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A Home Office Remodel (+ Tips for Styling Bookshelves)

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Having a dedicated home workspace, especially with two work-from-home adults in the house, is a must! This remodel gave our tired home office better storage, met the demands of today’s tech and improved on the lighting!


In 2016, we purchased a 1983 colonial-meets-Tudor house in Northern Virginia and set about remodeling it into our dream home. In this series, I’ll take you through the stages of our progress, decision-making, ups + downs, and the lessons we’ve learned converting a 1980s diamond in the rough into our family gem.

At first glance, it may appear we didn’t change much about this room. But in reality:

  • The existing built-ins couldn’t shelve much more than paperbacks
  • There were no drawers to organize supplies or files
  • Lighting came from the window or a plug-in lamp
  • Generic, hollow-core double doors made the office feel even more dark and closed off
home office before
how it looked when we toured the house

Everything came out and was replaced with custom built-ins, hardwood flooring, recessed lighting, cabinet lighting, base/ceiling/window trim, fresh paint and new french doors. Additional touches include special outlets for USB charging and a floor outlet for the desk components.

Like most of our custom projects, the built-ins started as a concept drawing. I design something to fit the space, provide specifications and dimensions for necessary parts and hand it over to my husband. He then creates his own detailed drawings as needed and works out the engineering before setting to build.

concept drawing of office built-ins
office desk, chair and built-ins
home office built-in cabinets and shelves
white oak counter
home office desk, chair and artwork
french doors let in light

We’ve incorporated white oak accents throughout the main floor, and the office is no exception. There were cut-offs and imperfect boards left over from installing the hardwoods, which are white oak. Instead of binning them, my husband sent the boards through a planer to remove the stained finish. After assembling, sanding + sealing, the result is a gorgeous, massive, upcycled, white oak counter top.

close up of home office shelves
LED light strips are hidden behind the face frame

Tips for Styling Bookshelves

Bookshelves should be a reflection of your personality, where you’ve been, and what you love. Here is some advice for styling bookshelves:

Gather All the Things

To begin, it’s helpful to know what you’ve got to work with. So, stack all your books, set out your trinkets, photo frames, and objets d’art that you’d like to display. Take a visual inventory.


You can group books by color, style, texture or the way I tend to which is by subject matter. Our shelves hold groupings of books on cookery, design, history, art, travel, novels, reference + music. Place books vertically in rows and horizontally in stacks. I’ll sometimes use a horizontal stack of books as a ‘bookend’ for a vertical row. I also like to stagger the placement putting some books on the left of one shelf, and the right of another.

Everything Else

You can place smaller objects and frames on stacked books. When shelves are deep enough, I like to place frames behind other objects or short book stacks to create visual depth. Mix up the placement of tall and short objects, and pieces of varying texture (like metals, glass, wood, baskets) to create visual interest. If you have items that share a characteristic (like subject matter or color), you can group them together in a vignette.

Embrace Negative Space

You don’t have to pack your shelves full. Leave room for all your treasures to breathe and stand on their own.

Once you’re done, step back and assess. Is there compositional balance? Is there visual interest or are all similarly sized things clumped together? Does it look cluttered or just right? Edit as needed and you’ll have a Zoom worthy background in no time.


Leave a comment with your home office remodeling story or bookshelf styling question! I’d love to hear from you! And, if you’d like to see more before and after photos of our remodeling escapades, check out the changes made in our kitchen and family room!

Pin for Later! Home Office Design Ideas + Tips for Styling Bookshelves

Pin image home office remodel

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  1. I am soon to set up a home office which I am super excited about! This post was helpful for me to see how someone else did theirs! I love the ideas you had for styling shelfs as well because I quite literally have all the books!

  2. This space looks beautiful! I love what you said about the importance of leaving space. I have also found that leaving a bit of space for your books and memorabilia really helps to bring a focus to the things you love and keeps the space from feeling cluttered. I’m excited to see more of your renovations over time!

  3. You did a wonderful job with this remodel! I like the idea of leaving space on the bookshelves. The whole space looks bright and open!

  4. I love how the space turned out! You didn’t change it so completely that it lost the original vibe, but you made it work for your exact needs. You styled the shelves perfectly and the lighting throughout the whole room is fantastic! You’ve definitely given me inspiration for my future home.