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Cheap Chic: Home Office Makeover

After being itinerant for most of my adult life, I recently bought my first house. Now, as part of the landed gentry, I wear a pocket watch on a gold chain and say things befitting my station, like “hitherto” and “befitting my station.” I also have a mortgage, which means I have no money to decorate said house. Which is a problem, since I moved here without so much as a roll of paper towels. (I meant it about being itinerant—I’ve basically been living out of suitcases for the past few years.)

I love home décor and am so excited to finally have a place of my own to play with, but I’m also going to be taking the furnishing/decorating process slowly and finding every deal I can along the way. In that spirit, I thought you might like to see what I’ve done with the first room in the house, and how I’ve cut costs.

Behold the home office before (as furnished by the previous owners):

And after:

The paint is Deep Breath by Behr, purchased from Home Depot. Home Depot has great sales on paint, so I waited until they were offering a rebate. I was a little nervous about going with such a dark color since it was difficult to tell from my test swatch how it would turn out, but I’m thrilled with the result.

It’s a decadent, deep marine blue, which changes throughout the day and reflects light naturally. I liked the pale blue the previous owners had on the ceiling, so I didn’t have to do a thing there. The moldings were already painted white, but I touched them and the folding door up a bit with leftover paint.

Since I work from home, and also have no social life, my desk is where I spend all my time.

With this desk and chair (purchased off Wayfair, on sale and with a coupon), and the addition of a roll-out keyboard tray from Amazon, I finally have a comfortable amount of space for me and my dog, and an ergonomic setup that doesn’t turn me into Quasimodo as I type. Bonus: the desk drawers double as file cabinets, so I didn’t have to buy anything extra to keep paperwork in. I added a rug underfoot (purchased from Overstock, again, on sale and with a coupon), which ties the colors of the room together gorgeously and gives my pug a place to camp when he’s not in my lap.

I would have preferred Persian silk.

I wanted an extra seat in the room for a break from the desk, and this pink and gold lady is so fabulous that I almost feel rude sitting on her.

I got her for a great price off the Facebook Marketplace. I rounded out the reading nook with a side table purchased off Craigslist, which had seen better days, but came together nicely with some wood glue and some paint (also purchased with a rebate).

On top I keep two of my favorite (okay, and only) antiques. The book, which I got at a book fair in New York, dates to 1908 and has gorgeous full-color illustrations inside, along with an introduction instructing boys to be nice and help their dim sisters understand Shakespeare. The playing cards I got for a swindle at a flea market. They were released in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, and all the face cards are lovely paintings of historic British royals.

The mirror over the chair is from Craigslist, and the picture (like most of the art in the room) was bought on clearance at I knew that I wanted something else in this corner, so to highlight the height of the room’s ceiling, I decided to Put A Bird On It. I got these little decorative birds and a basic wire cage at the craft store, painted the cage gold, and hung it with some ribbon I already had.

As you can see by the pictures over my desk, I got rather carried away with the Putting A Bird On It.

And here I’d like to share with you something valuable I learned during this whole process. Are you listening? Okay.


The frames cost way more than the prints. Since I couldn’t get a picture sent to me pre-framed without driving a Brinks truck to’s headquarters, I sourced my frames from thrift stores instead.

This required a lot of roaming around thrift stores with a tape measure, looking for frames in the right size and color, but the prices were so much cheaper (often just $1 per frame) that it was worth it. Oh, and most of those frames are not meant to be opened and reused by non-professional-framer civilians. But as long as you’re willing to do some hammering and prying and gluing, you can find a way. They look nice from the front, and outer beauty is what counts, right?

Meet my light fixture, Siobhan.

We are in love and we are registered at Macy’s. This chandelier was definitely the splurge piece in the room. I saw it on Anthropologie’s website and pined over it like a war widow for six months before finally giving in (though with a coupon and a cash back deal, of course). But it’s gorgeous and so unique, and I could never have DIYed an adequate substitute on my own. Cutting costs on the rest of the room allowed me to splurge here on a piece that I really wanted.

For storage, I bought this chest of drawers off Craigslist along with the side table. It was in sorry shape when I got it, dirty and broken down—with an actual bird’s nest inside. Even my desire to Put A Bird On It has its limits. But I cleaned, painted, and refinished it, and it’s now a great place to store my printer and office supplies.

I finished off the room with some knick-knacks. The peach-scented Bath & Body Works candle was a gift, but otherwise, everything came from thrift and antique stores and cost between 50 cents and $6. Same for the antique jadeite plates on the wall, to which I attached candles to make sconces.

A nighttime view

I’m thrilled to finally have my own workspace, and in the fleeting moments when I lift my bleary eyes from bathing in the computer’s rays, it’s nice for them to have pretty things to look at. Let me know if you’re interested in seeing more home/DIY blogs as I keep working on the house!

A list of art prints in the room, for those curious:

The French Window at Nice, Late 1919: Henri Matisse

Roseate Spoonbill: John James Audubon

Walk in the Park: Laila Shawa

Roseate Parakeet: Edward Lear

Lavacourt Sunset: Claude Monet

The Somnambulist: John Armstrong

4 Responses to “Cheap Chic: Home Office Makeover”

  1. Sue Hodges says:

    You did an outstanding job on your office! I would love to see what you do to the rest of your house. Bravo! 👏🏼

  2. Sarah, i loved this! The fact that you’re able to put together such a delightful working environment while faithfully pinching pennies is impressive indeed. In a few days, i’ll be reading the book that you generated (i guess) in this or some similar locale.


  3. Rowland says:

    Great photos and description Sarah! Really looks beautiful and I love your choices. Definitely would like to read about your further adventures in decorating 🙂

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