Friday, October 2, 2009

Home office: before and after

by Scott Rhoades

I almost forgot today was Friday and my day to blog. Better late than never. And to think I've been looking forward to this post for a month and almost missed it.

About a month ago, I started to remodel my den, or my Schreibwinkel as I like to call it, my writing nook. It's a small room, about 9x10, and was decorated with dark paneling, which made it smaller and dark, and not very conducive to creativity.

The room was lit by a small window and double-tubed fluorescent light on the ceiling. Between the dark, closed in feeling and the fluorescent lighting, it wasn't a very friendly, creative space.

When I tore off the paneling, I discovered that the walls had not been finished before the paneling was tacked up. It wasn't a real big surprise, but it disappointed me, mostly because I'm not real good at drywall and there were huge gaps between the pieces of sheet rock, especially at the top of the walls, a place that's especially difficult to tape and mud, at least for somebody with my level of experience. But I did it, it's not perfect, but it's OK.

Especially since I was going for an old look. A very old look. About 400 years old. When I spent a few months in Germany in 2005, I fell in love with the half-timbered houses, so my plan was to do one wall in that style. The goal was to make it look as authentic as I could, which meant it wasn't good enough to just tack up some boards. In those old buildings, the planks are the structure of the building, so I had to somehow set the boards into the walls.

After thinking about different ways to do this, I decided it would be best to put up the boards, then build the walls around them. That meant more drywall. It also meant a lot of cutting. And angles. I'm not a carpenter, and as a word guy I'm not real good at angles. So there was a lot of trial and error, and some of the errors are still visible if you look. And, it meant texturing the wall to look old and rough.

I also put wood siding on the bottom two feet of the other three walls. The result was that it looked like a barn. Not at all the look I wanted. Plus, it was hard to find moulding for a chair rail that would fit over the wood. Two days before I finished, I pulled that siding off, and painted the bottom 2 1/2 feet a color called "fresh-baked pumpernickel." I thought it matched the "vanilla custard" that I painted the top parts of the walls and ceiling, and the spaces between the planks on The Wall.

I also replaced the fluorescent light with a regular ceiling light, and put in a dimmer switch. Finally, I had to finish the window. The original owner had put the paneling over the 2x4s that made up the window frame, so I had to build up the window area and put in a window sill.

Here are two pictures of the result. The first shows The Wall, and the second was taken after I moved my stuff back in. It's not a perfect job by any means, and it's not going to be everybody's taste, but it's me, fits the things I like to write, and feels more like a writing nook (which is what Schreibwinkel means) than that awful paneling did.

I still need to decorate the walls, but it feels so much bigger and brighter and friendlier than it used to. Other than the paint fumes that won't go away, it feels comfortable, and I enjoy being in there. I just wish I couldn't see all my mistakes. At least I picked a 400-year-old rustic look that helps mask some of the errors.


kathy stemke said...

Much better! It's got bright and airy feeling now which should allow your thoughts to flow and fly free.

Katie Hines said...

I have a small office space, too, and it can be challenging to have everything at my fingertips that I need. Love your new look, and hope it works well for you.