Home Office Goes from Meh to Wow!

I doubled my storage space and made my home office so attractive I can’t wait to go to work!

I’ve moved four times in seven years. In 2013, we moved to Dallas and downsized from a four-bedroom Tudor in Ohio with a basement to a two-bedroom bungalow in Dallas in a neighborhood where basements are not a thing. I had to let go of a lot of my treasures, and even then, things were pretty cramped.

My office space in the alcove at our rental house.

When we bought a three-bedroom home in Dallas in the summer of 2015, I was thrilled to have a dedicated home office.

At the home 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.

I had 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.

I read that 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.

Chalk paint goes on thick.

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 anyhow. The top of one bookcase was loose, but it was easy to pre-drill some holes and use a few screws to re-attach it.

I 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. 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.

ModPodge matte protects the brittle old pages from my favorite book.

I wanted my office to reflect my personality, 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 just how much I love my vintage Trixie books. (I have three other copies of that book, and the binding on the one I used was damaged.)

I wanted layers of different colors on each piece so when I sanded, the distressing would simulate years of use. 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.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 runs and drips. If you’re going to distress the piece by sanding it after you’re done, 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!)


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

Now the space functions well.

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.

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