Week One | October 3 | The Workroom Before

I am taking on the room where I spend more time than any other: my Workroom. Part library, part sewing room, part home office, and part art studio, my Workroom has to do it all. I’ll let you in on the inspiration board as well as plans for this multipurpose room where organization and storage are critical.

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Hello, again! And welcome to the Fall 2019 One Room Challenge! This is my second ORC, and I am ready for another design adventure. And I am so excited about the people I will meet and the incredible designs that will emerge from the Featured and Guest Participants.

So who are these participants? We come from all over the world and every walk of life. Some are design professionals. Some are influencers. And then there are all of the others — people who need to get a room of their home DONE. We all commit to making it happen in six weeks, and we cheer each other on. Honestly, that’s the best part! When do you get a cheering section for a home improvement project? Well, for the One Room Challenge, that’s exactly what you get, and it is fabulous!

I have taken on My Workroom for this One Room Challenge. I spend most of my days in my Workroom writing and editing. But this is more than just a home office. It is also my sewing room, my art studio, a craft room, and a home library. And each of those functions needs a different type of space, so I have done some serious space planning for this room.

We love working on our home — and it needs a lot of work. But this room is a relatively easy project. No electrical work. No walls to move. No plumbing. The Workroom Makeover is all about design, storage, and organization to create a functional creative space. And my husband, an architect with mad power-tool skills, is here to help along the way.

We aren’t new to renovation, however. We have completely redone two other homes: a 1980s Cabin in the City and our 1948 Subdivision Sweetheart. And last spring we did a Guest Room Refresh for the One Room Challenge. But this is the latest project in our current home: our Colorado Atomic Ranch.

The Before Pictures

Our current home was built in 1958. It is a split-level home in a whole neighborhood of Mid Century Modern houses. However, the last sixty years have not been kind to this house, and it needs a lot of love. But that’s what we do! We have always purchased the worst house in the best neighborhood — and then worked our magic a bit at a time.

Located on the lower level of our home, the Workroom is in 1950s-speak at “garden level.” That means the windows are at ground level — and all of the outlets are in the middle of the wall because everything below the window is cement block.

Dimensions: 11’ x 14” | 154 sq. feet

The Workroom before we moved in: basic and boring.

The Workroom before we moved in: basic and boring.

The Workroom taken from the corner between the two windows.

The Workroom taken from the corner between the two windows.

The room is a mushroom grey with white trim. In fact, all of the rooms in our house are the same color. It is almost identical to the guest room which we transformed for the last One Room Challenge. But it does not have the built in shelves and the closet is in a slightly different location in the room. The Workroom windows are also somewhat larger — which is why I chose it for my own personal haven.

However, that’s what it looked like before we moved in. Here’s what it looked like a few weeks ago…


This is the hardest part for me… showing other people what a disaster this room has become. *deep breath*

We moved into this house two years ago, and we basically stacked a bunch of boxes in this room and shut the door until Bambino started school. Then I hurriedly unpacked, threw things on shelves, and just let them sit there. This room looks almost exactly as it did two days after I’d opened all of the boxes. I kept saying, “I will clean it up soon!” So here we are at soon — two years later!


Can you KonMari an Art Studio/Sewing Room?

Yes. Yes, you can. And I am going to do just that. I am only going to tackle this room, however. To truly KonMari a home, you take on the entire house, but we did that four years ago. Now it is time to treat my Workroom as a self-contained home. I’m going to do the whole KonMari process as if this was my studio apartment. It’s a lot of paper — and a lot of komono. But it will feel so good to get it all done!


The Furniture

This room has been furnished largely in Elfa, an organizing system from The Container Store. That is thanks to my grandmother. She had all of this Elfa in her sewing room and decided it didn’t work for her, so a few years (and two states ago), it became mine. I have added a bit to what she gave me over the years, but it is very functional and totally adaptable. This is the third home where I have set up my Elfa office, and because it is modular, I’ve been able to adapt to three very different spaces quite easily.

However, all of that visual clutter has to go. It is too distracting when I am trying to work! So, I am considering very carefully what should be out and what should be hidden away (in a neat and tidy way, for sure).

The green rocking chair doesn’t belong in this room. It is too large. But it sentimental. It was the chair where I nursed Bambino, and I have so many sweet memories in that chair. Plus, it is comfortable. But it is too large. And it just doesn’t work in here. So a new chair is on the shopping list, too.


Closet Organization

This room has a decent closet which is amazing, but it also contains the crawlspace access, so that impacts how the closet can be used and organized. We had to take off the closet doors, because getting in and out of the crawl space with the sliding closet doors was very difficult. I’m considering the closet as part of the room, and I’m taking on that beast as well!

Next to the closet is this strange, dark alcove with a bizarre counter. That counter makes me crazy! It is at an odd height — not really a working height for anyone. And it is covered with the world’s ugliest TILE. Seriously. With a bizarre lip of wood trim… it is just odd all the way around. It will be gone.



The alcove has a strange little spotlight that does nothing but heat up the room. So the alcove spotlight and the boob light in the middle of the ceiling must go. Fortunately, I’m married to an architect who is helping me design good, functional lighting for this space. I’d love fancy crystal chandeliers or something fun, but since we can’t put in can lights, we are going to have to go with function — and a little fun, too.


Installing & Styling the Billy Bookcases

I like big books, and I can not lie. And I read books. A lot. In fact, this is only half of my books. The rest are in the family room. And in a few boxes. And this is where Marie Kondo and I have a big disagreement: 30 books is NOT enough. However, I see her point, and I have stopped hoarding books that I know I’ll never read again. But surrounding myself with books sparks joy! So there will be books on shelves that look much nicer and more intentional than this disaster.

Then there are the storage boxes. Going through those boxes will be a fun challenge. They are all full of all kinds of notes, letters, photographs… each box holds a distinct project, but it is time to let go of some of those projects. I know. Tidying. Tidying. Tidying.

The Billy bookcases from Ikea are still in good shape despite being moved at least 3 times. So we will keep them, but we are going to properly install them.

And in another house which seems like a lifetime ago, they were beautifully styled. So that’s on the agenda, too. I don’t do books turned backwards or wrapped in paper… that is using books as an accessory. My books are tools. But they can still be beautiful. They just need some organization and love — and a few carefully chosen mementos from my travels.


Organization & Storage

One of my goals is to have all like items together, and to have them stored in simple, attractive containers, so they are easy to find, use, and put away. Because this room has so many functions, I also have to space plan for those functions and create zones for each activity along with storage so that the supplies are at hand and easy to find.

I don’t have an unlimited budget for storage containers — and I want to be as ecologically-conscious as possible, too. So I am focused on using what we have on hand first before I go out to buy new storage bins. We will see how that goes!

Currently one of the challenges in this room is that the only color comes in the form of clutter. The walls are grey. The desk is white. It is monochrome and blah. And then the clutter makes the entire room feel chaotic. So, adding color strategically is also a critical element of this design.

The Inspiration Board

I have been thinking about how I want the Workroom to feel for more than two years. When we moved in, my books and materials and supplies and stuff just landed in this room with very little thought or effort. I’ve done a little organizing here and there, but honestly I have been so busy this room has been an afterthought — a someday project. But as I was preparing for the One Room Challenge this summer, I suddenly had to make real decisions.

I came to two pieces as my jumping off points: a Dior gown and a handpainted milagro from Mexico. I saw the Dior gown last winter when Dior: from Paris to the World came to the Denver Art Museum. The entire exhibit was a phenomenal display of couture craft and exquisite detail — and the kind of sewing skills to which I can only aspire. But this gown of hand-painted silk satin — created in 2004 by John Galliano — took my breath away. It is exquisite, but Rococo-revival isn’t really my style, and our Mid Century house is far from the ateliers of Paris.

And then I found my Milagro (purchased from Curiosa). Handpainted. Birds. Similar colors. But simpler — a little more rustic but no less refined. I can’t have the Dior gown in my Workroom, but my Milagro from Mexico will certainly find a place.

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The Dior gown and the milagro also marry two other important elements for this room: travel and nature. I have written several books including travel books. Travel is an important part of my professional and personal life, and my Workroom contains my extensive library as well as items from around the world that I hold dear.

But I also have to be realistic: when I am not traveling, I spend a lot of time in the Workroom. Alone. Often in the winter. So bringing the natural world inside is also important. So there will be plants. Lots of them. I have good natural light. I just need some plants to talk to!

That’s a lot of ideas: Dior, milagro, travel and books, plants — and there will, of course, be a Mid Century Modern influence, too. But I promise it will all come together in a way that makes sense!

So here’s the inspiration board…

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I will share more about those colors in the coming weeks, but they are all Kelly-Moore paint colors. I have yummy things planned with those colors! Thanks to Kelly-Moore for being my paint sponsor on this project!

And here’s a rough space plan that I have been playing with in my Passion Planner. There have already been changes, and I’m sure there will be more along the way, but that’s where I started as I was planning.

With a multipurpose room like this, planning for the actual activities of the space must come first. The room has to function well or it will fail no matter how pretty it is!


So over the next five weeks I’ll be working my tail off to create a room that is functional, beautiful, and serene — a perfect creative space.

Here’s my schedule for the coming weeks:

Week 2 | Oct 10 | Paint & Wallpaper
Week 3 | Oct 17 | Furniture
Week 4 | Oct 24 | Lighting & Windows
Week 5 | Oct 31 | Storage & Organization
Week 6 | Nov 7 | Before & After

I’ll be sharing the how-to for all of our projects along the way as well as my favorite shopping sources for all things vintage and new.

You can follow along on Instagram or like Mid Modern Mama on Facebook for tips, tricks, and sneak peeks along the way, too.

Ok. Gotta get back to work!

Don’t miss a single update!

Sign up and each installment of the One Room Challenge will come directly to your email on Thursdays! And be sure to stop by the One Room Challenge Blog to check out the other creative renovations happening across the country. You can also follow #oneroomchallenge and #bhgorc on Instagram for more inspiration! Be sure to follow me as well!


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