When a work-from-home couple in Denver received the blissful news that their family would be growing, excitement abounded and then the reality of limited space set in. Their house was built in 1907 and, while craftsman charm was abundant, the spaciousness of this day and age’s new-builds was non-existent. The home office/guest bedroom would now be the nursery and the couple knew they had to get creative or (gasp!) retreat back into office jobs. Recently, the housing market in the sought after Park Hill neighborhood of Denver has shot to all-time highs, so moving into a larger home in the neighborhood was not an option. 

They turned their sights to a raw storage space at the back of the yard that abutted the alley. Dirt floor, spiders and lots and lots of empty boxes filled the structure, but there was nearly 400 square feet of “usable” space. The raw space near the alley had limitations – by the city ordinances they could not alter the floor plan or raise the height of the short structure – but it had potential.  The room was like a narrow coffin, with no windows and dirt floors, so the most important element was light. 

The Jeld-Wen accordion doors became the pivotal piece and provided the foundation of design for the space; they are the most quinesstential design element for both the exterior and the interior of the space. Not only would the folding patio doors allow the light to fill the space and provide ventilation to the studio, the couple — who love to entertain in the summer — fell in love with the open indoor-outdoor feel. The design concept is rustic modern, allowing the space to have more modern elements but not stand in total contrast to the old Dutch Colonial home. The single door customized by Jeld-Wen duplicated the panels of the accordion door giving the space unity, which is key when so small. The exterior black aluminum on the doors brings in the modern, while the knotty alder real wood framing on the interior of the door pulls in the rustic. 

The black doors are balanced by the bolder black header across the top of the structure and the sleek Hinkley sconces in black add to the modern component. To deliver the rustic design, the exterior reclaimed wood siding mirrors the hues of the fencing that abuts the studio on one side, yet the siding runs horizontally to differentiate itself. To add continuity, again pulling the exterior and interior together, the siding wood was used on the wall behind the AV system. Not surprisingly, and even stereotypically, she rolls her eyes at the size of the TV while he is contemplating exchanging it for an even larger one. The rest of the walls were painted Benjamin Moore Simply White to help the space seem larger. 

The door did bring in the bright light the couple was looking for and in the mornings the east facing studio could get too much of a good thing. They opted for solar shades. With such a small space it was important to be able to have a hint of transparency out into garden to not feel like you are working in a shoe box, so they chose a 1% solar shade in graphite by Smith and Noble. “As we were selecting the window treatments, as new parents, the motorized function was not only cool, but a choice for safety.” Since the space was going to serve double duty as a family room of sorts, not having cords and pulls was reassuring.

Whether this space is an office studio, entertainment room, family playroom, man cave or “she shed” is still up for debate, it fills all those roles and more. “We wanted a space that was going to be used throughout every season and every day. The idea was that we would both office from there, taking turns getting that precious ‘head-down work time’ that can be evasive for us work-from-homers even without the added distraction of an infant, as well as provide as space for family time.” 

Turning a raw space into something seems almost easier than renovating an existing design, but there were many issues to overcome. First the dirt floors were poured with slab-on grade-concrete, then the structure had to be reframed on the inside since the exterior could not be modified. The height in one corner was inches different than the other, but expert drywallers came up with several tricks to make it work. The space had electricity but no HVAC, so again, they got creative. Some research lead to the epic find of the Schluter DITRAheat electric floor heating element that could be placed between the concrete and the grey wood-like tile. Combined with an electrical wall-mounted heating and cooling unit, the small space stays toasty through the winter. The couple could not part with all of their storage space, so a small 10×10 space on the north end of the unit was reserved to house things like skis and the like as well as the AV stack. It is tucked away to the right of the single entrance door behind a stunning and trendy barn door with the impeccable craftsmanship of Rustica Hardware. “With all the doors going into such a small space I knew I wanted a sliding barn door for several reasons, and we love this one because it is almost like another work of art hanging on the wall.”

Sharing an office space and creating a family entertaining area that fits everyone is a challenge. As she was envisioning the interior she knew it had to have an air of masculinity, but punctuated with some more feminine décor items. The pillows from Loloi and the Pom Pom at Home blush throw bring in the cozy feminine feel. The white and hues of grey throughout the space create a neutral space that works as a blank canvas. Hinting at the masculinity and the rustic modern approach are the large black and white images on the wall. The large round mirror was chosen for balance and the woven wall hanging near the “debatably large flat-screen TV” was chosen because, “Unlike a framed piece it can be enjoyed from the side view, plus it brings in just a hint of that blush.” The dark grey furniture items were all chosen to recede into the room instead of jump out in such a small space. “We searched high and low for the narrow console – there are limited options for a truly narrow piece – we just adored this faux shagreen piece by Made Goods.” (Available at Candelabra!) The Jaipur rug has a muted palette but brings some warmth with its gold and orange highlights while blending nicely with the wood-like tiles which add to the rustic charm the couple was going for. The space is dotted with other décor items that reflect a little of their personality; music and travel-themed coffee table books and the bronze accessories give the space character. “I also like the tranquility that the greenery adds and I think it eludes to the whole-inside outside flow, though I admit my choices are a bit tropical for Colorado.”

There was discussion on whether to choose a sleeper sofa to provide the guest space they were also losing, but after experiencing many, they opted for a casual sectional called the Big Easy from Mitchell Gold Bob Williams. The depth of the seat makes it a perfect sofa for sleeping and with guests only a dozen times a year at most, the majority of days it would be for family lounging. “In retrospect the sofa might be a bit large for the space but we wanted something that everyone could cozy into and watch the game or a movie. I envision lots of popcorn and Disney shared on that sofa as our son grows up!”