A colorful and bright home office and photography studio makeover and remodel. Inspo for design, details, lighting, decor, and statement wallpaper!
I’m beyond excited to finally reveal my photography studio and home office makeover to you! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know we purchased our first home this summer and have been busy giving it a “glow up”.
Read on for the Before and After…
In order to get our house “ready for sale” the sellers had recently repainted, installed new carpet and done some basic cosmetic updates. Unfortunately, for my studio, that meant brown paint and yellow walls. (Whyyyyyyy? I mean seriously whoever told this family they should update with this color scheme should be fired.) Needless to say, this wasn’t the vision I had for my office and photography workspace.
Here’s a look at the BEFORE:
The first step was ripping out the new “old” carpet. We were lucky to find someone on Craigslist to pick it up so it didn’t end up in a landfill. We’re trying to make choices that are as environmentally friendly as possible as we remodel.
Skim Coat Resurfacing to Remove Plaster Wall Texture
Next, was tackling the outdated plaster texturing of the walls. This turned out to be an unbelievably tedious process for Pat. Other than totally ripping out the drywall, the only two options were sanding it down and leveling it by skim coating it with joint compound. Pat chose to level it, which took hours just to do a single room. It took several coats and the joint compound had to be thinned to make just the right consistency.
The result was transformative, but Pat decided for the rest of the house we’ll probably just replace the drywall. It was really that bad. In Pat’s words, “part of remodeling my studio was learning what to do for the rest of the house – and what to hire out.”
Painting the Perfect White for Photography
You know I love color, but because the primary use for this room is photography, I kept the walls white. We chose paint from Sherwin Williams, from their Emerald line in Pure White. This is their premium line and known for its superior washability and smooth appearance. It also holds up over time due to being resistant to mold, fading, and peeling.
Pat also got a paint sprayer and had his first adventure with that! We actually got everything we needed for painting from Sherwin Williams, and they were really helpful with tips for using a paint sprayer and making sure we had all of the right supplies.
Pro-tip: you’ll need a full suit, respirator, and goggles if you plan to do this! Using a paint sprayer was a dream. It only took 15 minutes to do the entire room! It’s crazy messy though, which is why it was great that we hadn’t installed any flooring yet. It made it super easy to prep for painting.
The paint is absolutely beautiful. I love the matte finish, which has a reputation for being difficult to clean. Thankfully this isn’t true for the Emerald line!
I also managed to work in a little pop of color. We installed a Helen Deatry wallpaper mural on one wall. Unfortunately, it was about a foot too short for the wall, so we painted the remainder Rhapsody Lilac.
Didn’t it turn out great!?
Home Office Studio Makeover :: Electrical Work
Previously the room didn’t have any overhead lighting. The above photo also gives a good idea of what the plaster texture “before” looked like. Yuck!!!
Pat cut a hole in the center of the room and ran electric so I could install a chandelier. I fell in love with a floral globe chandelier on Wayfair and they offer free shipping!
This was huge because Anthropologie has a $150 delivery fee for furniture, on top of their items being 2-3x the price as Wayfair. My only complaint with Wayfair is they have so many items it’s a little overwhelming to look through all of them! I found that using their search filters helped me to narrow things down to a manageable number. I also found all of their reviews helpful. They often have dozens of reviews for an item and some even have user photos. This was so amazing to help me picture what it would look like in our studio!
Installing Wood Floors
The most time-consuming project, but perhaps most rewarding, was installing the wood floors. We got natural hickory flooring from Somerset at The Floor Store in San Francisco. This flooring was a big expense, but we actually found it online for about half of what The Floor Store charged and they matched the price for us. This was a savings of almost $10,000 for the entire house!
Because flooring styles change and are phased out, we bought all the flooring at the same time. The Floor Store only requires a 30% deposit and will store the floors for free for a year. This was so amazing given how much space the flooring takes up. The Floor Store has been great to work with and I highly recommend them if you’re in the Bay Area.
Pat has never installed wood floors before and this was a huge undertaking. He had to get a lot of new equipment, including a special nailer that hooked up to an air compressor, but it was still wayyyyyyy cheaper to install the flooring ourselves.
Pat constantly blows me away with his talent and craftsmanship during this remodeling process. He teaches himself how to do all these things with only YouTube videos as a guide. I’m so lucky he’s so handy because if we were paying for labor it would keep us from being able to tackle these projects so quickly after buying the house. He’s also a perfectionist, so in most cases, the work he does is better quality than what we could hire. He’s going to be seeing his work every day, so he is not cutting any corners.
Putting together the floors was like a puzzle. The pieces had to be staggered so seams didn’t line up and it was also important to space out the colors so we didn’t end up with a section of a bunch of dark pieces in a row. The natural variation in the hickory is stunning. The photos really don’t do it justice! Pat nailed in the flooring (vs a floating technique).
Photography Studi Makeover :: Installing Trim
We purchased solid wood trim at The Home Depot. Because of the nailed down technique on the flooring, we also needed a quarter round dowel to cover the gap at the end of the boards. This gap allows the wood to expand and contract based on humidity. We painted the trim with Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel. This is a working studio, so I’m expecting a lot of wear and tear. It was important to have a top-of-the-line paint that will stand up! Just like the wall paint, the trim enamel is easy to clean and has a premium finish.
The trim pieces came in 16-foot sections so fed them into the room through the window and Pat cut them in the hallway using a compound miter saw.
Statement Floral Wallpaper
Because I couldn’t have a solid statement wall due to it adding unwanted colors to my food photography, I settled on a statement….wallpaper! Pat and I installed this gorgeous Helen Deatry watercolor mural on one wall of the studio. It’s really a showstopper and turned the studio from a purely functional space to one thought out. Installing the wallpaper was no joke. It was definitely a two-person job and a little stressful until we got the technique down. It went pretty quickly after the first two strips. The wallpaper is touted as being easy to remove, despite requiring paste, but I’m a little skeptical! Hopefully, it will be years before we have to find out!
Installing Crown Moulding
At this point, I thought we were in the home stretch. Given how smoothly the baseboards were installed, I figured crown moulding would be a breeze! Famous last words, right?
We ending up nailing the first section of crown moulding up and then finding that the second section wouldn’t fit. This happened two more times. Pat watched countless YouTube videos and we almost ended up calling a general contractor to do it for us. It felt like after so many months of remodeling we had come up against the first obstacle we couldn’t do ourselves.
While we waited for the contractor to respond to my email, we decided to try one more time. This time Pat used a belt sander to carve out a small section of the moulding where the ceiling had bowed slightly with age. His hypothesis was that this was causing the moulding to flex slightly and messing up the alignment at the corners. We also mapped out small sections for each corner and nailed them up to ensure the long segment we were nailing in would stay in the right spot – almost like a guide. This was tedious but actually worked like a dream.
It’s a little hard to explain and I’m probably not making much sense, but if you are finding yourself in a similar situation, feel free to email me and I can try to be a little more clear.
With that, all the big construction projects were complete! All that was left was decorating and finding the perfect furniture.
Displaying and Organizing Photography Props
I decided Ikea Havsta cabinets would be perfect for displaying my favorite photography props – and hiding others – while still keeping them organized. They actually weren’t as terrible to assemble as the Ikea jokes would lead you to believe. The quality was also better than I thought – solid wood – no particle board. When three are put together they almost look like a built-in bookshelf.
The one thing I disliked was all the plastic fasteners involved to secure the pieces together. We ended up using a dab of wood glue for many of them just to promote a more secure fit. I’m not sure if it made any difference, but it was satisfying! I replaced the knobs with pretty floral ones I had from Anthropologie that fit the theme. They also had a sweet story behind them – we used them as place card holders for our wedding almost seven years ago!
Tip for buying knobs at Anthropologie – hold out until they have 50% off sale and you can get them for around $4-9 a knob.
GOAL: A Futon that Looks Like a Couch
On the off chance we’re hosting a big group of people, I wanted to keep the option of using my office as a spare bedroom. I was super picky but ended up finding the perfect couch at Natural Home by The Futon Shop in San Mateo. It has a colorful and modern design that you would never guess flattens out into a small bed!
The salespeople were really knowledgeable and delivery was a breeze. The couch is perfect for my office and I’m absolutely in love with the color! You’d never guess it folds out into a bed, would you!? Mission accomplished.
Furniture for our Studio Makeover
Everything else was assembled over the course of months based on sales and discount codes. I love the idea of walking into a store and getting everything in one place, but we aren’t working with an unlimited budget! Picking and choosing helped to keep costs down. The marble top coffee table is from CB2. I used a 20% off discount code but then ended up paying an arm and a leg to have it shipped. It really is perfect though.
The vintage gumball machine was a lucky find at an antique store in Healdsburg. The one catch is that it didn’t come with a key, so Pat and I had to find a way to open it! If you follow me on Instagram, you know this was a multiple night adventure including a lock pick set from Amazon, viewer suggestions and the final fix – power tools! I filled with pink shimmer gumballs that I found on Amazon.
So people can treat themselves to a gumball when they visit, I filled this amazing by robynblair CandyDish with vintage arcade tokens that I bought on Etsy. The candy dish itself is truly a work of art. It’s already turned out to be a really fun conversation piece!
Chic and Minimalistic Storage Solutions
This part is a work in progress, but the plan is to install new shelves to replace the ones we tore out of the closet. I’m going to organize my craft supplies and projects using Kuggis bins from Ikea. My goal is to keep is streamlined and minimalistic because the closet doesn’t have a door right now. Someday we’ll probably do French doors, but for now, we want to move on and focus on our kitchen remodel!
Pat had the brilliant idea to use push button light switches like they had in the Victorian era. We found beautiful brass puss button switches and covers on Antique Hardware. This was such a great way to add a really special design element to the house. They had 25% off for Black Friday so we ended up buying switches and outlet covers for the entire house. Not cheap, but I can already tell they are going to be a really special addition to the house. We have wall heating registers that are 12”x6” which meant that Antique Hardware didn’t have many options for us. We found a design we liked on Signature Hardware. At $66 each, these add up quick but again felt worth it for the visual interest they add.
I had a really hard time picking out a rug, but after buying and returning three rugs we actually settled on an off-white Berber rug we bought years ago on our honeymoon in Morocco! It’s fun to give this old rug a second life.
A Truly Functional Photography Workspace
I decided a standing desk would be the perfect thing to use as a shooting surface next to the window. It doesn’t take up much space in the room and I can adjust the height based on the project I’m working on. Pat occasionally works from home, so it’s also functional for him on those days.
After purchasing quite a few new things, we decided to look for a used standing desk as it was better for the environment – and our wallets! We got one for a great deal on Craigslist. If we had purchased one new, we probably would have gone with Fully as they are a certified B Corp. They use sustainable and recycled materials in most of their products and even have a desk chair that is made from recycled car bumpers!
Studio Makeover – Thanks for stopping by!
I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step look at the project that has consumed us for the last five months! It truly was a labor of love. Sometimes I just stand in it and stare – just to soak it all in. If you want to follow our remodel, the best place is on Instagram! Keep a look out for Instagram stories of our kitchen remodel coming soon!
SHOP THE PROJECT: