A Room Of One’s Own – Part II

The following is a series about Tim’s new study.  For the previous posts see here: Part I.

I always recall that my professors in university always stressed an engineer really isn’t defined by their technical knowledge, but rather than problem solving ability.  So even today I still approach problems in the same series of steps including interior design.

1) Define the problem

In my opinion the most ugly rooms in the world come out of the fact: you can’t change the fundamentals in a room.  In my case, I was looking for a place for my study in the house and resigned myself to the fact the only place that would work was a spot in my basement.  Everything else was either too small or not private enough.

Below is a picture of the area I’m going to be using before I started.  It had basically been mostly used mainly for storage, but at one point had briefly been a spot where I did my board work.

What the area look liked before I started my study project.
What the area look liked before I started my study project.

A fallout of that choice is the following things can not be changed about the space:

  • it has a low ceiling with exposed wood beams
  • it will be cold down there
  • it will be dark down there
  • there is no plug in in that area
  • there is no door to the area

So while these are issues, I can’t change the fundamental facts about the space.  The off shoot is those limits become building blocks for things I need to keep in mind.

  • I don’t have enough room to put in a suspended ceiling so I’m not even going to cost that out.
  • I will need a small heater for the space to make it comfortable when using it.  There is a heat duct into the area, but it comes in at the ceiling in the middle of the room (so it isn’t very effective).  This also means while leather looks good, it also stays cold if you leave it in a poorly heated area, so I’m skipping that for any chairs in the room (as much as I would love a nice leather chair to sit on I’m not prepared to freeze to do it).
  • I will need more than one light source…ideally at least three (overhead, lamp desk and reading desk).
  • I will need to run power to the area, so I should keep the technology on the light side.
  • I will need to create some separation for the area.

2) What do you have?

I loved my one professor who said “Engineer economics is doing with $1 any idiot can do with $5.”  It’s been a guiding quote in my life and especially with doing a room.  It’s easy to go spend a load of cash on new stuff, but with a little planning you can do wonderful things with things you already own.

I already have a spare desk (as seen the the above photo), but it won’t meet my need since the back of it isn’t finished (and I want to have it face the room rather than the wall), yet I came on the idea of swapping that extra desk with the existing office desk.  So that gives me what I want and give the upstairs office more storage since the spare desk has more drawers.

I have a few extra lamps around that I can use and I also have a fairly nice area rug that is already in the space.  In addition, I’ve already got a extra rocking chair which I can use as a reading chair (left side of the picture).  I’ve also got an old office chair sitting around, which is an ugly shade of blue (right side of the picture), but I could create a cover for that.  I’m also lucky to have an old fake fireplace heater that could look nice in the room (far left in the phot0 if you click to see the big version).

3) What do you want?

Since my budget for this entire room is fairly small I had to consider what I wanted the most.  I could spring for new carpet in the room, but that would blow most of my money.  Also I decided early on I really wanted new book shelves, while I had some old ones they were the really cheap and really ugly (left over university days shelves).  So while looking for some new shelves on Ikea’s website I came across this set with the option of glass doors.

Ikea Bookcase

It was like love at first sight…I REALLY liked those glass doors and given their price I wasn’t likely going to do a lot better than that. So with a few clicks I had those shipped two sets of shelves directly to my house (my nearest Ikea store is like a five hour drive).   Just one little problem with that decision…it cost $460 for the shelves (including tax and shipping) which blew most of my budget. Crap!  Yet rather than whine about the decision I accepted I would be willing to put in a bit of extra cash to finish up the room if required.

Next post I’ll go over how I finished the rest of the room on a shoestring.

3 thoughts on “A Room Of One’s Own – Part II”

  1. I’ve seen bookshelves/cabinets like that go for about $50-75 apiece at auction. Interesting – here’s some from last week’s auction that look similar to yours:

    I also saw a neat basement room like that done up that had exposed beams and duct work. I can’t recall now if they spray painted the ceiling all black or all white, but it blended right in and looked really cool. I’d go for black or espresso brown for a man cave look. Oh, here’s a link:

    Have fun!

  2. Nothing will make that space more inviting to work in than having strong lighting and easy to access power outlets. With the exposed ceiling, I bet the cost to have an electrician run a couple of outlets and a light fixture will be way less than you’d expect. Grab a light fixture off of kijiji and you’re done.

    Close up the gaps in the ceiling with some trim wood, paint everything white, and you’re done the ceiling. That’ll make it a lot brighter and cleaner looking.

    But you’re done, so I guess too late for my input :).

  3. @lifeinsurancecanada

    Thanks for the input. Yes, I’m mainly done already, otherwise the series would take about 3 months to finish up.


    I had thought about staining the ceiling wood to be a dark brown, but I was unsure of how that would make the room feel. I was concerned with the low ceilings that it would feel too tight. So in the end I actually left it. I figure if I change my mind I can just unload the room and do the painting one weekend in the future.


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