Office makeover: ‘I’ve turned a neglected lean-to into a cosy office’

Repairs to a leaking roof helped highlight forgotten potential when Kiara Bennett needed to conjure up space for a year-round home office

I’ve turned a neglected lean-to into a cosy office

When Kiara and Chris Bennett found themselves regularly working from home, both were desperate for an office.

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However, finding space in their three-bedroom South London home was never going to be easy.

Before
Kiara’s space before

‘Our boys, Luca and Lorenz, are still young enough to share a bedroom, so Chris bagged the spare room, as he takes a lot of conference calls, and I was left with the kitchen table,’ says Kiara.

Despite being a recipe writer, it was far from an ideal workspace, so she was soon on the lookout for a more permanent setting; she found it right next to her makeshift desk, in the form of a cold, damp, draughty lean-to.

A clever mix of recycled and online bargain buys has helped transform a damp and dreary lean-to into a characterful office space, overlooking the garden. Kiara only needed a single roll of designer wallpaper to cover up an unattractive section of wall and give her new-look room an injection of print and character
A clever mix of recycled and online bargain buys has helped transform a damp and dreary lean-to into a characterful office space, overlooking the garden. Kiara only needed a single roll of designer wallpaper to cover up an unattractive section of wall and give her new-look room an injection of print and character

The small brick lean-to had been tacked onto the house by a previous owner and, thanks to a leaky polycarbonate roof and ill-fitting windows, was largely ignored by the couple, despite being in full view of the kitchen.

‘We mainly used it to store rubbish and recycling, so Chris thought I was mad when I suggested turning it into an office, but he did agree to take a look at the leaking roof,’ says Kiara.

Good idea! Create a memoboard by spray painting a stretched canvas or piece of MDF with chalkboard paint – Kiara’s handy rail is screwed into the canvas framework
Good idea! Create a memoboard by spray painting a stretched canvas or piece of MDF with chalkboard paint – Kiara’s handy rail is screwed into the canvas framework

Luckily, it was caused by a slipped panel and, once secured, the brickwork soon began to dry out – at which point, even Chris agreed the room looked a little more promising, so we also replaced the windows with new fixed glazed panels cut to size,’ explains Kiara.

Good idea! A stack of inexpensive apple crates is a great alternative to standard shelving and an inspired storage solution for more eclectic or rustic schemes
Good idea! A stack of inexpensive apple crates is a great alternative to standard shelving and an inspired storage solution for more eclectic or rustic schemes

With the room now dry and draught-free, Kiara could turn her attention to making it feel more homely and usable.

Although electricity was thankfully already in place, some form of heating was a must. In the end the couple chose a smart, easy-fit electric radiator they spotted online.

Bills and paperwork are neatly filed in a drawer cabinet, spotted in a friend’s skip
Bills and paperwork are neatly filed in a drawer cabinet, spotted in a friend’s skip

And, while they awaited its arrival, Kiara set about scrubbing down the brickwork and terracotta tiled floor, before painting the remaining pebble-dashed walls in a pale stone grey.

‘It’s not a job I’d want to repeat anytime soon, as it took absolutely ages to paint but, along with another long week of painting the woodwork black, it was time well spent, as the room was instantly transformed,’ she reveals.

Painting the tired windows, doors and roof beams in black was a brave move that has definitely paid off
Painting the tired windows, doors and roof beams in black was a brave move that has definitely paid off

Kiara’s attention then turned to an ugly section of boarded-up wall. ‘I like to think it’s hiding some lovely old windows, but it’s highly unlikely! So, rather than open up a can of worms, I simply decided to turn it into a feature, using a lovely woodland wallpaper,’ smiles Kiara. She then chose to furnish the space with a mix of existing pieces and bargain buys.

A plug-in electric radiator provides an instant heating solution – Kiara’s designer radiator, from BestHeating, is controlled remotely and has an antifreeze function that makes it ideal for a lean-to
A plug-in electric radiator provides an instant heating solution – Kiara’s designer radiator, from BestHeating, is controlled remotely and has an antifreeze function that makes it ideal for a lean-to

‘Chris rejected the armchair and Anglepoise lamp when he was clearing out the spare room, and the folding chair is straight out of the garden,’ says Kiara, while an evening of online bidding resulted in her vintage painted desk and handy set of storage crates.

However, Kiara’s best find has to be the battered drawers she uses for filing, as they were courtesy of a skip!

Kiara’s vintage glass chandelier was originally bought on eBay and adds an unexpected glitzy detail to this rustic scheme
Kiara’s vintage glass chandelier was originally bought on eBay and adds an unexpected glitzy detail to this rustic scheme

With the room almost complete, Kiara was keen to inject additional warmth and comfort underfoot, so added a rug from IKEA over the tiled floor. Her existing chandelier was supplemented with an industrial-style lamp from the high street, which helps shed light on Kiara’s clever homemade memoboard, designed to bring order to days spent in her new office.

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‘We are planning to extend the back of the house at some point,’ says Kiara, ‘but for now my little office is proving perfect for conjuring up recipes, and is also ideally placed for testing them out on the family!’

Shop the look: 

Woodwork painted in Lamp Black intelligent eggshell, £32 per litre; walls painted in Slaked Lime Dark absolute matt emulsion, £47 per 2.5L, both Little Greene. Cole & Son Woods and Stars wallpaper, £85 per roll, Wallpaperdirect. Milano Aruba slim electric vertical double designer radiator in Anthracite, £334.95, BestHeating. 4mm toughened glass panes, £40 each, Catford Glass. Vintage painted table, £65; wooden apple crates, £10 each; Kilim cushion, £13.99, all eBay. 80 x 60cm white stretched canvas, £8, Hobbycraft. Chalkboard spray paint in Black Matt, £8.49 per 400ml, Plastikote. Hahn Metro 51cm chrome wall rail and hooks, £21.99; Tidy Tote rope basket with handles, £19.99; wooden spoon set, £2.99; kitchen scissors, £6.99 per pair; natural fibre mix dish brush head, £1.99; cotton tea towels, £4.99 per pair; recipe books, from £5.99, all Lakeland. Melholt flatwoven rug, £50; Fiskbo picture frame, £6, both IKEA. London Bronze Industrial table lamp, £35, Dunelm.

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