Before & after: A regrettable renovation becomes a modern home office on a budget

This home renovation disaster got a new life thanks to handy homeowners and an eye for beautiful design

modern home office Alimah Shadia Sitta
(Image credit: Alimah Shadia Sitta)

When you go into a home renovation, it's with the goal of improving the space you're working on. But unfortunately, I found out the hard way that not all renovations result in a beautiful, Instagram-worthy space in the end.

In 2019, we had the unfortunate challenge of rebuilding a disaster renovation completed by unqualified builders (lesson learned!). We hired contractors to build an external home office and storage room from scratch at the end of our garden. It was pretty awful from beginning to end, and by May 2020, we had spent a fortune rebuilding it with water-proofing, re-digging the ground, patio, window and doors. You name it, we had to redo it! But on the plus side, the space eventually ended up being exactly what we wanted, and it was finally ready to be decorated (albeit on a budget to help offset the costs of the second renovation). 

  • Keep reading: 43 home office ideas to make working from home more inspiring and productive

The before: 

This was the space before the structural rebuilding.

home renovation before photo

(Image credit: Alimah Shadia Sitta)

exterior renovation

(Image credit: Alimah Shadia Sitta)

home repairs

(Image credit: Alimah Shadia Sitta)

This was after reflooring, replastering and damp proofing: 

renovation progress photo

(Image credit: Alimah Shadia Sitta)

I was then left with a blank canvas to work my decorating magic!

The after: 

modern home office Alimah Shadia Sitta

(Image credit: Alimah Shadia Sitta)

The space had many structural imperfections like uneven walls, slanted ceiling, and skirting boards that could not be flush, so one of my main aims was to hide all those reminders of the ordeal we went through to build the space.

I chose a monochrome colour palette as the room is used as my husband's home office so I wanted neutral but bold colours. I added very subtle touches of gold, natural beige/jute and green.

Then, I set out to create three main zones for the space.

1. Desk area

modern home office Alimah Shadia Sitta

(Image credit: Alimah Shadia Sitta)

I commissioned my childhood friend to create a custom abstract art piece incorporating colour and fun into the desk space. Art is a great way to add interest but also still be professional in an office room setting. 

I went for a second hand black office desk with suit in shelving as storage space was essential for this office, used by my accountant husband. 

I added a bit of me with these stunning cream and gold client chairs which add that little bit of glamour to the space. 

2. Feature corner

modern home office with wallpaper Alimah Shadia Sitta

(Image credit: Alimah Shadia Sitta)

modern home office Alimah Shadia Sitta

(Image credit: Alimah Shadia Sitta)

To add a bit of fun, a point of interest and some creativity I decided to include this beautiful banana leaf monochrome wallpaper from ilovewallpaper.co.uk I made it a real point of interest by cutting out around the leaves and including this into the ceiling, an idea I first saw on Pinterest. 

That space is most certainly a favourite for clients and guests.

3. Stylish storage 

modern home office storage Alimah Shadia Sitta

(Image credit: Alimah Shadia Sitta)

As always, creating trendy storage is my favourite thing to do. I decided to go for a good old IKEA Kallax unit. Why? Because the options for storage and styling are endless! Straw storage boxes on the bottom shelving boxes meant that tones of paperwork could be stored away discretely. Matching black document holders were both practical and simple and then the rest of the boxes gave me an excuse to buy more home decor! 

I decided to paint the wall and part of the ceiling in this area black. This was intentional because the ceiling in this area is particularly imperfect and black was the perfect way to disguise that while creating a statement wall and perfect contrasting background for the while shelving unit. 

I went for luxury vinyl flooring in a herringbone style finish as I love the herringbone pattern and regretted not having that pattern in the main house. 

I finished the space with a matte black metal filing cabinet from Ikea which was surprisingly easy to build. The jute rug from H&M Home provided some warmth and the rattan IKEA pouffe is purely decorative. 

The space went from being somewhere that gave me great anxiety and regret to a great labour of love.

About our expert

Alimah-Shadia Sitta is part of Real Homes' Real Experts panel. She's a UK-based investment banker, designer and DIYer and shares her favourite tips, projects, and ideas on her Instagram account, and with us twice a month. 

Alimah-Shadia Sitta
Alimah-Shadia Sitta

Alimah-Shadia Sitta is part of Real Homes' Real Experts panel. She's a UK-based investment banker, designer and DIYer and shares her favourite tips, projects, and ideas with us twice a month.