The one thing we hear time and time again in regards to a happy and productive working life (especially when it comes to being your own boss), is the importance of having a dedicated workspace which can motivate you and inspire you day to day.
However, despite being freelance for nearly four years now, until the start of this year I didn’t really have that. My desk was more of a table really – a basic white set up from Ikea which had been passed down to me during the office move of one of my early PR jobs. Initially while I still worked full time it was given a spot in the corner of our living room, alongside a matching white bookcase which was here when we moved in. It became the flat surface we needed to house things like my sewing machine and old computer on, and extra boxes of stuff which didn’t really have a place were able to be stacked up underneath.
Then, when I made to move to go freelance and realised I’d need a desk of sorts, it seemed like the obvious choice until I got myself off the ground. It was re-purposed and moved to the other side of the room, next to the window, alongside a cheap office chair I’d once found on the street, having been thrown out by a neighbour, and wheeled all the way home. And that ended up being my ‘office’ set up for a good few years (if you’re interested you can see a cringeworthy photo on my Instagram from last year, and this was it at its tidiest!).
I’ll blame London living and a severe lack of space and budget for me putting up with it for so long. All things considered, both items did pretty well to last and certainly served their purpose as a space I could work from when I wasn’t in other people offices or on the go for projects (which was primarily how I worked for the majority of the first couple of years). But last year, as I found myself working from home more frequently and much more of my work being desk bound, I really began to crave a more professional space (and my back definitely craved a more supportive office chair). Because my desk had no storage, it permanently looked messy no matter how organised I tried to be, and regularly became a bit of a dumping ground for any work related ‘stuff’ I didn’t have a place for. When we came back from honeymoon this year, I found myself working from the sofa for the first month or so, as my desk, and the area around it, was just too full and cluttered for me to think straight. Obviously not the ideal scenario.
Desk – c/o Lakeland Furniture | Eames Replica Chair – Retro Europe at Amazon | Rug and J cushion – Next | Curtains (just seen) – George at Asda | Grey check throw – Art of the Loom
So, with us planning a big clear out in the living room following the wedding anyway, I decided to finally get my act together and create that ‘motivational work space’ that I’d been dreaming and pinning for years. My desk came from Lakeland Furniture and then when my Mum and Dad asked if there was anything specific I wanted for my birthday this year, I asked if they’d help me finally invest in a decent desk chair.
I thought I’d put together a few tips on how I went about this, and share the finished results with you, but me being me, have ended up with far too much to say and too many photos to share so instead of one mammoth post, I’m splitting it up into three. Today I’m going to talk about the essentials – the desk, the chair and the space – which are undoubtedly the starting point for any office revamp and probably the most important factors to get right.
Shop the essential items
For me there were three main things to consider;
1. The office needed to fit into a compact space
We live in a one bed flat in London, which means that space is a recurring issue for us, and for now a separate office isn’t do-able. I knew I’d have to continue to work from the living room but I also knew I probably wasn’t utilising the space I did have well enough. I needed a set up that didn’t take up a lot of room, could easily fit into the corner we had but still felt like a dedicated ‘work’ space, separate from our ‘living’ space.
2. Storage was key
Again, with a lack of space comes a lack of storage and the reason the space felt so cluttered most of the time was because I had nowhere to tidy away those things you don’t need on show. I had bought various trunks, coloured boxes and separate storage over the years, but even then having them under my feet was a nuisance, things like empty boxes for electricals (cameras, phones etc) which you don’t want to throw away were being stored under the sofa, and reciepts and invoices were often strewn around making me feel disorganised. I needed drawers, I needed cupboards and I needed clever storage which didn’t take up extra room but hid all the disorganisation away so that day to day I didn’t need to see it.
3. The essentials needed to be quality, and last the distance
Often, when it comes to interiors I’m truly torn between the blogger and creative in me who wants things which are pretty and vintage and full of charm and the sensible freelancer in me who knows things which are practical, long lasting and sturdy are a wiser choice. When it came to seeking out the essentials for my office, I knew I needed to listen to the sensible side of me and find products that really worked, did what I needed them to and could survive daily usage for a good few years. As much as I craved finding a battered up old desk on Gumtree and refurbishing it, or choosing a pretty pink armchair instead of a desk chair, I let practical win out on this one. I can do those things for other parts of our home, but for the office I needed a chair that actually supported my back, rather than one which just looked pretty on Instagram.
We’re pretty lucky to have a reasonably large living space in our flat, despite the overall apartment being tiny, so the back of the living room as always been slightly separate from the area we have our sofas and TV. This back section has always housed my desk area, but the problem was, it was also housing a whole lot of other stuff too. Seeing as it’s the only free space we have, it does invariably become our only storage solution, and boxes of ‘stuff’, and bags of clothes labelled ‘sell on Ebay’ are forever filling it up. Obviously last year, it also became the – project wedding – storage solution and housed all of the props we collected, DIY’s we were storing, and ws a general dumping ground for all of the wedding paraphernalia you realise you need along the way. Since the start of this year, we’ve been slowly trying to have a clear out, and re-organise our space a bit. We’re not entirely there yet, but we’re much further on than when we first arrived home from Honeymoon. If you read my post on creating a reading corner, then you’ll remember that was our first project, and felt great once finished. That sits in one corner of the room, and then my desk space got revamped in the other. There is still a fair few things in the way that we don’t have anywhere else to store, but I think (or at least I hope) that everyone has some of that in their home. I like to view the entire back space as my office now, with the reading nook a nice calm place to retreat to when I’ve lost my motivation. The monochrome rug which was in the reading nook has now been moved over to the desk, as frankly the black and white stripes just looked too good with the white not to, and we’re hoping to clean up the rug we got married on and use that with the arm chairs instead.
When I spotted the Stanton corner unit desk on Lakeland Furniture, it was pretty much everything I needed rolled into one. The first thing I was drawn to was the fact it has a wide table top – which means plenty of room to store everything I need to hand, and an ideal space for photographing on top of (rather important in my line of work).
Then there was the ample storage – a key factor of mine. This desk has a separate storage unit attached to the table top, with differing sizes of shelves, a small drawer and cupboard, and amazingly comes with a few of those fabric storage boxes which I was planning to buy for myself anyway. Remember how I mentioned clever storage? This is my definition of that – everything hidden away in a neat and tidy way, and totally separate from the desk top itself, so that you’re not kicking boxes and drawers under your feet and having to crawl underneath and root through piles every time you need something.
But probably the biggest pro of this desk, and what made me choose it was the flexibility of its design. The great thing is that you can choose the set up that works for you and the space you have. You’ll notice that I’ve set mine up as a corner unit, with the storage section out to the left and against the window. You can however, also set it up with the storage at the opposite side, should your corner desk space be on the other side of the room. Or if you have a larger space and want a longer desk, you can set it up horizontally too. You can see all the options on the website, which explains it much better than I have! Anyway, because we’re planning to move at some point this year, this really appealed to me, as what fits my current office space might not work for the next, and at least this way I have a few options.
The desk comes flat pack, which is always a bit of a mission but with GB and I both tackling it, it came together fairly easily (even after a bit of an argument over the right or wrong way to place the rollers for the drawer to open correctly). After a major clear out and re-organisation of all of my work stuff, everything is now happily in its place and I know exactly where to look when I need something. I’m able to have a dedicated shelf for all of my admin and tax related info (I now even have a special box for receipts so I can keep track) and all of those camera boxes and equipment have been removed from under the sofa and given a home in those black storage boxes. In fact, I had so much extra storage that I didn’t even need it all, and could indulge in a little pretty styling for the first two shelves, displaying my cameras and fashion books.
I’ve been using the desk for a couple of months now, and really am so happy with it. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go down the all white route, as it doesn’t really fit with the decor of the rest of our room, but I’m glad I did as it’s made the space so much lighter, brighter and inviting, even on those grey days. I like to think it being a little different in decor from the rest of the room actually helps too, as it feels like a separate space and one that’s all mine. If we do move somewhere where I can have a dedicated room for my office, then I’ll decorate it all along these lines. For now I’ve added colour and personality through the furnishings and accessories (more on that in part two and three).
Shop my favourite accessories
The chair, wasn’t quite as easy a purchase as the desk, and why it’s taken until now for me to post despite having the desk set up for a couple of months. Finding an office chair that was both pretty, and practical was no easy feat and I found that a lot of the styles I fell in love with from scouring Pinterest were from US companies which weren’t available in the UK.
After a bit of research I decided that one of the Eames replica chairs was what I wanted. They had that retro style but yet were also comfortable and by all accounts were supportive for the back. But, I didn’t want black (too corporate) or brown (lovely and vintage looking but wouldn’t match the white desk), and after seeing Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere with a white leather high back version, I set my sights on that.
The specific replica model I have is the Eames EA219 which has a high padded back, arms and a swivel bottom. There are a number of online sellers but most quite expensive. My first order was made from Vital Chairs, but unfortunately the chair arrived broken and with some rusting on the metal. I can’t blame this entirely on the company themselves as I believe the fault lay with DPD who delivered the box with a giant hole in it and refused to take it up the stairs before scarpering. Seriously, I don’t know why companies use them? Anyway, weeks passed and my faulty chair in its massive box still hadn’t been picked up and was taking up space in my nice new office, because DPD apparently couldn’t find my address on multiple occasions (again – I don’t know why companies use them). After many, many angry phone calls and emails and eventually a day which saw me chasing a DPD van down the street in my socks (true story), the box eventually got picked up… by which point Vital Chairs had sold out of the white version of the chair. Sigh…
So it was back to the drawing board and eventually I found a similar version on Amazon, sold through Retro Europe. I’m always a little sceptical of these type of online sites, but thank fully on this occasion it was delivered on time, had no faults and managed to be set up easily – hurrah.
Now that that’s all behind me, I really love the chair and it fits perfectly with the desk and space, but it was a bit of a hassle to find and buy.
So after nearly four years of working for myself, I’m finally a grown up with my own desk and chair. And I have to admit, like everyone always says, it has made a huge difference to how I work. I really love working from home, and even on the weekends enjoy sitting at my desk and getting on with things.
There are of course still downsides, like being in the living room and having to try and concentrate through episodes of the Walking Dead once GB gets home from work, and one day I hope I can have my very own room to call my office (a true girl cave if you will) but it’s one step at a time and for now this is a much happier and productive working environment than before.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of my new office. I’ll be back with part two (talking about the furnishings and little personal details I’ve added to the space) and part three (sharing the DIY aspects I’ve tackled to make the space more ‘me’) very soon.
I’d love to hear from any fellow freelancers about your workspace? And how you make it work? And of course if you have any tips or decor ideas to pass on please do!