No matter how large or small our houses may be, we're always looking to get more functionality out of almost every room. Creating a room that could do double duty-a home office and a guest room-is exactly what Jennifer, our Jane in Training, needed for her condominium. All it took was a little wood, paint and creativity!
Jen works from home and was struggling with how to make her office and guest room function together. The challenge: the space couldn't sacrifice all of the work essentials (a desk, ample light and storage space) but had to be guest-ready. We also wanted to add a little pizazz! Jen has a lot of visitors from out of town and wanted to give them a place to stay that had a sense of glamour.
The bright side to Jen's quandary was that she had a virtually unused closet. While the closet's sliding mirrored doors created the illusion of a bigger room, it was giving the room a dated look overall. With a little help from the Janes, Jen removed her closet and converted it into a workspace, complete with sophisticated colors and fun furnishings. Read on to find out how they did it!
Jane Tip: Converting your closet to incorporate a built-in desk is definitely a doable task, but it is fine carpentry and requires many precise cuts. Take your time and be patient; this project is worth the possible headaches!
Start by cleaning up the closet, beginning with the doors, if applicable. Once those are off, tackle the door tracks, hinges, clothes racks and shelves. You may need to use a crowbar to pry loose some of the elements of the closet. Though demolition is fun, be careful! You don't want to do any major damage to yourself (remember to wear those gloves and protective eyewear) or the drywall.
Once you have removed the interior parts of the closet, spackle any holes and dents you made in the wall. (Even though you were careful there will still be nicks and scratches to take care of). We used the quick-drying variety that turned from pink to white when it was dry.
Now that the spackle is dry, you will need to smooth it out so that the paint can look its best. Wearing a protective mask and eyewear and armed with an orbital sander, smooth the surface. We recommend using a fine sandpaper on the sander, about 100-grit or higher.
Clean up the surrounding area. There is likely a lot of dust floating around and you don't want any of it to make its way into your paint.
Tape off any adjacent areas and protect the floor/furniture with drop cloths. Prime the walls and let them dry.
After the primer is dry, you are ready to paint! For Jen's work space, we used two coats of a charcoal-colored metallic paint to add a little sparkle. Because everyone needs a little sparkle in their work day!
Once the paint is dry, you can begin working on the actual desktop for your former closet. The first step is to get an absolutely accurate measurement of the space where the desktop will sit. A lot of closets are not built perfectly square, so we recommend that you measure the length and width at each end and that you use a protractor to measure each corner, in case it's not square. Remember that your desk needs to fit neatly against all four walls, so precision measurement and cutting is critical.
Cut the wood for the desk, including the desktop, cleats (piece of wood used to support the desk) and trim using a circular saw. Remember to use eye and face protection!
FYI: Cut the tabletop with a circular saw and the cleats and trim with a compound miter saw.
If you think you want a hole in the desktop in which to run cords or cables, bore a 1" hole using a spade bit. You can cut larger holes if you wish.
After the wood is cut, sand it with the orbital sander using fine sandpaper (at least 100 grit). Next, dust off any leftover sawdust, prime and paint!
FYI: You may want to complete these steps beforehand and then paint everything at the same time you are doing the walls.
Once everything is dry, you are ready to install the desk. Start by finding the studs with a stud finder, and then attach the cleats to the walls. We always recommend drilling pilot holes (i.e. holes a bit smaller than the screws you'll be attaching the cleats with) in the cleats themselves to keep them from splitting.
The cleats should be attached to the wall facing you, then one each on the walls left and right. Measure from the floor or use a long level to match the height of the cleats. You want to make sure the desk will sit parallel to the floor.
Once the cleats are in place, place the desk on top of them and screw the top down to the cleats to secure it.
Finish off your work by adding the trim. To save time, we used a Paslode nailer to attach the trim, but a hammer and brads (small nails) work just as well. This will cover up any gaps between the wall and the desk, and give your new work space a finished, professional look. Countersink the nails or brads and fill in the tiny holes with wood putty, if desired.
Hooray for Office Space!
To make Jennifer's workspace truly functional, we added shelving for her books and some lighting. The lighting, though functional, was also glamorous and fun! We finished the project by hanging curtains above the space. This allowed Jen to hide any evidence of an office from her frequently-visiting guests.
With a built-in office where the unused closet once was, Jen was able to use her room to work and to entertain guests. The stylish curtains allowed her to hide all traces of her office when she needed to. If you are aching for a study space but don't know where to put it, an empty closet is a can-do project that you can tackle in a weekend. In fact, the hardest part is coming up with the extra closet to convert!
Next step: building an armoire to give guests a place to hang their things.