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A classic + modern design plan for the studio (I’m so excited!)

    Now that the shell of the studio is complete, it’s time to get to work on a design plan for how to best use the space.

    You would think that I would have had this all planned out for months, but nope. This is probably due to the fact that I’m simultaneously thinking about a bunch of other rooms and that I’m so much better at visualizing things once I can stand in a space and get a feel for it. Now that the studio is ready and kitchen makeover is complete, my focus is fully on this space.

    (Well, that’s half true. I’m also thinking about the fireplace makeover I have planned and choosing carpet and repainting the third floor … so many fun things to do in this house!)

    I love a good before and after, but I also totally see the value in sharing the process of how to get from that before to the after. So for the studio, my plan is to share it all step-by-step.

    When approaching the decorating of any space, I like to think about a few things:

    What is the purpose of the room?


    What is the desired feeling for the space?

    I will use the studio to work at the computer, store my craft/decorating supplies, take product photos for the shop and instagram, record Coffee Chats, sit with Ryan to plan and calendar all things JDC, meet with clients and gather with friends to work around a table. I am such a visual person that I work best when my space is clean and orderly, and also creatively inspiring. So my goal for the studio is for it to be light and bright, organized, warm, comfortable. Basically, a place that feels inspiring to work in and relaxing to be in.

    Last week Ryan and I spent some time up in the studio figuring out how to layout the space to make the most sense. The dormers and angles are charming, but also cause limitations (there are only three flat walls to hang things on!). Ryan is so good at space planning so I rely pretty heavily on him to offer his vision. And he delivered. He came up with a great plan to build in a desk along the entire back wall, add bookshelves/storage on the wall between the dormers, put a table in the center of the room and a reading/planning area in one slanted-ceilinged corner.

    Here’s a rough sketch of the layout:
    Once we had the general layout figured out, I got right to work coming up with a specific plan. I have a pinterest board dedicated to my favorite office spaces, so it was great to look through those images to pull inspiration.

    Since we decided the best use of space was to create a built-in desk along the back wall, that was my first focus. I spent hours – literally hours! – searching for creative built-in desk solutions.

    My mom has a cute home office desk with three sets of filing cabinets holding up the wood top. That was initially what I was going to mimic, but then I started having second thoughts.

    First, the wall we are putting the desk on is quite large. I felt like a small filing cabinet just wouldn’t be the right scale. Second, I don’t need storage for files and paperwork. Third, filing cabinets are not cheap! It felt like if I were going to pay several hundred dollars for this desk situation, I might as well make it very functional and more in line with my desired aesthetic for the studio.

    This led me down a long and time-consuming rabbit trail of searching for something other than a filing cabinet I could use as the base of the built-in desks.

    I came across this image and it was the perfect jumping off point. I figured if a filing cabinet could be used as the base of a desk, so could a dresser.

    Next it was just a matter of finding the right scale and price point for a piece of furniture. I scrolled through all of my favorite online stores, salvage places and craigslist to find three matching dressers/bookshelves that were the right depth and height and came up without many options. With the options I did find, I drew out the measurements and prices along with pros and cons until ultimately landing on the Hemnes 3-drawer dresser from IKEA.

    The dimensions were not perfect, but with some alteration the height would be workable.

    To help me visualize what the dressers would look like, I printed off a photo of the studio and drew right over top.

    Seeing it on paper (even in a not-to-scale, sketch-y version) was just what I needed to make the final decision.

    With the built-in desk figured out, all of the other finishes and pieces could be chosen. For the studio, we’re going for a classic, modern and pretty minimal feel.

    light | chair | dresser | wood countertop | table lamp | throw | acrylic sheet | standoff screws | windsor chairs | rug | cowhide rug

    I’m not straying much from my typical style, but maybe pushing it slightly more clean-lined than I would in the house. A warm, neutral color palette of white, black, natural wood and brown leather will give a simple backdrop to the creative work projects that will happen in the studio. I still haven’t decided if I’ll paint the dressers that gorgeous deep green (Calke Green by Farrow + Ball), or keep them white. Either way, I know I’ll bring in green with a few plants to add a bit of life to the otherwise colorless palette. There are a few things I’ll pull from our house (like our dining room table and a reading chair) to add to the mix and we have another built-in shelf to figure out for in between the two dormers. But progress is being made!

    We have two out of three dressers put together, chairs and lights are on their way, a diy white board is in the works and one of these days I’ll get the kids to help me lug up the million boxes of office stuff from the garage.

    Hopefully seeing my design process is helpful! I’ll keep you updated as we continue to make progress …


    43 thoughts on “A classic + modern design plan for the studio (I’m so excited!)”

    1. Hey Emily,

      Firstly, I’ve decided to create my double totally inspired by you(!). I have a set of ALEX IKEA drawers, the wide one, and your post literally sent me to the store to buy a second one for the opposite end, and a countertop to stretch across. I haven’t built it yet so I hope it works. I’ve planned 46″ in between (I wonder if it’s ok to not support there in the middle) for two people.

      I’ve been wanting the West Elm desk chair similar to yours without arms (but oh my gosh, just looked at it while writing to you and realized they are out of the cognac color that I wanted!). I would love to know how comfortable you find your chair. $600 x 2 is a huge investment. My last office chair was an upholstered side chair from another similar-range furniture store for $300 and 2-3 years in it’s all ripped and worn, and was never great for the desk to begin with.

      Also, not to run you over with thoughts, but I would love to know if you have a secret for laying out a simple design board for your new ideas. I know photoshop well, but want to have a super simple option that is fast and easy to visualize.

      Thank you! Love your Studio!

      1. We love the leather chairs. So far, they have held up really well with regular use. Wait for them to go on sale, though, because they often do.

        I use a combination of photoshop and illustrator to make my design boards (photoshop to remove backgrounds from images, illustrator to put them all together).

        I hope your desk works out beautifully!

    2. Maybe you have already shared this info, but I’m curious about your source for the hardware on the dressers… Do you mind sharing? The studio looks amazing!

    3. Ok, fair warning with the Hemnes dresser… Put some wood glue on the metal bolts that hold the sides to the top front panels. The biggest problem I have with these dressers is these slip out which then widens the drawer tracks and the drawers then fall down. I hope that makes sense?
      The plans look awesome!

    4. Where do you plan to get the wood for the desk? I am in the midst of overhauling my office. We just did 3 12-foot shelves from wall-to-wall and I am in LOVE! Need to get a new desk and I have an IKEA storage plan for underneath. I have drawings, too, but you even make yours look so stinkin’ cute!

    5. I have a slightly non-related question. How do you create your inspiration boards? Do you use Illustrator? I’m wondering if there is a good option without needing AI…

      1. I create them in one of two ways:
        pull images online, remove the background in photoshop and collage in Illustrator.
        pull images online, remove background and arrange in Google Presentation.

    6. Hi there! Not sure if you were looking for the feedback or not, but in case you are, I am totally on team paint the dressers green! :) I think with all the natural light and the color of the floor, it would look stunning and give some of that handsome feel you have talked about embracing in this home!

    7. I faced a similar dilemma when considering my study layout. I finally went with a long desktop to (wall to wall) with 3 sets of cabinets/drawers beneath the table top. However, because I went for a deep desktop to have plenty of workspace for larger projects, I opted for the cabinets to be set on wheels. They thus tuck away under the desktop, but if I require additional worktop surface alongside me, I just wheel out the cabinet and use its top as additional work surface area!

    8. Love your ideas for this space! Such a great idea to sketch the built-ins on a photo, I’ll be using that one.

      I bought that west elm office chair a couple of years ago and we’ve really loved it, it’s held up so well.

      Good luck, can’t wait to see it all come together!

      1. Not silly at all – I really didn’t explain what those are for :) I’m making a DIY white board using those standoff screws and acrylic sheets. That project should happen sometime next week!

    9. I’m all “hearty” <3 right now! Love what you are doing!!

      First of all, that's a great idea to print the photo and draw right on it to visualize to space!

      Secondly, I have been eyeing that dresser for months and it's been out of stock (I think it was part of their recall). Did you choose the "white" or the "white stain"?

      Lastly, I too was wondering your plan regarding the height of the dressers. I see your other responses, so now I know! ;0) How much do you plan on cutting off the legs? What is your goal height after the desktop is put on?

      I can't wait to see the progress! :)


      1. Thanks! I bought the white stain finish because it is less laminat-y and should be easier to paint. We are planning on cutting the legs all the way down for a finished height of about 34″. Its about 4″ higher than the average desk, but we’re just going with it!

    10. Thank you for including us in the process! I love the direction you are heading in! You are lucky to have such a spacious area to accomplish so many different tasks. I have a suggestion – a round table would be great for collaboration in your space (maybe a Saarinen style one) since you have so many long rectangular features. I totally get using what you have, though, and it will still look beautiful. Just a thought!

    11. I find the “process” the most helpful to me. Four people can follow the same process and come up with four very different and beautiful results. I love watching everything come together.

    12. P.S. Have you considered painting the french doors a dark color, possibly black or charcoal (that is, just the doors, not the frame)? Such a great space!!!

    13. My question: are you going to cut off the legs of the dresser so it looks more like a cabinet and is lower? I like the white dressers, maybe paint a wall that gorgeous green?

    14. Oh how I’d love to have this room!
      Love the direction you’re heading and Ryan’s space planning is spot on to maximize your space! I equally love the table in the middle of the room and color pallet (or lack thereof) so your creativity can take center stage and the room evolve over time!

      Drawing on a picture of the space…genius! I’ve come up with some pretty in depth plans as we make our builder grade home “ours”, and hubby is happy to facilitate my dreams, but I see it all in my head and hubby needs a visual.

      Thank you for including us in the everyday of your “new” home makeover!

    15. As always, this looks great! It’s going to be darling! I have a question about the dressers….were you planning some time of filing system with them? I have been looking for a filing cabinet that I like and wondering if you thought of some great alternative?

      1. I won’t have any filing in the drawers. All of our paperwork and files are kept in Ryan’s filing cabinet (he is using the little office in the house for now – maybe he’ll move up to the studio at some point). The bottom drawer of these dressers is large enough to hold files and I’m guessing there is a way to add the metal bars to hold up the files. It might take a little creativity, but I bet it would work!

    16. Love seeing the process from start to finish and anything that realistically comes up while changing a space. I see the dresser height is ~42″ and your chair height 39″- I wonder if your plan includes keeping the height of the dresser and slightly blocking the window. My only questions is the source of the longer gold hardware.

      I did not even notice the light switch until reading within the comments and guess that’s an easy hide with window treatment.

      It’s all looking great thus far. I agree it was a fabulous idea to print a picture copy of the space and sketch right onto that! Thanks so much for sharing to provide us all this visual. So exciting!

      1. Yes – we will cut down the feet of the dresser to bring the height down. It is still not perfect and will overlap the window slightly.

        The hardware in the image is from here. I ordered a different version from Amazon that will be spray painted for the brass color. I just couldn’t stomach spending $200 on hardware :) I’ll keep you posted on if it works!

    17. It’s going to be wonderful. How lucky you are to have such a great space. I get a kick out of the placement of that light switch, I believe it is. The window trim is simply cut around it!

      1. Right?! It was the best we could do :) Ryan still needs to switch out the outlets and light switches for white (all of the electrical outlets in the house/studio are the yellow-almond color). Once it is white, it should not stand out quite so much!

    18. Ooh, you’ve given me some great ideas! I too want a built in desk in our office in our new house and the options are super limited, but I think you’re on to something with dressers!
      Is it possible to not attach the feet to that dresser? It’s tall!

    19. Love that you are showing us the stages of this process!! You take the fear out of it for sure! Thank you for your inspiration!!

    20. Thank you for showing your thought process and planning stages. It helps to know that it isn’t easy even for you and takes lots of work. I love a before and after too but I appreciate you showing us real life!

    21. What a clever idea to use the Hemnes dressers. I would love to see them green, they would look amazing!
      I am sure whatever you choose, it will look fantastic.

    22. Love this post! I have been wanting to create a long desk space for over 8 years now and it just always gets put on the back burner for whatever the reason is at that moment. Can you let me know how long your desktop will be? And how many pieces you are planning on using? I have been looking at the measurements for the wood top and trying to figure out how we could make this work in our space. Thank you and I too love seeing all your beautiful space transformations.

    23. Hi Emily, This post has really helped me think about how I am going about my process of remodeling some of our rooms. We are doing a bathroom and kitchen at the same time. I like the idea of printing out a picture and sketching on it. Thanks for these posts! They really inspire me.

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