My guest room / home office makeover BEFORE + AFTER

Finally, the results of my guest room/home office makeover are here! The project, as with many of these things, has taken a lot longer than expected – what with various coats of paint, one failed attempt at putting up a blind, summer holidays and airbnb guests, etc, etc… But that’s all part of the fun and I’m so excited to now reveal to you the before and after.

So, just a bit of background on the room itself: this is the spare room in my two-bedroomed 1930s London flat, in between Bloomsbury and Kings Cross, that I share with my boyfriend. It’s south-facing, light and airy, with a large sash window. On paper and in the flesh, it really is a lovely room, well proportioned with a generous ceiling height – essentially a blank box on which you could do absolutely anything. But, when we first moved in, due to lack of inspiration for anything else, we painted the entire room white and filled it with a mix-match of Ikea furniture and inherited old items. I put so much attention into redecorating the living room and making it warm and cosy that this space got left behind. Over time, it became our dumping ground and laundry room.

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Some inspiration torn out of home interiors magazine for my guest room/home office makeover

The result was a rather uninspiring space: the white walls made it feel rather cold and uninviting, while the wooden shelves and blind made it feel too ‘officey’. It just wasn’t very homely – nothing really jelled together into a seamless whole.

We also have two seemingly clashing functions for the room: a bedroom for friends and airbnb guests, and a home office with our computer and all my architecture and design books I’ve picked up along the way. It needed to be a lovely, calm space for guests, but it also needed to function as a clean, working space for us. The two functions therefore needed to be brought cohesively together so neither overpowered the other (Katy from Apartment Apothecary offered some wonderful words of wisdom on this front).

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Before: Though the room is light and the furniture well arranged – with the desk next to the window for the best light – the furniture was mis-matched, and the wooden shelving and blind stuck out like a sore thumb. It all looked a little cluttered

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We didn’t want to do a completely drastic overhaul of the room, just a couple of clever changes and alterations to make the space sing and work for us. With a minimal budget, we didn’t want to splash out on loads of new furniture or items for the room. We wanted to work with what we had.

The makeover is therefore rather subtle, a little frugal but, as they say, less is more. Here, a lick of paint really did make all the difference! Essentially, what we did was: we painted the walls light grey (Little Greene’s French Grey in Medium), swapped the blind for a discreet white one, painted the shelves white and adapted the existing desk. All in all, it probably totalled no more than £250 (for example, £50 for the desk unit, £40 for the blind, £24.50 for a new duvet cover, etc), a fair bit of that going on paint and all the paraphenalia around that.

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Et voila – the home office and guest room is calm, light and neutral.

Now, the space looks warm and comforting, calm and collected. We did a massive clear-out, I made £80 by selling some of my books to the local bookshop, and tidied up all the cupboards and surfaces. I even painted inside the wardrobe (from horrible brown laminate) with a lick of Laura Ashley chalky paint to give it a little facelift for guests. The main differences can be seen in the home office part of the room. Here, the shelves now blend into the room instead of sticking out like a sore thumb. I can’t believe how the white paint has transformed them from being dull and ordinary to sleek and modern. Another of the most successful elements of the makeover is the desk unit, simply by matching the colour of the drawer unit to the tops and legs, it looks like a more complete and less obtrusive piece of furniture. Now, the shelves and desk complement each other, sitting neatly in the corner of the room by the window.

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A combined desk and drawing unit looks neat, while painting the shelving white helps them blend into the wall space. The chair is vintage Fritz Hansen from Ardingly antiques fair (a bargain at about £25!) and the paper bag (€4.00) from Merci hides the ugly plugs!
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These cork boards are actually place mats would you believe (bought from Utility in Brighton)! Stuck on the wall, they’ve become a handy surface to pin inspiration, while also serving as a piece of ever-changing art
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Having a big clear-out of books, papers and stationery has helped me rethink my desk space, declutter and organise. I now have space for vintage storage trays. The lamp is Anglepoise
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These vintage trays, bought for about £1 in an antique shop in Brighton’s Kemptown can be used to organise magazines, papers and post
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Hopefully all this decluttering will help me keep my desk tidy!
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A word on arranging my books like this – many of you will think what HAS she done? How can you see your books and pick them out? Well, they were all different colours, shapes and sizes and to be honest they looked a mess. I don’t use them all the time, but I still need access to them, so storage boxes or anything else to hide them wouldn’t have worked. By placing them like this, they create an all-white surface that doesn’t overpower the room, or the guests staying in it. I’ll wait and see how practical it is, but for the moment I like it
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The desk is from Ikea, they have multiple legs, tops and units that you can mix and match. We already had the top, so picked the Alex drawer unit (£50) and two Godvin legs (£7 each)

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Just by changing the wall colour slightly, to a light grey, has made a big difference. In a funny way I think it’s helped unify the two corners of the room, while also creating a warmer ambience. The bedroom part of the room hasn’t really changed much, but a new duvet cover and guest tray for a welcome drink make the space feel more like a boutique hotel room than an unloved spare bedroom.

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The walls have been painted in Little Greene’s French Grey (medium)
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The shelves have been painted in brilliant white, using one coat of primer and three coats of eggshell, what a difference just changing the colour makes!
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The guest room element of the room hasn’t changed that much. The bedside table is the same – I picked it up from the street a few years ago and I quite like the chipped paint on it. The lamp is from Habitat (called Lula, £25.00), with a grey shade I’ve had for a while
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The sleeping part of the room has been kept quite bare of decoration, except for one framed vintage map of Paris, to create a calm, neutral ambience for guests
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The striped bedding is from John Lewis (£24.50 for a double), the tray is from H&M home
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I got this idea from the lovely Katy of Apartment Apothecary – putting the hairdryer in a basket for guests, they can also use it to take out shopping – genius!

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I’ve wanted one of these plants for ages, and adding a little greenery to the shelves makes for a lovely environment to work in
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Mini succulents find a home in a wire basket for paper
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The handmade wardrobe handles

I made these handles for the wardrobe myself! Here’s how I did it and it couldn’t be easier: I got an old belt, measured and cut two strips of identical length and measured two holes either end of each strip (the length between the holes had to be longer than the length between the holes on the wardrobe itself, so the handle comes out a bit and can fit a hand in it). I used a scalpel and cutting mat to create the holes. I then bought some brass flat-headed screws and bolts. The holes were already in the wardrobe from the old handles, so all I had to do was thread the screws through the holes in the leather strip and secure on the inside of the wardrobe with the bolts. So simple and it gives the wardrobe a little designer finish!

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The desk space reflected in the mirror above the chest of drawers on the opposite wall, next to the wardrobe. These were already here, I just changed the handles to give an instant update

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There we go, one guest room/home office makeover – proving that you don’t have to spend a fortune or buy a whole load of new furniture to make a difference to a space. I’m so pleased with the results, already it’s a much nicer place to work in, and hopefully a comfier place to spend a night. It’s amazing how a little refresh can inject a bit of inspiration and motivation into your working day if you’re in clean, tidy, light space. Now I want to get my hands on all the other rooms in the house, all over again!

For more interior inspiration, check out my ‘Guest Room’ Pinterest board:

Follow Cate’s board GUEST ROOM on Pinterest.

Styling and photography: cate st hill

  1. Wow, it looks brilliant!! I jut wanted to ask, where is your desk chair from?! I love the look from it!xx

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  4. This room is giving me such interior envy! Just followed you on pintrest too so I can keep inspired x

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  5. It looks splendid, Cate! You’ve made it a lot more binding. Especially like the book stacking and those wire plate – has all the effect. Cherish Architectural Designers in North London

  6. Just beautiful! I love how airy and calming it is. Great photos too x

  7. Love this makeover! I just painted the shelves above my home office desk white too and the difference is huge – I love the wall colour you’ve used here too – very peaceful and calm 🙂

    • Thankyou! I know, a little bit in love with white shelves! They just let all the objects on the shelves sing. For a francophile like me the colour is perfect – french grey! x

  8. Just caught up with this before / after and it looks really beautiful Cate! I’m pining for a second bedroom that would double up as an office x

    • Thanks Jesse! It’s so useful to have a little extra space in the flat, rather than working on top of each other in the living room. I did live in the flat for five or so years with no living room as a student so relishing this grown-up workspace! x

  9. This looks great, my partner has even started calling our spare room ‘the laundry room’, I don’t really go in there and have spent all of my time sorting out the living/dining room. Everything is being painted in a week so fingers crossed I will fall in love with it all then. I love the trailing plant, do you have the name for it?

    • Thankyou Hannah, that sounds exactly like our home, before this makeover anyway! When it’s a dumping ground and looking a bit unloved you just don’t want to spend any time in there. A lick of paint will make all the difference! I’m not very good with my plant names, but going to do some research and get back to you! x

    • I believe it’s called a String of Hearts vine! what a romantic name x

      • That sounds lovely! I am into ‘experimenting’ with plants at the moment (ground floor London flat doesn’t have loads of light). We were also given a load of furniture that if we had a huge country house would be amazing but is a bit big and heavy for our square footage, fingers crossed that we can make something as lovely as yours (and get myself into a better habit of putting the washing away 😉 ) x

  10. It looks brilliant, Cate! You’ve made it so much more cohesive. Particularly like the book stacking and those wire trays – makes all the difference. Love it xx

  11. It looks so beautiful and light Cate! 🙂

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