December ABODE: Do It Yourself

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RENTAL RESCUE
Hey, workaholic

After working late one evening, I realized how much time we truly spend at work. With the end of the semester drawing near and daylight savings time a distant memory, I find myself seeing more of my office than my home. As renters and homeowners alike, we spend a lot of effort and energy making our homes into comfortable havens from the rest of the world. If we put some of the same energy and effort into our office spaces, we could feel more comfortable and even inspired during those 40-plus hours a week in our home away from home.

Let’s face it. Most office buildings aren’t making the cover of Architectural Digest. When we think of work spaces, many of us think of white walls, industrial carpet, file cabinets, and a fluorescent lighting design that makes us all look like the “before” photos on makeover shows. It’s no wonder people take so many coffee breaks. Viewing your office space like a rental opens up great challenge and potential. With a few simple design tips and tricks, you can revive your nine-to-five in no time.

A hipper square
For many, office means cubicle. Although it’s a small space, you can still pack in a lot of style. Most cubicles include large fabric panels, typically in solid or neutral colors. While perfect for tacking up notes and photos, they leave much to be desired. Why not measure the panels and re-cover them with a bold and modern fabric from Les Fabriques or the Second Yard? Just a few thumbtacks or staples to secure the fabric to the panel and you’re in business.
Take the same approach to an ordinary cork board. With a few staples, cover the cork surface with some wrapping paper from one of our great stationery stores. View your flat surfaces and cabinetry like blank canvases. Peel-and-stick vinyl wall decals are a great way to break up a sea of gray laminate.

If you’re really on a budget, create a plaid pattern out of different colors and widths of painter’s tape. Work off the colors you’re given to create a fun color scheme. If your cubicle is gray, add in elements of mustard yellow for a chic and modern look.

The extras
In the same way we accessorize our homes, we should accessorize our office spaces. From paper to files to supplies, our offices have a tendency to get easily cluttered, so you want to keep your accessories purposeful. No one needs 12 ceramic cats on their desk. If your budget permits, swap out a few of the office basics to suit your personality. Pick up a vintage reproduction steel stapler from Rock Paper Scissors. Use cool vintage drinking glasses or barware to hold pencils, pens, and other office supplies.

When possible, ditch the migraine-inducing fluorescent overheads for a desk lamp, perhaps with a funky shade from Cha Cha’s. Framed images from an old calendar make instant, affordable artwork for your office space, adding needed detail to dull walls.

Missing a window? Bring in elements of the outdoors to add some calm—a small trickling fountain and easily maintained bamboo or fresh flowers can brighten the darkest interior space. A few personal photos in coordinating frames can bring a much needed sense of home to the workspace.

With a little imagination, you can take your office space from institutional to inspired in the time it would take you to make a coffee run. The best part? You can take it all with you the next time you’re promoted, or demoted. Well, let’s just say promoted.—Ed Warwick

Before joining the ABODE team, Ed Warwick was the author of “Simply Cville,” a blog about D.I.Y. design, entertaining, and home improvement projects. A UVA grad, Ed currently works as the Coordinator of LGBT Student Services under the University’s Dean of Students.

TOOLBOX
In the snow
Cleaning up after a snowstorm can be an adventure in exertion. The right tools, and some foresight, will save you energy for sledding.

If a heavy snowfall is predicted, gather snow-clearing tools beforehand (stores sell out quickly after a snowstorm). Next, put a piece of cardboard or plastic sheeting over your windshield. Applying an anti-icing agent or de-icer will also save you some work in the morning (Warning: they tend to be rough on the planet).

When it’s time to dig out your car to go on a hot cocoa run, shovel out the areas around the wheels and driver side first. Quality is key when choosing a shovel. The handle should be made from maple or ash; the shovel itself should be a strong, slightly flexible plastic composite or metal. The point of attachment should show good workmanship: not merely glued on or pinched in place.

Once you’ve gotten the tires clear, switch to a broom. Nylon or other synthetic bristles are best for snow removal because they will not absorb moisture or swell like a natural straw broom, and they won’t scratch your car’s finish. Sweep off the roof, hood and taillights of your vehicle. If you were able to think ahead, the sheet of cardboard on your windshield should come right off along with snow and ice. Otherwise, it’s time for the hand scraper.
Your trusty broom should do the trick on steps and walkways, unless the white stuff is wet and dense.

If you’ve got a long pathway, or just like power tools, a snow blower/snow thrower is for you. Gas-fueled and loud, they’ll take care of that uncomfortably muffled silence after a fresh snowfall. If the blower/thrower gets jammed, you must turn the mechanism off completely before attempting to unclog. Use a broomstick (that broom really is useful) or a plastic tool made specifically for breaking up jammed snow clumps.

Finally, don’t let all of your hard work go to waste. A generous sprinkling of salt (I use Kosher salt) and maybe some sand, kitty litter or ash for grit will keep your walkways clear and safe—at least until the next blizzard.—Christy Baker

Christy Baker is a local Jane-of-all-trades. Whether it’s fixing furniture, building a chicken coop or maintain-ing her roller skates, this creative mom of two al- ways keeps a toolbox (or at least some duct tape) handy.

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