Office makeover: ‘DIY hacks gave us a bespoke workspace on a budget’

Lydia Elder mixed flat-pack furniture, clever shopping and soft styling touches to create a customised office

Office makeover: 'DIY hacks gave us a bespoke workspace on a budget'

A year and a half after moving into their four-bedroom new-build in Ebbsfleet, Kent, Lydia and Peter Elder had decorated every room apart from one.

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‘We had a small study off the hall that had just become a dumping ground,’ says Lydia. ‘As time went on, we realised it was a wasted space, and we needed somewhere for household admin and for working from home occasionally. Back then, we had no idea how important having a proper home office would turn out to be.’

'Our office has really come into its own recently' says Lydia
‘Our office has really come into its own recently’ says Lydia

Once Lydia and Peter had cleared the clutter, Lydia could focus on designing a space-maximising layout that gave them both an ample area to work in.

‘The only things in the room were the radiator, white walls and a grey wood-effect laminate floor,’ she says. ‘We couldn’t fit in two separate desks, so we decided on a double one that Peter and I could share. I wanted smart, fitted-type furniture, but the quotes for a built-in desk and wall storage were way beyond our budget.’

Good idea! Lydia’s bamboo ladder, trailed with faux greenery softens the room, breaks up the wall and makes an interesting decorative feature
Good idea! Lydia’s bamboo ladder, trailed with faux greenery softens the room, breaks up the wall and makes an interesting decorative feature

Undaunted, Lydia put together her own, teaming IKEA wall-mounted cabinets and drawer units with a run of kitchen worktop. ‘I’m a big Instagrammer (@lydias_layton_life), and I had seen lots of hacks on there,’ she says.

‘I put the dimensions into the online planning tool, to get the right combination of units for a near-perfect fit with no gaps. A third drawer unit in the centre would have been ideal, but Peter’s a lot taller than me and it was important to have enough legroom for us to sit comfortably.’

Lift-up doors make the wall storage easy to access. The units open and close on neat push-catches, giving the furniture the sleek, stylish edge Lydia wanted
Lift-up doors make the wall storage easy to access. The units open and close on neat push-catches, giving the furniture the sleek, stylish edge Lydia wanted

Once the desk components were measured and chosen, Lydia started thinking about the look. ‘I love restful, deep greens. I’ve used them all through my home and I knew I wanted dark green behind the desk,’ she says.

‘The room is north-facing though, so the other walls are pale grey, which helps boost the light.’

Lydia increased storage with a smart sideboard opposite the main work area. The cupboards, which have a similar, textured finish to the wall units, can take A4 files, and the neat centre drawer is perfect for stationery
Lydia increased storage with a smart sideboard opposite the main work area. The cupboards, which have a similar, textured finish to the wall units, can take A4 files, and the neat centre drawer is perfect for stationery

Lydia also opted for white furniture to help the space feel brighter and prevent the room from feeling too functional.

‘We put kitchen cabinet carcasses on the wall, but the white fronts are designed for living room furniture and have a lovely rippled surface,’ she says. ‘For the other side of the room I found a gorgeous white sideboard that’s much prettier than a filing cabinet.’

Lydia wanted the desk area to be symmetrical, and comfortable for both her and Peter to use at the same time. She chose twin green velvet chairs for their supportive shape and plush look
Lydia wanted the desk area to be symmetrical, and comfortable for both her and Peter to use at the same time. She chose twin green velvet chairs for their supportive shape and plush look

Decorating the room was the first task, and Lydia stumbled on a bargain when she bought her paint from an online colour-matching source. ‘The tester pots were generous enough to cover the whole room, with no waste,’ she says. ‘That really saved us money.’

Once the room was decorated, the furniture could be fitted. Assembling the flat-pack units was straightforward, and by luck, a standard length of worktop slotted exactly into the space, resting on the drawers at either end, without extra fixing. Peter hung the wall cabinets and attached the fronts.

‘He re-positioned the hinges from the sides to the tops of the cabinets, so the wall-units open upwards, and don’t stick out over the work area,’ explains Lydia.

Mounted by the door, so it’s always in sight, a nifty wall-file is handy for keeping track of important paperwork. Lydia added personalised, stick-on labels so things stay well-organised
Mounted by the door, so it’s always in sight, a nifty wall-file is handy for keeping track of important paperwork. Lydia added personalised, stick-on labels so things stay well-organised

Lydia was keen to make the office inviting as well as practical. She chose velvet chairs to pick up the green theme, and layered up rattan, recycled glass, leafy plants and touches of gold for a softer, more homely vibe.

Good idea! The ceiling light’s mix of natural wood and concrete adds texture to an otherwise sleek scheme
Good idea! The ceiling light’s mix of natural wood and concrete adds texture to an otherwise sleek scheme

‘Our office has really come into its own recently. Peter and I have both been working from home and, with two young children, things could have been really stressful,’ she says.

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‘At the end of the day, we can just close the door, and that helps keep our work-life balance, too.’

Shop the look…

Leyland Trade colour-matched 350ml tester pots, £3.99 each, Decorating Centre Online. Metod 60 x 60 x 37cm wall units, £19 each; Laxviken doors, £30 each; Alex drawer units, £55 each; Hilver bamboo support leg, £13; Kvissle wall newspaper rack; £15, Billsbro handles, £4 for two, all IKEA. Handles sprayed with Rust-Oleum Universal Multi-Surface spray paint in Gold, £15 per 400ml, B&Q. Wall file labels, from £1.25 each, Home Label Collection. Moduleo Impress Laurel oak flooring, £32.99 per sq m, Steve’s Carpets. Primrose dining armchair in Forest Green with Natural/Gold Tip legs, £119 each, Cult Furniture. Swansea sideboard, £279.99; Burano Gypsum pendant light, £59.99, both Beliani. Antigua window shutters, £142, Simon Paul Shutters. Bamboo linen rack, £29, Tikamoon. Searchlight Sphere floor lamp, £95, Pagazzi. Warren round mirror, £33, Maisons Du Monde. Jungle art print, £25, Sarah Shelley Art. Dreamer floor mat, compact, £125, Totter + Tumble.

This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?