How to build a Home Office | A Designer Workspace


Posted on November 13th, by Andrew Kelsall in Featured, Practical Design. 38 comments

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This isn’t The New Yankee Workshop, but here’s some photos I took whilst building a new home office, showing the construction in various stages─along with some humour for good measure. I’m not going to talk about what screws I used, but you’re welcome to ask any questions in the comments section after the post. Here goes…

A little Background Info

18 months ago, I was happy in my small, but quaint office upstairs at my home here near Leeds, England, UK. As can be seen in the photo below, I had a great view of the bowling green at the rear of my back yard—and all the tweeting birds and such-like. However, as my wife gave birth to our second baby, I needed to relinquish my office and turn it into a nursery.

This is how my old office looks now. At least I could use blinds in this office, but the one I constructed had no windows at all!

nursery-pink-office-0

And this was my peaceful view…although it looks better in Summer (the bowling green is the pride and joy of the Hemsworth Conservative Club): Oh, I did do some sketches for this project in my Moleskine Notebook, but they were quite rough.

hemsworth-conservative-club-bowling-green-01

Since I was booted out, I have been busy designing away in the corner of my living room. However, working downstairs with two kids and a nagging wife isn’t the best environment to be working in (don’t worry, Mrs. K never reads my posts).

So, over the past few weeks I have been building an office, as well been as busy on several design projects at once. Yeah, it’s been a challenge but now the office is finished, I thought I’d share some photos with you, outlining the steps I took to build it…and yes, it hasn’t fallen down yet.

The Build

I’m a designer, not a tradesman, however I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to build my own little office. In this image, it shows where my Mac and desk are downstairs, in the corner of the living room. It’s only a small space, but it worked well for me in the daytime at least.

Here, I have started to cut away the flooring and started on the timber framework…

home-office-mac

A few months ago, I was constructing some large-format Foamex prints for Next, Plc and wrote an article named How to make a mockup Pallet Racking, where I saw a stud drywall being constructed. I figured that it looked simple to do, so I just noted the construction method. Here, I have started on one of the walls:

home-office-desk-2

In all, there were three separate sections of the timber wall to construct. I also researched online to find out the best way of doing things:

stud-wall-frame-timber-3

After the stud wall was completed, I set about attaching large panels of plasterboard to the framework. I did the inside first, then insulated the inside before applying the outer boards. Then I nailed on the architrave onto the door frame:

plasterboard-wall-stud-4

I used special plasterboard tape and filler to smooth over the joints. After it dried, I used sandpaper to smooth it over:

drywall-plastering-tape-joints-5

Whilst I was doing all this over a period of several weeks (when I had spare time in-between projects), I worked in a bit of a mess with dust everywhere. At least I covered up my iMac—now I didn’t want this to break!

messy-desk-imac-designer-6

I sanded down the inner walls and constructed an air vent. It’s only a small working space, so I didn’t want to suffocate whilst designing!

drywall-air-vent-office-7

Here’s my daughter, Paige (yes, the one who kicked me out of my larger office). Since she’s so cute, I’ll let her off I suppose!

designer-child-office-03

At one point, I needed to apply some more joining plaster, but bought one which was too coarse. However, I fixed the rough surfaces with some Polycell Smoothover compound instead of spending hours sanding it off. This is why the walls are all nearly all white here. I used a Dyson to suck up much of the plaster dust, but I clogged it much to my wife’s despair:

drywall-plasterboard-sanding-8

I painted the plaster with UVA Bond to seal it, then after it dried, painted the new office and entire living room for consistency:

painting-plasterboard-uva-bond-9

The office is larger than it appears, as it is neatly tucked away under the stairs and looks more like a closet. I’m out of the way in the corner and I have a living room which is more visually appealing. No cluttered desk on show—and my wife doesn’t need to look at me, hehe.

painted-office-walls-10

One final step was to gloss the woodwork, so it matched the rest of the house:

gloss-office-door-11

On the interior of the office, I stuck on Acoustic Foam triangle/pyramid tiles to help with the acoustics of the office. Previously, when I needed to take a phone call when my family were in, I would have my Skype number divert to my mobile (so I could talk elsewhere, etc).

Now that I have a new office, it was very “echoey” and hollow-sounding, so I installed these tiles to dampen the sound. This way I can easily just sit down and talk from of my screen via the in-built microphone. As can be seen, I also installed shelves:

acoustic-foam-soundproofing-12

To cut the tiles into the correct shapes, I just used a saw (yes, that is Kermit the Frog in the background):

cutting-acoustic-foam-triangles-13

As my desk is under the stairs, there is an area where I have my scanner and printer. It’s great that they’re out of the way and not in my direct workspace. Again, I have used acoustic tiles to dampen the echoes—and it helps in soundproofing when I have music playing while I work.

acoustic-foam-pyramids-15

By-the-way, to attach the foam to the plasterboard drywall, I used 3M Scotch-Weld number 74 Foam Adhesive for a very strong bond:

3M-scotch-weld-74-foam-adhesive

As the office is ‘smallish’, it’s very cluttered, but tidy at the same time. I’m not one for wanting a lot of color around my Mac screen (read my article on this for more details), but if I am doing colour-critical work, I can simply turn out the lights.

Oh yeah, here’s my son. He’s only 4 but can use Photoshop with a graphics tablet already! A designer in the making?

chase the office designer

Now the construction of my new office is complete, all that’s required a very mature, 30+ year old graphic designer, complete with a retro He-man and Skeletor! If you look on the shelf in the background, you’ll also see Smeagol from LOTR too!

mature-graphic-designer-skeletor-17

To Conclude

It just goes to show that with a little know-how and determination, anyone can build their own office (oh yeah, and a little money I suppose!). The total material cost for this project was about £300 (thats roughly $490 USD), but if I hired someone to build it for me, it may have cost a thousand pounds (although it would’ve been built faster).

Do you have a home office? If not, would you consider building one if you had the space?

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38 Responses to “How to build a Home Office | A Designer Workspace”

  1. Phillip says:

    Man!! Awesome job, that is fantastic. I understand the pain of working from home with the wife and kids. Now I wish I had a space like that in my place!
    .-= Phillip´s last blog ..Web Designer Downtime =-.

  2. Wow, that is quite the undertaking to construct your own little corner in the living room Andrew!

    Looks like you pulled it off really well, nice job!

    I just moved offices and I now have two big windows and a third story view over a lake and palm trees everywhere! hahaha, sorry!

    With the sound proofing, how’s the noise if your wife is in watching tv in the living room?

  3. Hey Andrew, nice work on your office space and thanks for the link to my office post.

  4. Great post, Andrew, and I second what Brian said, nice job!

    I don’t think I’ll be be in my Bangor home office for too much longer. Planning a January move back to Edinburgh—tough to beat that place.
    .-= David Airey´s last blog ..Ask Tom Geismar =-.

  5. @Brian → Do you fancy a swop? You design over here for 6 months, and I’ll go work in your shiny new office. Wife not included, hehe

    I can still hear the TV, but it’s muffled somewhat. I think that 90% of the noise comes through the door edges, so I’m going to try something to make the edges close when the door is shut, such as draft foam tape, etc.

    @James → No worries

    …and thanks both of you for your input :)

  6. @Phillip → Thanks. My next project is to block pave my driveway…sigh

    @David I think you left your comment just as I was leaving my response to Brian. I’ve never been to Edinburgh, but it sure looks like a great place. No wonder you want to return. I hope you can fit the move in with your busy schedule with no probs :)

    Again, thanks for your kind comments…

  7. I’m somewhat having a similar problem to the one you had, except you replace the loud kids with a loud PC blocking my desk. I’m a pretty young nerd so I still live at home, meaning limited space to put the computer at!

    I’m currently “working” from my bed with my laptop, emphasis on “working”. :)

  8. @Viktor → I often “work” from my MacBook in bed too. Normally it’s networking on Twitter or trying to bid on something on eBay, hehe

  9. Rachel says:

    So you’ve lost your window view, are the benefits of peace and quiet to concentrate better than the loss of the view?

    I don’t think I could work without a window to look out or in such a small space. Good job you’re not claustrophobic.

    I’m slowly taking over my office at work, but then out of the six people, I’m usually the only one in there.

  10. “Thanks. My next project is to block pave my driveway…sigh”

    I’ve got to pave my back yard asap. The grass seems to grow about a foot a month in Melbourne. I never want to mow i again.
    .-= Andrew Keir´s last blog ..50 rebrands of 2009 =-.

  11. Rob Cubbon says:

    I can only sympathise (and kudos for the DIY). I’ve been working in my “home office” (corner of spare room shared with wife’s dressing table and shoes) for over a year now. Hurrah, it’s been over a year since I got the tube (London Underground) to work! And we are hopefully moving soon to a larger place where I will get a 12 foot square box room overlooking north London suburban sprawl all to myself. Luxury!
    .-= Rob Cubbon´s last blog ..How to make an on-screen PDF =-.

  12. @Rachel → I’d love a window view eventually, but this will have to do for now. I don’t think my concentration will improve though, as no matter where I work, there’s always Twitter, Facebook and 45 RSS Feeds to distract me!

    @Andrew → Fortunately, mine has nearly stopped growing as winter approaches. I blocked paved my patio and built a brick wall last year, so I can do the paving, but doing it is very time consuming. Good luck with yours…

    @Rob → Hope the move works out well for you. I’ve only ever been on the Tube a handful of times, and never saw anyone looking happy except for tourists!

  13. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by jeremy, Andrew Kelsall and Andrew Kelsall, Fig Media. Fig Media said: RT @AndrewKelsall: How to build a Home Office | Graphic Designer Workspace http://awe.sm/13DR6 [...]

  14. v-render says:

    hi
    nice article from start to end. you took lot of efforts mate. I also have home office. I am just curious about space in your office .. how many people it can accommodate or its just your personal workstation ? don’t get it wrong. I just want to know if there is space for client to discuss with you. :)

    thanks for sharing .. u inspired me !
    .-= v-render´s last blog ..Choco tea.. =-.

  15. I don’t have client meetings in my home, so I have no need for a large office to accommodate a client. If I needed a meeting with a client, I would meet them somewhere. However, most of the time I do business online, with clients all over the country, and even the USA at the moment.

    Thanks for your comment.

  16. Chad Engle says:

    Looks great man! Too bad you had to give up the big office but hey, if you get in the zone in your new one you’ll never notice the space difference. I really like the idea of putting the sound isolating foam in there. Its a really smart idea especially if you ever wanted to record some video or have really crisp, clear conference calls like you stated. I applaud your ingenuity and ability to make an office out of a nook. Cheers!

  17. @Chad → I bought the Foam from eBay for about £60, but it is the top studio-quality stuff so I didn’t mind the expense of it, and I must say it’s impressive stuff. Before I put the foam onto the wall, I did a test-call via Skype with Mrs. K, and she said it sounded like I was talking in a shoe-box!

    However, now the foam is on, there’s no echo and my voice sounds more natural, with no sound reverberation from under the staircase. It will also make any voice-over I do in iMovie sound better, too.

    Thanks for your kind words Chad, and thanks for stopping by :)

  18. Thanks, Andrew. The move back to Edinburgh should go smoothly enough. My book will be finished and there’s just one client I’ve taken on between now and then—a company in Canada who I’m chatting with this afternoon for the first time. The aim is to finish that identity project before Christmas.

    So the only worry is finding a decent Edinburgh flat for our budget. Fingers crossed, though. Prices seem better than they were when I was last living there.
    .-= David Airey´s last blog ..A book by its cover =-.

  19. @David → That’s funny, I’ve also just taken on a client from America, with a logo design project to be finished before Christmas too!

    I’m looking forward to reading your book :)

  20. Hi Andrew !

    Nice work ! :)
    You should submit your workspace on my website : http://www.WorkstationSetups.com !

    I already posted designers’ workspaces like the ones from Wolfgang Bartelme, Chris Spooners and more !
    .-= Richard Cloutier´s last blog ..Jan Cavan’s Office Setup =-.

  21. @Richard → Thanks, I’ll submit a photo when time permits :)

  22. Nice job, Andrew! Kudos for being able to work from home with little ones! I had a hard time with working from home when the kids were small.

    My current home office has morphed 3x. Originally, a small den, we installed shelves and desktop with computer tray in closet for my husband’s office/guest room. Since it’s on the ground floor, I decorated it with paint texture/wallpaper/chair rail. (Went smoothly, except for the ‘little’ studfinder/water heater mishap when installing chair rail :o)

    Next up, room was co-opted by daughter #1 who no longer wanted to share a room w/sister. This resulted in constant struggle to keep the room ‘presentable’ enough for main floor. Note: teenagers rooms’ and ‘public view’ do NOT go together! ;-)

    When our basement addition (another DYI story!) bedroom was no longer needed for my elderly father, D#1 campaigned to move downstairs. Hmmmm…teenage daughter in own ‘apartment’ with separate access…? (Not an easy choice!) However, she won and musical rooms ensued…

    Now it’s my office. Moved in ‘real’ furniture adapted for files with baskets. Squeezed in drafting table. Set up iMac in original converted closet/desk. Husband widened slide-out tray to hold Wacom tablet and keyboard–sweet! I’ve lost my garden view, but reduced eye strain b/c window is now on opposite side of room, away from computer.

    Now, all I need is an exhaust fan under the desk. (My two dogs hang in the office with me all day.) And, well…the older one farts. A lot! :o

    Good luck on your future DIY projects–custom is addictive! ‘Shop’ at the top stores…’purchase’ direct online…and save $$$.

  23. @Catherine → It sounds like you’ve been through quite a journey so you can get some work done!

    I have a dog too, but I don’t even think he can fit in this space I have, hehe. I think as long as you have a Mac, half the problem is already sorted :)

    Thanks for your thoughts…

  24. LOL! You know, dogs like really small spaces! Might want to think about an exhaust fan!

  25. I wouldn’t give him to chance. He’s a Springer Spaniel, so his home is mainly in the kitchen area, with a child safety gate to stop him from venturing into the rest of the house, lol.

    There’s a photo of him in my “about me page” if you’re interested…

  26. Love spaniels! Got a Brittany and a ‘rescued’ rat terrier. Louis, (the Brittany–he’s French, you know!) will put himself into the smallest space available to be near Mommy! Percy (a.k.a. ‘the Diva’) just wants to be warm b/c he has no real fur!

    I suspect your dog likes being around Mom & kids, too…isn’t there always food to be gotten from floor/fingers with small children? ;-)

  27. Kiren says:

    Man, I thought my work space was small. Great job by the way, i just got a whole room to myself along with an ocean view, look forward to fixing it up:)
    .-= Kiren´s last blog ..The Big Move!! =-.

  28. kyle steed says:

    Great work Andrew. That’s a heck of an undertaking and I admire you for going for it. When at home, I work out of a corner in our living room as well, but haven’t done much with the space. I have a couple of ideas of what I would like to do, but the funds just aren’t there right now to make them happen. Plus, I need to think about resell value and what will yield the most return once we decide to sell our place in a few years.

    I think the “under the stairs” workspace is genius. Although it feels a little too cramped for my liking (seeing as I’m 6’4″) I like the idea of it being you’re own little space to focus and design your heart out. The sound proofing panels you installed are a great idea as well.

    Thanks for sharing. Take care.
    .-= kyle steed´s last blog ..Running Update =-.

  29. @Kyle → Yeah, I would prefer my old office—or moreso, the one before that. Previously in my other house, I had a massive attik conversion as my office, which had a sofa and even a pool table.

    This will have to do for now though. As long as I have a Mac to work with, the designs will be done ;)

    I had no idea you were so tall. I’ve seen some of your videos, but you’re always sat down, lol.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kyle…

  30. @Kiren → Maybe I’ll have an ocean view too. I’ve always wanted to migrate to some where nice and sunny…one day.

  31. Uzma says:

    Great use of space. I am currently working out of my bedroom, which is also a thoroughfare for my kids. I paint too so there are corners in the house where my canvas/supplies are stacked. I think I’m the messmaker of our house. Am inspired by your innovative little office!

  32. Mark says:

    Great job on the new office! I’m currently working out of the spare bedroom too, but with a little ‘un on the way,I’ve got to try and figure out where I’m going to move to in the next few months!

  33. Ricky says:

    You’re a brave man, taking on such a project, but it turned out great! I always love reading your blog, btw!

  34. mathieu says:

    lol I liked the article. seems small indeed, no 40″ screen for you. although nice work.
    .-= mathieu´s last blog ..Voetbal Morgen =-.

  35. Gemma says:

    Interesting article.

    I wish I had an office. Currently I live in a tiny one bedroomed bungalow where there is hardly any space to build an office. So right now I’ve made do with an old bookcase shelf on my lap as a base to use my old laptop and my bluetooth mouse. Very awkward but that’s my current solution. I’m in the early stages of setting up as a freelancer so one of my goals is to earn enough money to rent a three bedroomed house. Obviously I will sleep in one bedroom, use a spare bedroom as an office and the third bedroom will be a spare room for visitors (which obviously will eventually get converted into a nursery for my first child whenever I get around to creating one!). I can’t stand cramped spaces, I need lots of space, so no cubbyholes for me! lol

  36. @Uzma → Glad the office inspires you

    @Mark → Oh yes, the little ones are always pushing us out of our offices. Good job they’re cute ;)

    @Ricky → Thanks, glad you like the blog

    @mathieu → Haha, yeah, the 27″ will have to do!

    @Gemma → I’m the opposite, small spaces don’t bother me, which is a good thing given the size of my office…

  37. [...] the kids try and jump all over it. 4. Oh yeah, I want to see my kids more, without been sat in the worlds smallest office!After writing so far (using the official WordPress App) I must say its been quite easy to say the [...]

  38. [...] here in Hemsworth, Yorkshire UK. A double-portion of Siberian snow. Its nice and warm designing in my office, though Support AndrewKelsall.com & Subscribe or Share if you liked this post :) [...]

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