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  • Writer's pictureBre Oriolo

My New Office: 5 Ways

kitchen bar office set up

I've been working out of my home for 4.5 years now, from this little workspace bar in my kitchen. It's great because I designed it to fit my laptop and space to write or sketch things out. Here's the problem, though...actually, I have an entire list:

  • All the wallpaper, fabric, paint, tile samples I have are stored in my basement.

  • Some work stuff is stored in my secretary desk in a different room.

  • Vendor catalogs or other design books are kept in yet ANOTHER room.

  • Whenever I get something delivered here for a client, it has to stay in our entry for a while.

  • Any noise from the rest of the house can be heard from this spot, as it's not closed off in any way.

  • It's the kitchen. Any time someone needs food, they are coming through my workspace.

I could probably keep going, but instead let me tell you about how I'm FINALLY getting the office space I so desperately need. It took FIVE different ideas to get there, but we're finally there and I cannot wait. If you read my last blog, Read This Blog if You're Obsessed With Before + After Pictures, you know that we've been working hard over the past 5 years to make this home work for us. Needing an office space has been no different. I keep asking: How can I make this work? I'm going to take you through the evolution of my office space planning. They've all been fun ideas to consider, but I think we have a winner.

1. The Shipping Container Office

shipping container office idea

One day my friend Hillary was dropping off a cake for my son's birthday. I apologized for the mess in my entry of boxes that I needed to deliver to a client, while complaining that I had to figure out an office space. She said, "You know they have prefab shipping container spaces, right?" Um, I didn't. So as soon as she left, I started my research. I loved the idea of creating something from a shipping container. We have a long, but narrow yard, and I thought it'd go perfectly in the back near our fence line. Went out and measured--it would truly be a perfect fit. While I wouldn't need to run plumbing out there, it was still a long ways to install electric, etc. Plus, when it snows, am I going to trudge all the way back there to work each day? Reality set in and I started brainstorming some new office ideas. Side note: I still have a business plan tied to the shipping container idea. It's not necessarily over for my beloved shipping container.

garage with office or living space above

2. The Office Above a Garage

We have a neighbor who is a contractor (Shade Tree Homes), and he came over to help with the brainstorming. He thought up the idea to build a garage (we don't currently have one), build the office on top, and then connect it to our deck. Oh, and did I mention? We need a new deck. Ours is really old, a weird shape, and not very functional. While I loved this idea best, I just heard dollar signs. We're now taking this idea from an office to an office, garage, and deck. I wanted to put the deck off as long as possible. I hated to make the decision about money, and also, it's always in the back of my mind that this isn't our forever home.

3. The She Shed Office

she shed office for the backyard

I swung back to the idea of a separate structure, so it wouldn't affect anything else. Maybe something a little closer to the house so I didn't have to run the electric so far or trudge through the snow. Everyone is doing a she shed these days, right? How hard can it be? Well, pretty hard. I was so excited for this idea. This was finally *the one*. I could design it how I wanted. I bought some bright pink spray paint and spray painted some different dimensions in my yard. I started some planning meetings with a few prefab companies. I liked the idea of a turn key company, one who would help me plan, design, build, and bring it to life. Problem number one: we have to have a level surface to build on. Here's my yard.

hillside backyard

Excavating the yard to make a section level and then adding retaining walls was adding tens of thousands to the cost. Not to mention, although a lot of the companies were supposedly "turn key," they didn't have any local partners to build the structure. So it would all get delivered with instructions and I'd have to build or find someone to build (plus get all my trades services here like an electrician). The cost of this was along the lines of doing a home addition. And if I'm going to pay the same cost, then I'm just going to put an addition on my home!

4. The Sunroom Office

sunroom office conservatory

By this time, I'm flat out frustrated. I just want an office! I'm starting to look at how we can do the most cost effective sunroom/office. Additions, even starting prices, are quite an investment. However, I'm excited about idea #4 because I love sunrooms and even better it gets to be my office. I'm all prepared to spend the money when our deck starts literally falling apart. Giant holes (where knots in the wood are) start falling through. The stair treads are cracking and about to split. The railings are coming off with any slight pressure. We are replacing those and other boards as they deteriorate. At this point, I'm like let's rip off the bandaid and just do it. I don't do well when I can't move forward or take action on something. With this being idea #4 for the office, and a few years' time passing, I was just ready to do SOMETHING! So we start getting quotes for my sunroom office, with a walkout onto a new deck.

As I'm doing some space planning to determine what makes sense for the office size and deck size, I realized something. The space of my office was bigger than the usable space of our current living room. Seemed silly...that my office would be bigger + more functional than our main living space. Our living room is on the smaller side, and the pantry and bath cut into the space. We have zero creative options. There's one spot for a sofa and one spot for a chair. The chair doesn't have a great view of the TV, and when guests come over, we are cramming that room full. At this point, I'm just exhausted with the office plans! I want to take action and I want this DONE! I bet even YOU have whiplash at this point. Like, decide on something and just do it.

floorplan and layout for living room addition

5. Living Room Turns Office, Build an Addition (and a New Deck)

As we were getting quotes for the sunroom + deck build, I'm like hold up. I started playing around with floorplans and renderings for a living room addition instead. I needed to figure out what size could be a functional living room for us. How could I maximize guest seating within the given space, the width of our house? I started looking at my living room with a fresh perspective. I actually LOVE the way a desk, chairs, and storage could be arranged in that space. Decorating ideas are flooding my brain. This is truly the best idea yet. We get so much out of idea #5 :

  • A new, SAFE deck + we are getting an enclosed storage space under the addition (remember, we don't have a garage);

  • A functional living area;

  • An office...FINALLY! One that I'm really excited about.

  • A more functional dining room because we are going to close off the current access to the deck. The current access makes for a really tight squeeze around our dining table. Plus my new ideas for the dining area are going to give us more space around the table.

So we finally have a winner! The projects won't start for a few months, and it's going to take about 90 days but we have a plan. In my next few blog posts, I'm going to share the decorating + designing I'm planning for the new spaces. If you can't wait until then, you can see all the ideas I've been pinning on my Pinterest. Check out the boards: Office Space, Our Addition, and Dining Room Design to keep up on these projects in the meantime.

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