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Loving Where You Live: A Home Office DIY

Elizabeth Bricknell is a Noonday Ambassador, mother of two adorable twin girls, and wife to a pastor living in Longview, Washington. As someone whose life can often feel a little hectic, Elizabeth realized that her home was feeling more like a continuation of the chaos than the safe haven she needed. Today she’s sharing about her quest to transform a room in her home into a life-giving space with a few simple ideas and some DIY magic!

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The state of my home tends to reflect the state of my sanity.

When laundry spills out of hampers, dishes clutter the counter, my living room resembles an obstacle course of toys and I have rice stuck to the bottom of my sock (again), it’s no wonder I have this constant ache in my back. Even as I type this, I am consciously telling myself to relax my shoulders and take a load off. Can you relate?

On Valentine’s Day, my daughters and I celebrated by eating frozen burritos and peas (because vegetables seemed to make that pathetic dinner acceptable) while my husband was at the library doing grad school homework. Go ahead – be jealous. He texted later to check in. I responded with a less-than tantalizing description of my romantic dinner and signed it: #seminarywife. This is my life, and if you could see the state of my house, you might wonder how I sleep at night. Very well, thankyouverymuch! It’s one benefit to chasing twin toddlers all day. My sleep is solid!

When it came to my home and surroundings, I longed for a retreat from the chaos – but my home had become a space that stressed me out, and my productivity levels waned at the mere sight of it. It wasn’t really a space I wanted to hang out in, but avoiding it made things worse. Unless something changed about my physical surroundings, these tight shoulders were never going to budge. I needed order and systems and I longed for the space that author Sally Clarkson describes in her book Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe.

Sally writes, “I want to offer them [her family] a space where there is life and beauty and warmth. I want to spend time creating beautiful places for them, giving them something to see and touch and look forward to being in. I want them to feel loved by how I cultivate their surroundings.”

This! This is what I wanted for my home. Not a life-sucking stressful space, but a life-giving peaceful one. The disarray and chaos and reality of frozen burritos began to paralyze me and threaten my sanity. I knew if I could just create a space to be productive and get organized, then my family would function so much more smoothly and beauty would follow. One look at my disastrous house and my crazy levels rose and so did my shoulders. I was tired and overwhelmed. I needed a place to work, for my husband to study, and for my girls to play. Our office/guest room was failing us big time, so that’s where we began.

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To Pinterest we went for inspiration as I made a mental list of our needs:

  • Simplify! We have to be space efficient in our small, 800 sq ft home, so we decided to sell our guest bed. While great for housing our occasional guests, it wasn’t used enough to justify the space it took up. Plus, it became a dump zone for everything we didn’t know what to do with (like laundry that needed to be folded).
  • A His and Hers desk. We knew we wanted a two person work-station so he could have a homework station and I could have an everything-else station.
  • Paint! We get great natural light in this room but the brown walls weren’t reflecting it. The color, though popular in 2005, was there before we moved the guest bed in and it never felt clean or fresh.
  • Industrial shelves. I had visions of rustic, open shelving dancing in my head the moment we found scrap wood behind our fence. We really wanted to utilize our vertical space to accommodate school books and work-related materials.
  • Closet doors. This room’s closet has never experienced the wonder of doors!

Once the guest bed was gone, we emptied the room…into our living room. I’ll admit, my crazy levels rose significantly for the duration of this project. But, like the rest of our home projects, it had to get worse before it got better.

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What’s more handsome than a guy pinning home office ideas for your duo work space? A handyman husband who turns my Pinspiration into reality!

A quick trip the Habitat for Humanity ReStore (aka Pinterest Paradise) found us a solid wood closet door for $5 that would serve as our desk top. We cut it to size, beveled the front edges for a smooth surface to rest our arms on, and stained it. We opted for Ikea legs to keep things simple. They were just what we needed and we can adjust the height to whatever we want.

We also found closet doors for $10, which we trimmed to size, sanded, primed, painted and hung, thanks to a new closet track.

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The beadboard got a fresh coat of white, and the walls became a light and airy mint color that immediately lightened the room.

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I think Chip and “JoJo” Gaines would approve of our paint choice, don’t you? It feels very Fixer-Upper-ish.

Out came the tools, the paint, the diagrams, and creative barricades to keep my curious girls out of harm’s way and wet paint.

The most complicated and time consuming part of the room was the industrial shelves. I took a bazillion trips to the home improvement store to find just the right pipe and fittings. We knew from reading reviews online that steel pipe was going to be expensive, so we used a combination of PVC and steel to cut our costs. I played around with a few shelving arrangements on paper, then used string to create a visual on the wall.

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Because our boards-turned-shelves were so substantial, we needed to make sure our supports were going to line up with the studs in the wall. Since I didn’t have different colored tape to designate the studs, I used the next best thing: heart stickers. It truly made this tedious process a bit more enjoyable.

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We screwed the steel flanges into the studs, the pvc nipple into the flange, and finished them off with steel caps. Once all our supports were in place, I started to get giddy. This was the moment I was waiting for!

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Once we slid the desks into place, I immediately set up my workstation and gathered goodies from around the house to fill up the shelves. I bought a bunch of daffodils for $2 from the grocery store, displayed a few craft supplies that serve as functional art, added a few funky plants, a new rug, hung curtains and sighed a deep breath of relief.  Aside from busting down a wall to “create an encased opening” like Joanna would have done, I’m very pleased with my our new space.

After-3When Paul got home from work, he found me at my desk with a goofy grin on my face. I was in my happy place and, crazy as it might sound, I couldn’t wait to pound out some work on my laptop. I was in a space that felt like me. I was surrounded by things I love (pictures, books, niknaks from around the world) in a space with people I love.

This experience has prompted me to do more of the things I love in my home. Like Shauna Niequist says, I’m going to “burn the candles.” I’ve been saving sweet gifts from friends, waiting for a special occasion. I have a whole bathroom drawer full of bath salts and homemade hand creams that I’ve been too stingy to use because the everyday doesn’t feel special enough! If my home is going to be life-giving, then I want to enjoy the little things, because they give life to me. Fresh flowers, yummy candles, Justin’s Organic Peanut Butter Cups. The fancy journal with the best pens. Getting out of my sweats even though I’m going to be home all day with toddlers. (One of my New Year’s Resolutions was simply to “get dressed more.”) It’s crazy how different I feel when I do these things. It’s like throwing on my new favorite Noonday necklace with a t-shirt; it elevates my look and my mood because of what it represents.

So, is my new office/play room perfect? Definitely not. I’m no interior designer, but I love color and I love to create and my new room reflects that. Will I still eat frozen burritos for dinner every now and then? Probably. Will I still have overwhelming mounds of laundry to wash and fold? Absolutely. But, now that I have a space that is life giving and orderly, I feel ready to conquer my to do lists and tasks, and bring beauty into the ordinary with fun treats along the way.

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Take another cue from Sally Clarkson and ask yourself:

Is my home life-giving or life-sucking?

Is there a room in my home that needs a boost?

What are some things I can do to cultivate order and beauty in my home right now?

“Enjoy yourself. Cook food that you love. Play music that inspires you. Buy flowers and candles because they please your heart. Celebrate life in your home in the ways that bring you pleasure. Cultivating the art of life in your home not only brings you happiness, but it makes your home a lively, fun, fulfilling place.”

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