Friday, April 1, 2016

26 Transitioning the Office to a Big Kid's Space

Hi guys!  How are y'all doing?  I am finally coming down and catching up from all of the excitement of Easter/Spring Break and having the boys home with me for a few days.  Not only did I soak up every last minute, it was a huge reminder that it is finally time to get their all new big-man space done.  Or maybe I really should say that it is time to get it started...

About six months ago I finally decided that enough was enough.  I had put together an office I quite liked (after a lot of trial and error), yet found that I was continuously hauling myself and all of my work gear up to the kitchen table on a very frequent basis.  And I would leave it there and we were always shifting it around for our family meals.  The main reason that I preferred to sit upstairs?  I was drawn to the windows just as a moth is to a flame!  I love bright spaces and being able to gauge time by what is happening outside... When I would work down in my office, my mornings and nights blended.  There were even days when I didn't even see daylight.  It wasn't good for me, yet I would fight it because I finally got my office done in a way that I liked and I felt like I should just be content with that.  There is that always-too-hard on myself thing again...

Over time, the boys were using their playroom less and less for building big toy cities, and more and more for hanging out with friends, watching movies and playing video games.  Of course, that applies more to our oldest two, but the youngest always tries to keep up with his big brothers.  They are currently 14, 11 and 9, and as much as I personally fight it, they are growing up.

With them in school all day, their playroom wasn't seeing a lot of action during the week.  Yet there I was, working from home full time in a cave.  I initially picked the larger side of the basement for their playroom because a) it was larger for their imaginations and b) I liked that I could keep an eye on them from the family room and our master bedroom.  So as long as I can still give them enough surface area for their favorite activities, they are old enough that I don't need to be watching them 100% of the time while they play and craft.

At dinner one night I decided to check in with the boys and ask them their thoughts on trading spaces. They were so much more excited than I thought they would be; it must have been the mention of a mini-fridge and a spot for making popcorn.  Now that I had them on my side I could let go of that mama guilt; I just had to learn to let go of my personal guilt.

The day I did, I stayed up all night moving everything out of the playroom into piles in my office, and all of my office piles into the playroom.  And that is how things have sat for the last five-six months.

I can't begin to wrap my head around how fast that six months has gone.  I was intentionally on a DIY break for quite a few reasons; it has given us more time to enjoy the home we have worked so hard on, we have been re-building our home project budget, and most importantly, focusing our attention on our family and relationships.  It has been so good for me and my rebuilding process to take that time off from major house updates, but knowing that the kids will be home from school for summer break, I am feeling a fresh fire inside of me.  And I kind of like it!

My office still needs a whole lot of work, and I think I am finally ready to say goodbye to the birch tree stencil, but the kids come first!  And really, that window has made such a difference in my days, that I really don't notice my piles and unpacked bins.

I am going to preface the next part of this post, the room ideas and our plans, with the fact that I don't believe the boy's new space to be lacking in its current state... As you can see, we are really trying to re-use as much as possible from our previous setup, and they have been getting along just fine this past few months.  In fact, the only thing I took with me is my craft cart... everything else stayed and has worked OK for putting away all of the boy's belongings.  But I also want to be sure that it not only functions well for crafting, board gaming, puzzling and playing with Legos for hours, but it also is a cool place for my little big dudes to hang out!  I want them to feel excited to spend time down there together, with their friends, and even with mom and dad.  I also want to note that this space is open to our family room, and we have some plans for that space that will also trickle over to this one.

So let's dive in!

The first thing I did was look at inspiration spaces with the boys, and save a bunch of images to my computer.  I took note of the things they pointed out, everything from lighting to furniture pieces to textiles and finishes.  It is funny that the boys typically don't care about these details (or at least they don't act like they do), but with this space they are all pretty excited.  Which of course, I totally love.  There were a couple of things that I already had in mind for the attached family room, like a floor to ceiling wall treatment, but there were elements that I wanted them to take part in deciding.  Yet, after talking about if for the past few weeks/months, there are still so many things we probably won't know the answer to until we really start diving in.

What we do know is that the space has to:

  • Remain relevant as our boys continue to grow - I hope that the area can be simple, timeless and cool for any age.
  • Function for both the youngest and the oldest - Although the oldest isn't into toys, his youngest brother still plays with them.  The room still has to store the toys he decides to keep, but it would be nice if they weren't all out on display at all times.
  • Become a space they all want to spend time in, either together, or with their pals - It has to offer a place to sit and play games (table), eat snacks (do boys ever stop eating around the clock?) and also a view of the TV in the family room.
  • Provide them a place to remain creative through arts and crafts - Storage for all of their supplies, as well as a surface that can handle craft messes, are both important.
  • Remain Lego friendly - They don't play with too many other toys, but Legos will probably continue to be a hit around here up until they all move out.  I will forever be stepping on those pesky little pieces...

With those items in mind, here is our plan:

And some additional details regarding each item...

Relocate Frames: The frames are still hanging from when my table/desk was turned and I added some personal photographs to my office.  If the bench stays (more on that in a minute), the frames will have to be re-filled and relocated.  Even if they end up moving, the space will continue to have photographs and artwork when all is said and done.

Panel Walls: Our lower level has two ceiling heights, which equates to two different wall heights throughout.  8 ft walls where there is no ducting (the front  half of the house), and 7 ft walls where the plumbing and venting runs through the ceiling (the back half of the house).  The new boy's area, my new office and our master bedroom, all have the 8 ft walls, while the family room, bathroom and dressing room all have 7 ft walls.  And no windows in the family room or boy's new area either.  So for awhile now, we have wanted to do floor to ceiling moulding in white, to really open up all of the spaces and hopefully make the ceilings feel taller.  We just haven't landed on exactly what type of moulding we want to add.  Here are three styles we have it narrowed down to.

( style one | style two | style three )

  • Style one - Moulding only on the lower half, or even 3/4 of the way up, and then just painting the upper half to match.
  • Style two - Straight floor to ceiling board and batten.
  • Style three - Floor to ceiling board and batten with a few additional panels and cove moulding details.

Install/DIY Light Fixture:  As we were looking at rooms, my youngest said that the lights with arms and eyes were the coolest!  And after thinking about it, I am guessing that having multiple bulbs would be much better than only two, as the space can feel pretty dark.  I haven't found the perfect fixture yet, they are either too big or too expensive.  So maybe we will try to make one ourselves?  Here are the styles the boys have liked best so far.

( one | two | three | four )

Install Nook Storage:  The first thing I noticed when I really started looking closely at the space, is that it felt really unbalanced.  With the built-in cabinets in the back hugging the corner (to leave room for the under-the-stairs closet door to open), and the shorter shelves on the stair wall, the two seem to compete.

The plans are to close off the door for under-the-stairs and patch it in with wall, which would allow us to fill that nook on the back wall and ultimately eliminate the two tall Expedit bookshelves on the right.

( option 1 | option 2 | option 3 )

We want to explore a few options for that nook, expanding on the cabinets and counter already in place.

  • Option 1:  Install a pantry cabinet that matches the existing cabinets.  We would then outfit the interior with toys, art supplies and games. 
  • Option 2: Build a true nook and install floating wood shelves, adding decorative baskets for toys, books and media storage. 
  • Option 3: Build in a small closet and update a set of bi-fold doors like we did to our coat closet.

We all like the idea and look of the wood open shelves, however, the goal is to conceal the toy clutter and the green baskets so I am not sure it will ultimately win first place.

Close off the Closet Door:  The space under the stairs is primarily used by me for all of my home decor, gift wrap supplies and blog gear.  We plan to close off the door on this side of the stairs, and create new access on my office side.

Transfer Toys & Conceal:  We want to encourage the boys to play with their belongings in this space, and also in the adjoining family room.  But to take the space up a notch and make it feel a bit more mature, it would be nice to conceal their current storage solutions a bit.  First step would be to move the bulkier items to the back cabinet area, but that Lego organization just works too well.  Rather than change it, I would love to make it look like a narrow piece of furniture.  Maybe frame it out, add some doors and legs to give it a credenza look.  It would also be another great place to bring in some wood tones to warm things up a bit.

( credenza 1 | credenza 2 | credenza 3 | credenza 4 )

Put Down an Area Rug:  We still have the carpet tiles from the boy's playroom, all stacked nicely in a pile waiting to be put back down.  But I thought it would be nice to warm things up, and maybe layer in a bit of color or drama on top of the tiles.  Here are a few styles that we all thought could work:

( one | two | three | four )

Install Mini Fridge: We have three growing boys who love to snack, and that snacking is especially in full force when they have their friends over.  The new void that was created in the back cabinets when I removed my craft cart, is just screaming for a small fridge to hold juice, water, apples, carrots, string cheese and yogurt. Not a bad setup, eh?  I should have put one of these in when I worked in the space...  Maybe mommy needs a wine fridge in her new office?

I also promised them a popcorn machine.  Or a microwave.  Haven't quite nailed that detail down yet...

Paint Table:  Another not-so-sure yet idea is to update the table to a solid hue.  I am worried the finish we initially used is a little off style-wise from the rest of the furniture in our home.  But we don't want to lose the wood tone in general, so if the table is painted, then we would aim to bring those wood tones in through chairs, open shelving, picture frames and the credenza.  

( option 1 | option 2 | option 3 )

The photos above are a few parings that caught our eye.  The first is a white table with wooden bistro chairs.  Our local Craigslist has a few of those chairs right now that I would love to scoop up in a heartbeat.  Option two is to keep the table a wood tone and to pair it with industrial navy chairs.  We temporarily added two from our patio and really like how they look in the space.  The final image shows a bench, table and natural chairs which is another combo we are all smitten with.

Reupholster Bench: If we keep the bench, which is a nice and soft place to chill, the table has to run parallel with the laundry room and storage room wall.  This does feel a little more unbalanced, but I know the kiddos have liked the bench for the past six months (and maybe the balance issue would be solved if we were to move it to the opposite side of the room).  If it stays, it needs to be reupholstered due to the fact we couldn't wrap the fabric all the way around the base when we first upholstered it (we ran low on fabric and it was hidden by the previous nook it was customize for).

Updating the bench would give us a chance to redo the skirt (or nix it and redo the base) and maybe bring in a fun colored fabric instead.  If we decide to get rid of the bench, we can turn the table to run parallel with the back counter, which does seem to flow a bit better, but would also mean that two people would always have their backs to the family room television.  Either way, we need to add at least two chairs.  Here are a few of the options we are considering.

( one | two | three | four | five | six )

And just when you thought this post should finally end, here are a few more final thoughts on the space.

With the walls going white, we are thinking about painting those back cabinets once they are updated to run wall-to-wall.  A few color options we are considering are navy, light gray, keeping them white, and charcoal gray.

( navy cabinets | light gray cabinets | white cabinets | charcoal gray cabinets )

There is no sink in this area, however, we hope to update the nearby laundry room sink to be used for any dish rinsing/washing.  Even without the sink, we still may consider adding some backsplash, just for a little extra texture and style.

If not tile, I would really love to add some wallpaper to the space.  Either to line some open shelving or a closet, or to supplement the backsplash, or maybe even to add a wow moment on the ceiling?!  Here are two I have had my eye on for months now, but I am still exploring a few alternatives as well:

( buffalo check | otomi )

And finally, I would love to DIY a game table topper; something like this would be loads of fun right?! And would maybe even score me some extra awesome-mom points with the boys!

Hi again, are you still there?  Talk about months of brain dumping on you all, whew!

The school year finishes up in about eight weeks, so that doesn't give us a lot of time to try and get this space summer ready.  #wecandoit  The boys casted their personal votes on most of these ideas/options this week, but I would also love to hear all of your thoughts and votes as well!  We are all so excited to see where this room ends up!


  1. This sounds like it is going to be such a fun space for your boys! They are so lucky to have a mom who puts so much time and effort into making them happy :)


  2. Love this! It's so cool to see how you take each room in your house and it changes as your family needs change! I can't wait to buy my own home and be able to do the same!

  3. I'm with you, I'd need natural light. Great idea to swap things around so it's beneficial for everyone. Just FYI, I bought identical metal chairs like your blue ones for half price on Amazon and great quality. The come in blue but might not be same as your navy.

    1. Thanks so much for the link Audra! Those are a great price!

  4. Looks like it will be a fun space! I'm with you on the natural light. I have to have windows.

    I like option 1 for the back cabinets, and they would look amazing painted navy. The white table with the bent wood chairs and the reupholstered bench would look great with the navy cabinets. I'd lower the back of that bench too. I'd finish the furniture off with credenza 4, and definitely swap sides with the table and put the credenza on the laundry room wall. It would improve the traffic flow in and out of the laundry room. Light fixtures 1 and 4 are definitely my favorites for contrast with the other colors in your palette. I'm not sure about any of the rugs, but #2 brings in another fun color without being too bright or bold. I'd just say no to either of those wallpapers. The buffalo check looks like it would just be too much in a somewhat small windowless room, and the otomi doesn't belong in a guys' hangout.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what you all ultimately do pick, how the room turns out, and what your boys voted for!

    1. Love your ideas JoDi, thank you for weighing in! You and I are definitely in sync on a lot of the same elements. :D

  5. For the chairs, i would say keep the 6'4" football player friend one of your boys will eventually have in mind. Boys break things :)

    Also there are some really fun looking air pop popcorn machines that wouldn't take up too much space.

    I love the idea of putting some storage in the corner nook. The wood shelves are gorgeous but definitely won't hide toy clutter. On the other hand have you ever opened a game cabinet at someone's house and then there's an avalanche….no? want to visit? well that is the danger of hiding it too. I'm sure whatever you do will look amazing.

    1. Good reminder Lauren! :) An air popper is definitely an option, we use one weekly and we are all superfans. Thanks for chiming in!

  6. Your ideas are fabulous!!! All of them!!! Love the idea of the navy or charcoal gray cupboards and you could coordinate the table and chairs. If you decide to go with the upholstered bench, you could always build it with a lift seat for storage inside. Pillows...chair cushions...etc could be stored there for when their bottoms feel like they might have set a little too long. Some of those teen boys tend not to have much in the tush my boys didn't!!

  7. Oh my I cannot wait to see the outcome. I love where you are going with these ideas. I call for darker cabinets.

  8. I am so excited to see this space come to life! I first found your blog by looking for playroom ideas years ago when you had the little ikea table in this space!
    Its going to be fabulous! i love the cafe style chairs too and have looked at them for our kids-room but wondered if they would hold up to rough and tough boy stuff. You may be better with the metal ones. :-) On that same note, what about building a wooden, backless, non-upholstered bench for one side of the table? Easy to clean up yogurt spills, butter, soda...etc. and then the table could be pushed right up to the wall if needed.
    Love your ideas, and love that your boys are adding their personal touches.

    Can't wait!

    1. Very true, Amy! I have been eyeing up some beautiful wooden Bentwood style chairs on Craigslist, but I would have to test their sturdiness and durability before ever committing in this type of space. :)

  9. LOVE this post, Jen -- I don't think it's too long at all!
    - Any of those wall molding styles would look great -- I can picture them all working in your space.
    - Lighting: 1 or 2 is my pick. Multi-bulb, indirect! I hate being blinded by bulbs in my eyes.
    - I think Option 1 (pantry cabinet) would be the most versatile route through the years
    - Credenza 1, with different hardware; or 4. The white is less attention-grabbing along the same wall as your fireplace -- that's definitely where you should put it :-) and then attention can be on whatever fabulous artwork you put there.
    - Rug: can't decide. Not crazy about 3 but I can picture all of the others looking great...but then you love your stripes...decisions, decisions.
    - Table: what about painting the table navy and pairing it with wood-tone chairs?
    - Definitely move the upholstered bench to the opposite wall. I agree with others that you'll have better flow that way.
    - Cabinets: go with grey or white. I think the navy or the charcoal is too dark for the space (unless you're going to go deep and moody for the whole space). I was just looking at a picture from when you'd had that wall painted navy, and it just doesn't look quite right.
    - Maybe use that awesome check wallpaper as "backsplash"??
    Finally, I know it's going to be awesome because you're great at this! Good luck with all the decisions and have fun!

    1. Thanks Cathy! I love your suggestions and ideas!

  10. I just finished my sons room and realised i shouldn't have gone for a single bed straight up. Nothing more frustrating then finishing a room then having to redo it. But its better in the long run! Some great ideas, i like the first wall option, wont clutter it up too much :)

  11. My first thought on the light fixtures was " bulbs...shattering glass!". If they are getting taller, if they throw things around at all, I would go for light #4.

  12. Thanks Mindo! Chatted through the storage-under-the-stairs plan in the post. :)

  13. So good to see you back jen! We took a year off renovating our house to save for a new roof (ours was leaking and needed to be dine Pronto!) And we have just gotten back into it. I keep wondering how we ever did it in the first place! Hubby and i both work full time and now our weekends seem to be filled with reno stuff. The year we took off was great - i remember lots of harry potter marathon weekends and snuggles under blankets. It's so hard getting back into the swing of things. The good news is our house is about half done but i am looking forward to it being done!
    Can't wait to see the boys and your new spaces! Xx

  14. Great and thoughtful post! I will mention that my mom got us a full blown popcorn machine, like the ones that belong in a circus (does not fit my house style and did not ask for it). It is in the media room but there are no windows and circulation is lame so be careful...not sure which type you were looking for but the smell can stick! Too hard for me to get rid of cause the kids LOVE it. Just can't stand that the house smells like old movie theatre for a few days when they use it.

  15. If its a space they are going to watch TV/movies in, I'd consider adding some comfy seating....this could even just be bean bags, or replacing the bench with a couch. IKEA has a super comfy one which would probably be small enough to fit in the space. When my sisters and I reached that age, the comfy sofa in the movie room was a definite hit.

    1. Completely agree. :) The space is actually an L shape with our family room - and the TV is right at the L so this area is all about game playing and crafting while the adjoining area has a sectional, cozy chair, floor cushions and blankets. :)

  16. With all the toys, especially Legos, accessible to friends, how do you handle when friends come over? Are they good about cleaning up before they leave? Do you make sure they do? My girls are still pretty young, so when friends come over, it's expected things won't be put back exactly where they go, but I'm wondering for when they get older.

    1. Typically I give the boys a 15 minute warning that pick-up will start in 15 minutes and that everyone should pitch in. Then, I give them about 10-15 minutes to pick up before the play date is over. Tends to work pretty well; the boys know if they don't take advantage of the help from their friends that they will be responsible for picking up on their own (so they encourage their pals to help). :)

  17. This room looks beautiful! I love the idea of transitioning the playroom as your kids age to continue to be a useful space. What a great idea!

  18. We recently purchased a custom sized Sputnik chandelier from Starlight Lighting on ETSY that was way more affordable than any other options we found. The owner was also super helpful and easy to work with when we customized the chandelier. I would highly recommend looking into them.

    1. Thank you so much for the recommendation, Lauren! I am off to check out the shop! :)


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