the office on a budget

When we first moved in, S and I were hellbent on buying furniture that would withstand years of use and look pretty slick. The office however, was one room we agreed that we could do on a budget - both of us are pretty easy going about our work areas, and as long as it looked good and was functional, we'd be happy. I wrote in September about the inspiration list for the office, and now it was time to put it all into plan! We started with a lick of paint - the old owners had used it as a kind of storage room so hadn't paid much attention in there.



We decided on the same light coffee colour we chose for the rest of the house - to create some contrast with the all white furniture, and to keep some warmth in the room!

As always, Ikea was our first stop for items that are cheap, practical and of course, sturdy (for S, aka The Giant). We walked around Ikea's desk area, and S literally leaned on and shook almost every desk in the place to check for sturdiness. (I once made the mistake of picking up a Vika-Amon table combination for a previous work desk, and everytime S so much as sat down at it, it would shake and everything would go clattering).

We settled on the Jonas table - 2 of them for $300, sturdy as anything, with storage space built in? SOLD.

ikea jonas white desk

Then there were the bookcases. I'm a book hoarder, and S is a paper hoarder and between the 2 of us, we needed plenty of storage space. We looked around at several office ideas, but kept coming back to one of my favourite Ikea products of all time - the great Billy bookcase. What's not to love? This baby is easy to build, sturdy, has many additional add-ons and customisations, is a staple (so will likely have parts available in future years) and cheap.

I was also inspired by other people who had made their Billy's a design feature and unique, in particular this post at Design Sponge:

Billy bookcase hack from

Yup, I decided we could do that EASILY. Oh yeah. I was excited. Pretty much the weekend after we moved in, we got to work on the bookcases as our first at home project. I called a couple of lovely ladies in for assistance, and set S & his brother to work on the manly hammering&building bits.

 building billy bookcase

I had looked everywhere for wallpaper, but it was all either too expensive or too ugly. The morning of Operation Billy, I wandered to the local shops to pick up coffee, and found the most gorgeous wrapping paper in the little gift/bargain/random store there, for $5 a roll! YAY! We cleaned that poor store out, buying about 8 rolls of the wrapping paper. So us girls got to work:

sticking wrapping paper on bookcase backing

We tried both Mod Podge (craft glue) painted on thinly with a paintbrush, and spray adhesive. The spray adhesive (available at craft or hardware stores), worked MUCH better - creating less bubbles and more tackiness. It also left just a thin film of glue that didn't soak into the paper like Mod Podge did.

using craft glue to paste paper on shelf back

The best part about having chosen wrapping paper over wall paper, was that it was thinner, easier to cut, and wield. You'll see that we left a thin white border around the paper - this was partly the coincidence of the paper width being exactly 1.5cm narrower than the Billy shelf (and our laziness), and also so the shelf backing could later slide on (being no thicker than usual). It ended up not mattering - and looks just fine.

pasting paper on

Our teamwork was imperative - someone needed to unroll the paper and make sure it was absolutely straight moving along the shelf backing, and someone else needed to press out any bubbles. If you're thinking about trying this, I highly recommend picking a "busy" pattern with no repeats - the paper I chose was very forgiving and didn't require any time matching it up or getting it exactly right. Bubbles and creases also didn't matter too much, you'll see why later!

papering bookcase backing

This above shot was the absolute worst shelf back we did (out of quite a few) but we didn't worry too much - we rolled it as best as we could with the cardboard roll the paper came in and just crossed our fingers that it'd still look good. (S however, freaked out slightly).

leaving shelf backings to dry

We didn't leave them very long to dry at all - about as long as it took the boys to finish assembling the units! After sliding the now-ever-so-pretty backings into the assembled bookcases, we stood them up in the office to see how they looked. It was like a jungle of bookcases in that little room. Still, we realised quickly that under the light, all the massive creases/bubbles we'd left looked just fine, and we didn't have to re-do any of them! WHEE!

billy bookcases assembled

The next step was deciding the look we wanted with the doors - and their placements. We'd bought a mishmash of doors thinking it'd look nice all mixed and matched. So we played around a little, just leaning them up and seeing the various looks we could create.

billy bookshelves with doors

A bit hard to tell with all the boxes and crap everywhere but we figured it looked ok in this configuration. So we put them on! The doors were a little fiddly to get right and sitting straight, but it all worked out in the end. S's lovely brother also bolted all the bookcases onto the wall so that it was all very sturdy, and also to each other so that they sat together nice and tight.

Here's an after shot (with VERY hastily unpacked and not styled at all books and papers!) Man oh man, were we proud of our collective work.

billy bookcases customized

Here's where I tell you about just HOW forgiving this wrapping paper pattern was. There is a section we had to PATCH (yes, a section about 6 inches by 4 inches got ripped) so we just covered it with a rectangle of paper - and so far, no one we've shown the room to has been able to tell or find it!

The final flourish for the study was to put up our art and actually have some decorative items in there to make it look welcoming and cozy.

owl ornament

cat ornament and chinese art

So there you have it, an office on a budget. Learning about papering the shelving was a great hack for me - easy, quick, and made a huge difference to the impact of the room (as someone who ADORES wallpaper but had made a decision to go budget in this room of the house). It also creates a nice backdrop for our books and photos, and added some colour to otherwise white+coffee room.

Now for the final touch the room needs - to convince S that I absolutely need an armchair/reading corner right here...

reading nook

If you enjoyed this post, do check out the other posts in the Home & Decor category!