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Before & After

This DIY home office project came with a bonus: Escaping the kids

When they started working from home, these Scituate homeowners looked to the basement because their kids “had taken over the rest of the house.”

When the pandemic brought new urgency to finding private space, Danielle and Andrew Robertson transformed their almost-finished basement into an appealing office with side-by-side desks, a sitting area, and a photo studio that doubles as a workout spot.
When the pandemic brought new urgency to finding private space, Danielle and Andrew Robertson transformed their almost-finished basement into an appealing office with side-by-side desks, a sitting area, and a photo studio that doubles as a workout spot.Danielle Robertson

Danielle and Andrew Robertson are no Chip and Joanna Gaines, but the couple has renovated three homes together. That includes the 1960s raised ranch in Scituate where they live with their three school-age kids and their Tibetan terrier. The basement was the last space to get any love. “I used it as my office to edit photos at night,” says Danielle, a photographer, “but it was not in any way appealing.”

When COVID hit, everything changed. The kids were home and Danielle and Andrew, who works in data analysis, were working side by side in the basement. “We suddenly needed a professional work environment where we could think, drink tea, and maybe do some yoga uninterrupted by the kids, who had taken over the rest of the house,” Danielle says.

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A new desk setup from Ikea that incorporates a cabinet placed strategically between them provides separate work surfaces. Danielle didn’t stop there. “I thought, You know what? I want things that I love in front of me,” she says. Aiming for bright and light decor that reflects her mid-century modern aesthetic, she found a Scandinavian-inspired block-print wallpaper that makes her “so happy.”

A FaceTime call with a stylist friend persuaded the couple to trade in the futon in favor of two secondhand armchairs and paint the window trim black for architectural interest. The seating area serves as a secondary workspace with a laptop or a meeting place where Danielle can chat with clients before a shoot. Speaking of shoots, the basement is now equipped with a studio for headshots and product photography. The corner doubles as a yoga/exercise area and an extra spot to watch television, too.

Hanging artwork was the finishing touch. “Once we framed and hung pieces we’d been collecting for years, it felt official,” Danielle says. “It’s taken the pandemic, but we’re finally finished.”

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When the pandemic hit, a couple in Scituate staked their claim to their basement and made DIY changes that created a multifunctional work area away from the kids.
This is what the basement looked like before the homeowners undertook DIY changes that created a multifunctional work area away from the kids.Danielle Robertson
Danielle purchased the World Market chairs and Pier 1 table secondhand. “I’m pretty thrifty with home décor,” she says. To create the asymmetrical arrangement of art and photos, she measured the wall, marked the same size area on the floor with masking tape, then physically laid out the pieces within the border. “I redid it a couple of times, but now I’m happy with it,” she says.
Danielle purchased the World Market chairs and Pier 1 table secondhand. “I’m pretty thrifty with home décor,” she says. To create the asymmetrical arrangement of art and photos, she measured the wall, marked the same size area on the floor with masking tape, then physically laid out the pieces within the border. “I redid it a couple of times, but now I’m happy with it,” she says.Danielle Robertson
Beacon House tulip wallpaper, which Danielle hung herself, lines the photo studio/workout area. Photo backdrops pull down from the ceiling and the cabinets hold electronics and DVDs.
Beacon House tulip wallpaper, which Danielle hung herself, lines the photo studio/workout area. Photo backdrops pull down from the ceiling and the cabinets hold electronics and DVDs.Danielle Robertson

Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.