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As the owner of Ontario-based retail craft shows and gift shop Cheerfully Made, Emily Arbour has a whimsical, vibrant aesthetic. But her home office in no way reflected that sense of style. In short, she described the room on her blog as simply “so, so boring.”
And the space wasn’t just underwhelming aesthetically, but functionally too. Given its visibility from the home’s front foyer, and the fact that it also serves as a thoroughfare for houseguests heading to the dining room, any clutter in the office was much too visible for Arbour’s taste.
She knew it was time to make a transformation. Arbour said her goal and vision for the office was that it would have to look good, and also serve as a place where she could effectively organize paperwork. And she wanted it to do both of those things while inspiring creativity. Here’s how she made it happen.
Purging the clutter
The project began after Arbour won an Instagram contest for a three-hour consultation with Ashley Iszak of the organizing and home styling business Pare + Edit. Arbour characterized Iszak as having “a real knack for convincing you to get rid of stuff you don’t need.” To that end, the pair ruthlessly purged the room of random stuff that had no remaining value.
Form and function
“After a good purge we talked about my style and some key pieces I felt it important to keep,” Arbour wrote on her blog. Those pieces included an inherited chair she’d spent a fortune reupholstering, and some artwork.
Iszak offered suggestions about what Arbour should look for — for instance, a desk and chair with more function. The pair also began to build a Pinterest board with their ideas.
Next, they painted the wood-toned built-in shelving, and the fresh white coat gave it new life.
Although Arbour describes herself as “a sucker for wallpaper,” she determined it would be overkill in the room — given the bright yellow floral walls in the adjoining dining room can be seen from the office.
Opting for a bit more subtlety — and inspired by some dalmatian-print wallpaper she’d seen — she decided to hand paint the back of the shelving unit. Using a pencil and some black acrylic paint, she spent two full days adding spots to the freshly painted bookshelves.
“Although I don’t think I’ll ever want to undertake such a tedious task again any time soon, I have to say the final result was worth it,” she wrote.
And her words of wisdom to other would-be DIYers? “If you try this yourself, my best piece of advice would be to avoid overthinking it,” she wrote. “My spots aren’t perfectly round or evenly spaced, and that’s okay. Better even. I think you could really cause yourself some serious trauma if you were to plan something like this out too much.”
Next, Arbour and Iszak worked together to style the shelves, paring down the items on them to leave only books and other objects Arbour really treasures.
“At this point almost everything in here means something to me — or, at the very least, makes me smile,” she said.
Finishing touches Arbour ended up buying a new desk, as well as a comfortable desk chair from IKEA. And still a little wary about the mostly white space, she injected personality throughout the room with touches like a blue sheepskin rug, and an abstract art piece she created with a friend.
In the end, Arbour laid out a teeny budget and gave the room a seriously impactful overhaul. “I am so in love with this room,” she said. “It’s comfortable and functional and still has loads of ‘Emily’ in it… I’m downright jovial about the whole thing!”
This article was originally published April 12, 2016.