Design and DIY

Help ‘Em Design – Abby and Tony’s Boston Work Space

February 13, 2018

Surprise! Aside from blogging, instagramming, and real-life jobbing, I take on the occasional design client.  We’re kicking off my 2018 Help ‘Em Design client blog series with Tony and Abby – adorable newlyweds who own a three bedroom, two bathroom duplex in Boston. (6 months still counts as newlyweds, right?) With Abby about to start working from home (my dream!), it was time to turn this busy couple’s spare room into the perfect work space for her. Imagine my delight when they lead me downstairs, showed me this blank canvas, and then stated that they had an $1,000 budget! The best part? You were able to vote on the design process. Keep reading to see if Abby chose the same prototype as you!

The Design Challenges

Freshly painted with picture perfect hardwood floors (YES, they’re real wood!), this space has a couple of design challenges. The most obvious? The lack of natural light. With only one small window and dark grey walls, I didn’t want Abby to feel as if she was headed to the dungeon for work everyday. Unless Jamie Lannister was down there, then it wouldn’t be so bad. 

Can you figure out what the second challenge is? Two words: long and narrow. If you’ve never had to deal with a larrow room (larrow = long+narrow), consider yourself lucky! The seven foot width doesn’t leave much space for furniture on both walls, not to mention a floating desk is completely out of the question. Sorry Ab, I know you were digging that idea!

The Inspiration

With pictures and measurements in hand, I headed home and hit the web for some inspiration. I cuddled up on the couch, grabbed a glass of ginger ale (Is that a weird drink of choice?), and opened up good ole’ Pinterest.

PRO TIP: The best way to design a space is to see how other’s dealt with your challenges.

My first search? Long and narrow office space. Abby had mentioned the possibility of a futon and you know me, I’m team futon all the way! So the first inspo pic I sent her looked like this:

Source: Domino 

I was hell bent on having some type of built-in on the far back wall especially since an 8-foot piece of wood at Lowe’s is under $50. But alas, the futon got nixed and with the largest piece of furniture no longer in the equation, it was time to move onto Plan B. Now it was a matter of figuring out what furniture could fill the 11-foot wall. Which is where this picture came into play:

Source: House Mix Blog

I found that by combining three Ikea pieces for only $219.99, I could create a work space for both Abby AND Tony that would fit the expanse of the wall while still looking sleek and built-in. This idea too, got nixed. 😉 The fact of that matter was, Tony didn’t need a desk. Looking back, I’m actually really glad that we didn’t go with Plan B because this configuration totaled 10 feet. There would have been less than a foot on either end of the desks – which would have been a BIG problem due to the closet on the other end of the room. After some more brainstorming and figuring out that Abby really only wanted a desk and a bookcase, I settled on Plan C:

Source: Damsel in Dior

The Prototypes

The next step was to source the products while keeping both budget and dimensions in mind. So I hit up my go-to websites for affordable, modern furniture: Ikea and Wayfair. I created four prototypes for the main wall with my findings. I strictly chose pieces based on price point, size, and design. Why only white options? To keep the basement room looking light and airy! In my Instagram stories, I asked you to vote for your favorite mock-up. The results? D won with 1,019 votes with B finishing in last place at 385.


| Desk | Bookcase |




| Bookcase |

I sent these over to Abby, letting her know that the key items I needed her to choose were the desk, bookcase, and rug. Once she had committed to those, I created several more prototypes for the back wall with the remaining budget. We had discussed adding a sitting area with a full length mirror. Why?

Pro Tip: Mirrors bring light to dark spaces



The Final Choices

So here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! After reading that entire post, I know you’ve been dying to see what prototypes Abby chose for the office:


Ikea for the win my friends. Both the desk and bookcase are just a forty-five minute drive away from me. Putting it together will probably be another ten hours! Kidding.. sorta. After choosing the low pile rug, Abby decided that she’d rather have a rolling chair in the office. So we went with this white one. And then I read some bad reviews on the side chairs I initially picked out for her sitting area which lead us to this modern, upholstered bad boy instead!

The most impressive part? The cost of the desk, bookcase, rug, desk chair, and side chair puts us at $658.70. (I even factored in sales tax!) This leaves us with $341.30 for the finishing, decorative touches! Yay to staying within budget! So there you have it, the ground work has been set and the next steps are purchasing, building, and installation. I’m hoping to get everything completed within the next two weeks so stay tuned for the finished product! What are your thoughts? Do you like the pieces Abby ended up choosing? You better say yes because I know she’s going to read this. 😉

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