Hello! It’s me, Annabel, your resident Elder Millennial. Last week we talked all about the “Frat House Problem” plaguing too many homes. They’re messy and dysfunctional and peppered with leftover furniture from the college days. This week we’re highlighting a concrete solution for taking your home from frat to fab: creating an adult work space where you can get your hustle on! I’m going to be taking us through a multi-week makeover of this apartment living room and the best part is YOU get to participate! I need you to vote for your favorite options by commenting at the end of this post and just like with our Trim clients, I’ll use your favorites for the final design!
Since I’m representing the millennial contingent, I’m focusing on turning an apartment living room into a combination living/office space. Stay tuned for Gen-Xer Jen’s upcoming redo of the she-shed in her backyard where she’ll enlist your help creating a sophisticated home office/studio space!
Here’s a “before” image of the living room we’re working with (you might recognize it):
And here’s a floor plan of the full room, as it’s set up in the before image:
See how on either side of the fireplace, there’s a three-and-a-half foot wide nook? Well, we’re going to take that nook on the right side by the windows (the one with the plant-covered trunk in the picture) and turn it into a nice little office space! We’re going to keep all of the current furniture except one piece and all we’ll be adding is a desk, a chair, and some accessories for our new work space. At the end of this series, I’ll share a photoshop rendering of the completed design along with the total cost of the project and a shopping list of every piece we added, so you can “get the look” in your own place if you wish!
Here’s how I’m planning to rearrange the room:
Remember how I said we’d only be getting rid of one thing? Can you guess what it is? Since we’re trying to cure this space from “Frat House Syndrome” we’re going to get rid of that old Ikea cube the TV is sitting on. Remember this guy?:
Yep, he was affordable when we were broke students and he was a real workhorse who served us well, but it’s time to put him out to pasture by donating him to Goodwill, selling him on Craigslist or passing him on to a current college kid. And since we need to free up our nook for a desk, we’re going to take that vintage trunk and use it as the new TV stand! Perfecto! The rest of the furniture gets a nice rearrange so that it’s now oriented around the fireplace, which makes much better sense since it’s the natural focal point of the room. And the thing that really makes the new desk space blend seamlessly with the living room is the desk chair. It’s going to be the MVP- it faces the desk when it’s work time, but we turn it to face into the room when we’re ready to kick back and suddenly we’ve got ourselves a nice conversational set-up!
The Design Process
Now that we have our floor plan, it’s time for the fun part: Sourcing! But first, we have to talk about what style of desk and chair we want to go in our space. There are several great options for creating a workspace in a small nook: leaning desks, floating desks, mini desks, consoles, and writing desks. I’ve found potential pieces for each approach and I’ve listed pros and cons for each. (Click any image for it’s source link)
As for the chair, remember that the idea is to find a versatile armchair that will function as a desk chair during the work day and an accent chair the rest of the time. So it needs to be substantial enough to work as an accent chair, but not so big that it’s difficult to maneuver or awkward to use at a desk. Below the desk options, I’m going to list some potential chairs, along with pros and cons like I did for the desks. Your job is to vote in the comments for your favorite desk and chair combo! I’ll give each one a fun name to make voting easy.
Option 1: A Leaning Desk
“Lean In” from Design Within Reach
Price: $505.75 on sale
Pros: Our nook is narrow, but tall, so a skinny leaning desk is a smart way to utilize the space. The blonde tone of this wood works with the overall warm organic modern aesthetic of the room.
Cons: This look is a little industrial for my taste, and could skew the room toward the utilitarian end of the spectrum (like the coffee table) and away from the cozier vibe coming from the sofa and kilim pillow.
Option 2: A “Mini Desk”
West Elm and a few of the other big furniture chains have started producing “mini desks” for their largely urban apartment dwelling clientele. Perfect for our nook which is narrower than the width of an average desk.
“The Doppelganger” from West Elm
Pros: It matches the coffee table perfectly.
Cons: It matches the coffee table perfectly.
“The Curator” from West Elm
Pros: The price! And the brass frame and warm wood is right for the room which already has brass lighting and a mic of warm earth tones and neutrals.
Cons: Glass scratches easily and if you aren’t the tidy type, using that exposed shelf could result in a sloppy look.
Option 3: A Wall-Mounted Floating Desk
“So Scandi-lous” from Etsy shop Urbansize
Pros: A multifunctional wall-mounted floating desk is a great choice for small space living for obvious reasons.
Cons: The minimalist scandinavian style of this piece feels a little too stark for the space.
Option 4: A Console Table
Another great option is to repurpose a console table (sometimes called a sofa table or entry table) as a desk. My own desk is a lucite console table with two wishbone chairs that doubles as our dining counter (no space for a dining table in our city apartment!). It doesn’t have drawers, but for my purposes this isn’t an issue since all I really need to do work is my laptop and the notebook/planner that lives in my tote bag. Another bonus of the drawer-less console style is the ability to push the chairs underneath it when they’re not in use, creating more passing space and improving flow.
“The Ghost” from CB2
Pros: It would fit perfectly in our little nook and it’s quite deep so you’d have plenty of work space. Lucite goes with every style of decor and has the added bonus of being visually light (you know, because it’s see-through) so it won’t make a space feel cluttered or dark.
Cons: Lucite is pricey and it can be a pain to clean because many typical household cleaners are too harsh and can damage it. Plus it scratches easily so you’d need to use a protective leather blotter (I have one for my lucite console/desk that rolls up into a tube for easily storage when I’m not using it.)
Option 5: A Writing Desk
“Ravishing Raffia” from Viyet
Pros: I have to admit I’m really biased towards this one! I LOVE the texture that raffia adds to a room and I’ve always wondered why raffia wrapped furniture isn’t more popular outside of very traditional designs. If you’ve seen any of my designs, you know that warm neutrals + lots of natural texture is my go-to recipe and this material and color would be perfect for our organic modern space. Extra points for having some storage.
Cons: The shape is simple, which I want, but that cut-out around the top skews a little too traditional and I’d definitely need to change out those ugly knobs.
“Granny Chic“ from Chairish dealer Studio 180
Pros: I’ve got a real soft spot for rattan and wicker, so I’m feeling the Palm Beach vibe of this fun little desk. I like the lighter warm brown tone - perfect for our space.
Cons: I’d been leaning toward a woven rattan desk chair, but wouldn’t be able to use one with this desk because I hate a matchy-matchy look.
“The Betty Draper” From Chairish dealer The Collective
Pros: This low profile silhouette is just what I’m looking for and it even has 3 drawers for some storage! The warm maple wood will work with the colors already in our space.
Cons: Something about this piece as a whole feels a little blah, even though it checks so many of the boxes on my list.
Time to oggle some chairs! Remember, we’re looking for a versatile armchair that can function as both desk chair and living room accent chair. (Tip: This means we need to pay attention to seat height. Accent chairs can have seat heights as low as 12”, but our chair needs to be 18-20” in order to be high enough for working at a desk.) Click on any photo to visit the source.
“Refined Rattan” from Caitlin Wilson
2) “Sassy Sonoran” from Eclectic Goods
3) “Swivel Me Timbers” from Article
4) “Bamboozled Brighton” from Chairish dealer Tricia M.
5) “Dream Weaver” from CB2
6) “Wishbone Upon A Star” from Poly & Bark
7) “Yes We Cane” from Wisteria
8) “Just Oaking Around” from Wisteria