December 6, 2009

Ottawa interior decorator: Easy as A-B-C home office makeover

Well, actually, it wasn’t quite as easy as A-B-C. And it took a year to finish. But my home office is finally done…


Have I mentioned that when we moved into our house in 2001, almost the whole house was painted green?? This room in the basement was one of them… the green walls and orangey wood trim is just icky. Not crazy about the parquet floor either.

Before 1

This was the previous owner’s gun room. Seriously. There were bullet casings sitting on the ledge when we moved in. So what better way to repurpose a gun room than to turn it into a bedroom!!

bed 3

We also had a guest bedroom upstairs. And even though I thought the bedroom in the basement was nicer, nobody ever wanted to sleep in it. It was essentially a waste of space. So, I decided to turn it into my home office. We moved all the furniture into the other guest bedroom, which we swapped with the existing office on the main floor. You can read about that bedroom makeover here.

So the room was a blank slate. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it — because I love to write, and because I wanted my office to be creative and inspiring, I used this nursery that I found on Rate My Space as my inspiration:


The colours for my office came from the striped rug you can see at the bottom of this picture (I ended up returning the rug because it just didn’t fit properly in the room).

empty corner

The walls are Sico Powdered Iron 6173-31, the light letters are Iron Salts 6173-11, and the dark letters are Iron Rod 6173-52.

sico powdered iron sico iron salts sico iron rod

I created a letter mural in Adobe Illustrator. Hubby borrowed a projector from work one weekend, and we used it to project the AI file onto the walls. Good thing he’s so smart —he figured out how to project the image off a mirror and onto the wall to get it big enough :-) Then we traced all the letters onto the wall. And then it was the fun part —painting every single letter by hand. UGH!! I taped off as many letter as I could, but the big C and the big Q were pretty much done all free-hand.

down 1down 2 dark letters

It was a big job and it took a LOT of patience. But I did it in chunks of a couple of hours at a time, and I got the letters painted in about a week.


Our dog Carbo died while I was working on the letter mural. Can you see my tribute to him at the right end of this wall??


I tried painting the small letters to spell words (see Laugh and Goals?), but it was really hard painting the small letters, and they came out kind of sloppy. I found a printer in Ottawa (Business Cents) that could print the words for me on silver vinyl. Much faster and easier to stick the letters to the wall than to paint them!!

short wall long wall

As you can see in the last two pictures, the parquet floor is gone. We planned to have the parquet refinished. But when Luigi the flooring guy started to work on the floors, he discovered water damage that we weren’t aware of. Crap!! Well, 50% crap — this meant we had to pull up all the parquet and replace it, which delayed things. But that gave us an excuse to get rid of the parquet that we didn’t like anyway :-) We got a deal on zebrano laminate at Home Depot. It was discontinued and they only had about 27 boxes, but that was enough for my little office, another room in the basement, and a friend’s sunroom :-)

At this point, there was a long gap in time before we made more progress on my office. This past summer, hubby drywalled over the steel I-beam and pipes that you can see in this picture:

Before 3

And then we had to do something about that unfinished basement ceiling. We eventually came up with a design for a drop ceiling that looks like a coffered ceiling.


Yes, that’s crown moulding!! It’s actually for function more than aesthetics — it helps support the drop ceiling. Although it does finish off the walls & ceiling nicely :-) Hubby also removed the one bulb in the middle of the room and replaced it with four pot lights.

The office door was originally a pinky oak pocket door in the kitchen. Hubby cut it down to size, and then I primed it and painted it white. I also painted the brass trim around the windows black, to emulate the black steel doors & windows that I love :-)

RS door 2

Now it was time to put the room together. Weeehoooo!!! And just in time, too, because I needed a place to do my homework. Because I need a drafting table, I had to arrange the furniture differently than I’d originally planned. But that’s OK, because the revised layout works great. So with no further ado, here’s my finished office…

RS From doorway

Do you remember my sunburst mirror project?? Well, now it has a new home :-) And see the mirrored birds on the walls?? They’re magnetic, and we attached them to the wall simply by finding the drywall screws — the metal screws attract the magnets :-)

RS Ikea cabinetRS sunburst mirror

I really wanted the Vika Glasholm glass desk top from Ikea, but none of the legs that I liked work with this top. So, we designed and built the desk base :-) It’s walnut with purple heartwood in the corners. The glass sits on little rubber pads that are stuck to the top of the desk base.

RS desk 2

As you can see, the glass top continues the alphabet/word theme :-)

RS Desk corner 2

I wanted a rug on the floor to add some softness and warmth, but I didn’t want anything too big because I love the zebrano flooring and didn’t want to hide too much of it. This faux lambskin rug from HomeSense is perfect :-)

RS carpet 2

I created a number of vignettes along the ledge. My mom made these A & Z ceramic bookends years ago, and now I have the perfect spot for them :-)

RS corner close-up 2

The two purple paintings are by my friend, New Brunswick abstract artist Matt LeBlanc. I made the turquoise painting a few years ago, but never found a place to hang it. I thought it would work well with Matt’s paintings…

RS Ledge

I won this cool white rococo frame from PK at Room Remix and Maureen at The Inglenook Decor. Thanks ladies!! My desk is the perfect spot for it. And as you can see, the purple & turquoise of the paintings are repeated in the picture in the frame…

RS Vignette

And that’s my new office. I’m thrilled with how it came out — it’s such a great feeling to see a room come together just the way you envisioned it :-) And I’m proud of the fact that hubby and I did it all ourselves :-)

RS through door 3

met monday And now I’m off to my office to do homework. You’ll probably have more fun than me if you head over to Between Naps on the Porch and check out al the great makeovers at Susan’s Metamorphosis Monday blog party :-)

Oh, but before you go, be sure to check out this post — you could win a mystery Christmas gift from Victoria and me :-)

sig new


Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

It looks fantastic, Kelly! I'm expecting to have a home office in a basement when/if we ever move and I have envisioned a glass door to mine as well. It looks so light and bright, too. I love the colors you chose. Good luck with it; I'm sure you'll be doing lots of client work in there!

Dayka Robinson said...

I can't believe more people haven't commented, but maybe that's because it's Sunday. Great job on the office, and what satisfaction you guys must feel for getting it done yourselves! I can't believe more people haven't commented, but maybe that's because it's Sunday.

Sarah @ Dream In Domestic said...

Holy crap! It looks so good! I'm sure that was super hard to do, but man, it looks awesome! It looks like such a happy place to shut yourself away at to do work or just to have some reflection time. You did a great job!

Kelee Katillac said...

Great job! Very well done! Ad your images are lovely!

Stop by--love to meet you!

love, kelee

Anonymous said...

Wow. Stunning. I love what you did. Such a transformation! Rosie


Great transformation! Painting that wall with the letters was a biggy I'm sure, but the end result is amazing!

Nancy said...


Bonnie said...

Spectacular job! The transformation you made is amazing! Im saving your post for inspiration in redoing some of my rooms. I love the ceiling and floor and rug!

Janis@White Alder[Home] said...

HOLY CRAPOLA!!!! That is an awesome makeover!!!!! You are a lucky, lucky girl to have such a stunning office to create in.....I am green with envy. Wonderful job. O'k I've gushed enough and now must slink off into my unfinished bedroom with my almost finished headboard ;-)

Verdigris Vie said...

ohh wow kelly - I think it's fabulous! I so want a home office - just a place to call my own. I also checked out the guest bedroom post - It's wonderful too - I have seen that silver circles paper before done with black background, but purple is incredibly fun. Do your guests ever want to leave? Probably not.

StylishHeather said...

Wow!! I love it!!

Sonia said...

That is one cool office, love the floor, the walls..the pops of color...I just love it all! Miss Bloomers/Sonia

Destination Seaborn said...

OH MY! That looks awesome! I love it all! Your wall treatment, the desk, the starburst mirror, get the picture! Well done! ~Lisa

Sharon said...

This is one of the greatest looking makeover I've seen around the blogosphere lately! All the efforts really paid off, your office is absolutely beautiful:)

Bonnie said...

Hi Kelly,

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and your encouraging comments about my laundry room make over! I'd love to see your inspirational laundry room and yours too if it's something you want to share. Believe it or not, I've actually seen worse laundry rooms so I didn't feel so bad! LOL

Your office sure looks fabulous! I am so impressed!

Bonnie at Love Your Place :)

Paul Anater said...

Kelly you have an amazing eye. You have a natural gift and people will beat a path to your door. Rememebr us little folks when you're crowned the new Candace Olsen.

qerat said...

Amazing transformation. I like the chairs and desk and color theme, all of it.
I would have gone completely crazy even thinking about attempting to paint those letters.

Greet Lefèvre said...

I don't know what else to say than G E O R G E O U S!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Michelle said...

Just amazing!

Jessica @ My Quarter Life Crisis said...

wow. that is gorgeous!! (and the nursury that the inspiration is from, too cute).
But my goodness, i have looked at these pics for like 15 min before I even commented because I wanted to digest every ounce of wonderfulness that was there. love the floor, the walls, the ceiling, the desk, the rug, your DESK CHAIR! ok, off to daydream about a home office that wont hold a candle to yours!

DesignTies said...

Wow!! Thanks so much for all the lovely comments about my office :-) Even though it was a lot of work, it was a really fun project to do :-) It gave me the opportunity to be creative and think outside the box. I forgot to mention it in my post, but we made a roller blind for the window from 4 bamboo placemats. That's what you do when you're working on a budget!!

Thanks again everyone -- your kind words are very much appreciated :-)


Diane Schuller said...

This is absolutely amazing!! I love that you painted out the picture/plate rail and the other trim in white. SUper idea for the ceiling, really nice theme, and love the entire finished product. WOW, I'm in chair envy -- that white leather chair is superb.

I'm so sorry about your dear Carbo.

puna said...

This is beautiful! Please come and do my office!

Bonnie said...

Hi Kelly,
I hope you get this... My email address is I can't wait to see your laundry room inspiration. I think I'm in over my head with trying to redo mine as I really don't know how to do everything, but I haven't given up yet! Thank you again so much!

ps. Thanks for the heads up about my email address. I didn't know and will fix it.
Bonnie at Love Your Place

Unknown said...

what an awesome make-over! i love the thought and care that went into each design decision. nice work!

Unknown said...


Looks like office is currently closed...until class semester is completed. It's every thing you've worked towards a full circle moment!

Love the whole thing. The writings on the wall and desktop cool! Door perfect, decor and light in the space. Congrats!


Unknown said...


Additionally...sorry to read that your dog passed away as well.


Darcy at The I.Design Box said...

I really love the silver letter decals. They create a great dimension and sense of depth to the design. Love love love the flooring too!

Maria Killam said...

Kelly that is awesome what you did!! Wow, such a great before and after story for all of us to learn from--thank you!

Alycia Wicker said...

That is fantastic!

Suzanne said...

It is absolutely, fantastically beautiful!! Such an inspired idea!! Love it, really!!

Jessica @ My Quarter Life Crisis said...

OK, Im back, thanks for stopping by and commenting on my little pitiful wine bags haha. anyway, i just wanted to let you know that I am featuring this room in a post all by its self today, because well frankly, I have been thinking about it since i laid eyes on it, the tutorial is fantastic, and i need everyone I know to see how wonderful it is.

You know the address and it should be up sometime this morning!!!

Gayle said...

Kelly, your office is beautiful! What a great job you did!

Maya @ Completely Coastal said...

Wow! What you did in that room is just grand. Love the letter theme..., and that ledge is awesome! It's such a gorgeous space now! Congrats!! Funny, we found lots of green paint in our home too!

Donna @ Paisley and Perspective said...

Wow! What an amazing job you've done! You would never know this room is in a basement! I love the drop ceiling disguise - I'm going to have to show that one to hubby - hint hint!!! Great work!

Kelly@ColorSizzle said...

Wow, Kelly! What a transformation! I'm sure the wall treatment took a lot of patience. Somebody call the Washington Post! It's absolutely gorgeous and so elegant. Great job!


Bonnie said...

Hi Kelly,
Im so sorry about the email problems I am having on my blog.

How about if I email you and then you can just hit reply and send it that way? What is your email address? Or if you want, just send directly from your regular email to mine which is

I can't use the email link in blogs either. It must be some glitch I have in my mac. It's not very compatible with blogger. I will try fussing with it some more as I really wish it would work properly. Im so sorry for the trouble.... I really would love to see the pictures.


Porchlight Interiors said...

Fabulous room...well done! Tracey xx

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

Whoa! I'm blown away by this. It's gorgeous, Kelly!!

unique unique design said...

I bet the inspiration will just flow when you work in your fabulous new office. I love the colors, the ceiling, the letters and words, the door, the rug and the list goes on... You must be extremely satisfied on a job well done!!

amariaf2000 said...

L.O.V.E. it!! Pretty soon, there will be another letter something something to add to your office! ;) I'm working on it...I haven't forgotten...year end has just gotten the better of me!

~angela @ peonypatch

Karen G. said...

Wow, that is gorgeous! It turned out so wonderful! I love that desk chair--where is that from?!!

Geoff Meeker said...

Wow, Kelly! That is spectacular! I am surrounded by a home office design emergency at this very moment. Do you do house calls, to Newfoundland? :)

DesignTies said...

Karen, the chair is from HomeSense.

Geoff, I would LOVE to make a house call to Newfoundland!!

Thank you all so much for the positive feedback :-)


Barbara said...

Two words. Simply stunning!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kelly,

I happened to come across your blog through alot of googling about dropped ceilings....and yours is STUNNING! I also happen to live in Ottawa! funny :P I was hoping and praying you would post what materials you used and more detailed instructions on how you achieved the coffered look? You can also email me at if you prefer.

You are very talented! Great job!


Anonymous said...

LOVE THE ROOM - WELL DONE! So sorry to hear about your dog, but I love the tribute...

Can you tell me please where you purchased your white magazine file? I love it, thank you!!

DesignTies said...

The magazine holder is from HomeSense. I think the equivalent in the us is TJ Maxx.

Still need to get hubby to write down info on the ceiling....


Anonymous said...

Hi Kelly,

Same as Christine's comment. Found your blog after googling drop ceilings. I'm having my basement reno done and not liking the look of a drop ceiling until I came across your coffered like one. Please post how you did it or email me at

Love your space and hoping my can turn out just as nice.


Jessica said...

Hi there!

I absolutely love the way your drop ceiling looks! I am in the process of finishing my basement and would love to recreate something similar. Where did you get your materials and how did you go about creating such a unique and polished look. Reading other comments, I guess I'm not the only one who loves it. You are on to something :)


Jessica O'Rourke

Jessica said...

I, too, would love to know how you created your drop-ceiling. I'm in the process of finishing my basement and would love to do something similar!


Jessica O'Rourke -

Nino said...

Looks great! We are finishing our basement and would like to do the coffered look drop ceiling.

Can you let us know how you did this? Thanks so much!

Nino and Tammy Guarisco

Anonymous said...

Please share what materials you used on that ceiling with us. Very crafty! Is that drywall or wood and is it suspended? Great job.

Lorne Marr said...

You are quite a talent in interior design and your creativity is very unique. What I like the most about your new office are the letters on the walls. Even the combination of colors fit together very well. I hope to see more pictures as you go on decorating your other rooms.

Rachel @ Pencil Shavings said...

OMG! OMG OMG OMG! Those letters on the wall look AH-MAZING. I am simply blown away. I too have that nursery in my inspiration files from Rate My Space. I just love it.

Bravo - that's a gorgeous nursery you've got there.

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