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Small Bedroom Den and Home Office Makeover

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My photographer son's bedroom was in need of a makeover.

My photographer son's bedroom was in need of a makeover.

Multipurpose Bedroom Den

My son is a professional photographer, which in the modern age, rather than spending time in a dark room developing film, involves editing raw images in post production on his iMac—raw images are high-quality uncompressed images uploaded from his camera to the computer.

So he spends much of his time in his bedroom processing images for his clients, while having his TV on in the background to break the silence. The TV is connected to a Freeview box (with hard drive) and a Blu-ray player connected to the Internet (e.g., the Blu-ray player gives access to video content on the web (such as YouTube) and converts the TV into a smart TV).

Because it is a British house, the bedrooms are not particularly large. Therefore, on the opposite side of the bedroom to his home entertainment centre and computer workstation is his ‘space-saving’ cabin bed, with the bed on top and wardrobe and drawer space underneath.

Time for a Makeover

It’s been a good many years since I last decorated his bedroom, so although it’s still functional, it was in need of a facelift and a few minor modifications.

While I regularly redecorate the rest of the house, I put off redecorating his room because of the disruption it would cause to his business flow. However, when a friend offered us a couple of spare rolls of wallpaper, which would be ideal for my son’s bedroom, I decided now was the time to be disruptive by doing a full bedroom makeover.

Planning and Preparation

Here is what you should do to prepare for this endeavor.

Task List

Before making a start, we sat down as a family in our son’s bedroom to discuss and plan a design to incorporate the improvements and other modifications we wanted to make; including upping the number and location of power and extension sockets to improve the ergonomics of our son’s office desk.

Brief

Following our discussion, the brief I had for makeover included:

  • Move a single power socket up the wall to a more accessible location, and replace it with a double socket with two USB charger points.
  • Make a hole in the dividing wall between the TV and desk area large enough to push an electric plug through so that the TV and ancillary equipment could be plugged into a more accessible power socket.
  • Add additional wall mounted extension sockets around the desk area to meet current and future needs for future proofing.
  • Modify bed for deeper mattress.

Checklist

Having agreed to the brief, I then sat down with a cup of coffee while I made a comprehensive checklist of all required materials, and then:

  • Checked in my workshop (at the bottom of the garden) to see which materials I had.
  • Checked different suppliers on the web for availability and price comparison for materials I needed.
  • Then ordered the materials online, either to be delivered from Amazon or ‘Click and Collect’ from the local DIY store.

Meanwhile, my wife and son went out shopping locally to choose the paint colour, wallpaper border design, and to buy a new mattress.

Business Continuity

To minimise the disruption to my son’s business during the makeover, I cleared a space for our son’s iMac in our home office.

Small Bedroom Office Makeover

Here is what you should do to start the project.

Clearing the Room

Once my son’s computer transferred to our home office and was up and running, then the rest of his office equipment, TV and everything else in his bedroom was all carefully boxed-up for temporary storage in our dining room downstairs.

Then (apart from the built-in furniture) I unscrewed, unhooked and removed all the fixtures and fittings from the room, including the mirror, wall clock, pictures and window blinds.

Where fittings had been screwed to the wall, I placed a nail in each hole so that when I painted and decorated the room the holes didn’t get lost. That way, when it came to rehanging a fixture I knew exactly where the hole was and don’t end up having to drill a new one.

Order of Progress

Having ordered everything I would need, and having made all the preparation and planning, including clearing the room, I was ready to make a start.

The order of progress would predominantly be the messy jobs first, followed by the painting and decorating and finishing with the fixtures and fittings, as detailed below:

  • Remove old skirting board.
  • Relocate the electric power socket.
  • Knock-out a hole in the brick dividing wall for cable access.
  • Remove radiator and wall shelves.
  • Modifications to the built-in cabin bed.
  • Prepare the walls for decorating.
  • Put up the lining paper.
  • Painting.
  • Wallpapering.
  • Wallpaper border.
  • Fix new skirting board and wood trims.
  • Fit the additional wall mounted extension sockets.
  • Fit new fanlight.
  • Refit all the remaining fixtures and fittings.
  • Tidy up and remove all tools.

Relocating Mains Power Socket

Here is what you should do to move a mains power socket.

British Electrics Regulations

Under current British regulations, household electrics should be done by a qualified electrician. However, you can do the work yourself provided you get it checked and approved by a qualified electrician before the new works are connected to the mains power supply.

Burying Power Cables and Socket in the Wall

The first and messiest DIY task was to remove a surface mounted single power socket from just above the skirting board and replace it with a recessed double socket (with two USB charger points) to a more accessible location higher up the wall.

  • The purpose of having a double socket at waist height next to the desk is convenience. So that my son can temporarily plug things in while he’s working such as mobile phones and battery chargers; and with the socket including USB chargers means that he can also recharge devices that allowing recharging via USB.

To make it easier for rewiring, before I started channelling out the recess for the new cables, I ripped out the old skirting board (which needed replacing anyway). If the skirting boards had been in good condition, I would have left them in place and worked behind them. It was a task I’ve done previously in other rooms and it wasn't too difficult, although it can be a bit fiddly.

Being a British home, although it’s an internal wall, the wall is solid brick (concrete breeze blocks) so the only way to hide the cables and recess the socket is to use a mallet and chisel to knock-out a channel and recess for the new socket.

Once I’d made the channel deep enough in the brickwork to fit the cables and metal cable cover, I could then screw the metal back box in place, and fit the cables and ducting place ready for plastering.

Plastering isn’t my forte, so rather than using an undercoat plaster and finishing plaster like a professional, I use a ‘one coat plaster’, which can be sanded smooth once dried. Albeit, even after sanding, the one coat plaster doesn’t give as smooth a finish as finishing plaster; although it’s fine for walls that will wallpapered; especially if lining paper is used prior to wallpapering and painting.

The following day, once the plaster had dried, I could then wire up the new double socket in accordance with regulations and get it approved by a qualified electrician for reconnection to the mains.

Home Entertainment Cable Management

Here is how you should handle cable management.

Freeview

In the UK, an alternative to paying a monthly subscription fee for satellite (Sky TV) or cable (Virgin Media) is Freeview via a terrestrial aerial. In typical British style, Freeview is a free service owned and run by Sky, BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva which broadcasts most of the main TV channels available on Sky and Cable TV.

When we bought our house (in the days before satellite and cable TV in the UK) a terrestrial aerial was the only way to receive TV. Therefore, at the time, I installed a four-port powered TV aerial booster and splitter in our bedroom and cabled the house with TV aerial outlet. I buried the coaxial aerial cable in the walls in the main rooms where we would want TV, including in our son’s bedroom.

Therefore, unlike the power and Ethernet cables, the aerial socket is at the back of the recess and therefore isn’t a cable management issue.

Rerouting Cabling for Entertainment Centre

The TV sits in a recessed shelf with a small shelf above for the Freeview box and Blu-ray player.

Originally a surface mounted double socket was fitted to the back of the recess to provide power to an extension socket for the TV and all associated electrical equipment.

However, because the current flat screen LCD TV is the same size as the recess, access to the power switch is difficult. It takes two of us to turn the TV off at the mains, one to pull the TV out and hold it while the other put their arm behind to turn the main switch off.

Also, as my son’s new Blu-ray player includes Internet connection to stream video from the web (effectively turning his TV into a Smart TV) the Cat5 Ethernet cable (Internet cable) currently comes out from the front of the recess and trails across the office desk from front to back to plug into the Internet hub-switch.

Therefore, to resolve these cabling issues, I decided to chisel out a small hole in the dividing brick wall between the recess and the alcove; just large enough to fit a 65mm (2.5 inch) square guttering downpipe. Then once cut to size, fitted in the hole and plastered around the edges to make good, the resulting hole is just large enough to pass a British 13AMP electrical plug through (for the four gang extension socket) along with the Ethernet cable and any other cables we may wish to push through in the future (future proofing). The drainpipe I used was an off-cut from a spare piece I had left over from when I built our conservatory extension a few years previously, so it didn’t cost me anything.

Ancillary DIY

Having completed the rewiring and cable management for the TV, but before I could paint and decorate the room I needed to:

  • Remove the old radiator shelf and a shelf above the desk; both of which would be modified before putting back after all the decorations were complete.
  • Make several modifications to the built-in cabin bed.
  • Repair any cracks and holes in the plaster before wallpapering.

Radiator and Desk Shelf

The old radiator shelf was just conti-board (laminated chipboard) which I wanted to replace with real wood and make a little smaller to the original. So I removed the old radiator shelf before wallpaper and then afterwards replaced it with a couple of pieces of oak flooring (joined together in the middle). I rounded them at both ends to match the design of the original so that there were no sharp corners to bump into.

The shelf above the desk (just under the wall unit, and primarily for three of the surround sound speakers) was originally supported by a metal shelf support. So as part of the redesign when I replaced the shelf I added a side piece to hang it from the existing wall unit above.

Bed Modifications

There were three separate modifications I wanted to make to the bed (at various stages of the makeover):

  • Renew the headboard rest.
  • Add decorative panelling at the back of the bed.
  • Raise the front of the bed to hold a new (deeper) mattress.

The headrest is a panel of plywood upholstered with foam and faux fur, and held in place with a lip on the bottom that slips in behind the end of the bed and screwed securely in place at the top with two screws on the shelf above. So it was just a simple case of unscrewing it and reupholstering it with new faux fur, and then screwing it back in place after I’d painted the ceiling above.

At the back bed was a small strip of wallpaper that gets grubby overtime, so rather than re-wallpaper it I decided to add a decorative wood panela design feature that would be easy to keep clean. Therefore, for the decorative panelling I used some spare oak flooring that I had left over from a previous DIY project.

Then once all the painting and decorations were done and we bought a new mattress I used the same oak flooring to build a raised rail at the front of the bed for safety. The height of the front of the bed needing to be raised because the new mattress is twice as deep as the old one and therefore without raising the height at the front there is a real risk that my son could roll out of bed while asleep, which would be a rude awakening to say the least!

Preparation for Painting and Decorating

Normally, in British homes, prior to painting and decorating you would strip the wall back to the bare plaster, make any repairs to the plaster, sand the walls smooth, and optionally size them if required. Size is a liquid applied to plaster walls that once dried makes them slippery and makes it easier to apply wallpaper; sizing is optional but can save a lot of time and effort in the long run.

However, because this room is also an office for business use, time was of the essence. Because the old wallpaper was still in good condition (not peeling) and because I would be using thick (1400g/m² Grade) lining paper that would even out any irregularities in the wall, I decided that the minimal of wall preparation was sufficient. I just filled any cracks and holes in the plaster with Polyfilla and smooth over.

Painting and Decorating

A friend of the family gave us a couple of rolls of expensive German wallpaper which he had left over from some decorating he’d done. Although my son’s room is quite small (but standard for a British home) and there isn’t much wall space due to all the built-in furniture, recessed shelving and cupboard space, the radiator and the window and door, there wasn’t quite enough of the wallpaper to hang it from floor to ceiling.

So to ensure I would have enough wallpaper I decided to not wallpaper the top 18 inches, but paint it instead and separate the painted section from the wallpaper with a wallpaper border.

Therefore to make a neat job the order of progress would be:

  • Lining paper
  • Painting
  • Waxing wood
  • Wallpapering

Lining Paper

Lining paper evens out irregularities in the wall and gives a smooth surface which can later be painted or wallpapered. The thinnest grade is 800 and the thickest is 2,000; the thicker the lining paper the more effective it is in making the walls smooth. In our house I prefer to use 1,400 Grade, which is almost like thin cardboard.

Tips on hanging lining paper:

  • The professional advice is to hang the wallpaper horizontally across the wall so that there is no risk of the edges lining up with the wallpaper. Some of it I did hang horizontally, e.g., above and below the window, and above the wall unit and radiator. However, because of the size and shape of the room it made more sense to hang the lining paper virtually on either side of the window and on either side of the recessed cupboards and alcove.
  • Due to its thickness, to avoid a visible ridge beneath the wallpaper, the lining paper should never overlap.
  • The lining paper requires a thick paste mix, and the paste should be generously applied; especially around the edges.

Once the paste has been brushed onto the lining paper, leave it for about 10 minutes for the lining paper to soak up the wallpaper paste before hanging it.

A Stanley knife gives the neatest and most accurate cut when trimming the excess at the top and bottom, and around any awkward shapes; and change the blades frequently, as they do blunt quickly when wallpapering. Although in practice (for an amateur) there can be occasions when it may be easier to score the paper, peel it back off the wall and trim it with wallpaper scissors.

Once on the wall, and straight, brush it smooth with a wallpaper brush, working from the middle out towards the edges, and work from top to bottom. Then use an edge roller to firmly fix the lining paper around the edges and give the whole surface a final smooth with a damp decorator’s sponge.

Once all the lining paper is hung make a quick visual inspection to check all the edges are firmly applied and then leave it overnight, before painting or applying any wallpaper.

Lining Paper

Lining Paper

Painting

I did all the painting before wallpapering so that there was no risk of the paint marking the wallpaper and because it would give a neat finish line between paint and wallpaper.

Gloss paint and some wood stains can take over a day to dry, whereas emulsion paints and quick drying varnish only takes a couple of hours.

Therefore, before wallpapering, I applied the gloss paint and any wood stains first. Then after painting the ceiling with white emulation, I applied three coats of sky blue emulsion over the lining paper across the top 18 inches of the wall, and white emulsion in the recess and alcove; allowing two hours drying time between each coat.

Painting the top 18 inches of the lining paper with sky blue emulsion paint.

Painting the top 18 inches of the lining paper with sky blue emulsion paint.

Waxing

I waxed all the natural wood at this stage because the wood polish I use stains, and I didn’t want to get any of the stain on the new wallpaper or emulsion. To keep the wood nice I use an antiquing wax which is a very durable aging wax ideal for distressing and aging wood and furniture. Unlike furniture polish, its high in bees wax and most importantly contains no silicone. The bane of silicone (which is the main constituent of the most commonly used furniture polish sprays) is that although it shines when wet, it soon dries making the wood look dull again, and being an oil it attract dust meaning that you end up polishing wood more frequently than necessary. Whereas good old fashioned bees wax polish (with no silicone) gives a much longer lasting finish.

Wallpapering and Wallpaper Border

The following day, once the gloss paint was dry, it was time to do the wallpapering.

Lining paper (especially thick lining paper) can occasionally come away at the edges and most particularly in the corners when dry. Therefore, before starting the wallpapering it is advisable to make a quick visual check around the room; and if you spot any places where the lining paper has lifted then gently pull it back, apply a generous dab of wallpaper paste and reply the edge or corner to the wall, then smooth it firmly in place with the wallpaper brush, edge roller and damp sponge.

Hanging wallpapering is very similar to hanging lining paper except all the wallpaper has to be hung vertically and great care needs to be taken to:

  • Hang it straight, where necessary using a plumb line and pencil mark a straight line on wall for the edge of the wallpaper.
  • Hang it the right way up.
  • Match up any pattern with adjoining sheets.
  • Butt-join where possible, albeit around windows it is usually necessary to overlap pieces.
  • Ensure all trimmed edges are neatly cut; preferably with a Stanley knife.

Once all the wallpaper was hung, as I was leaving the top 18 inches un-wallpapered and just painted, to make a neat line between the painted border and the top of the wallpaper I hung a six inch horizontal strip of wallpaper border. For aesthetics, I lined up the top edge of the wallpaper border with the top of the window and door, which is 2 metres (6 feet and 6 inches) above floor level.

Making Good: Final Fit

Here is what I did for some final decorations.

Skirting Board and Wood Trims

Having decorated the room it was time to put the skirting board back. I’d previously ripped out the old skirting board under the radiator (and on that side of the room) when I was doing the electrics to make the rewiring easier; especially as I wanted to replace that skirting board anyway, as it was old and manky and needed replacing anyway.

While I was doing the decoration, I used some of the time to cut the new skirting board (and wood trims which I wanted to add) to size and applied three coats of oak coloured varnish.

Now that the decoration was complete, I could fix the new skirting board and trims where needed, like around the edges of the recessed cupboard and alcove. I fixed them predominantly with ‘no nails’ adhesive and securing as necessary with the occasional screw.

Wall Mounted Extension Sockets

Three individually switched 13AMP 6-gang extension sockets, and one 4-gang, were fixed to the walls and sides around the desk area. These would power a bank of 10 external hard drives, the iMac, laptop, sound system, USB3 ports and other ancillary ITC and camera equipment.

Under the desk I fitted an 8-gang individually switched (power surge protected 13AMP) extension socket to feed the four 13 AMP extension sockets above the desk, and to leave four spare sockets for future use. This in turn is plugged into the 13AMP wall mounted double socket (maximum load 3,000 watts) wired into the upstairs ring main circuit protected by the standard British 32AMP (7,000 watt maximum load) fuse back at the main fuse box (consumer unit).

The double socket under the desk also powers the 4-port Internet hub-switch in the room; which is cabled back to the main hub-switch and router in our home office in the next room.

I also wall mounted an individually switched four-gang extension socket above the bedside shelf for convenience.