Office: how to finish it, refinish wood, etc.

bethohio3September 23, 2012

My office has multiple woods in it--sort of a cobbled together thing. It would be a formal dining room, if we dined formally, but we don't (and it's an inconvenient distance from the kitchen, anyway).

The room is 14' x 14' and has two doors--one into the foyer and the other towards the basement door/bathroom/great room. There is one window with an eyebrow arch. It has 2" wood blinds on it, but no other window treatment.

My desk and hutch are oak--the surfaces are plywood, the trim is solid wood. The desk looks pretty worn. The lateral file cabinet and printer stand (which I use as a credenza), are also oak. The wood is absolutely beautiful on the file cabinet, so it will hurt to refinish it, but it doesn't fit with the bookcases, which have the "feel" I want for the room.

If I do paint/refinish these, what should I use? The desk gets lots of use.

I have dark bookcases from Ikea that I really like the look of. I also have a bookcase that is stained with a reddish tone.

I don't care if this room "goes with" other rooms in the house--this is *my* office and it only has to please me (unlike other rooms which have to please DH as well) So, it only needs to go with itself.

I'd appreciate suggestions on finishing the room off, whether I should refinish/stain the non-bookcase pieces, if I should do anything with the window, anything else you can think of.

The Ikea bookcases. Some shelves I'll clear out, but the games collection will stay (and doesn't fit behind doors).

From the foyer looking towards my desk area. The wall is way too empty but I'm not sure what I want there. The little table with the flowers on it doesn't have to stay--although I like having the flowers and the painting together. (The table is probably destined as a bedside table in the guest room.)

Looking into the corner of the room. The table with "all the stuff on it" doesn't stay--it's just living there until we get all our post-vacation stuff put away. The bookcase doesn't have to stay--I'm considering an chair and side table for that corner.

From the corner with the low bookcase looking towards the door towards the basement and great room door.

Looking from that doorway towards the window wall. The back of the file cabinet is unfinished, unfortunately.


p.s. The living room, rec room downstairs, and basement are all in varying degrees of decorating flux, including furniture on order. The kitchen isn't decorated at all. I'm trying to make myself focus on one room--and this is the room I don't need to get DH's participation in.

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Annie Deighnaugh

My suggestion would be to start with furniture arrangement. If this is going to be your work space then make your desk front and center and important.

I would do what I could to get a U shaped arrangement with a desk facing toward the foyer entrance, a work table with computer and such behind it and a 3rd piece...maybe the file cabinet with its back to the window wall. This will help fill that large wall, and not crowd the window as it is now. That will leave the window open for a nice treatment, which I think give you a view as well as better light on your desk area. I've seen Christopher Lowell make a work table out of a luan door and saw horses.

Then, I like at least one occasional chair in an office so if someone wants to talk to you while you're working, they have a place to sit.

I'd worry about getting the right furniture and arrangement first, then tackle the wood finishes.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 3:55PM
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I know this sounds strange, but I really like my little cubby area.

I'm trying to imagine another layout that would meet my idiosyncrasies. Specifically, I don't like my back to things. I don't really need or want a "bare desk space" beyond my computer area. I hardly ever do anything at my desk that requires it.

I know it's odd that even in my own home I don't want to sit somewhere where someone could sneak up behind me and startle me. (My friends think I was a gunfighter in a previous life)

We also use this room as an overflow games room at parties, so it isn't unusual for it to have a card table and 4 chairs set up.

I just spent some time looking at Craigslist for desks--didn't find anything. Spent some time on houzz and found a few ideas, but found a lot of desk areas that weren't set up for heavy use--and I use this area a lot.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 9:39PM
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If no one minds, I'm bumping this :-)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 8:35PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Since no one else is responding, I'll give it another shot,

I can understand not wanting to be startled from behind. But I would still encourage you to consider a U shaped arrangement as they are so efficient. Our office went with that (corp headquarters of a large corp.) several years ago and it was very well received. It gives you a lot more work surface and it gives you more opportunities to define separate functions yet keep them only a "chair roll" away...much like a U shaped kitchen does...printer space, storage space, computer space, work surface space. If you are comfortable with facing the window wall while working, then perhaps you can put a work table there with the monitor and keyboard on it and put the stacking piece behind you to use as book case storage and a place to put the printer. And you can still have the desk area facing the foyer to use when someone comes into the room, for non-computer work space or layout space, etc. And as I said, that will help fill that blank wall space you're struggling with now. And the U will make you feel cozy. I may be wrong, but I think you'll like it.

Just posting this to give you an idea of functional layout....not this furniture per se.

In fact, I liked the layout of my office so much that I recreated it in my craft room...only replacing the computer monitor with a sewing machine.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 8:17AM
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Thanks for the pictures, Annie--that does make sense, if we can figure out how to make it work with the window position. I took a step in the "U" direction by buying a desk and credenza (with hutch) from CL today.

I don't have it yet (made arrangements to pick it up tomorrow--found a guy on CL who hauls)

We're not completely sure how to rearrange the furniture, but my desk is out of there, the file cabinet moved, and the space is clear to see how we can arrange the "new to me" furniture. (And I'm sitting at the kitchen table, which we also want to replace.) (I wish we had as much money as I do wants)

It's a more substantial desk and credenza, so I think it'll make the room feel more 'complete' and since it's bigger than my existing desk, it'll have more presence and be a better focus.

It also means that my file cabinet will be the only golden oak in the room.

Before I finalize placement, I'll post pictures again and see if I can visualize an arrangement that makes a "U". I'm not sure if the file cabinet will fit against the wall with the desk and credenza positioned, but the new furniture will go a long way to making the desk front and center.

There is about 4' along the wall to the left of the window--and the desk is 5.5', so there's no way to put the desk or credenza there without it blocking the window. Any ideas?

Here is a link that might be useful: CL find

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 11:13PM
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I've got the new desk and credenza/hutch in my office now (and the old one is gone). How close do you think the desk/hutch can be to the window without it looking strange. It is currently about 18" from the window wall.

I've looked at trying to make it into a 'U' but would need to acquire a table surface or other item that would work there. My current file cabinet is too wide to fit in that spot without blocking the window (or being unopenable).

I don't think I'll even need the file cabinet, since the desk has file drawers. I will need to figure out the best (and neatest) way to store my paper collection, though.

(You can ignore the old printer stand--it's just there until I re-organize everything into the new area)

Any suggestions on the best positioning of the desk before I start filling it up would be really helpful.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 2:01PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Since this is going to be an office, can you center it in the room more? Or if you are going to try to get something to put parallel to the window wall, can you move it away enough so that there is room for that work table or whatever and still enough space for a drape to hang free by the window....

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 3:13PM
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Annie, you are pushing my envelope :-), but I tried it--and you're right. It does look better centered. I'm not sure yet what I'll put to the side, but the room looks more balanced with it centered. If I get a work table, it'll be more for looks than usage--the current setup has more work space than I had before. I'd want more storage rather than work surface.

From the foyer:

From the foyer showing the window:

The credenza/hutch can't be moved until DH is around. I was able to manhandle the desk by myself!

And this opens up the idea of window treatments, since the wall is now accessible.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 3:33PM
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Now that you have committed to the desk and hutch in that nice dark wood, I'd work out a color scheme, starting with your curtain material. Then I'd paint everything else. The mix of good and less good woods and tones is not doing a thing for your room.

For your games, you can buy a couple of small surface-mounted curtain rods - the kind that curve away from the wall - mount them on the front edges of that bookcase at the level of the shelf above the games, and hang flat panels of your drapery material over them.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 6:32PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Do you have a set of slides? It makes moving furniture around sooo much easier. Decorating isn't about getting hurt!

It's looking better, but you want to make sure you have a comfortable distance between the hutch in the back and the desk in the front. You want enough space to slide the chair out comfortably, but not so much space that you have to "travel" to get from the desk to the hutch. Hard to tell, but from the pic, it looks like you might want to skooch the desk back toward the hutch some....maybe not. Now you'll get to enjoy the beautiful view out your window as well.

I agree with Bronwynsmom about painting the other furniture. But I think you need some fabric to get a color scheme going in the room.

Here is a link that might be useful: Furniture slides

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 7:57AM
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I am already so used to this new layout--I can't believe how cramped and crowded and into the wall I was before! (Annie, I am so glad you tried so hard to get through to me--you were totally right)

I'll post some more pictures soon--I'd like to get some input on what to do with the now open areas, since so much furniture is/has left!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 9:30PM
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I wanted to share the current pictures and ask a few questions about finishing off my office.

Here's the desk. The monitor isn't yet positioned, since we haven't made a keyboard tray for the desk yet. The wires and printer are in temporary positions as well--the printer will go in the credenza (there's a spot for it) and the wires will go below the desk as soon as we can get the electrical work done. (The room is above unfinished space so we'll be able to put an outlet in the floor.)

I think a large tall plant should go in the corner to the right of the desk. Does that make sense? Then a side guest chair can go in front of it.

The distance from the desk to the credenza is exactly the size of my office floor mat.

The art to the left of the hutch looks cramped--I'm going to be moving it, although it'll stay in this room--I really like it.

I've removed all the oak furniture, and think it makes sense to put a chair in this corner. I think whatever chair I find will be the start of my color scheme for the room. (This one is just there to fill the corner for now)

It seems as if I could go any direction at all with color--I guess I need to start shopping for an interesting chair for that corner!

Thanks for any thoughts--and my thanks for the great help!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 4:47PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Looking so much nicer and I'm sure it's so much more useful for you.

If you are going to put drapes in the room, I would start with's usually easier to match furniture to drapery fabric than the other way around....

You might pic colors out of the artwork that you like so much...looks like there's some red in both so red may be a great accent color to use.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 7:10PM
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For window treatments, I'm not sure how a rod would hang--would it go above the wood blinds? At the same level as the wood blinds?

I looked on houzz for examples of window treatments with eyebrow windows, but didn't have any luck with ideas.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 9:30PM
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I think you are doing great, Beth! Your desk looks great in the center of the room. I just found the thread tonight and when I saw the hutch on the desk, I wanted to scream, "put the hutch on the credenza!" But, low and behold, you figured that out on your own. I really like the way you have it set up.

I would put the tall plant in the corner, next to the hutch. Once you have decorated, you may want a plant stand between your desk and the window if you do not plan to walk in that space. Then you can have smaller plants there that you can see but that won't grow and block your view. Bonsai, maybe?

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 10:05PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I would mount a large decorative rod at the same height as the top of the shades now. As you already have a window covering, these could just be dummy panels on the side, just to add color and fabric and warmth to the space.

In the corner where you are looking for a chair, a nice easy chair with an ottoman and a floor lamp for reading by would be a terrific cozy corner...either to use or to look at when you're working.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 8:58AM
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Don't forget the wall area above your hutch when you go to finishing the room...
Maybe add a long, narrow mirror like you see sometimes for closets-------put some boxes or books behind it to bring it forward about half the width of the hutch top--that will catch light from the eyebrow window and reflect outward...
or find some art/fabric to frame and put there...

balance your art so that some is vertical and some horizontal...

would suggest putting a tall plant (silk if you like) in the corner between hutch and window wall

What does the other wall where you had your bookcases look like?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 9:38AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

DH's study with drapes on rods hung at window muntin leaving arch open.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 11:59AM
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Okay, it's been over a month, but real progress has been made.

Here's the current view from the foyer. I still haven't figured out how to place the painting to the left of the hutch. There are still wires going to the wall to the right of the desk. The "drill hole in the floor and install an outlet under beth's desk" hasn't percolated to the top of DH's honey-do list yet.

This is the view looking over my desk to the corner where the new reading chair sits. Delightfully, DD is happy doing work here while I'm at my desk. I really like that.

This one is towards the bookcases, which DD needs to remove some of her stuff from and I need to add books and other items. (The fabric roll to the left is for the guest room.)

Toward the window wall. This is what I used the Pottery Barn discount code for. I had to hem them 7", since my choice was to get them too short or too long.

And just because, here's Malina-kitty showing how much she likes my setup.

annie and others, I am so glad you pushed me to think about my furniture and how I use this room. The desk is so much more pleasant now that I'm looking out and can even look out the window during daylight hours. The new chair encourages both DH and DD to read or hang out in here.

I still have accessorizing and wall hangings to work with, but I feel really good about how far this room has come.

Thanks so much to this wonderful forum!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 9:32PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Coming along nicely! and such an improvement over where you started!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 8:53AM
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