|This is how my office looked a few months after I moved|
to Maryland in 2001
After enjoying the use of my grandmother's maple furniture
for almost forty years, I gifted them to Leroy for his college-
age daughter, Samantha, to cherish for the next forty years
Over the years, as my collection of legal (and other) books, papers and research material multiplied, I stacked bookcases on top of bookcases. It wasn't pretty, and it probably wasn't even safe. My printer/copier/fax machine, in it's third iteration from the bulky unit I moved to Maryland with, now sat atop the tall metal file cabinets, causing me to have to climb a wooden stepstool in order to push documents through the automatic feeder. Said file cabinets were stuffed to the gills with papers. I began to long for more filing space, more counter space, more of an orderly, aesthetically pleasing look to the entire room.
Elfie, left, and Underfoot, loved to curl up in their beds
on the radiator in my office and sleep while I worked
As much as I loved the old-fashioned hot-water radiators with their quiet, even heat which warmed my new abode, I deeply resented the space they took up in every room of my house. If only that radiator wasn't there beneath the side-window in my office, I lamented, I could add a file cabinet! I started to research alternative heat sources. The electricity to run the furnace which heated the radiators was expensive, and there was also a fuel oil bill every few months, and a rusting fuel oil tank, a potential bio-hazard whose presence in my basement wasn't even to code anymore. I'd never gotten around to putting insulation beneath my hardwood floors, believing that radiant heat might someday be the option I'd choose, and I didn't want fiberglass batting to be in the way of the installers. A traditional heating system was not an option in my 1862 farmhouse. The installation of all that ductwork was prohibitively expensive and would require cutting into antique ceilings and floors in every room.
Several years after I moved in I started to research whole-house heating and cooling options in earnest. Radiant heat, as lovely, silent and hidden as it was, would be far too expensive to operate over the long haul. High-velocity "mini-ducts", designed to be retrofitted into older homes like mine, from which radiators and their attendant piping had been removed, appealed to me. But my research revealed that the small ports push air so forcefully that it makes an audible noise. I didn't want to live in a wind tunnel.
|This old 275-gallon fuel-oil|
tank was just beginning to
rust through when I removed it
The installation of the ductless mini-splits did not go smoothly, and I am still getting used to their operation. They create a rather ugly eyesore near the ceiling in every room of my home. But for the most part I am happy. Although my electric bill has doubled this winter, I no longer have any fuel oil bill at all. I am content with my choice.
Better yet, the absence of all the old radiators and piping allowed me to finally set in motion the rest of my master plan. Without a radiator in my office, I could now utilize the space for maximum storage and... beauty!, something I had been sorely missing in a room where I spend so many of my waking hours each day.
|From Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day, my upstairs hobby|
room served as a temporary home office. Cramped for space
and working out of boxes, I was overjoyed when I could
finally move back downstairs.
As soon as construction of the hobby room was complete, I began designing my dream office on paper. It would have lateral files instead of vertical ones, and they would be made of wood to look like furniture. Bookshelves would extend from the top of each file cabinet clear up to the nine foot ceiling on three of the four walls. A new desk, configured in the same shape as the old one but built of real wood instead of particleboard, would allow my printer/copier to sit within reach from my chair. And wouldn't an upholstered bench look nice sitting at the base of the floor-to-ceiling window facing my front porch?
|My dreams almost always start with a hand drawn sketch|
I was heartbroken but resolute. Slowly I began to box up 25 years' worth of books, papers and reference materials. I stowed away a lifetime of awards, certificates and other minutiae, packed up family photographs and wall art, and began sifting though those overstuffed vertical file drawers, discarding what I could -- receipts for clothing and furniture I didn't even own anymore, old bank statements, the flotsam and jetsam of a long life.
|Leroy, on the right, and his helper measure for the new ceiling. |
Look at the bright green color those walls used to be long
before I moved in!
|The new office ceiling lends a decidedly more sophisticated|
air to the room
Leroy got right to work, installing stamped-brass ceiling panels from Shanker Industries in the new office to match the ones in the adjacent kitchen. I carefully prepared drawings of exactly how I wanted the cabinets to be constructed, and now I grew excited as I saw my dream begin to come to life. I ordered deeply cut crown moulding from Bosley Moulding to frame my new brass ceiling. I wanted drama. Lots of drama. This was the room in which I would be spending every workday hour. I'd been imagining the space for almost two decades. I wanted to love to enter the room and work in that environment every single day. I was finally going to have everything I'd fantasized about all those years.
|Once the 9-foot by 16-foot room was empty, it was time to|
refinish the old floor. I was eager to get rid of the harlequin
pattern a previous owner had painted. Look at how my office
chair wore away the painted floor pattern over 17 years
|Carlos, of Earickson Hardwood Floors, sanded the paint|
off the floor boards
I researched lateral file cabinets and was fortunate to find a used office furniture dealer not far from my home. They had four matching secondhand black metal file cabinets in stock at a fraction of the cost of new cabinets, plus two smaller vertical ones that would form the base of my corner desk. The only lateral cabinet I had to buy new was a longer, deeper 36-inch one for the extended portion of my corner desk. I was thrilled.
|Look how the new stain glows!|
|The granite desktop was constructed|
out of cardboard first to make sure it
would fit through my front door
in one gigantic slab
On December 4, Sandro from Big Brothers came out to the house with gigantic sheets of cardboard. He measured the desk and the cabinet tops and then carefully constructed a template of the entire surface area out of cardboard. Once he had made his pattern, he checked to make sure it would fit through my doorway. It would be a shame if they were able to construct a giant slab of granite in the shape of my desk and then not be able to get it into my house!
Meanwhile, Leroy was busy building and installing the base cabinets that would go between the metal file cabinets. I was busy designing bookshelves that would go above the base cabinets. I wanted drawers for storage of office supplies and gadgets. I wanted shallow shelves on two of the three walls, but deeper shelves above my desk for my workbooks and binders. I worked out every detail. Things were progressing so smoothly!
|With the metal file cabinets installed,|
Leroy began to construct the base cabinets
between them, as well as a support beam
for the granite expanse across my desk
I wanted library lamps to cast soft warm light downward from the tops of the bookshelves. I wanted an electric outlet in every bookshelf bay, so that I could display digital photo frames or maybe a small aquarium. I wanted spotlights over each window, especially the floor-length window I envisioned would one day be a reading nook with a bench seat. I wanted task lighting above my desk. I wanted all the lighting to be LED and I wanted it all on dimmers. For these tasks I hired Carroll Talbott of T-Electric, a very nice electrician from the next county over who knew just how to install what I needed.
And what about the kitty beds?! In the old office, the cats' beds
|Out in my guesthouse, which|
served as my craft room until
the new one was built last
summer, I applied special
cork flooring glue to a
simple frame of plywood
and black plastic trim
|One cork at a time, my new|
bulletin board took shape
And let me tell you about my bulletin board! It had long been a dream of mine to design a bulletin board to replace the one I had enjoyed with the old desk configuration. The new bulletin board would be made out of wine corks. It would be eight feet long. I'd been saving wine corks for 17 years in anticipation of this project. Months before work on the office began, I put my idea into action, ordering special cork glue from Home Depot, building a frame and then gluing corks in a herringbone pattern across the eight-foot expanse. 1,014 corks later, my bulletin board was finished and ready to install. I didn't have a new office to put it in yet, but the bulletin board was ready!
|Using a needle gauge, thick foam was|
measured and cut to fit the pattern of
my 1862 window framing for the
|Heidi did an outstanding job on the|
cushion, pillows and valances
Christmas came and went. Half of the hobby room upstairs was devoted to my temporary workspace. The other half became Christmas Central. I made gifts, assembled gifts, wrapped gifts, and prepared gifts for shipping. It was all very cramped and claustrophobic up there. I just kept telling myself how nice everything would be when it was all finished.
|16 electrical outlets for all my gadgets,|
and 12 jacks for phone and internet
service went in beneath my desk
|Nick added the same custom faux texturing finish to the|
ductless mini-split as he did to the walls so that the
protruding unit virtually disappeared
Eventually, the weather thawed. The bookshelves got installed. The lighting went in. 16 outlets and 12 internet and telephone ports got put in below my desk, with more across the room in a corner where I envisioned a guest or a visiting business associate would be able to set up a laptop and work alongside me on occasion.
It was time for paint. For this task, I employed two people. I first met Nick Pelekakis when he painted for the company that remodeled my master bathroom in 2015. Nick did a stunning job of custom texturing with three different paint colors in that room. I liked it so much I had him give my kitchen the same treatment in 2016. Now, he had struck out on his own, calling his business Creative Colors, LLC, and I was thrilled when he had time to apply the same custom textural finish to my office walls. I didn't need much, as most of the walls would be covered by bookcases. Nick got right to work, creating just the texture and interest I needed around both doorways and on both sides of one window frame. He even applied the faux finish to the new mini-split so the white plastic unit would be disguised. The camouflage worked like a charm.
|Mike O'Leary never backs down from a challenging paint job.|
It's a good thing for me he doesn't!
For the rest of the painting, I turned to Mike O'Leary of Kickstart Home Improvements. I met Mike during the summer when he was sent by the HVAC company to fix holes in the floors, walls and ceilings created by the removal of the old radiators and piping and the installation of the new ductless units. Mike had done such a good job on those repairs I began hiring him for my own painting projects. Now, he was charged with two arduous tasks: paint all the trim in the entire office glossy black, and paint the back of every bookcase with a shimmery gold paint I had found on the internet. The black proved to be the easy part. The shimmery gold paint was gorgeous but proved to be a challenge. When we couldn't get the paint to stop streaking, we finally read the fine print on the website. "Must be used with special latex extender for improved flow and leveling". Oh.
|Once the new file cabinets were in, I moved all my documents|
into new, hanging files. I shed thousands of papers I no longer
needed and still managed to fill every file drawer.
Once the computer equipment was moved back downstairs
into my newly remodeled home office, I could begin to set
everything up again
On February 10th, I hosted a dinner party for my neighbors to thank them for their endless support and watchful care over me. The next morning, at 9:00 a.m. sharp, my dear friend and incomparable computer guru, Will Fastie, appeared at my door with gadgets and testing equipment in hand. Today we would move my computer equipment, telephone, copy machine and other devices back downstairs into the new office. This was the day I would officially reclaim my newly refurbished office as my own, a supremely outfitted command central. I would be moving back downstairs. I was excited beyond words.
|This might be my favorite image of the new office. The cats|
are happily ensconced in their heated beds and I have beloved
photos of family and friends on every shelf.
|I even designed a guest|
station, complete with a
hidden, pull-out shelf
that expands to hold
a laptop for visitors
|A place for everything and everything in its place. I am so|
happy with how my new office turned out