If you have an office job, chances are you spend a lot of time at a desk. And if you're anything like me, the desk is cluttered, and you're sat at it like Quasimodo with an internet addiction.
Enough is enough. My spine is the same shape as a pork scratching and I want to be surrounded by things that don't look like crap. I deserve to live my life in a Pinterest board godammit. The problem is, I don't want to *pay* for it. The solution: DIY myself a bunch of beautiful, cheap desk things.
I have the scrawny arms of someone who loathes physical activity, and the only thing I've ever built is a portfolio of excuses for not leaving my house.
What could go wrong? Pretty much everything, said my anxiety. Nonetheless, I persevered and googled a handful of office DIYs that looked not impossible.
I knew I wanted a computer stand to help my sad, crumpled back, and lots of things that involved spray-painting because spray-painting is easy. Then I bullied my boyfriend into letting me use his house to do it all in, because there's no sodding way I'm getting spray paint on any of my own stuff.
Plus, if things got tough, I could always "delegate" the harder tasks to him. "We're doing DIY *together*, Karl! This will make us stronger as a couple! If you stop putting those screws in, you're dead to me, understand?"
DIY One: Dip plain mugs into nail polish for a watercolour effect.
Cost: £6–10. I bought four plain mugs from Habitat for £1 each (they were on sale) and some cocktail sticks for £2, and then used my own nail polish. I'd recommend just buying some cheap polish though, because the older the polish is, the worse it looks on the mug. FYI, Watermelon by Essie worked the best out of everything I used.
Level of difficulty: 8/10. You add a few drops of polish to hot water, stir it around with a cocktail stick, dip a mug in and voila, you have an Instagram-worthy drinking receptacle. Simple right? Ha, no.
There were a few things this tutorial forgot to mention: 1) Use new polish or it will look shit. 2) When you're stirring, the polish has a tendency to clump around your cocktail stick, and look shit. 3) If the polish doesn't clump around your cocktail stick, it still clumps up on your mug and looks shit.
Was it worth it? After multiple panicked trips to the kitchen to scrub off my botched attempts, I eventually got the hang of it and ended up with four mugs that were passable. This DIY is magic though: The mugs look AMAZING in pictures, despite being pretty lacklustre in real life (the texture of the nail polish is weird). So if you crave the sweet rush of social media validation, these are totally worth it.
My colleagues' reactions: I gave a mug to each of my co-workers. Their reaction was the same as someone who's unwrapped a Christmas present and realised it's not the PlayStation they asked for, but a hand-knitted potato. They all decided to use their mugs as pencil holders, so they wouldn't have to drink out of them. A wise decision.
DIY Two: Make a computer stand with four Ikea legs and a panel of MDF.
Cost: £26. Turns out MDF is cheap as chips, and my plank only cost me about £3. The bulk of the cost was the legs, which were a whopping £10, and getting a screwdriver and sandpaper, because of course I don't own a tool kit.
Level of difficulty: 4/10. You just sand the MDF, screw on the legs and spray paint the whole thing (the original tutorial glazes theirs, but fuck that). Piece of cake. Granted, I needed Karl to show me how to put the screws in – you have to hammer the screws in a little bit first – but after that I was screwing like a champion. Unfortunately for him, I mean that completely literally.
Was it worth it? By this point, Karl had realised his role in all this was to just take pictures of me being amazing at DIY, and he was not happy about it. I wouldn't let him dip any of the mugs (he had to go find his own), and after I realised I could screw things on my own, any chance for him to actively help was over. But the finished stand was SO GOOD it made any damage to my relationship more than worth it.
My colleagues' reactions: Amazement, mixed with jealousy and awe. My computer stand was both a work of art AND practical.
DIY Three: Organise your cables and make them look adorably cute with washi tape.
Cost: £1.50–6.50. I got excited by all the different colours and decorations, and definitely bought more washi tape than I actually needed. You really only need one roll in a lighter colour. Also, I stupidly bought a roll of black polka-dot tape. Incredibly enough, it turns out pen does not show up on black tape.
Level of difficulty: 2/10. Ridiculously easy. Cut out a strip of tape, fold it over your wire, and if you're feeling fancy, cut into the end to make a flag shape. Boom. Done.
Was it worth it? It was cheap and easy, and my desk is now one step closer to looking like something off Pinterest. It's amazing how one tiny change can make your smugness levels go through the roof.
My colleagues' reactions: They didn't really care. I, however, feel a frisson of excitement every time I see my painstakingly labelled wires, because labelling things is like my crack.
DIY Four: Tape and spray paint a plain mousepad to jazz it up.
Cost: £1.68. I already had spray paint and more washi tape than I could ever want. All I needed was a plain black mouse pad.
Level Of Difficulty: 6/10. WAY harder than I thought it was going to be, as I didn't realise taping the pattern was a cleverly disguised IQ test. There aren't instructions in the tutorial on how to recreate the design, so I had to spend a long time looking at the picture and guessing where the tape should go.
Apparently you're also meant to cover your mouse pad in PVA glue when you're done, to stop it smudging. I forgot that, and when I pulled it out of my bag the next morning it looked like it had been out clubbing all night.
Was it worth it? Not really. I spent bloody ages doing the design, and it didn't even look *that* nice. If you already have some spray paint, and want to pretty up a boring mousepad you already have, then yeah, do this. But I wouldn't buy a mouse pad specifically.
My colleagues' reactions: Again, the reactions weren't that enthusiastic. I'd spray painted a mouse pad. Big whoop. So much taping. So little glory.
DIY Five: Stick some empty glasses on to a piece of wood and spray paint it for a cheap pencil holder.
Cost: £10. Again, MDF is ridiculously cheap: about £2 for the bit I used in this. Then you just have to get a hot glue gun to stick on the various glasses you've looted from your boyfriend's flat.
Level of difficulty: 5/10. I definitely spilt glue on the floor (sorry, Karl), so be careful with the hot glue gun (setting up the gun was the trickiest bit). Also my block of wood was far too big, so I ended up with an actual pencil holder palace. I have one pen, and it's going to be living in its own mansion. Otherwise, it was pretty easy. Stick on glasses, leave to dry, spray paint, done. The MDF absorbed the spray paint I used, but I thought the effect actually looked quite good.
Was it worth it? When I first finished this, I thought it looked terrible. It was too big and didn't look that impressive, despite my using both spray paint and a glue gun – two things supposed to make anything look good. But, when I got into the office, my colleagues helped fill it up and suddenly it looked ~incredible~. Moral: If something's crap, steal from your neighbours until it's not crap any more.
My colleagues' reactions: Similar to my initial reaction – it didn't look great. But once it was in its full glory with pencils and miscellaneous plants, they were filled with a potent blend of envy, surprise and stationary-fuelled lust (I'm guessing).
This was a mixed bag. Some hacks worked really well, others ended up looking a bit meh. Surprisingly, the DIY I thought would be hard (the computer stand) was the easiest, while the ones I thought would be a doddle were way harder than they looked. Also, Karl being there meant I made a lot fewer mistakes than I usually would have, so try to get a helper if you can.
This also would have been a lot cheaper if I'd had any form of tool kit already. Buying everything from scratch ended up being quite pricey, but after you've got your basic kit, I imagine it gets more budget-friendly.
My major takeaway from all this though? After some styling, good lighting, and a professional camera got involved, all my DIY projects looked 100x better than in real life. So if you want your desk to look like something off Pinterest, buy a camera, take pictures, and only ever look at it on Instagram.