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How I improved my health with a full home office makeover

'I love your office! Why would you change it?!"
My office - BEFORE

This is why I gave my home office a makeover

This was a pretty common reaction when I told my followers I was busy giving my office a full make over. And truth be told, I loved it too! So why did I go ahead and changed everything? Well let me tell you.

I have a bad back, courtesy of an elite rhythmic gymnastics career on international level in my childhood. It limits what I can do and I have to take daily medications to be able to get out of bed in the morning. It sucks but I've learnt to live with it and I just keep doing whatever I want to do. Having said that, spending a full day sitting down at my desk to work, which I often do, was an absolute killer.

My posture was totally wrong

Two main reasons (besides simply being injured) why I kept aggravating my back: a predominantly sedentary job (in other words, I need to get off my bum) and a chair and desk combo that were ergonomically totally incorrect for my body. How often do you really take a look at how you sit? I knew all the theory of course, but I can honestly say I never really analysed my own work spot. If I had done this sooner, I would have realised that my set up only compounded my back issues. My desk was too high, my seat too low. As simple as that. See this picture (courtesy of Sydney Sports and Exercise Physiology) as a reference for how one really should sit at their desk.

I decided to go for a standing desk, one that I could set to the right height for both standing and sitting to address a) my posture and b) to get me off my bum.

Then one thing led to another

This led to the following practical issue... I had these gorgeous shelves above my desk. My screen would smash into them at standing height. Not ideal. So they had to come off. When they came off, my wall looked like Swiss cheese. Oh and did I mention the black paint was actually covering the wall paper that was there before, that I hadn't bothered to take off (as you should!)? In conclusion, it was messy.

So I thought I might as well redo the entire wall, and then solve another practical problem I was facing in my office; the lack of storage. Wall shelves look great to display pretty things and your nicest books, they're not terribly useful to store things you actually want to hide. My office really isn't that big (about 3 by 2.5m) and I could use all the practical storage I could get.

My design vision for a healthy home office

I had this vision in my head of what my new office should look like and guess what? I found it exactly as I had in mind, ready to purchase of the internet! Yay! It was fully customisable to my taste and I had to contact them to get a quote. This is where the alarm bells should have started ringing to be honest. Yet I was still totally surprised that to my shock horror this beautiful unit was going to cost me over 5000 euro.

My source of inspiration - gorgeous but expensive

Sketch it with SketchUp

Surely I could do better and I started designing my own budget friendly version. It took a bit of SketchUp planning as my space really is limited but customising basic IKEA Billy bookshelves would get me a long way!

This is an impression of my vision, the quick and dirty way, but completely to scale.

Makeover time!

Some would say it's a 'look'

So then the actual makeover. First I needed a clean canvas with a fresh coat of paint. I wanted a warmer look and feel, with a touch of a wabi sabi. This time I did decide to do the right thing and remove the wall paper to start from scratch. This was quite a disaster and I ended up removing most of the original paint underneath. Not all, no, that would have been nice; the most awful patches remained. I decided there and then that there was no way I was going to scrape off all those fiddly bits of paint, and that wall was going to be wallpapered again.

Champagne taste on a beer budget

Remember, this is the budget version of my vision. So I went to the local hardware store (Karwei) and bought this gorgeous textured wallpaper (Le Noir & Blanc vliesbehang uni zand (dessin 4081-11). It was on special, yay! Three rolls and it costs me still less than one roll of the high end (also gorgeous) brands.

Then I went looking for a matching paint colour and settled for Histor colour 'intuitive' (Histor My Color muurverf extra mat intuitive). I love it. Why did I go for Histor? Well, it's a great paint brand and it was on special. Another bonus. I am not married to a certain paint brand. But just as a side note, I never used Histor paint before and I was thoroughly impressed with how easy it was to apply. Neat, no drips and smooth as a baby's bum.

Painting was easy, wallpapering was not. Not because wallpapering is hard but because my ceilings are 3.3m high (yes really) and balancing on the top step of the kitchen ladder with both hands holding wallpaper while only just reaching the ceiling made me ache the next day in muscles I didn't even know I had. Anyway, blank canvas done! (Note to self: next time get the tall ladder out of the garden shed.)

Hello Billy - say hi to the IKEA icon but then customised

Next up, furniture assembly. I bought 3 IKEA Billy's. I intentionally did not buy the bigger size for the one side of my room as I liked the extra support and the look of the middle post.

To make it look a little less Billy-ish I bought these gorgeous doorknobs of Zara Home to finish the look.

I love them. They're solid, perfect size and perfect material.

Stand up for what's right: a standing desk

I bought the IKEA Idåsen desk. I liked the look and the mechanism. I insisted on an electric standing desk as I didn't want to do my back in by manually adjusting desk heights on and off. This was a splurge, you can find one that's half price. The lady in the IKEA was super helpful and I ended up buying the desk chair too (as much as my own personal rule is to not style entire rooms with items from the big yellow and blue shop). It was just so comfortable and perfect for my body. And as my entire reason for doing all this was improving my back health, I decided I just needed to live with an actual big standard office chair even though it hurts my design eye. And as far as desk chairs are concerned, the Mullfjället really isn't that ugly. In fact, she makes me happy.

Work with what you've got

I repurposed my old oak shelves. As they're a) beautiful, b) functional and c) add a bit of warmth and texture to the space. All I had to do was cut them to size. Easy.

Let's get functional

As this makeover was all about a functional (and healthy work space) I also decided to address another issue that had been annoying me for ages; lighting. My desk lamp was too small and shining downwards. My pendant hung in the middle of the room. As a result, it would cast a shadow on my face. I personally don't care really but it isn't very nice for people to look at during video calls. I needed to find a lamp that would fix this and function well, both in standing and seating position. I fell in love with this beauty of a light fixture of Nordlux. I am obsessed with the retro touch plus it's adjustable. Perfect.

Custom finishing touches

After a few days of hard work it was time for the styling and the finishing touches. As I promised myself to take it easy that day, I looked around in the room and my eye fell on the ugly radiator. Another thing that's been bothering me for ages. Nothing in my home is standard, neither is the size of my window sill or radiator. So buying a radiator cover was out of the question. I decided on the spot to make one myself, using the same oak I have used for the shelves above my desk. And I absolutely love it. Anyway, it ties the room together and adds the texture and warmth I was after. So then I started styling the space.

The final result!

My office - AFTER

Done! I am stoked! I'm almost happy to be spending hours on end behind the computer. I kept my lazy corner of course (awesome comfy spot to be sitting in the sun looking out over the canal) for my instagramming time, but sit wit perfect posture (OK I try) when I do computer work.

And as for the budget?

In total, including all furniture and DIY materials, I spent about 1200 euro. A fair bit of money but not for everything I realised in this space. You can probably save a few hundred euro's and pick another desk if you want. I also consider it an investment in my health and it's a far cry from the 5000 quoted on the original office element I saw (and that's without sprucing up the walls).

By the way, I like my own version much better. Because it's mine and I put my own blood, sweat and tears into it.

Guess what, no disclosures!

And now for the full disclosures... I have none! None of this was a collaboration. This was my own project, on my own terms, with my own money. Hubby only helped me to pick up all the IKEA goodies (you know, that sore back) so alright then, he gets a few brownie points for that. Other than that, it's all me.

Health matters more than design

Standing setting of my desk

I'm happy to say, it's been about a week working at my new desk, in my new chair, and I can already feel the difference. Isn't that amazing? My back won't ever be the one of an elite gymnast again but at least I am no longer aggravating it. I even wrote this blog standing up, would you believe?

The standing up part takes a bit of practice. I like it but I can't do it for long just yet. I guess that takes a bit of training too. Just as paying attention to your posture and overall health.

Anyway, there you have it. The real reason for my office makeover and a great excuse to give it a stylish updated look at the same time.

What do you think?

Love, Marieke

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Hi! Thanks for stopping by.

I am Marieke, a Dutch Australian interior designer, business executive, tutor, content creator and social media influencer.


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