My New Art & Work Space: A Budget Makeover!

Last year, my man and I moved into our beautiful new apartment and we’ve been very happy here so far! Even though I love home decor, furnishing and decorating all the rooms has been a very slow process. Finding a couch that fits the living room as well as the perfect recycling/trash containers for the kitchen took us over a year, haha!

Our desks are located in an open area above the living room, sort of in the attic. I love this layout so much because of all the light that gets in, brightening up both the office space and the living room below. But since you can’t see the space from the lower level and other rooms were more important to us in the beginning, I ignored this space for quite a while. Six months after we moved in, my home office situation still looked like this:


Ugh, it was so cluttered and impractical. There were a lot of things that bugged me:

  • My desk was way too small and this dining room chair was way too uncomfortable for long hours of work – be it working at the computer or painting
  • I could only open the cabinets by crouching under the table or moving the table away
  • CABLES. Cables everywhere!
  • We brought this armchair from A’s old apartment and put it here because it didn’t fit in the living room but it made the space feel very crowded and we used it only a handful of times

Finding the Perfect Desk

So I knew I wanted to change a lot but I also couldn’t afford to spend a fortune. The first thing I did was think about what kind of desk I wanted. My dad recommended to just get a regular rectangular one and put it against the railing. But that wouldn’t have been ideal considering the position of the window: The light would reflect too much on the computer screen and when doing stuff on the desk, like drawing, my body would block out the light. So I decided to position the desk on the other side and thought that somewhat of an L-shape table would fit nicely in the little niche you can see on this photo I took right before we moved in:

My initial plan was to build the desk myself but when we went to the hardware store I realized that the material would be pretty expensive. It was also impossible to get a shape like that in one piece, so I would’ve had to get two pieces and figure out how to attach them and cut out the round shape. So instead I spent a few weeks looking for an alternative on eBay Kleinanzeigen (German equivalent of Craigslist) and found an old architect’s desk for 25€! It was almost the shape that I wanted (the curve stretched too far into the room) and I asked my dad to help me cut a little bit away so it would fit perfectly. Since the desk came in a pretty outdated wood color that wouldn’t fit with the dark brown wood of the shelves I already had, I was planning to paint the tabletop white, so cutting it wasn’t a problem.

Here’s a tiny, crappy photo of one half of the desk from the eBay listing, just to give you an idea of the original color and size of the desk.

The paint job turned out well enough for my taste. There are a few brush strokes and air bubbles visible here and there but since it would become a surface I would craft and paint on a lot, I figured it would eventually get stained anyways and I could always resand and paint it after a couple years or so.

Arranging the Furniture

Once I had the desk ready and in place, I figured out a better arrangement for the rest of the furniture. I first got rid of the armchair since it just took up too much space up here. Since we still love it, it’s currently hanging out in our basement, waiting for our next move and a time to shine in whatever apartment we end up in, heehee.

Next, I asked A if I could take up a little bit more space so I could place one cabinet piece next to the desk. I placed the other piece next to the shelves, so it could hold my printer in a convenient reach from when I would sit at the desk. These Ikea cabinets have glass doors that you can customize by putting fabric or paper inside. To give them a new look, I got some cheap black and white gift wrap from Ikea and I think it turned out pretty nice!

Also on eBay Kleinanzeigen, I got two other used but nice and cheap items: This little white drawer unit to place under the desk which now holds frequently used tools like scissors, pens and stuff. I got this one for free because it had a few stains that, after a bit of scrubbing, I got completely rid of. Yay! And a comfortable black office chair for 15 bucks!

As you can see a little bit in the photos, I still have quite a bit of stuff behind and under my desk but since I only need these items once a month or even less often, it’s ok for now. I’m dreaming of a future home where I’ll have one large room just for myself and my craft supplies, lol!

Decorating and Arranging Items

I made sure to keep less visually pleasing items off the surfaces and within the cabinets and boxes. I also filled the shelves primarily with these white boxes I still had from my old place, instead of putting a lot of different items in there, to create more of a coherent look. In the future, I’d like to invest in taller boxes, since with these lower ones a lot of storage space is actually lost. Right now, these boxes are filled with things like paint, sewing supplies, glue, stamps, and jewelry making supplies.

When it comes to colors, I tried to keep more of a monochrome look to make the art I’d put up really pop. A few plants also add a little bit of green in there. The three colorful portraits in the above photo are from my Queer Eye fab five series (check them out on my Instagram @lena_and_light!).

Here’s some more info on the stuff I hung up on my wall:

My New Happy Place

Every time I come up the stairs now and see my desk, it makes me happy! All of the bright light and the large work surface make it a joy to work and create in here. Here I am drawing at my tabletop easel that A gave me for my birthday last year. If you are like me and get a lot of lower back pain from bending over your desk while drawing, I highly recommend getting one of these!

With Covid-19 hitting us, I was working from home for two months straight this spring and having a nice work space definitely made that time a little less sh***y.

Of course, there’s still things I’d like to change about this space in the future, but it’s already so much more organized and prettier than before! All in all, I think I’ve only spent around 75€ on this makeover – I think that’s pretty great!

What would you like to change about your office/art space? Or do already have a space you love? Tell me all about it 🙂

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