Black & White Den With Pops of Color

Nellie, the winner of my very first giveaway last week, came to me seeking a makeover of her and her husband Nick’s den, which needs some pops of color. She’s a girl of my own heart in terms of loving style and design, which she writes about over on her blog Wired, Witty and Well-Dressed. Here’s what she says:

We’re kind of into the sophisticated modern look with a hint of classic antique-iness. For example, we really like dark brown leather couches with the brass rivets.

We tended to do black stuff in our den since our computers and electronics dominate the room and they’re black. We both like shades of blue. Nick loves orange (he’s a University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign fan).

I’m a huge fan of DIY artwork. We actually have a pile of framed photos that we haven’t gotten up on the walls yet. I also have a newspaper from the morning after the last election when Barack Obama won that I’m dying to get framed and put over my desk in the office. We also don’t have any wedding photos up yet.  We really need to figure out a way to get them up.

Here are a couple photos of the den as-is. It currently has two matching desks and desk chairs and lamp, which will stay, and two matching black bookcases, which will go.

Looking in:

The right wall:

Here is a layout of the den, which has five walls and is 9×12′:

Now here’s what I have planned for the makeover, using Nellie’s $250 gift card at Bed, Bath & Beyond she has from her wedding, and about $200-ish extra for additional items:

1. This leaning bookshelf will replace the two black ones and create a much more open, airy feeling in the room, while still storing the couples’ needed work-books. The height of the shelf will go well with the height of the room. The more attractive books can be left out to display on the shelves, while clutter and little-used texts can be stored in the woven baskets (#8). The printer can either be placed on the bottom shelf here, or kept on its current small black table but moved to the wall directly to the left of the double doors.

2. This gorgeous chair is on sale and includes the couples’ favorite colors: orange and blue, along with beige and brown. Positioned against the wall directly opposite the double doors (to the left of the closet), it will help brighten up the room from the vantage point of the living room, looking through the doors into the den.

3. We’ll push the two desks together onto the 9′ wall to the left of the double doors to create one long workspace. High up above it will go two floating shelves, to create one long shelf where more books can be stored along with propped up pieces of large artwork, and even that framed newspaper from when Obama won the presidency, like Nellie wants to do. The artwork on top of this floating shelf will add color as well as make great use of the room’s high walls.

In between the highly-placed floating wall shelf and the tops of the desks, we’ll place a long sheet of cork board covered with fabric (see #4 for fabric color and pattern), much like in this inspiration photo Nellie provided me, courtesy of (which looks like it got it from Martha Stewart):

Rolls of cork board can be purchased at places like Michaels or online. Here it is on Amazon pretty durn cheap! And since Nellie mentioned she and her husband adore that brass-rivet-studded leather look, I thought it’d be fun to frame the new cork board with brass-colored upholstery nails. You can buy those here. To apply the fabric to the board, I’d use a spray fabric adhesive, smoothing out as you go along. The upholstery nails around the edges will help secure it, too.

There is space on that wall in between the two desks (which I should mention are the same model), for a small storage cabinet the same height as the desks (like in the inspiration photo above) as a place to store and hide the computers and cords. In the meantime, cords can be easily corralled up to the underneath of the desks and secured with Velcro tape.

4. This artwork would look fabulous arranged leaning on top of the floating shelf above the desks. Try a trio of different-yet-similar framed $4.99 coral prints, a large 19×19″ framed tropical dock print to bring in more blue hues, and a huge, gorgeous $39 floral framed print that does a great job of containing all of the colors of our palette!

5. This collection of frames can hold artwork, such as DIY pieces like pressed fern leaves, silhouette cut-outs that are all the rage right now and a couple of wedding photos. Placed art-gallery-like above the chair midway on the wall will create a striking feature.

6. I couldn’t pass up this great leather charging station to hold ipods, cell phones AND hide those unsightly cords. This station could be placed on the desks or leaning bookshelf. What a steal — it’s under $10 on sale!

7. Here’s the fabric I talked about above, that will cover the cork board above the desks. The oversized dandelion pattern echoes the chair’s pattern. Bonus — it won’t be too distracting as the new-cork-board-wall above the desks since it’s a muted natural linen color. In fact, it will help define the space and make the combined-desks-arrangement appear more unified. $12.95/yard.

8. Finally, snag this set of durable woven baskets to bring in texture and tame unsightly stuff, placed on the new leaning bookshelf on the wall to the right of the desks. Lastly, I’d suggest clearing away unneeded papers, clutter and even picture frames (that are currently on the black bookcases that will be tossed). Try putting those smaller frames up on the wall instead, grouped in the nicely-arranged art gallery (above the new Target chair).

Happy decorating Nellie!!! When you’re finished, shoot me the after pictures! I’m so digging these colors myself I’m thinking about purchasing the same artwork for my living room. If I do, I’ll be sure to post pictures here on the blog.

Readers, how do you bring color into apartments where you’re not allowed to paint (or only allowed to paint just one wall per room, as in Nellie’s case)? Do you go ahead and paint just one wall? Do you break the rules and paint all of them anyway, knowing you’ll have to go over them with the original white paint before you leave? If you painted, are you afraid of getting caught or even getting a fine? (Can you tell yours truly might have broken aforementioned rules in her own apartment recently? 😉

Somebody please comment, I’m getting lonely on this here blog o’ mine and wondering if anybody’s out there reading other than Alexa and my Mom?



  1. Nellie said

    oh wow… you’re fast and resourceful!! This is fantastic. Let’s see if my lazy butt can kick in gear and put some of these options into action. I especially like your idea of the corkboard rollout and the tacks! Super cute! Thanks E! Thanks a bunch!

  2. […] won a mood board from Clementine & Clover last week.  Well, Elizabeth is ridiculously fast!  She’s done and the mood board is […]

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