Whether your work-at-home office is a quiet corner where you can get some work done or a functioning workplace where clients meet with you on a regular basis, having a comfortable setup can make all the difference. Visually, a properly set-up office cues your brain to go into “work” mode when you walk in, helping you focus on business instead of nagging chores around the house. And with visiting clients, it lets them know that you care about their comfort as well as their business. But when you’re just getting started in the work-at-home world, the cost of new office furniture is typically the last thing on your budget list.
Having a new home office, however, doesn’t mean that the furniture has to be brand new; just new to you. With a little sanding, a couple coats of paint, and a DIY trick here and there, you can have attractive, comfortable, matching office furniture that will make clients and houseguests think you went all out, when you really kept it all on a shoestring budget.
1. Finding your furniture
Do you have some outdoor furniture you don’t use or some furnishings in the garage just collecting dust? If not (or you don’t think these items will work for you), check out your local thrift stores, yard sales or websites with FSBO items in your community such as Craigslist. In fact, eBay has a feature that allows you to view items for sale in your area that are pickup only, which often means a better deal than you would get with shippable items. Keep in mind that you don’t need new or like-new furniture. Dings, scrapes, bad paint jobs and damaged surfaces can easily be dealt with and most likely mean you’ll get a better deal on the price.
2. Can’t find what you want? Create your own
If you can’t find any office furniture that fits your style and/or needs, don’t give up just yet. Instead of getting a desk, consider using two short filing cabinets or chests of drawers and placing an old tabletop or even a door over the top for the desktop. For decorative doors with grooves and patterns, consider covering the door with a custom cut piece of glass to show off the door while providing an even work surface. You can even use the glass on its own as a tabletop if it’s 3/8″ thick or more.
3. Ideas for upcycling a desk
Once you have your desk, or the pieces to put one together, you can approach the upcycling process a number of ways:
- If the piece is solid wood, you can sand it down to the original wood and stain it any color you like. This is probably the most time-consuming approach, but it’s also one of the most rewarding since the final result is typically an exceptional and expensive-looking piece of office furniture.
- If the wood is severely scraped or dented, run over the scratches with a sander. If this doesn’t bring the scratches out, fill them with wood filler, allow it to dry and then sand again after it dries: anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours depending on the depth of the ding. Once dry and sanded, the piece can be stained or painted.
- For particle board desks or other material, a good coat of paint, or a creative faux finish, is usually the best approach.
4. Another use for a bookshelf
Bookshelves give your office a comfortable “study” feel, but if you have an extra shelf that’s not too wide or want to work your books into the room in a more creative manner, consider turning the bookshelf on its side and using it as a bench. Books and files can be stored underneath, and by placing padding and cushions across the top, you can have extra seating for clients or a comfortable place to relax while working.
5. Options for tabletops
If you have room for a coffee table or want to decorate some side tables and want to do more than just paint or stain, you could:
- Tile the top with reclaimed tile from a deconstruction store
- Cover it with custom-cut pieces of glass or mirror
- Use wood laminate to give it a unique finish
- “Tile” the surface with pennies for a creative copper finish
6. Chairs re-imagined
Outdoor furniture can make excellent indoor seating with very little effort. Rattan chairs can be repurposed with a coat of paint (use an oil-based wood primer and oil-based indoor/outdoor house paint after removing old paint) and new cushions (or reupholstered padding), and ironwork chairs often look elegant on their own. Standard chairs can also be reupholstered and repainted, if necessary.
Whatever your approach to inexpensive office decoration, remember that the key to making your workspace comfortable as well as attractive is in tying the elements together in a visually appealing manner. Whether that’s with matching coats of paint, pairing fabric patterns or using decorative surfaces such as tile or glass is up to you.
Shahab Shokouhi is a glass design expert at www.dullesglassandmirror.com, an innovative manufacturer of glass table tops, glass shelves, and all other glass and mirror products. Follow Dulles Glass and Mirror on Pinterest or on YouTube to see how they’re changing the way glass products are manufactured, customized and delivered.
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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