Monday, October 29

$35 Home Office Refresh {Fall Budget-Reno Challenge}

Guys, this was fun.

I mean, I always like DIY and design projects, but there's a whole different kind of thrill when you pull off a big-impact change with a small-budget price tag. Lately I've been struck with the realization that as much as I love HGTV, I can't help but feel that they've taken a far step from attainable DIY into a new realm of "low budget" that's... way outside my budget. What's the point of looking at these beautiful spaces if they make us want what we can't have and buy what we can't afford? I so badly want to bring us back to a place where we look into our own homes and our own resources and carefully create homes that our just what we need them to be in every way. But that's a rant for another day. It's also the main reason I was so excited for this budget challenge!

If you joined us in the challenge we'd love to see (or at least hear about) what you did! You can leave links in the comments, tag us on instagram ( or facebook (@morelikehome), or tag your posts #morelikehomeblog and we'll check out your work! 

The rules were super simple (full details are in this post):
- refresh or reno a space in your home before you're cooped up looking at it all winter
- set a budget (whatever works for you!) and stick to it
- make thrifty magic happen (we'd love to see some $0 spaces!)
- share it with the group! If you want to. No pressure, guys. 

Ready to see what we did with our $50 budget? Brace yourselves - here's a quick flashback to the sad place we started:

And here's the same view today:

Hard to believe it's the same space, huh? 

I'll admit, just de-cluttering (and putting things away for goodness sake) makes a big difference, but it's amazing how much more motivated I am to keep it looking nice now that it, you know, looks nice. And guys, it was so cheap to turn into a space that we love.

This was the firsts space that popped into my head when I started thinking about the fall challenge. It's the smallest room in our house and we've barely touched it since moving in, but we use it all. the. time. This is one end of our library/office, and the other end is already beautiful and cozy with a huge bookcase and floor pillows. We spend a ton of time in this little room reading and doing school and feeling cozy on cold days. And I knew one thing for certain - it's that I was tired of looking at that mess that wasn't working for us.

So I had three goals to bring this space up to speed:
  1. larger workspace
  2. shelving
  3. organize/declutter
And I managed to pull off all three (and stay under budget!). 

So I started thinking about what we needed in a larger workspace and what I could do with a small budget. I knew still needed plenty of drawer space for all our office/school supplies and I couldn't afford building a new dresser from scratch. My first thought was to make a new wooden top and run it across our existing desk all the way to the wall. It would have been affordable (under $30) but style-wise it made me cringe a little. I figured if I painted the base white and did a stained top it would be okay and buy some time for a better (and $$) update. But before I sealed that fate... I took to the interwebs. I searched craigslist and local facebook pages for anything that would work. And there it was.

An old, solid wood desk that fit perfectly into my style dreams with clean lines and no frills. And it had huge drawers. It was listed for $30, but since it had been sitting a few days with no comments I offered $20 and promised to pick up that evening. And they said yes! Usually cheap, solid furniture doesn't last that long without selling, and I'm chalking up my good luck to the one feature that might have been less-than-appealing to the other hunters - the faux wood laminate top. I thought "NBD, I'll just take it off!" Nah, turns out it's there because at some point someone cut a huge hole in the original top.

So I just refinished the base and called  it a day. I wouldn't put it past myself to get a wild hair and replace it with a real wood top some day, but it is not this day

Since this was a budget challenge, I refinished the base the cheapest way I could find. Also the most experimental way I could find. So this should be interesting. I sanded off the old finish, then stained the desk with a homemade stain (made by soaking steel wool in vinegar) and sealed it with a homemade wood polish (olive oil + beeswax). I also spray painted the drawer pulls matte black with leftover paint from our dining chairs.

I'll make a separate post with all the finishing info, but I love that it used natural ingredients and I was able to refinish the desk for $0 because I already had all the ingredients! The only downfall is that the outcome seems pretty unpredictable and it turned out a bit more yellow-toned than I was shooting for (but it's stiles miles ahead of the vintage orangey finish it started with). But my non-perfectionist tendencies won out and I think I'm going to love it just the way it is.

Phase 2 = shelving.

I shopped around for shelf brackets and the cheapest option I found was $3/bracket at ikea (they did have plastic ones for $0.79 but I didn't feel good about that holding much weight). It was a great price for brackets, but six of them would add up to $18 and I thought I could do better. It is a budget challenge, after all!

Enter Ana White's DIY brackets. Using her plans, I bought two 1x2 boards and was able to make all six brackets for under $6. Less than $1/bracket! And I love the natural wood (the Ikea brackets were white metal).

I was worried about the install, but we used this flexible shaft extension bit and getting the screws in that tight space was a breeze! If you have a few to install it's definitely worth grabbing one of these while you're at the hardware store. (I linked one on amazon, but we found it in-store at Home Depot)

You probably noticed that the brackets are not centered. I'm a little sorry about that, but... mostly #sorrynotsorry. Because we anchored those guys into studs. With a house full of boys, I can't promise that nobody will pull on these and safety won out over symmetry.

For now it's all fancied up (and mostly empty), but I know someday we're going to need more space for school books and this will be the perfect place to  keep them handy. 

And bonus: I can hang my macrame on the brackets while I'm knotting with a little S-hook. 

P.S. I merged my etsy shop with the blog and I'm transitioning to more home goods and decor (like macrame). I haven't listed any items yet, but you can follow me at More Like Home Shop on etsy so you don't miss anything!

Last on the list - and a totally free update that will make any space feel fresh - was to declutter/simplify/organize all the stuffs. And what a difference it made! But first I needed a place to organize all the stuffs. So I started with a major purge in that little craft closet to the left to free up shelf space. Turns out I didn't actually need all the fabric and things I was hoarding in there. But admitting you have a problem (and admitting you will never use the fabric you don't totally love that's been there for years) is the first step in finding a solution!

Once the excess was gone, I used the boxes and bins that had been overflowing to organize everything that was left and tuck it out of sight behind the closed door. I even made enough room to hide our little printer in there (there's an outlet so I can print wirelessly right in the closet!) and there's a little space to spare. Now everything has a home that is easily accessible and not packed to the brim. Remember: the easier it is to put something away, the more likely you are to actually do it. The closet took care of most of our clutter problem, and then office supplies tucked into the drawers of the new desk.

But small confession: the room still isn't totally uncluttered. I pushed the old desk into the far corner because we haven't moved it out yet. It snuck into some of my photos like a pale blue traitor.

et tu, brute?

And here's a little peek into the closet. It doesn't look beautiful, but it is so organized and working so hard! Like it even matters how it looks anyway because I can just close the door. *angels sing* One of my favorite features is that little rolling cart I found in the Ikea as-is section years ago. It's a perfect place to keep things I'm currently working on. I can roll it out next to the desk when it's go time, then roll it back in the closet for instant clean-up!

Now for the budget part of the challenge:

We set a budget of $50 to finish the space... but would you believe we did all this for just under $35?!
Here's the price breakdown:
  • $0 - walls (the walls were already painted my favorite color when we moved in, so that was a freebie)
  • $20 - second-hand desk
  • $0 - homemade refinishing supplies for the desk
  • $0 - chair (it's an extra from the set of dining room chairs we found second-hand)
  • $6 - wood for DIY shelf brackets (we also used a few nails and screws that we already owned)
  • $8 - shelves (two 1x10's we found on the Home Depot clearance cart. They had a bunch of holes drilled along the ends but we were able to cut them off and have plenty of shelf left!)
  • $0 - decor (extra books/plants/etc. from around the house! The adorable deer book ends were from a yard sale last year)
  • $0 - major purge to cut clutter and free up space
Some of our budget-savers took hunting (desk), patience (building brackets instead of buying), and a bit of luck (finding shelf boards on sale) but it all paid off in the super low price tag to refresh a whole space.

Did you refresh a space for the fall challenge? We'd love to see! Remember you can leave links in the comments, tag us on instagram ( or facebook (@morelikehome), or tag your posts #morelikehomeblog and we'll check out your work!

Didn't refresh yet but still want to join the fun? Go for it! We're not real sticklers for a deadline, so have fun and show us what you come up with! And remember, you don't have to spend a dime to make your home feel fresh. I love this reminder from Erika Bault:

We can't wait to see what you've done!

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