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  • Writer's pictureLinnea Archibald

A room of my own: Office before/after

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Last summer, we bought a house and moved to Maine. After spending two years in a 700-square-foot apartment, we were thrilled with the possibilities our new house offered. With more than two acres of land, it had plenty of room for gardens and outdoor relaxation. And with two massive built-in bookshelves (one in each office), it had plenty of room for my books to call their own.

The only problem with these spectacular bookshelves was that the rooms which housed them were dated. The room slated to be my office featured dark wood paneling from the 1980s and a brown and beige sculpted shag carpet that seemed to be harboring dust also from the ‘80s. Marcus’s office, while lacking the carpet, wasn’t much better with its paneling and orange-toned hardwoods. The hallway connecting the two offices had blue linoleum tile.

It was, to put it mildly, not ideal.

A dark wood paneled room with 1980s brown sculpted shag carpet and a built-in bookcase with red brick behind it.
The state of my office when we moved in.

Almost immediately, we began ripping out the flooring and prepping the walls for painting. Anyone who’s painted wood paneling before can commiserate with that horrible process. First, you sand everything, then prime it using an oil-based (a.k.a. smelly) primer to cover all the stain and knots in the wood, then it can be painted. It took two coats of primer and three coats of paint to cover it all. And the bulk of our work was conducted in the heat of August without A/C. Do not recommend.

A dark wood paneled room with white priming making stripes in all the grooves of the paneling. The flooring has been removed and there's a tarp on the floor.
The first round of priming, which involves priming between each board of the paneling.

Despite the trials of sanding, priming, and painting, however, as the room began to brighten thanks to the white walls and Marcus got closer to finishing installing the new floors, I got more excited.

Still, as with any DIY home renovation project, these things always take longer than anticipated. Unless you have an unlimited budget and no other obligations, you have to tackle projects a bit at a time. When I finally moved into my office space in January 2023, the decor was sparse, but I had my desk set up, a little vignette behind me for all those Zoom calls, a place for my keyboard, a home for my books, and the perfect sunbathing spot for Hans and Fig.

A collection of three photos. The first shows a midcentury-style desk with a monitor and keyboard and a brown leather desk chair. The second photos shows a vintage brass bar cart with a typewriter and plants on the top under a black watercolor painting of a forest and stream. The third photo shows Linnea's two dogs, Fig and Hans, laying on the rug in front of a bookshelf, sleeping in a sunbeam.
From left to right: My desk, my zoom background (featuring a watercolor by my great aunt), and Fig and Hans snoozing in a sunbeam.

As a writer and book lover, there’s something magical about working around your books. Having books in my space is about more than just having reading options to choose from; it’s also a comfort and inspiration. I’m not sure non-reading people would fully understand what I mean, but it made me a little emotional seeing all my book friends on shelves after several months confined to boxes.

I’ve been working my day job in my new office space since January, but otherwise, I haven’t spent a ton of time in my office because it didn’t have a comfy spot to sit to read or write. My brain doesn’t like to work on my personal writing at the same desk where I sit 40+ hours a week working on day job projects and articles. In fact, I have always been a person who tends to do my best creative work not at a desk. In the past, I’ve worked on novels sitting propped up in bed, on the couch, on the floor in front of the coffee table, and outside.

So, my office/library hasn’t felt done until I finally found a comfy chair. In fact, I’m writing this blog post while sitting in that very chair. Though a room of one’s own is crucial for creativity, it turns out I also need a chair of my own.

The corner of Linnea's office with a cream plaid wingback chair and a vintage brass floor lamp. Behind the chair, the built-in bookshelves are visible.
My new (to me) comfy chair, where I'm sitting to write this post.

I still have some artwork to hang, but I can feel this new addition already starting to kindle some writing creativity. This is the office where I’ll finish my next manuscript, and probably the one after that. That potential is exciting and I can’t wait to get started.

Do you have a space of your own for your creative work? What’s your ideal writing environment? Have you ever undertaken this sort of DIY remodel?



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Image by Susan Q Yin


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