Our Office Before + DIY Built-In Plan

It’s officially time to kick off our next big project around here…our home office! I’m extra excited about this project because right now the room is a large empty space that is just begging for some attention. In fact, I rarely work up in the office because it’s so barren, cold, and just kinda sad. Our home office before

Luckily, we have big plans for the space, including a massive DIY project…built-in bookshelves. While I’m very familiar with built-ins (you can see my living room here, my mom’s living room here, and my mom’s bedroom here), it’s a project I’ve always been too intimidated to tackle myself. That is, until now! Finn and I have spent the last few weeks researching and prepping for this project and I think we’re ready to make it happen. My hope is that even though we seem to be building up fear of this project in our heads, it won’t end up being that bad. But maybe that’s wishful thinking…

Either way, I hope our DIY built-in plan will be helpful for others who want to get the look of professional custom built-ins for less. And even if we royally screw this up, you can learn from our mistakes! It’s going to be quite an adventure and we plan to share every step (and all the pricing) along the way. But before we get to our DIY built-in plan, let’s discuss the office as a whole.

Our Office – BeforeFinn fixer upper second floor plan

First, here’s a look at the floorpan of our second level. “Guest Room #1” will be the nursery, so it’s right across the hall. The home office is actually a pretty big room, but it does have an awkward footprint and that’s why I didn’t make it the nursery.

Our office beforeAs I mentioned, this room is super bare. We did some cosmetic upgrades to the shell of the room during our renovation (new flooring, paint, trim, doors), but other than that, it’s pretty empty. Large and bare office

In fact, I can’t even take calls in here because it’s so echoey! I can’t wait to get a big rug up in here to soak up some sound. Because the windows face east, I get amazing light in here during the day. It’s a sunny and pretty spot and I’m really looking forward to spending my mornings working away in here.

Our Home Office GoalsOur home office before

I want this to be a comfy and cozy office. I don’t want it to be super efficient, cold and all about work. Instead, I plan to incorporate a couch, a cushy rug, layered lighting, and lots of fun art. I also need this to be an organized and functional space to get work done. I’m confident the DIY built-ins will add lots of secret storage that will help get all of our paperwork in order.

Home Office Must-Haves

  • Built-In Bookshelves for Storage
  • A Large Desk and Comfortable Office Chair
  • Cozy Rug
  • Loveseat and Ottoman (or coffee table)
  • Lamps and Chandelier
  • DIY Acrylic Calendar
  • Larger File Cabinet
  • Organized Closet Unit

Home Office Inspiration

Here are some home offices that are giving me big heart eyes these days. While I’m not trying to completely emulate any of these, I like elements of each space for my own home office.

life on virginia street home office

Image via Life on Virginia Street

I’ll be doing a floating desk in this room and love the look of this setup from Life on Virginia Street. It is just a simple wood desk with a lamp where I could bring my laptop. Then, I can keep all other items tucked away in the built-ins.

life on cedar lane

Photo via Life on Cedar Lane

I love the color palette in this home office, along with the area for work and the area for relaxing. I’m hopeful we can fit a loveseat or couch in our office. And if possible, I would love for it to be a pull-out so we can have another spot for guests when they visit!

studio mcgee home office

Image via Studio McGee

I’m still finalizing the exact layout of where we’ll place the desk in here, but this is a gorgeous setup with the desk floating in front of the built-ins. And how about that fun wallpaper?!

dark office space

Photo via Studio Seiders

Here is another moody home office with elements of work and play. I adore how upscale and sophisticated this room feels!

acrylic calendarPhoto via Haute Co.

Finally, I want to add a DIY acrylic calendar to the space. This one is on sale for $450 (!!!) and I’m excited to get the look for way less. It should be a fun (and hopefully easy!) DIY project for this room.

DIY Built-In Plan

Okay, onto our DIY built-in plan…Wall of built-ins

This is the wall where we’re adding the DIY built-in bookshelves. It’s a large spot measuring about 10.5 feet wide and 8 feet high so we will have plenty of space for storage. I decided that this wall would be best because we can get a good amount of depth here before we hit the window or any light switches. I considered putting the built-ins on the opposite wall, but we wouldn’t be able to make the bookshelves quite as deep. Studio McGee dark built-ins plan

Photo via Studio McGee

First, let’s discuss color. While I don’t have an exact paint shade chosen just yet, I think we’re going to go with a dark blue or navy. Anytime I talk about doing built-ins or cabinets that aren’t white, I’ve gotten some pushback. But I’ve done sooooo many white built-ins and while I love the classic look, it’s time for something new! I’m trying to be bolder in this home and another set of white built-ins wouldn’t make for the most exciting blog content! Plus, it’s just paint and if I don’t like them down the line, I can spray them a different color.

DIY built-ins plan for the home office

Photo via Thrifty Decor Chick

I’ve read lots of DIY built-in tutorials from other bloggers and have learned so much from each of them. Thrifty Decor Chick tackled the above bookcases in her home office last year and they turned out awesome (love that she wallpapered the back!). We’ll be taking elements of her tutorial for our own space, but the one big thing we’ll be changing is the base cabinet plan. Many DIY built-in plans use upper kitchen cabinets as the base since they’re not quite as deep and don’t have drawers. We want the drawers and the depth, so we’re planning to use unfinished kitchen cabinets on the bottom.

DIY Built-ins plan

Photo via Paul Tran DIY

The built-ins above will be most similar to the layout we’re going for and Paul’s tutorial is super helpful and thorough. We’ll have four base cabinets, each with one drawer at the top, and then we’ll build the shelves above. We don’t have the shelves planned out just yet, as we want to see how many cubbies we want and the height that makes sense for each. We’re planning to take the shelves to the ceiling and we’ll trim out the bottom with toe kick for that custom look!

The Timeline

We started the built-ins last weekend and got the base installed (you can check out the behind-the-scenes in my office built-in highlight!). I’ve blocked off three more weekends to get that whole project done, but I’m guessing we’ll have some overflow (and I’ll probably work in there during the week too). Once those are in, I’ll start working on the rest of the space. The remainder is mostly furniture and smaller DIY projects which should be pretty manageable.

My hope is to share an office update with you every single week and then reveal the new space in early March! But no matter what, we gotta get this room done before baby arrives, so just know you’ll see it before May. Haha.

What’s Next?

I’ll be back next time to share step one of the DIY built-in bookshelves, which includes installing the base cabinets and countertop. Then it’s onto the hardest part…the shelves! Wish us all the luck in the world!


Catch Up On the Home Office Makeover

The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.