Do you ever wonder what it would look like to be a bestselling author? Mostly it looks like a lot of typing, which isn’t exactly exciting to see. But the space where an author creates her work, now, that’s another thing. Or it can be. This being Labor Day week, we’re taking a peek inside Jen Hatmaker’s workspace, which she created a couple of years ago out of “this extremely nasty outbuilding off the patio…”
I have never had an office. I had a desk for a while, but my children used it as an art table. I’ve written all of my books in very glamorous places like the corner of the couch, my unmade bed, the kitchen table, and my bathroom floor.
When we moved to the farmhouse, there was this extremely nasty outbuilding off the patio. We used it for a kitchen and Holding Cell For Garbage And Vermin during the renovation (I’m playing fast and loose with the term “kitchen” here). But now that we have a real kitchen inside, I started eyeballing this crappy little room for an office. Apologies to the ants and mice. It looked something like this:
So we hired a guy to make it habitable (this involved tearing the rotted floorboards down to the dirt . . . good times), and I turned my attention toward the fun part: DECORATING. And just in the nick of time, like a gift, Myquillyn Smith‘s book landed in my hands: The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful. Well, good thing, because this little room is a lemon.
Myquillyn’s approach to design is what we’ve all been waiting for. I’m serious. She moved 13 times in 18 years of marriage, 10 of them rent homes including the one she lived in at the writing of her book. So go ahead and strike the idea that she makes a home beautiful because she crafted every last architectural detail to her liking. Myquillyn wrote:
“Now on my thirteenth home, I’ve realized that home is wherever we are. I’m not going to waste time waiting for the next house we buy to create a beautiful place to live. I can’t afford to wait until we have our life all perfectly organized and presentable to start enjoying it.”
Her style combines thrift and quirk and opposing textures and inexpensive ideas that pack a lot of punch. And The Nesting Place gives you such permission to just try something, for heaven’s sake. Just put it up, just paint it, just layer those two rugs, just use that weird signature piece. She somehow takes the fear and hesitation out of it all and makes you want to throw forty unrelated pieces on your feature wall and hang hats on a set of antlers. Why not? We’re not curing cancer; we’re just making pretty rooms that we love.
So I set to work with her book in hand. And I mean that literally; I actually took her book into the stores and thrift shops. I felt like I needed pictorial guidance. So once the office started taking shape, looking less like a hovel and more like a room, it was time to steal copy take inspiration from Myquillyn’s house. From The Nesting Place: This is the feature wall in her living room. Pay attention, because I lifted exact ideas right off this page.
I LOVE the idea of repurposing junky pieces, making your own stuff, using something unexpected, mixing different styles and textures. It’s like Myquillyn crawled into my head and made sense of everything that makes me love a room. Please note the image of Napolean Dynamite on the opposing page on the TV. I can’t even. Here is how her tutorials played out in my office:
I measured the wall, professionally marked it off on the floor with flip flops, books, and trash, and laid the feature wall out before I hung it. I would like you to please note the level and tools, and by “you” I mean “Brandon” because I did this while he was out of town and I’ve been known to “eyeball” things like this, which occasionally results in no less than but possibly more than 32 extra holes in the wall. I USED THE TOOLS, BRANDON. Which means I only ended up 15 extra holes. Thank you for acting impressed.
One of my favorite ideas from The Nesting Place was using something random in a functional way. Why can’t antlers be a hat rack? Why can’t a ceramic head be a planter? Why can’t plastic spoons become a wreath? I particularly loved repurposing sawed off tree stumps as end tables:
We are crawling with tree stumps on our property, so this was the easiest, free-ist piece in my office. Because Myquillyn said I could mix and match elements at will, I did. I combined old wood, ceramic, and a rusted metal egg basket, because it is a free country. I also shamelessly copied her book wreath. And I do mean copied. As in I emailed her and asked for explicit instructions. I MADE A CRAFT, PEOPLE. Like I said on Facebook at 2:45am that day: “On her blog she said it took her ‘a little less than an hour.’ Hello. This craft took me every second of five hours working nonstop. I clearly love Myquillyn’s ideas but she is obviously into witchcraft if this took her less than an hour.”
Because apparently I lack originality, when I saw her Dr. Suess pillow, I put the book down, picked up my laptop, and ordered one too. One that fit my particular brand of tomfoolery.
Repurposing is one of Myquillyn’s big themes. Sometimes a coat of paint changes an old piece from grody to fabulous. Or you can reimagine its purpose altogether. We aren’t locked in to buying a matchy-matchy set of furniture from a box store. With that perspective in hand, I set out to find a desk and ended up with this old drafting table I found from a janky welding warehouse. It is irregularly worn and interesting and beautiful and I love it with my whole heart. I’m using an industrial rolling cart for my printer and office supplies, and I also found a bedroom dresser to use as storage under the TV. I have a TV in my office because sometimes writers need to take a break from their excruciating work and watch their shows. OUR LIVES ARE HARD.
I tested the limits of our marriage by ordering a chandelier to go above my desk which came in 238 unassembled pieces. Because I was feeling warmly toward limbs and stumps, I also asked Brandon to drill branches into the wall above the window, sent off some favorite Instagram photos to Walgreen’s for printing (like 14 cents a print), and hung them on twine with little clothespins. Why not?
Thank you, Myquillyn, for your relaxed, warm approach to decorating. I felt like you were holding my hand throughout this whole project! For anyone who feels stuck in your style, unable to make decisions, or just enjoys having a lovely home where people feel welcome, grab a copy of The Nesting Place stat. You’ll find every solution to your weird spaces, great ideas for any budget, and you’ll walk away with not just decorating ideas but life ideas, because truly, in every way, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.