Office makeover update

by Jessie K on August 4, 2012

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year already since I took the bold step of renting office space in town. I’m so glad I did. Having a defined work space away from my home has had a big impact on how I think of myself as both a writer and a person. (I’m not a sweatpant wearing cretin. Go me.)

It’s been awhile since I’ve shown readers the inside of my office. I wanted to take my time with the decor. I didn’t want to rush into anything only to regret it a few months later. I wanted the space to tell me what feeling or mood ought to be expressed. I also didn’t want to spend a bunch of money not just because I’m a tightwad, but because I genuinely enjoy the thrill of decorating for not much money. When you commit to frugal decorating, it takes a bit more time than making a grand sweep through Crate & Barrel with a charge card.

My challenge for this room (with a couple of notable exceptions) was to decorate with stuff I already owned, scavenged elsewhere or bought for cheap.

Lets take a tour, shall we?

I began my office makeover with the front door, which features a great big old school window that sort of reminds me of a noir detective’s office. Blinds seemed too drab for my purposes so I opted for adhesive window film which provides privacy while still letting the light in. After drooling over some amazing window film options (see Emma Jeffs and Scandinavian Design Center), I ended up opting to keep my costs down by going with an affordable $20 option from Amazon instead. It may not be haute design, but it’s still delicate and pretty.

Come on in, won’t you?

This is the view just inside the front door. I wanted the space to feel airy and expansive to fuel creativity, yet still rooted to help me maintain focus. Which is why I selected a greenish gray as the dominant color. I went with Farrow & Ball French Gray, which is pricey ($80 per gallon) but I didn’t want to make a mistake with the color or risk compromising productivity. French Gray’s soothing green watery undertones stimulate big thought while the gray promotes sober yet soothing discipline. See how much thought I’ve put into this? It’s because my walls are F&B French Gray, I’m telling you!

I also chose to arrange my office according to Feng Shui principles by placing the desk in the left hand corner farthest from the entrance for a “command” position (a desk should never face away from or be in line with the main entrance, according to Feng Shui). This corner is also where creativity and wealth energy gather, so naturally I want to harness as much of that stuff as possible!

My old oak desk — which must weigh 1,000 pounds, I swear — has a similar “detective office” feel as the front door. It was scavenged from the trash pile outside an army building by Jake. It’s not sleek or trendy but that’s why I love it.  I sit on a minimalist Humanscale Liberty task chair, which saves my neck and back and arms from aggravation and still looks chic.

I also wanted the space to feel alive (also good for stimulating creativity) so I made sure to bring in ample greenery.   The giant plant next to my desk was an office warming gift from my friends Thom and Lornie. I love how big and lush it is.

I lined this old locker cabinet from Ikea — which I’ve had since the 90s — with an old fabric swatch from Designers Guild, on top of which more plants and photos are arranged. My friend Chin gave me the orchid for a pop of color and it’s still bright fuchcia four months later. The Eames chair comes from Design With Reach, another 90s purchase when mid-century modern was the rage (Jake hates this chair; he thinks you sink too low to the ground when you sit in it and was all too happy to have it moved out of the house).

More plants plus photos of my dreamboat husband…

I haven’t bothered hanging curtains because I’m three floors up and face north, therefore, not flooded with direct, harsh sunlight.

This is the view from my desk. The love seat comes from Habitat for Humanity for $150.  I bought it four years ago and have been waiting to give it a nice home ever since. I like how the tranquility of the walls is offset by splashes of  clashing color, which energizes the space and gives it vitality.

The blanket draped over the love seat I picked up in Israel. The rug I bought at T.J.Maxx for $100.  The lamp comes from Target. And the fabric hanging from the closet is another sample swatch from Designers Guild.

The swatch wasn’t big enough to cover the entire door, so I improvised by hanging it over a long piece of burlap from Tractor Supply which lends it an organic indie vibe.

Rustic and practical!

I love how the slightly psychedelic rug contrasts with the “by-the-numbers-ma’am” checkerboard linoleum floor.

Here’s the bookcase next to the couch. I try to be sparing about what I display here since clutter impedes creativity.

I keep my collection of Domino magazines here. I’ve kept every single one since the premier issue. I’m so glad I did because they’re such a great design resource, full of timeless ideas and inspiration.

Some more personal touches…

Here’s my name fashioned from barbed wire, a gift from Jake right after we met.  I hung it right over my desk to lay claim to the room’s creativity and wealth vortex [insert scary Darth Vader breathing here].

I hung an old drawing of me that pretty much sums up my personality. I know it’s kinda cheesy and narcissistic to hang pictures of yourself but I also think it’s important to remind yourself that you’re all that and a plate of nachos when trying to write.  Ergo, my lucky golden horseshoe, another gift from Jake.

He also made me this horseshoe man file holder. What a husband!

And here’s some personalized stationery designed for me by my old friend and overall killer tastemaker Nicole Argento from Warrior Heart Studio. (Need proof? Check a tour of her home here, easily worthy of a feature in Elle Decor and a lot of her finds come from eBay or Ikea!)

Nicole is a big inspiration.  She also designed my professional website and opted to give the stationery the same look, which I love. It’s so clean and pretty.

The only area in my office that still needs help is the wall where the front door is located.

It’s a bit drab and cries out for some kind of art work that is eye catching but not dominant. And I’d like to substitute the green chair and fabric covered side table for a small round table and two chairs for when I’m required to do old fashioned pen and paper work.

It’s still a work in progress. But overall, I’m pleased with the way my office — and by extension, my professional life — is shaping up.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

indio August 4, 2012 at 11:10 am


Nice office. You could always put a round piece of wood on top of the corner table and screw it down. With the cloth on top no one would know it wasn’t born round. The filing cabinets would look great with paint that matches your Ikea cabinet or alternating bright colors that picks up the colors in the rug.
The only thing I wouldn’t call frugal is your desk chair.

Jessie K August 5, 2012 at 9:27 am


Such a great idea. Thank you so much for suggesting it, Indio!

Peg August 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm


I love the office, it looks fabulous. I think I might keep the chair by the filing cabinet and just recover it with some other fabric. I agree with indio on putting a round top on the table, also on painting the file cabinets. I bet a local auto body place could do a powder coating on them for you.
Love your book, and your blog. All the best to you and your family.

Jessie K August 5, 2012 at 9:27 am


I love the idea of painting the file cabinets! What a great idea! LOVE THAT!

Jackie August 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm


I love it so much I pinned it!

Jessie K August 5, 2012 at 9:26 am


YES!!!! Thank you, Jackie!

Susan August 4, 2012 at 7:56 pm


Wow, great room Jessie. I get such a calm yet playful vibe from it, must be a good place to work. And I love the old style pencil sharpener by the bookcases, they are a must for any office.

Jessie K August 5, 2012 at 9:25 am


You know it, Susan. A pencil sharpener is really good for reigning in the Feng Shui. 😉

deb August 5, 2012 at 6:39 am


You did a great job–and the paint choice is perfect!

Meredith August 5, 2012 at 2:02 pm


Your office turned out beautifully! It’s so nice to see that transformation.

Lisa August 6, 2012 at 9:38 am


Hi Jessie, I love your office! The colors are really great in that rug and I love all the plants and flowers. I was thinking about something for the wall by the door. I took pictures of my grandchild on my iPad and turned on the auto enhance. It makes Phoebe adn everything in the picture in beautiful bright colors. It would look great if you took a picture of June or June and Jake and framed it! I am going to get one of Phoebe done.

Janelle August 6, 2012 at 10:36 am


Love it, love it, love it! Absolute perfection. And love the hand-made gifts from Jake. (And is it presumptuous of me to say you have quite a handsome husband? You shouldn’t advertise him!)

Brooke August 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm


Ah, room lust. A room of one’s own.

Suggestion: move the green chair and (yes, round!) table out away from the wall and sort of caddy-corner to the file cabinets, “hiding” them, whether they get painted (yes, paint!) or not and making the entry more welcoming and relaxed, rounding everything off a bit, softening it away from the very angular and rigid straight lines that exist now. Open up the “boxiness” a little…

Kristen and Jim August 12, 2012 at 12:06 am


Jessie, I love it! Great work. How about that perfect picture of June by the hen hut for your wall? Or a travel poster for Lexington….or do they make posters for that cowboy rodeo event where you and Jake met?

Jessie K August 13, 2012 at 10:38 pm


The picture of June and the Hen Hut….that’s a great idea! Thanks, Kristen!

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