before & after: colorful modern office redo

Be prepared for all the yummy candy and sherbert colors you’re about to see in this office/workspace makeover from Sharlene — you may want to grab a snack beforehand to stave off any cravings. I’m usually a dark, moody neutrals kind of gal, but this colorful office is making me feel a bit boring in my tastes. Even if this “before” office had been tidied up, I doubt it would have come close to providing the same jolt of energy and inspiration that this new office does. Sharlene worked with interior designer Elle Uy to make use of some pieces she already had and expanded the little bits of color scattered around into several distinct areas exploding with bright, bold hues. Great work, ladies! — Kate

Time: 4 weeks

Cost: $4–5k

Basic Steps: I have always wanted an industrial, raw, chic space but could not live without color, so we decided to create a white space because I had a lot of stuff purchased prior to the renovation that was all so colorful. Because of the nature of my work as a food stylist, writer and entrepreneur, and my love of collecting all things, my designer, Elle Uy, and I decided on creating an open shelf, which would be the anchor of the entire room. I have always loved and pegged open shelves in magazines. To add the industrial feel, we decided to install a faux brick wall and made lighting fixtures with water pipes and fake exposed it on the ceiling. For my cork and white board, my designer decided on covering the corners with wood edging painted with white to blend in with the design of the room. To add a homey feel, we reupholstered an old sofa I had at home and made a seating area by the door. I also hung my works and made a gallery out of it to add color to the room.

There are many things you can do when renovating. It is like starting with a blank canvas. Knowing what look you want with matching pegs downloaded to your computer or iPad will make the entire process easier to start with. Edit before you start. Second, be ready and be patient. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you planned and there will be slight delays in the project. Don’t rush things, as they will not make you happy in the end.

Also, think of how you can make use of old pieces to lessen your expenses. For this project, I had a 20-year-old chair reupholstered with a shocking pink fabric and a 10-year-old sofa from my mom. The cork and white boards on the walls were also bought 3 years ago, and we just fixed it up to match the feel of the room. Some of the “art” I had framed was from a catalog I received in the mail with beautiful pictures and printing, and I just thought they would look really nice when framed. Lastly, when shopping for accessories, never go to one place, and don’t think you can buy it all in one day or afternoon. Decorating is an evolving process. You can find lots of nice stuff to add to your room even years after the renovation, so don’t get excited to buy everything right away. — Sharlene

  1. Hannah says:

    Such a lovely space, I especially like the use of picture frames to create the photo wall. Nice work, bravo!

  2. Fabulous!! So bright & cheery. I especially love the shots of yellow walls and the funky wall paper peeking through the shelving unit.

  3. Sharlene Tan says:

    Thanks everyone!!

    Kat Randall – we took down all the cabinets to make some space and that allowed us to put a sofa and the gallery wall above it.
    Kristan – Too white is not really an issue. It’s actually very comfortable. We mixed both white and warm white lights in the room so we can choose which to turn on depending on our mood.
    Nik – well, I wouldn’t really know because the printer on the photo (the one beside the green boxes) is what I actually use. Elle can answer this!
    Rae – will think of what we can do with the cords.
    Tania – will give you a call Tania, thanks!
    Kellij – As you can see from the before and after, we used the same desk which was given to me by my Dad. It used to be brown and we wanted it to look like a vintage desk so we made a light blue shade of paint and used a brush to achieve the strokes. We also intentionally added distressed parts in the table to make it look shabby chic.
    Jennifer – The cabinets and counter tops were all made by the carpenters who worked during the renovation.
    Kay – The flooring is from Pergo.

  4. Anne says:

    Wonderful! Could you please tell me the source of the white lower cabinets?

  5. Rosa N. says:

    Wow! This is gorgeous! I love how it feels so light and airy, clean and modern! I am constantly rearranging my narrow space and can’t seem to get it right. LOVE this.

  6. Anne says:

    love the white background for pieces with lots of color. very nicely done!

  7. ainsley says:

    holy macaroni, that looks awesome!!

  8. Claire says:

    oh my gosh, how is that the same room?! more offices should do this

  9. Teresa says:

    I love the clear green acrylic chairs. Where can I find these?

  10. Amazing transformation! I have to say it was rather depressing work space before, and after!! WOW!!
    It’s like someone opened the windows & doors and let in all the fresh air and sunshine!

  11. Sharlene says:

    Hi Anne! As with the shelves, the cabinets were all custom made by the carpenters to our specifications.

    Claire – it is the same room! With better lighting, a fresh new coat of paint and some layout changes, we turned it into a relaxing space.

    Teresa — the green acrylic chairs were from a furniture store here in the Philippines

  12. andria ryan says:

    I run a startup company and i have a small office.I redesigned the whole place using the one of pic in our post.This redo changed the look and atmosphere of my office space.

  13. Shelly says:

    I would love to know where that yellow leather briefcase came from?
    Amazing renovation!

  14. Susan L says:

    Sharlene—Do you have any “before” shots of the couch? I love-love-love it.

  15. Susan L says:

    ooops nevermind, Grace, I see it! sorry!

  16. MyFan says:

    What a transformation. They’re just gorgeous work spaces!

  17. Sharlene Tan says:

    Hi Shelly! The yellow briefcase is from The Cambridge Satchel Co. I got the music bag instead of the usual satchel.

    Susan L – yes!! you can see the before shots of the green couch and the pink chair here.

  18. Prec says:

    Hey, this was featured at Real Living magazine’s Oct. 2011 issue. The pictures are exactly the same… Great space, btw.

  19. Alison says:

    This office is absolutely amazing! It has given me some new ideas for how to approach my home office/craft room redesign. Can’t wait to tacklet it!!

    Sigh…have been waiting forever for my copy of Design*Sponge at Home – I hope Canada Post has not lost my long-awaited treasure. :)

  20. Elle Uy says:

    Thank you for all the compliments :) I’m so happy with how this space turned out. I agree the wiring should be addressed. We’ll tackle that next.

    Thanks Shar for answering all their questions, and it’s been fun doing this space for you. :)

  21. Sharlene says:

    Hi Prec! Yes, it was featured on the cover of Real Living Philippines for October. The pictures aren’t exactly the same as different photographers took the photo here and the one on the cover of the magazine. Thanks for liking!

  22. Inspiring redo for my new studio!

  23. Carlos says:

    I love that orange/red wire paper rack! Where is it from, I would like one for me office. Any ideas about where to find it?

  24. Sharlene says:

    The orange/red wire paper rack is from Ikea

  25. KYB says:

    I got so inspired from this! I just renovated my workspace, heavily inspired from this. Mine is a small office in Mumbai, India, and I had very low budgets. I studied this project an commissioned my carpenters to create a space similar to this.

    Thank You!


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