Mr. Mike Builds His Dream Office

Yay! A weirdly-shaped built-in bookcase!

I love my home office. Always did – and that’s saying something, because it began as a pretty ugly and impractical room. I was blind to its flaws, however. Right from the start I was smitten.

“Dibs!” I shouted when I first laid eyes on it. (Ellen and I were house hunting at the time.)

Ellen peered into the dirty, dark little room, raised an incredulous eyebrow, and replied, “All yours.”

Pfft. Ellen. No imagination whatsoever. How could she so easily dismiss that wonderful, dark wood panelling? And there’s a bathroom! Did Ellen even see the bathroom when she glanced in? I’ll have a private bath right off of my private office! I could practically write and pee at the same time!

I imagined the furniture I would buy. The desk would have to be dark wood to match those dark wood walls and the file cabinet and the bookcase would have to match the desk. The far corner looked like a good place for one of those chair glider things. I always wanted one of those chair glider things.

It was gonna be perfect.

Look, my very own bathroom! And you can’t use it.

We bought the house (apparently it contained other rooms that were also nice) and, after moving in, I immediately found the office furniture I was looking for. It was all dark wood. It was all dirt cheap. It was all from Target. This was quite a coup for me; usually it takes me forever to get things like this done – once I took six months to pick out a couch – but this time I was on a roll. I got the furniture and that chair glider thing and set up shop. My office was ready.

And, oh dearie my, did I hate it. About ten minutes after I put the desk together I was grumping.

“This desk is too small,” I shouted downstairs to Ellen who was busy wasting her time on the less important parts of the house like, for instance, our bedroom.

“Mm,” she replied.

“And it wobbles!” I added.

“Mm,” she replied.

“And the file cabinet doesn’t hold enough files! The adjustable shelves in my bookcase can’t adjust themselves enough to hold my animation books. This chair glider needs too much space around it to glide! I gotta give up half of my floor space just to glide!”

“Mm,” she said.

To be fair, Ellen was about as sympathetic as I could ever reasonably expect. After all, she was most likely thinking, “Huh. Who would’ve thought that cheap, hastily bought furniture from Target would be so crummy? Whatta shocker.”

Once I calmed down about the furniture, I got distracted by the room itself. Was it always this dark? It’s like I’m trying to write a picture book while spelunking. And man! That bathroom doorway really messed with the way I could’ve arranged this furniture. This furniture that I HATE.

The quantity and the quality of my writing suffered almost immediately. Never before had I realized how important my physical writing space was to my creative process.

So, with a defeated sigh, I started over. Whenever I found free time to write, I used it to turn my office into a place where writing could actually occur. I walled up the door to the bathroom and opened it up in another room. I painted those dark walls, got an area rug for the dark floor, and bought a brighter light fixture. Then I gave all my Target furniture to my dad who also, apparently, has a dark wood fetish. (I now blame heredity for all of my unfortunate furniture purchases.)

I then reverted back to my old, familiar practice of selecting new furniture: I said, “That desk or that desk?” over and over for the next six months.

The Toy Story poster is where my bathroom door used to be. Bathrooms in offices are overrated. Toy Story posters are essential.

It took me a good long while, but that’s the way a home office should be designed, I think. It has to cater to your practical and physical needs, but it also needs to be a comfortable, welcoming place to tease out your fragile, newborn ideas. That takes time.

I love my home office – and now I love it for all the right reasons. It’s perfect for me. The furniture is both practical and attractive. The room is filled with things that make me smile. Since the redo I have never been more happily productive.

My dad, on the other hand, has a wicked case of writers block. Not my problem.

39 Replies to “Mr. Mike Builds His Dream Office”

  1. LOL, you evil man, passing that furniture off on your poor unsuspecting dad!

    Your “new” office looks fab, love it in fact. One of my next tasks is to find a better writing space than sitting on the bed cross-legged with my laptop really being a laptop.

    I know I’ll be more productive when I have a special space I go to that tells me and my husband “I’m writing now, I need to get focused.”

    With the two of us and a variable number of cats living in a tiny one bedroom house that’s already crammed with too much stuff makes that something of a challenge, but I’ll get there!

    I was thinking of buying a small cheap old-fashioned caravan I can put on our parking bay. Unfortunately, Cath Kidson, a London designer of things retro and floral, has made them super trendy this year and prices skyrocked just after I started looking.

    Suspect my writing space will be a table at whatever is the quietest coffee shop in town. And I don’t even drink coffee!

    1. It is possible to be a writer without drinking coffee?

      I do wish you the very best of luck in finding your own space. I adore your caravan idea, by the way. Good luck with it (or something similar but less expensive.)

      When you do find what you’re looking for, be sure to post lots of photos. I so want to see you transform that sad little trailer into the writing studio of your dreams.

  2. A spelunking picture book sounds like a fun idea. Glad you got the office the way you like it. I’m in a state of disarray in my office right now. I REALLY need to straighten it out, so I can spread out documents for a revision. Let’s see where my pen er screwdriver.

    1. I have a lot of flat space these days. You can’t see it in the picture I posted above, but I also have a drafting table (which believe it or not, takes up far less floor space than that stinkin’ glider I used to have).

      And, hmm, a spleunking picture book is a good idea. I’m on it for my unofficial 12x challenge for July! Many thanks!

  3. Nice office! (Thanks for subscribing to my blog, by the way!) I’m already trying to figure out ways that I can have a private writing spot in our new house, but hubby and I are going to have to share an office, so we’ll see how that works out . . .

  4. Great home office. Two thumbs up on the Pixar poster! Wish I had a home office of my own. My husband works from home, too, so he gets the REAL home office. I get a breakfast tray in bed. With no breakfast, just my laptop. Well, at least I’m comfy. But I would like a more inspiring room!

    1. Thanks, Tara! (I just love your blog, by the way.)

      Considering that I often get some of my best story ideas in the moments before I fall asleep, I wonder if writing in bed might sometimes be the best way to go. (Come to think of it, I probably should have a laptop in the shower, too.)

  5. Love the reworked version of your home office, and understand the roots of new furniture hate all too well. (As I look grimly at the Walmart couch I purchased that looked charming online but is too small and as hard as a rock in person.)

    By the by, I thought this post was going to be about your fishbowl… 😉

  6. Love your office! Found you from Stacy’s blog. My office would be perfect if it weren’t also the guest room. The bed taking up half the room really cramps my style. But I love everything else in there, even my ancient plywood computer desk.

  7. Oof, I have had furniture buyer’s remorse, too. With my (to me) expensive couch. After I bought it, they kept displaying it in the store’s ads and then marking it down with discounts. I don’t know why, but this changed my whole perception of that couch. Now I feel like I got a sucker’s deal. And I had my eye on that couch for many months before finally purchasing it before it finally went on sale.

    Great post. I really enjoyed reading it.

  8. I LOVE your office! I have a guitar on a stand in my office, and I actually own a banjo too! Your phone and the cute little side table it’s on are too cool. Your desk is awesome. I think you’re right about it taking a while to get the office decorated just the way you want it, since it shows your personality. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Tina!

      That candlestick phone of mine works like a charm — and has one of the most ear splitting rings you’ve ever heard. (Full disclosure: I have another, more practical phone hidden in my desk drawer for when I need to make long business calls or conduct interviews.)

      Do you play the banjo? I’m new to the instrument (and am pretty terrible at it) but it sure is fun.

      I can’t wait to see how your office turns out. Take your time and make it perfect!

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