfinished wooden crates at Joann Fabrics and stained them. It was barely a step up from the plastic milk crates I’d used as a college student.

This was my corner of the master bedroom alcove:

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I had plenty of space in the new house, but I didn’t have the right configuration, and things still felt cramped, disorganized, and distracting:


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I identified several problems in my new office space:

-Stacking the wooden crates on my desk took up a lot of room and made my desk feel cluttered.

-Sitting with my back to the three windows in the room had worked over the summer, but now, with the sun lower in the sky, the morning sun slanted through the windows at a sharper angle and created a very distracting glare on my computer screen.

-The overhead lighting in the room is insufficient, but I felt crowded with a lamp on my desk and a large floor lamp wedged in behind my chair.

A few weeks ago I featured a guest post from Emily Johnson of on work space organization, which you can see here. According to that post, one of the best ways to increase productivity is to eliminate distractions in your work space. I decided that new bookshelves, preferably with cabinet storage, would be a great solution to my work space problems. I planned to change the layout of the room and put all those lovely, distracting books and knickknacks behind me—yet within easy reach.

I always shop antique and resale stores first, because I love to find unique pieces and I also enjoy a good DIY project.

I found these bookshelves at an antique mall in Dallas. They were a matched set that had been painted different colors, but I didn’t care because I wanted to paint them again anyhow.


IMG_2080I already had a cabinet in my office. My dad made it for me when I was three years old, out of scrap lumber he’d brought home from his job at a sheet metal warehouse. It’s been many different colors through the years, and currently, it was so cram-jammed full of office supplies that it was often hard to find what I needed.

Even though it was 4” deeper than the bookcases, I believed painting them and lining them up with the shorter unit in the middle would give it more of a custom look.

Half the fun of DIY is creating something unique. I wanted to personalize these bookshelves, so I decoupaged pages from one of my favorite children’s books on the backing.

My husband checked in on my progress. “You’re burning a copy of a Trixie Belden book for this project?” He knows how much I treasure my Trixie books.

“Well, I do have three other copies of The Red Trailer Mystery, and this one’s binding is shot.”



I used Mod Podge matte finish to adhere, protect, and seal the pages. I decided to line up the pages, rather than scattering them randomly, so they’d harmonize with the horizontal lines of the shelves, and now the charming illustrations from Trixie Belden and the Red Trailer Mystery adorn the backs of the bookcases.

The bookcases were in really good shape. The top of the brown bookcase was loose, but it was easy to pre-drill some holes and use a few screws to re-attach it.

I wanted layers of different colors on each piece so when I sanded, the distressing would simulate years of natural wear. Both pieces had been painted brown over the original wood, and one had been chalk painted white. I started with that one, and applied the color “Grotto” from Folk Art paints, which are available at Joann Fabrics and other stores. IMG_2084

It was a little brighter than I’d anticipated, but I loved it right away.

This was my first attempt at chalk painting, and it was really easy and fun. Here’s what I learned:

Chalk paint is so thick that you can pour a glop of it out on a flat surface–no need to use a paint tray. You waste less if you can pour it out on a shelf and use that as your palette.

You do very little prep work before using chalk paint, and it’s okay if there are some runs and drips. If you’re going to distress the piece, those drips are great places to focus your sanding!

Chalk paint dries fast, and, unlike the semigloss I’ve used on other pieces of furniture, you don’t have any issues with items you put on the piece sticking because the paint is still tacky (sometimes after weeks or months, which is so annoying!)

This entire re-do took less than 2 days, if you don’t count the time it took to shop for the bookshelves.IMG_2085


Problems solved:

-Now my desk is perpendicular to the windows, which reduces glare. I have easy access to the printer, which is moved up to beside the desk, and the large floor lamp has found a perfect home.IMG_2089

-If I need files, office supplies, or a book, they’re less than a step away, but I’m not distracted because everything is behind me.

-I’ve tripled my storage space beneath the bookshelves, and I now have designated areas for the promotional items I use at book signings, articles and files relating to my works-in-progress, and computer paper and other office supplies.


If you’re feeling not-so-productive, take a look at ways you can re-organize your work space and keep the clutter at bay. It’s not too early to make a New Year’s resolution to help yourself work smart.


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Resist: Book Two of the Resistance Series won a Silver Medal in the 2016 International Wishing Shelf Book Awards
Resist was named Best YA Fiction 2016 by the Texas Association of Authors Book Awards