When Spencer and Katie Perry moved into their four-bedroom Colonial home in Ellicott City this year, they finally had the space they wanted for a home office.
But there was one problem: the only furniture they had for the room was a folding plastic table Spencer had bought in college, a television and TV stand, and a large leather office chair. They had no art for the walls, no cabinets for their papers and no way to control the tangle of computer cords that were playthings for their kitten, Gadget.
In their old house, the Perrys had worked in a small back room no one saw, but in their new home the office was in the front and in open view. They needed a solution.
One day, Spencer stumbled upon the Ikea website and noticed the company had started a home makeover team that was looking for projects in the Baltimore-Washington area. On a lark, he snapped some pictures and uploaded a video showing their office.
"Next thing we knew people were coming by to measure the room," Spencer says.
Robin Bach, one of five members of Ikea's Home Tour Squad, says the team had tackled studio apartments, children's rooms, bedrooms and dining rooms. The Perrys' project was different.
"Ikea was really excited about the challenge of having a professional office," she says.
A few weeks after selecting the Perrys' project, the squad transformed the 195-square-foot room into a functioning office for both Katie, 29, who is director of financial services with MedStar Health in Columbia, and Spencer, 30, a commercial real estate lender with BB&T Bank.
Bach says the inspiration for the $5,000 makeover started with the Perrys' love of their alma mater, the University of South Carolina. The school's colors of maroon and black set the palette, and the team began the makeover by selecting a vintage dark-red area rug.
They created separate work spaces for the couple, giving each gray desks and black ergonomic chairs. They installed black cabinets that extended the length of the back wall, providing ample space for files and a printer. Trays beneath the desks hold power strips and keep cords off the floor.
The designers added striped cushioned chairs for Spencer's clients and mounted the 46-inch television on the wall. A cabinet beneath the television provides more storage space for files and office supplies.
Bach says lighting was important. The room had no ceiling light, so the designers added desk lamps with two brightness settings, wall lamps behind the cabinet, a floor lamp and a matching table lamp. They also added blinds and black curtains to the windows so the Perrys could control the amount of sunlight in the room.
Spencer says the makeover contest came along just at the right time. The couple had furnished most of the house, but they were stumped by what to do with the office. They had looked in office supply stores and considered buying used furniture, but they were not satisfied with anything they saw.
"It seemed like a real big project," Spencer says. "Nothing was coming together we were too excited about."
Even though the couple knew the furniture store was searching for projects in the area, they didn't expect to win. "I didn't take it seriously at first," Katie says.
But Bach says the team was swayed after seeing the photos of the dismal office. "They were a little embarrassed about their space and we were able to help them come up with a better solution," says Bach, an interior designer with an Ikea store in Atlanta.
The homeowners the store chooses usually help with the projects and Bach calls the Perrys "old Ikea pros."
The couple painted the room in the gray that the designers selected, and helped assemble some of the furniture. But as the project neared completion, the team sent the Perrys away in order to surprise them with some final touches: the mounted television, artwork on the walls, lamps, the rug and a coffee service.
The Perrys say the projected turned out better than they expected. "They came up with a solution that was much better than anything I had in mind," Katie says.
The couple say they spend several hours a week in their home office, catching up on paying bills or completing tasks from work.
"It's really great to have a place to come home and work," Katie says. "They gave us each our own space. That's something that's been nice. ... We're not interrupting each other."
Spencer says he was impressed by how well the team understood what they wanted. "They really took some time to understand how we were going to use the space," Spencer notes. "They really customed-crafted one for us."
Katie says she appreciates the cabinets that allow them to keep their files organized and out of view yet still easy to access.
Spencer says he likes being able to work and still catch games on television.
The only one in the family who might not like the makeover is Gadget, who no longer can play with loose electric cords.
"I think he's a little disappointed," Katie says.
Home office success
IKEA designer Robin Bach offers these tips for successful home office makeovers.
Organize and hide computer, printer, phone and television cords. Power strips can be tucked in shelves under desks and cords can be concealed along baseboards.
Install various lighting that can be customized to the task, including desk lamps, floor lamps and accent lighting.
Select comfortable chairs for clients so they won't mind long meetings.