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.