One Year Later: Still in love with our home office!

Every now and then, I like to take a look back on past home renovations and projects – kind of like the DIY version of a childhood celebrity “where are they now?” article. I usually love a project right when it’s finished, but the true test is how I feel with the benefit of more hindsight. Are things holding up well? Do I wish I had done something different in the project? Are there ways we could’ve improved on it? It’s fun to check back in and see how things have gone since the project wrapped up. Way back in February, I shared what I love, what I regret, and what I still hope to do in our guest suite (read that post here). Then in July, I shared how our basement kitchen renovation has held up so far (read that post here). Today, I wanted to look back on a project I finished in November 2020: our home office!

Justin and I renovated our home office for the Fall 2020 One Room Challenge and “challenge” was definitely the right word for it. This was the most complicated and extensive renovation we’ve ever attempted to do on our own. It really stretched both of our abilities and was difficult and exciting at the same time. You can read all about it in my ORC posts (Week One, Week Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five, Week Six: The Final Reveal).

The super cliff notes version of the renovation is, we went from this:

to this! And we did it ALL ourselves!

Don’t tell the other rooms in my house, but this one is without a doubt my favorite one. To say I’m proud of Justin and I for tackling this renovation is an understatement. There were so many complex things we needed to talk through and figure out, especially because the room had a bay window and lots of angles to work around. We did it though and it feels so rewarding even to this day.

A quick note before jumping in to my thoughts on the room today – I recently decorated for Christmas and decided to just keep those decorations up rather than take them down for the follow-up pictures. So there’s a little festive touch to this update!

What I Still LOVE!

Honestly, I still love and am so so happy with the majority of this room. I’m so glad we decided to go with Ikea Sektion cabinets for the base of the built-ins. They provide so much storage space and were relatively easy to install. I love that they came with soft close hinges too; it’s such a nice feature to not have slamming doors. I’m also SO glad with our decision to use Semihandmade door and drawer fronts on the cabinets. They are high quality and elevate the look of the cabinets so much!

I’m also glad I splurged on aged brass knobs and drawer pulls from Rejuvenation. It feels like the finishing touch, the jewelry of the built-in, and it also gives a higher-end feel to the overall unit. Between the Semihandmade fronts and Rejuvenation hardware, the cabinets definitely feel like they were custom and not ready-to-assemble.

I love that I decided to do planking on all the walls and ceiling. It gives the space so much character, like it’s been around for 100 years instead of just 20. I have zero regrets on deciding to go with a monochromatic look and paint the entire room, ceiling and built-in included, Treron by Farrow and Ball (and I’m still so obsessed with that color).

I also still love my vintage yellow chair, bought secondhand from a thrift store, tucked in the bay window area, just waiting for me to curl up with a good book! I love the modern desk mixed in, the double layer of rugs, the bookshelves full of books and mementos, the crown molding and wide baseboards, and the black painted windows framed by tall linen curtains. Honestly, every time I walk into this room, my heart still does a little swoon.

What I Would Change (if I had a time machine)

As much as I adore this room, there are a few things I wish we had done differently. We struggled to find a board that was the right size for the top of the cabinets, and we ended up piecing together some edge-glued pine boards from Lowe’s. It was thinner than I wanted, but much cheaper than butcherblock so we decided to go for it. After we finished, we realized Menard’s had edge-glued boards that were wider and thicker – these would’ve given a more substantial look to the top of the cabinets/base of the bookshelves. I wish we had known it sooner; I definitely would’ve preferred to use the Menard’s boards! I also made a mistake and wiped down the boards we used with a damp cloth before painting, which gives the wood a rough feel now. I should’ve sanded it down (or used a dry tack cloth instead!) so it stayed nice and smooth.

We also should have included more small pieces of scrap wood to the underside of each shelf prior to attaching the thin plywood base underneath. In a few spots, the plywood has bowed a bit and is visible now; I wish we had placed more spots to attach the plywood with the nail gun to prevent future dipping!

I also wish we had included a small piece of trim on the very ends of the cabinets. There is a small gap between the wall and the cabinet and we should’ve closed it. It would’ve been easiest to do before we added the top and bookshelves, but I still think we can do it if we take off the door front. That might be a quick 2022 project!

Lastly, I wish I had taken more time with filling nail holes. There were hundreds and hundreds of nail holes in all the planking and it became tedious; I just wanted to get through it and start painting! The price to going too quickly or lowering the level of diligence is many of the nail holes have a little dip you can still see. Even though it was so so tedious, I wish I had taken a little more time to make sure the nail holes became truly invisible.

Even though there are a few things I wish we did differently, overall I am still so THRILLED with this room! When we update the main level flooring we will be updating this flooring as well, but other than that, this room still feels so good and I truly believe I will love it for years and years to come.

One Room Challenge Week Two: Our DIY Built-ins!

Another week has come and gone in the Fall 2020 One Room Challenge and buckle up because today is a doozy of a post: it’s all about our DIY built-ins!

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I went back and forth several times with whether to have the desk as a standalone piece of furniture or incorporate it into the built-ins. After mapping out both options with painters tape and placeholder furniture, I decided to go with a full wall of built-ins and a standalone desk to maximize storage.

We started out with base cabinets from Ikea. We went to their kitchen center and one of their employees drew out our plans using software. The software made it so easy to visualize and it was nice to play around with a few different combinations! We settled on four 30″ cabinets with doors and one 15″ cabinet with four drawers to go in the center.

The first step when we got home was ripping out all the beadboard (demo is so satisfying!) and trim. We were not concerned about the residual glue on the wall because we knew it would all be covered up eventually.

I assembled all the cabinets and arranged them in order. My grandpa also came over one day and helped us by moving the electrical outlet in the center of the back wall up a few feet so it would be accessible above the cabinets. Justin attached the cabinet legs and adjusted everything to the correct height. Our purchase from Ikea included a metal railing to attach to the wall and then hook the cabinets directly onto for extra stability. Justin put a lot of work into all those details to make sure the cabinets were level and sturdy!

He also used a jigsaw to cut out a hole in the far left cabinet so that it would be accessible to hook up our printer. Other than the outlet that my grandfather moved, this was the only outlet behind the cabinets so I’m thankful we can still use it!

Once everything was fastened in place, we attached vertical paneling along the walls around the cabinets (today’s post is long enough – I’ll cover this step in more detail in a future post!) and were ready to tackle our biggest DIY yet – the bookshelves!

Our first step was installing a countertop. Butcherblock would have been an easy choice, but it would have also been an expensive choice so we decided to use this edge-glued pine panel instead (making the countertops less than $70 instead of over $300). The option Lowe’s had in store was not quite deep enough, so Justin measured the extra depth we needed and cut a long thin board to match that size exactly. We screwed that board into place against the wall using the metal rails on the Ikea cabinet underneath.

We then used a kreg jig to create screw holes in the bottom of the large panel so we could screw the panel to the long, thin board, creating a deeper counter. We also used screws to attach the front of the panel to the Ikea cabinets, again using the cabinet’s metal rails.

After all this work, we discovered Menard’s had a similar panel that would have been deep enough and saved us all the extra trouble creating and attaching the back piece. Live and learn: always shop around!

The countertop was nearly twelve feet long and there was no way to finagle two six foot pieces so the seam would be hidden underneath a bookshelf support, so Justin used a circular saw to cut two panels to length to meet in the middle.

We used a flat bracket underneath to create stability at the seam between panels. This picture below gives you a good idea of how everything was connected: metal railings to attach counters to cabinets, kreg jig screws to attach the panel to the extra back board, and a flat bracket to attach the two panels to one another.

Since there’s going to be quite a bit of weight on the bookshelves, we also created extra support by screwing metal L brackets to the cabinets and counters.

Once the top was f.i.n.a.l.l.y. in place and as sturdy as possible, we sanded it down so the back board was as flush with the rest of the panel as possible. Then we started on the vertical supports. Justin took 1 x 12 boards and cut them to length, then we used the kreg jig to create three screw holes in the sides. We measured the placement of these holes strategically so that they would be hidden underneath the eventual shelves.

After triple checking that each board was square to the wall and as level as possible, we screwed the boards directly into the wall.

This step involved LOTS of precision and measuring, because we want each vertical support to line up with the line of the cabinet doors (which are ordered and hopefully shipping soon!)

It was finally time for the shelves! We measured and marked (and triple checked) where each shelf was going to go. Justin used scrap oak boards from our garage to cut down thin support pieces. We used premium interior wood screws to attach these pieces to the side boards and back wall where each shelf was going to go. This step was tedious because we had to make sure each and every board was level and in the correct spot so our shelves would all eventually look symmetrical!

Once all the supports were in place and we had checked to make sure everything was level, Justin took 1 x 12 boards and cut them all down to the correct shelf length.

We used a nail gun to nail each shelf into the support pieces. Because the shelves were so long (the only way we could make things look symmetrical), Justin cut extra scrap support pieces and used a kreg jig to attach them to the middle of each shelf.

Next, Justin took very thin plywood and cut it to the same size as each shelf. Using a nail gun, we attached this plywood to the bottom of each shelf so all the support pieces were hidden.

We used scrap pieces of wood to tuck in between the top board and the plywood to correct any bowing so everything looked nice and level.

Then it time to trim out the shelves. Justin took 1×2 primed boards and cut everything to the correct length. He used a nail gun to attach these trim pieces to all the vertical boards first, then went through and cut all the shelf trim pieces to length and nail to the front.

I used plastic wood to fill in all the nail holes and sand them smooth so they’re ready for painting

The end result was that each shelf looks like one nice, thick board. I’m so thrilled with how they turned out!

Justin used his table saw to rip down the scrap pieces of baseboard that we tore out of the room to create thin trim pieces to hide the gap between the vertical panel and top of the wall. Now the only thing we have left to do is install crown molding across the top and the cabinet doors when they arrive (hopefully within the next week or two) and it will be time to PAINT!

I’m so so proud of all our hard work with this project. It was the largest scale DIY we’ve ever attempted and it came with a ton of meticulous measuring, working with wonky walls, and problem solving. But we did it and I love it so much!

Check back in next Thursday to see our continued progress on this room! In the meantime, you can see all other ORC participants here.