Clean Compact Office Solution

So we’ve been building towards the big DESK REVEAL – but in reality, it’s so much more than just a desk, but a complete, clean-lined, compact office solution.

DSC02117_SunnyHaze_webA place where we can get down to business if we need, that provides the storage for-two requested but also avoids closing in the space.  We shared in our last post how an old roll of contact paper allowed us to recapture beautiful, natural light while maintaining privacy from the front of our apartment building.

chevron teal refinished printer stand | from BandBBuildALife.comWe refinished an old media cart with chalk paint to have a handy place to stow our printer and other neat storage boxes, without losing valuable real estate on the desk surface.  This added a great pop of color to balance the clean white of the desk.

Shelves above deskThe desk was to be placed beneath the window, with the center of the desk lined up with the left edge of the window as this is a tight corner in the room.  This off-centered idea was balanced by framing the window with shelving equal to the width of the desk.

easy striped curtainsTo balance the higher second-shelf, and to also help hide the air conditioner in the window, a bold striped curtain was added that can be draped in-front of the unit in the winter (decreasing cold drafts) and pushed aside in the summer.

Renter's DIY Hack - cover a wall with Cork Tile for a warm texture that you can easily remove! ---- Renter's wall covering DIY from BandBBuildALife.comBeneath the shelves, above the desk surface became the hub of the desk.  But with renter’s-white walls that we couldn’t change, and a white desk with white shelves — things were starting to look a bit cold.  So we decided to add some cork tiles to the wall to warm the space up with a natural texture.  The tiles were easy to install with double-sided mounting squares included, and a few extra command strips for good measure.

Renter's DIY Hack - cover a wall with Cork Tile for a warm texture that you can easily remove! ---- Renter's wall covering DIY from BandBBuildALife.comNow we got to start dressing up the desk!  You see we have most of the usual desk accouterments, but a few pieces were re-used from other sources, or were just too fun not to include.

DSC02091_webI finally have a place for the Shoe tape dispenser and Purse Post-it holder my sister gave me!  And yes, that’s an recycled Yankee candle jar holding binder clips.

 saving desk at hand painted art in your home at BandBBuildALife.comAbove, we finally found a place to hang some of our own hand-painted artwork.  We created these last year at the Pittsburgh Home Show.  Not bad for free art!  And the colors in the art relate to the green in the banker’s lamp and other points on the desk.

how to hide your wireless router and still have it work - from BandBBuildALife.comThis Banker’s lamp was actually one of the few things Bill had in his apartment when we met!  I love the gold which kinda plays off the warmth of the cork behind it.  Plus, it works!  Shop your own stash, right?  Plus next to the lamp we keep our stealthily-hidden internet router.

Butter Beer Harry Potter Office Supplies at BandBBuildALife.comSpeaking of Shopping your own stash, I finally found a place for my Harry Potter World Butter  Beer mug!    After cruising with my friend, Heather, I learned the beauty of simple souvenirs.  But when the Butter Beer comes WITH the mug, you gotta keep it, right?  Now it makes the perfect, quirky pencil cup for our desk.

Young House Love Hardware Octo-Love at BandBBuildALife.comAnd Octo-Love finally has a home!  I picked this guy up at Target when Young House Love first released their hardware line, and he sat there in his box for an embarrassingly long time.  But now he’s useful!

recycled candle jars for storage at BandBBuildALife.comAnd here, a little more recycled storage.  We often come in and pin something onto the cork quickly, so keeping the pins out in a container we can see through, and at eye level on the shelf, makes it a quicker process.

DSC02087_webto-be-filed file from an old napkin holder at BandBBuildALife.comAnd a handy To-Be-Filed spot.  So we can stash documents that need to be filed away and batch-sort them later.  This fishy was intended to be a napkin holder.  Works just as well here!

clean lines white with color desk at clean lines white with color desk at BandBBuildALife.comAll-in-all I think we ended up with a great space that we ‘love’!

DSC02055_webSOOOOooooo…. do you ever finish a project the same year you start it? LOL

~ Beth

Renter’s Wall Update with Cork

We’re DIY Lovers who live in a rented apartment.  So while we have a wonderful landlord who is generally very understanding and welcoming of many types of projects, we can’t do fun things like add a tile back-splash to the kitchen, install crown molding, or paint the walls something other than the same white paint that covers the ceiling, trim, walls, and even some cabinets.  So.Much.White.Paint.

DSCN4055_webWe recently began a lengthy update to a corner of our bedroom, turning it into an office space with a clean, white desk and shelves.  Trouble was, while I was trying to go for that clean white feel, it started looking REALLY white.  TOO white really. This photo above shows how all that white was really looking BORING.  So I added a bold, striped curtain and a printer cart in a fresh pop of teal.

easy striped curtains chevron teal refinished printer stand | from BandBBuildALife.comThese were a great start, but we needed something…… more.  Especially that space beneath the shelf and above the desk surface.  Something that would add more warmth to the space, and maybe some additional function too.  Enter my friend, CORK!

Renter's DIY Hack - cover a wall with Cork Tile for a warm texture that you can easily remove! ---- Renter's wall covering DIY from BandBBuildALife.comCork is a light-weight and has a great natural visual texture to it.  Plus they’re obviously handy near a work-space because, duh, corkboard!  This set came with 4 tiles, plus mounting squares to easily hang them.  You can use the included squares, or if you’re worried about them being difficult to remove when you move, you can also use the same command strips for hanging posters here too.

I had to get a little fancy cutting the squares to fit around the brackets of the shelves, but that was easily completed with scissors alone, and in about 15 minutes I had a new wall of cork above the desk!

Renter's DIY Hack - cover a wall with Cork Tile for a warm texture that you can easily remove! ---- Renter's wall covering DIY from BandBBuildALife.comTuh-dah!  The warm cork actually makes all that white POP now.  And it makes for a handy place to keep photo booth strips, and even my horde of Shutterfly coupons (Not pictured, because clutter).

Want to try it out yourself?  Check out these affiliate links and pick up the goods for your own space!

Cork Tiles 3M Mounting Command Strips

How to Hide a Wireless Router

Hello Friends!  We’re working on the desk.  No, really, it’s almost there — and by almost there I mean I’ve almost put the whole post together.  At this point the desk has been LIVE and in action for a crazy-long time and I’m just a terrible blogger.

BUT — while coming up with this wonderful work-space, I wanted to do a few things that would help make it look clean – like hiding the wireless router.

Messy desk solutions - how to hide your wireless router and still allow it to work from BandBBuildALife.comThis.  THIS IS A NIGHTMARE!  Cue the psycho shower-scene music! EEK!  ….but what you can’t quite see in all that MESS is the wireless router.  That’s NOT because it’s strategically hidden here.  It’s because that lamp is covering most of the cords and electronics on the shelf, and the main unit is behind another pile of junk on the desk itself.

So, ya know, just pile all your crap on the desk and you won’t see the messy cords for the rest of the mess!  Problem solved!

…. ok, not really, but the solution to the problem was there in the mess!

DSCN4465_web-highlightsSo the solution we found?  A Magazine box.  This particular one was $4 at wal-mart for a 2-pack.  They come flat and you pop them open to assemble them — and they snap together.  The bottom of the boxes can easily be altered — to allow cords to freely exit the bottom of the box without being a mess!

how to hide your wireless router and still have it work - from BandBBuildALife.comSo just poke a hole in the bottom (you can see light coming in from the bottom of ours in the above photo where the cords sneak out) and then arrange the router and cords in the box so they’re not seen.  BUT, while they’re out of sight, they’re not OUT OF AIR — routers get surprisingly HOT and need airflow to keep from over-heating.  The magazine box approach is not closed like some of the cool carve-out-a-book solutions, AND the antennae of the router can still be left up.  That means the device can function better, without having the signal blocked.

how to hide your wireless router and still have it work - from BandBBuildALife.comAll we had left to do after setting the router in the box and feeding the cords out the bottom, was to label it! ;)

how to hide your wireless router and still have it work - from BandBBuildALife.comYou’d have no idea the router was even there — if it weren’t for that handy label that is!

So how do you hide your ugly devices?

Journey to a new Desk

No, Really.  I’m posting this.  Like, a year late.  #SorryNotSorry

Once Upon a time I shared that we were going to upgrade our desk space.  Lets look at where we were then:

Old Desk at B and B Build A Life HQNot a terrible space at all really.  But… not as functional as it could be.  And most certainly not very pretty.  Here were our specific problem areas:

  1. The desk itself was made of particle board and cardboard and had been moved a few times so it wasn’t as stable as it could be anymore.  So we wanted something more stable.
  2. The desk was designed for use with a PC complete with full tower.  While someday when I have a mega crazy design studio I may go back to a PC system, for now we’re both on Laptops, so the cabinet at right is weird and useless as we have no tower to hide.
  3. The shelving is small and a bit restrictive
  4. That window, while letting in beautiful light, is immediately next to our building’s front door.  And we live on the ground floor.  ….not an ideal view into our bedroom for the neighbors.
  5. The desk doesn’t really allow much his/hers organization or space.  While we generally integrate a lot of our things, we each have different definitions of ‘organization’ so it would be nice to have some separate storage.

Desk CharactersSo after consulting with the characters that lived on our current desk, our priorities were clear.  We wanted a clean office solution that provided space for both of our belongings, with privacy from the front door.

Bill and I spent MONTHS looking at options, and even at one point bought an old kitchen table with the intent to re-finish it and add drawers.  We decided that was a bit optimistic of an idea without having a real workshop available to us.  Then, on one random trip to Ikea (because, that’s a fun date night to us), we found this guy.

Alex Desk from Ikea While upside-down and in the back of my car, rest-assured this is the beautiful and clean-lined Alex desk from Ikea.  It features 2 wide drawers — perfect for his & her storage!  Plus clean lines, and this puppy was from a display so it was in the As Is section for 30% off!

We brought it home, but immediately realized there was one problem.  While the clean lines and simplicity of the desk were great, it had a lot less storage than our old desk.   And also, while we didn’t like how small the cubbies were above the old desk, we did like that extra vertical storage.  Clearly we were going to need some shelves!

With the window above, but not center, we decided to work this for a unique, a-symmetrical approach.

Shelves above desk We opted to sort of ‘frame’ the window with shelves, and use the left side of the window as the center point of the desk.  FINALLY we were getting somewhere, right?   …Nope.  Because then, for weeks, our new desk looked like this:

messy desk I can’t believe this photo is on the internet.  Sorry mom!

So I mentioned we added the shelves to increase storage space.  And in our last post, I highlighted the storage boxes we used on the printer stand (peaking out at right in this photo).  Buuuuuuuuut then we had to actually move things into those boxes, throw out the dried-out pens, pair things down… who wants to do that?  contact paper window privacyAnd more importantly, we still had not solved the problem of privacy with this window.  We have ugly blinds, and fake grass — but, I mean, really?  FUGLY.  And both of those things, while creating privacy, also blocked the light.  No bueno when your apartment doesn’t get a lot of natural light to begin with.  Enter, contact paper!

contact paper window privacyI used a roll of frosted paper to allow light in, without prying eyes.  An exact o-knife helped me cut the sheet down, and a credit card smoothed bubbles out.  It took me about 15 minutes to end up with this:

contact paper window privacyAhhhhhh, So much better than seeing our neighbors walking by.  BUT, that still leaves our ugly air conditioner hanging out there.  If this was our house and we had a garage or a basement we could store things like this in the winter, we would likely take it out seasonally.  But this is apartment living, folks.  We get ugly eye-sores all year long here!  But, wanting to come up with a creative way to dress it up, like we did for the intercom panel, we brainstormed a bit.  And the obvious option, was to include some fancy curtains.

I knew I wanted to keep it simple, and take advantage of the curtain rod that was already above the window.  So I cracked open my fabric stash and found a few fabulous panels of striped fabric I scored in the As Is section of Ikea AGES AGO.  I first shared them when showing off an easy pillow cover.

stripe pillow @ BandBBuildALife.comWhile I used the rainbow stripes for the pillow, I still had the bolder, blue stripe fabric, as well as a matching black piece too.  With a few quick hems to clean up the edges, and some simple drapery clips, we were in business!

easy striped curtainsThe curtain has enough weight to it that it’s able to easily hang in-front of the edge of the air conditioner when it’s in use, without blowing all over the place.  And when we’re in the colder months, we can pull the drape over more and help make it fade into the decor.

So, now we have shelves, privacy to the window, storage in clean boxes…. we’re done!

So that’s the desk! …

Ok, full photos tomorrow, promise!

~ B

Chalk Paint Reveal

Remember that time I posted my foray into chalk paint?

buffing wax onto chalk paint printer stand | from BandBBuildALife.comWell, obviously it’s long since been finished.  This goodwill steal was destined to be the home of our printer.  It’s handy wheels made it easy to roll the printer out on the rare occurrence that we’d actually use it (for printing….. wedding invitations?!?) while generally stowing it away.  It also meant the printer wouldn’t steal valuable real estate on our desk surface, and it provided an additional storage space below.

So here she is all dolled up and actually in use!

chevron teal refinished printer stand  | from BandBBuildALife.comIf you recall the original state of the stand, it was a beige blah color and had equally blah (and yet oh-so-seventies) contact paper on the top.  While I could have just painted the whole thing… I mean, CHEVRON.  Honestly, could I do anything else?  Of course not!

chevron teal refinished printer stand  | from BandBBuildALife.comIt worked out that the contact paper and the paint were darn similar, if not exact same shades.  It’s so close it’s as if it was meant to be!

As for the storage space beneath, I initially thought a trendy basket – maybe one that’s sporting that dipped do?  But ultimately I decided against it on account of the facgt that we somehow have the dustiest home on the planet.  I figured decorative and also functional storage boxes would work well for organizing, while also being simple to wipe off.  What do you think?

chevron teal refinished printer stand  | from BandBBuildALife.comchevron teal refinished printer stand  | from BandBBuildALife.comSo there you have it, a simple, neat, storage sollution for a printer stand.  I dig it.  I also dig THE REST OF THE DESK!  ….that’s existed now for nearly a year and I’ve yet to post about it.  OOPS.  …kinda busy planning a wedding.  My bad!

DESK to be shared later this month!….?…!

Visual Closet Sollution

So, we’re slim on posts for 2014.  And we’re nearly out of days in 2014.  OOPS.

Point being, it’s likely not too hard to scan back to our post about 2014 Resolutions.

You’ll note #3 on the list of goals for our home for this year…

Create a balance between workspace and dressing space.  I’m the ‘pull out a few things to plan an outfit’ type, which requires some pile-space for my process.  That space tends to be the desk, which creates some friction between Bill and I.  But I don’t really have anywhere IN the closet to do that, so I’ll need to create some sort of surface solution in there.

organizing a glam closet at BandBBuildALife.comThis photo is the result of my first attempt at closet organization.  And I liked the alternate crate/basket thing going on, though a part of the reason was simply trying to get them to fit properly on the otherwise shallow shelves.  And though they did physically fit this way better, they weren’t as functional as I’d have liked.  The bottom 2 were a mismatch of scarves and the top two — well, whatever got shoved in them at the time.  Super organized, right?

So I swapped them around a bit.

Rotate Baskets to create visual organization in a closetFirst rule of staging is to group like things, right?  Ok.  So this already is an improvement simply by putting the baskets together.  But – wild as it may be – I also tipped them on their sides.  This essentially created a second shelf, AND opened the space for me to organize things visually.

You see, if I can’t see it, I forget it, or don’t rotate it into my wardrobe like I should, and then I just don’t wear it.  Or even worse, I buy it again.  Such a waste!

Rotate Baskets to create visual organization in a closetWith this arrangement, I was able to roll my scarves — a means of storage that helps smooth wrinkles from wearing them, AND helps avoid causing wrinkles from folding them.  PLUS I can actually see them all, and rotate the ones I’ve most recently worn by tossing them atop the scarf basket.

The right-side basket is where I stow my pants.  Jeans ontop, and colored jeans and leggings in the basket.  Easy peasy.

Then with the crates below, I had to have them on the shelf poking out a bit further than I’d like – but this created an excellent opportunity.

In the crates, I have my favorite hoodies and pullovers, and the handbag I most frequently rotate back to.  BUT as neither of these things are a constant grab, I also often use this area to lay out my work outfit for the next day.

Know what that means?  Fewer piles of clothes left on our desk.  And fewer grumpy Bill moments.  …still working on adjusting the habit now though!

SO I think that means at least one of those resolutions can be crossed off the list!  …maybe not the frequent posts bit, but there’s always 2015!

Any last minute resolutions you’re trying to get to?

~ Beth

Finally, Chalk Paint!

Ok, at this point in the world PP (that’s ‘Post Pinterest’), everyone knows about Chalk Paint.  There was a time when I was super excited about it – sucked into the trend.  I even went and bought fixings to make my own chalk paint.  Because I’m a *true* DIYer, none of that store-bought nonsense! *rolls eyes*

REALITY CHECK my friends.  The plaster of paris, wax, and paint I had for the project sat.  And sat.  And 2 years.  Yes, TWO YEARS later, they still sat on a shelf in our very tiny utility closet.  Total waste!  I had planned to paint the table you can see in this post but chickened out.

Intercom Art @ BandBBuildAlife.comHowever, while walking the aisles of Michael’s, I came across this bad boy…Plaid Folk Art Home Decor Chalk in Oasis

Chalk Paint
Plaid Folk Art Home Decor Chalk in Oasis

The directions were straight forward – because, duh, it’s chalk paint.  SLATHER ON. REPEAT.  NOW WAX.  Sound’s simple, right?  But now, what to paint….  We’ve been (and by ‘we’ I mean I) discussing a new desk for a LONG time.  But We wanted a simpler desk… which meant that we’d have to be more creative about storage.  And also meant that the Printer would not be allowed to live on the desk.  So I was on a quest for a printer-stand-in, when I found this beauty at a goodwill for under $10 after discounts.

Printer Stand for Desk at BandBBuildALife.comYes, friends, check out that beautiful 70’s flower contact paper!  And the exciting buff-bland-office paint job!  I mean, I can’t believe this was ever cast off! (Sarcasm font)

In all seriousness, this baby was the PERFECT size for the space I was working with, and it was adjustable for better height needs.  It just needed a little love first.  Like removing those flowers!

peeling contact paper for printer stand for Desk peeling contact paper for printer stand for DeskUnfortunately, once the contact paper began to peel, it was immediately apparent there was some rust issues going on.  Though a new layer of contact paper would take care of it, I was worried it would still not cover as well.  So before I zapped the top with a quick coat of spray paint, I gave the entire piece a good scrubbing with some steel wool to buff off as much rust and poor texture as possible,

steel wool scrubbing printer stand for desk

This step, though wildly messy (especially living in a place without a hose!) is really critical if you want your contact paper to lay flat and smooth, and it does really help the chalk paint too.

Once the steel wool was done, it was time for a little spray paint.


I decided on spray paint for the top and not to just chalk paint the entire piece as I planned to replace the old contact paper with a new paper, one that was lighter in color and I didn’t want the color of the chalk paint to show through.

Once these steps were done, it was just down to painting!  I decided to use a foam brush as I was painting metal and feared a regular brush would leave too many brush marks, and because there weren’t a lot of nooks and crannies I’d need to fill with paint which would require bristles.

Oh, and PRO TIP:  If you have hardware like the screws pictured below that you don’t want to paint, BUT if you remove them the whole thing will fall apart, simply loosen them enough to get your brush beneath them, but not so far that the piece will fall apart.  Easy peasy!


Painting the entire piece took about an hour as I had to wait for sides to dry enough to be able to rotate and paint the next exposed surfaces.  But after the first coat it looked like this:

using chalk paint to paint metal surface of printer stand for desk

After one coat, there’s clearly some portions that were a bit thin.  Overall though it was a coverage to be expected after 1 coat.  And after 1 coat she looked like this:

Chalk Painted Metal Printer Stand

Ok, this is also an ‘after’ shot with the wax I used too.  You can pick it up here.  The suggested application is with a brush…. but I wasn’t going back out to buy something else after I was finally on a roll with this project.  So instead I grabbed an old kitchen rag and got to buffin’.  This portion of the process proved to require a much greater deal of elbow grease than expected.


In the end, though I do really like the texture and the coverage of the Chalk Paint, I’d say the wax step was a pain in the bum.  I’d rather have zapped the whole deal with some spray paint and had been done with it.  But you live and learn, right?

More later this week on where this printer stand actually ends up.  Trust me, the finished office is BEAUTIFUL and I am THRILLED to have it — and, well, to have actually finished a project!

Have you been dragging your feet on any projects lately?

~ Beth

Two twenty-somethings navigating young love through their adventures in DIY, restoration and travel.

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