Two-Person Desk and Gallery Wall

Hey-oh: we’ve got a proper desk area in our living room! I prefer having our computers in our main common area (instead of sequestered upstairs in the guest bedroom, for example), and this side of the living room seemed perfect for an office setup. I wanted a functional, comfortable, dedicated workspace for two people. No more camping out at the kitchen table!

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To see what the living room used to look like, check out this post.

The Desk Setup

All of the components for this 8 foot desk came from IKEA: I used the 98″ KARLBY walnut countertop, the ALEX drawer unit, and LERBERG trestle legs. IKEA used to carry the ALEX and LERBERG in black – which I prefer – but they transitioned to gray this year. I was able to snag a black drawer unit before they went out stock, and I spray painted the metal trestle legs black.

IKEA Desk Components.jpg

Putting together the desk was super simple: the countertop simply rests across the legs and the drawer unit. It’s a big, solid setup. Hanging frames and wrangling cords was the time-consuming part. Oh, and I built a frame for the first time! Let’s start there.

Building a Floating Canvas Frame

I already owned most of the art I used in this project. But I knew I wanted to add a large antique oil painting to the mix, for some texture and warmth. I dug through eBay until I found a painting that I really liked. Good lord, there’s a lot of crap art to wade through on eBay. Filtering by time period (1900-1949) helped a little.

Oil Painting Frame Before.JPG

The original frame was overly ornate and, in my opinion, distracted from the painting. To replace it, I built a simple floating frame using cheap pine from Home Depot. It was a lot of careful measuring and cutting and making it up as I went along.

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I stained the wood black to match the moodiness of the painting, and to help balance the black wall-mounted monitors.

Staining a Picture Frame.JPG

I totally winged this entire process, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out!

Oil Painting in Floating Frame.JPG

Cat inspector on the job again.

Cat Inspecting Oil Painting.JPG

Hanging the Gallery Wall

Having wall-mounted monitors meant the gallery wall needed to be planned out pretty well. It’s easy to tweak the placement of a frame by moving a nail a few inches, but I wouldn’t have any flexibility with the monitor placement once heavy-duty toggle bolts were in the wall. So, I over-planned, as I do.

First, I did a real crappy job of Photoshopping my two options: gallery wall vs. picture ledge. For the mock-ups, I used Chris Loves Julia’s picture ledge and our previous dining room’s gallery wall.

Office Wall Options.jpg

Then I solicited input from a friend who has good taste in nearly everything, with the exception of appropriate footwear.

text-thread

I used a mix of white, black, and brown wood frames. The art is a mix of screen prints, paintings, and photos that I’ve collected over the years, and there’s a bit of a theme to it – mostly plants, houses, and birds (thanks for the Japanese ducks, Kei!).

I fussed around with the frame arrangement on the floor.

Planning a Gallery Wall on the Floor.JPG

I also did the thing the internet suggests you do: used paper to visualize the frames on the wall.

Planning a Gallery Wall.JPG

This step seems excessive for most purposes, but it was helpful here. I did not want to regret my placement of the monitors.

Gallery Wall in Progress.JPG

All hung!

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Hiding the Cords

Did you notice what you don’t see on that office wall?  All the cords. A whole lot of wire wrangling went into this. If I could make a living hiding cords, I would change careers. So gratifying!

On the wall, I used a raceway for the monitor power and DVI cords. That monitor arm is a cheap guy from Amazon, by the way: VideoSecu TV Wall Mount Articulating Arm Monitor Bracket. It lets us push the monitor back when not in use, and pull it forward when we’re working / wasting time on the internet.

Wall-Mounted Monitor.JPG

Under the desk, I added a J channel cable raceway – I bought one and cut it in half to use on either side of the cabinet. The raceway routes all of the wires to a power strip I mounted on the wall behind the cabinet.

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I bought the Belkin 8-Outlet Pivot Surge Protector with 6-Foot Cord (based on The Wirecutter’s recommendation); the pivoting outlets are awesome and crucial for this setup.

Wall-Mounted Surge Protector.JPG

This hidden surge protector powers everything – my Apple charger, Jarrod’s Dell dock, the monitors, the desk lamp, the Jambox – with only one visible cord. To make it even less conspicuous, and because crazy, I wrapped it with white ribbon.

Under Desk Cords.JPG

The Finishing Touches

The Kurdish runner rug is vintage from eBay. The rolling chairs are from Overstock: Porthos Home Monroe Adjustable Office Chair. I would have preferred something vintage, but finding a pair of reasonably-priced vintage adjustable chairs was not happening. These Overstock chairs are sturdy and comfortable, and they’ll do until I have a lucky find.

Office Chairs.JPG

I did have a lucky find in the floor sample pile at Room & Board: this Nelson wall sconce. At 30% off, it was still a splurge, but I love it so. It provides such a nice glow.

Nelson Sconce.JPG

I also added a Threshold Two Head Task Lamp from Target. The rattan stool is from Target as well – I plan to add a plant on top.

Desk Lamp.JPG

And that brings us to where we are today, and where I’m typing this blog post right now.

Office Wall.JPG

It looks something like this:

Office Action Shot.JPG

Thanks to Jarrod’s dad Rodger for the action shot, and for letting me experiment with his camera this weekend! I also borrowed my friend Carolyn’s camera (thanks, buddy!), so I have a lot of photos in the hopper for more posts in the coming weeks.

Gallery Wall: In Praise of Chopsticks & 3M

When Jarrod and I order sushi the quantity is such that no one can imagine we’re feeding any fewer than five people, so there are a lot of extra chopsticks in this house.  Which is fine by me because they’re great for all sorts of alternative purposes, like shims and paint stirrers.  (Although, let me clear, getting raw fish into my mouth is their greatest purpose.)

I decided to hang a collection of frames on our back dining room wall.  In tackling this project, I put chopsticks to work twice.  First off, I wanted all of my frames to be black so I spray painted a few to match.  Chopsticks work well for holding a frame off the ground unobtrusively, allowing you to spray paint at all angles.

Secondly: one of my IKEA frames was warped from, ya know, hanging on the wall like it was designed to do.  Good work, IKEA.  In The Furniture Doctor, George Grotz recommends using the sun and consistent pressure to heal warped wood, which gave me the idea of using chopsticks in a tourniquet.  I tied soft rope (so it wouldn’t damage the wood) around the frame and then tightened it by twisting the chopsticks in the rope.  I tied the chopsticks in place so they wouldn’t unwind and then left the frame in the sun for the day. It noticeably improved the warp, and could have removed it entirely had I been patient enough to leave it in the sun for a few more days.

(Side note: The Furniture Doctor, or The Furniture Whisperer as I like to think of it, can be had for $0.03 on Amazon and is an enjoyable read if you’re into that sort of thing.  It begins:  Hello, out there! And welcome to the strange but happy world of people who are always fussing around with their furniture.)

Moving along!  I arranged the frames into a pleasing formation on the floor.  I had various things I wanted to frame, so I didn’t worry about what would be in the frames at this stage.  Take a picture of the arrangement before you start hanging them so you don’t forget the order!

I started by placing the bottom row of frames along the floor, using a tape measure to space them evenly.  I read online that 57″ is a good middle point for hanging pictures, so I used that as a guide.

Here’s where I pitch 3M Command strips.  Guys, they’re amazing.  And you can take my word for it, because there aren’t enough people who read this blog for me to get paid to hype a product.  They’re great because as soon as you get them into the position you want on the wall, you can press them into place and know that that’s where they’ll stay.  No budgeting for where the wire hangs in the back, or where the hook is, or anything like that.  It’s WYSIWYG for the decorating world.

So I got the bottom row up and fretted that it was too low and looked weird, took the picture above and called it a night.  The next day I tackled the top row in the same way, using a tape measure to space them evenly and my laser level to provide a guide for the baseline.  I even secured it to the wall with a Command strip, which worked great.

Here’s the finished product once I made my art choices:

If you’re curious, here’s what’s on the wall:

1) This one is to be determined.  I have some big stencils I like but haven’t successfully stenciled anything yet.  That shit’s harder than it looks!

2) The awesomest yard sale sign ever, drawn by Jeffrey Brown for a yard sale we had a while back.  If you know anyone who’s really into cats, Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations should be on your holiday shopping list.

3) I’m unsure of this one.  Vote below!

4) A collection of photo booth strips.

5) A screen print I made of a Jack Johnson patent illustration.  He was issued a patent for a wrench he improved while in prison.  I work in the intellectual property field and the illustrations on old patents are a public domain image source goldmine.

6) A picture my brother, Andrew Droz Palermo, took of my aunt and uncle’s pecan grove in Rich Hill, Missouri.

7) An original illustration by Pia Guerra from Y: The Last Man, which is a pretty awesome graphic novel series if you’re into that sort of thing.

8) A picture of my mom and aunt looking like babes on a boat dock, taken by a newspaper photographer when they were in college.  Because they looked so hot it was newsworthy.

Returning to frame no. 3: I think it’s too small and throws off the balance.  See the badly-Photoshopped mock-up below for what it would look like if I removed the frame and shifted the bottom row.  What do you think?

Option A:

Option B:

UPDATE: Per Kate’s suggestion, I hastily Photoshopped Option C, which swaps the two top right frames.  I think this does succeed in breaking the symmetry that makes Option A look kind of rigid/formulaic, although the bottom left frame is still looking a bit puny to me.  Something to think about.  Thanks for the idea, Kate!