Darrah reached out to me after first meeting me when I owned my marketing business. She had taken one of my social media seminars at the Crossfield Women in Business event and saw that I had made a career change. This meant the world to me because it is extremely difficult to shift people’s perspectives when you transition into a new career. And while I had done planning and design concept work for another commercial space, this was the first one I was able to see through to the end. Darrah’s business coach had encouraged her to redesign her real estate office space to better represent the service and professionalism she offered and to create a space that reflected her brand – marketing and design combined: My specialty!!
So this intro is purely a thank-you to Darrah for trusting me and allowing me to work with you to create an office space that is not only a welcoming space for clients but a marketing tool for your entire business.
Carstairs Resimercial Design Plan
“Resimercial” design is an interior design effort that recreates residential spaces or ‘vibes’ in commercial spaces, such to create a work environment that is comfortable and welcoming – like a residential ‘home’.
Let’s start with the basics. Doors, floors, and windows.
Darrah’s office looked like a commercial office for an ‘undefined administrator’. It had no personality, no branding, and a lot of grey carpet tiles. Can you picture it? (before photos below). And so our first challenge was to decide what story this space needed to tell. To think about who her target market was, what her message was about, and how she wanted to feel when they walked in (which would translate to their first impression of working with her as a realtor).
Honestly, I have tingles writing this. I just absolutely love when I get to combine marketing and design. I am highly skilled at both, and when the strategy is two-fold it (the design and how it can play into future marketing initiatives) true magic is made.
We wanted the office to feel like ‘home’; to feel like a place where people could come in and breathe out and grab a cup of coffee and talk about their futures. Like they were going to a friend’s house to sit around the dining room table and discuss their goals and dreams. And so the only logical design plan was to make this commercial space feel like a home.
Funny enough, the idea first started to form when Darrah told me she wanted to keep the white picket fence decal on her window – and through that fence, I saw the vision start to take shape.
To achieve this ‘home’ vibe we selected more residential finishes such as a barnwood luxury vinyl plank (LVP) throughout, and warm earthy colours for both paint and baseboard. And that created the foundation for us to build.
Resimercial “Indoor Patio” – Design Plan
Starting from the front, what would you expect to see inside a picket fence? A porch! Don’t all homey small-town homes have a lovely little porch on the front? Well, we had a bit more space to play with and so our porch turned into a patio that Darrah and her clients can use for all 4 seasons in Alberta!
I wanted this ‘indoor patio’ to feel like an outdoor deck that your friends would come over to and lay back and get comfortable and enjoy each other’s company. In order to feel completely safe on a friend’s deck, you need a privacy screen, right?
Resimercial “Indoor Patio” – Transformation Photos
Our custom privacy screen not only gives architectural interest and defines the space, but this privacy screen has a secret… a functional secret (the best kind). The drywall by the window was very thin and the daycare next door was very loud – and so we needed a way to muffle the sound for Darrah’s office. We could not carry the drywall further because the window was there. The solution I landed on was to use the ‘pillar’ of the privacy screen as a decorative sound dampener. It was build as a ‘U’ and stuffed with insulation. This pillar not only functioned well, it looked great from the outside along the glass.
Darrah scored a beautiful patio set on liquidation which we put to good use, and I sourced 2 planters to go along the ‘picket fence’ for Darrah to keep a mix of faux and real plants – giving it that true garden feel.
We styled the space with as much greenery as I could fit, soft colourful pillows, blankets, and baskets, and other ‘picnic-style’ decor for the table.
On the far wall, we added an area rug in front of the door, hooks for jackets, a console table, and a farmhouse mirror – just like any entryway to a home would have.
Resimercial “Indoor Patio” – Before
Resimercial “Dining Room” Office – Design Plan
Now isn’t this where all the magic happens? The true ‘office’. We all got very comfortable working at the dining room table during lockdown, and how nice was it to spread out your papers on the large surface. If you could have meetings there wouldn’t that have been more than enough room for everyone to sit comfortably? Like your own boardroom? And on the flip side, when friends come over, isn’t it true that you end up with a glass of wine around the dining table discussing life’s biggest challenges/achievements?
It is no secret that the dining room is the ‘hub’ of conversation in a home – and that is the pillar we wanted to build off of for Darrah’s office – all in the ‘farmhouse’ style she loves.
Resimercial “Dining Room” Office – Transformation Photos
The two biggest players in this room are the dining table desk and the sideboard storage. The interesting thing about this is that I had no idea what these two pieces would look like until way after everything else was ordered – since we knew we were going to try to source them locally or have them custom made.
- The dining table was found by Darrah at a local woodworking shop. It is absolutely stunning and has a variety of wood colours on the top, enabling it to pull in all the other woods in the space. When she sent it to me I responded immediately with “Yes!! Buy that!!!”.
- The sideboard we had custom made. Because this was actually an office, we needed storage for Darrah’s printer and files. Her printer was not your average printer either, and needed a huge space to be hidden away. I commissioned Rusty Rose Pickin’s to create this one of a kind farmhouse sideboard, giving him freedom to create. He made the piece out of pieces of an actual old farmhouse! The front doors are a door, as is the top, and the corner pieces are from an original farmhouse table. The rest he fabricated into the large (and very heavy) unit with wood from the same building. The printer side has a slideout drawer and the other side is large enough for a small ikea file cabinet cube.
- In practice, the doors actually became a bit cumbersome to access when you were sitting in front. Our original plan was to have the doors on sliders so they took up less space, but the hardware was out of budget. We ended up removing the doors and Darrah created little curtains out of the leftover cushion fabric I had – and it was perfect.
The items I did know I needed were crossback chairs. However I wanted them to have a little more metal than the usual farmhouse style more readily available so that they would tie in more closely with the wood and metal shelving unit. And we wanted these chairs to be comfortable so I had seat cushions custom made in a cool blue and white paisley fabric (which I am very happy I chose to cool down and balance the very warm red wood of the sideboard), with piping for more dimension and ties instead of velcro to inject some more femininity.
The area rug I found almost immediately when I started to look – it was the perfect amount of ‘aged farmhouse’ with a nod to the traditional pattern, but modernized by black and white fibers. This also helped cool.
Business Card Holder
The last item was the cardholder! Darrah had so many business cards of all of her contacts in town and needed a better way to display them for her clients. We looked into actual card holders and the prices were silly! I happened to find this unique little metal wall shelf made of chicken wire that I found at a garage sale! It fits perfectly beside Darrah’s metal wall art and ties into the farmhouse theme.
And where are the cords you ask? The challenge with floating desks is always cord management. We cut a hold in the area rug right beside the back table leg and ran all the cords under the rug to the back wall plug.
Commercial “Dining Room” Office – Before
Resimercial “Coffee Nook” – Design Plan
When the night winds down and your friends go home, but you and your best friend or significant other stay up a little bit longer to just sit back and relax, that is when you transition to the coffee nook. In a real estate office, this could be a couple who wants to sit aside for a quick chat to get on the same page, or to sit back and sip coffee while they wait to hear if their offer was accepted! Whatever the reason, transforming this unused office into a cozy coffee nook continued the story of a home away from home.
This room used to be an office with a barn door. We opened up the corner of it so that we kept a partial wall for the coffee station to sit up against, and another to close in the bookshelves and maintain the ‘hallway’ feel. Opening up this room enough to join the spaces, but not enough to be open concept and lose the traditional feel of separated ‘rooms’ of an old farmhouse really was a huge piece of this design.
Resimercial “Coffee Nook” – Transformation Photos
There are so many important pieces in this room that I am going to break them down individually again.
In the mockup you can see the wallpaper a little more clearly, and what you will see is a key with little wings. This key is Darrahs logo, which we turned into a repeating pattern to be used as a custom-branded wallpaper. Yes. This custom wallpaper is the icon that represents her brand, subtly plastered all over the wall. MARKETING BABY!
No farmhouse is complete without wainscotting! We had some jut outs and utility lines to work around, which crept into the space in awkward places. The wainscotting did an amazing job at masking those weird angles and really giving this space that ‘library’ feel.
I knew I wanted wingback chairs for this space. But I didn’t have the budget for a new set, and most of what I could find on kijiji was very traditional, poofy, and outdated looking. Until these two beauties! I found these two modernized wingback chairs on marketplace for $250. The colour was not perfect, but it was passable and it had paisleys like the fabric I intended to use for the office seat cushions.
By an amazing stroke of luck, it was Darrah’s birthday and her mom reached out to me to ask if there was anything that we had to cut from the project that would be a good gift. I immediately jumped at the idea of reupholstering the chairs. I had sourced fabric for them already, but the cost was too much for this phase of the design. And so Darrah’s mom gifted the reupholstery to her after we’d completed the project. It was beautiful.
I have a bone to pick with Ikea. Why, or why would the smaller shelf of the same series not come with the wood trim at the top and as backing? They are the same style! I digress…
I loved these shelves with their warm wood interior, and knew they would look stunning beside the custom blue wallpaper. And I was right. What’s more, I got to style them! Darrah had wanted to support local as much as possible. Filling the shelves with local wares was one was we were able to do that. Many of the items filling this bookcase are from local makers, antique shops, and boutiques in and around Carstairs, and that was a lot of fun to shop for. And so these bookcases became a showcase of local goods, with much needed storage hidden below.
We repurposed Darrah’s green dresser from her original office and used it as the coffee station. It had the right vibe and a nice injection of our 3rd primary colour (red chairs, blue wallpaper, green coffee station – yes!). Floating above this piece was something even more special – two floating shelves made from 100-year-old barnwood, sourced by Rusty Rose Pickins, the local antique dealer who made the custom office sideboard.
Resimercial “Coffee Nook” – Before
Resimercial Kitchen – Design Plan
What is a farmhouse without a farmhouse kitchen. Sure, I told you the dining room was the hub of conversation in a home, but the kitchen is the hub of the home! And even though this kitchen would be mostly for Darrah alone, it still deserved some farmhouse love.
The kitchen was a ‘maybe’ depending on budget. What we did was remove the back office completely and add a door at the end of the hallway to separate what would now be the back room. Where there used to be an unused office and a very narrow kitchenette and storage area, there would now be a larger kitchen and lots of room for storage and shelving and a worktable.
Resimercial Kitchen – Transformation Photos
Because this kitchen was not a priority we had to do it on a budget. I knew I wanted to find a kitchen that someone was tearing out of their home so that it felt like a true home kitchen. But to find a kitchen that was the right sie and had a decent countertop, with functional storage was no eas task! It took some time, but nearing the end of the project I found the perfect kitchen for $800, complete with a black quartz countertop and island.
We painted this oak kitchen a very light blue (a risk that paid off and something fun I’d never get to do in a real home kitchen), and swapped all the hardware for black pulls and cups. It came with a sink and I sourced a more traditional black farmhouse-style faucet and soap pump to finish it off.
Darrah’s mom had a full size fridge she was getting rid of, which we were able to build around with some adjustments to the kitchen cabinets, and her water cooler and microwave found a new home.
In terms of 2 perfect details, I had purchased 2 of the 100-year-old barnwood to use in the coffee nook, but we had instead sliced one in half so it was a little thinner for that area. That gave me 1 full board to use as a shelf in the kitchen, which really felt complete.
And last but certainly not least, Darrah and I had gone on a shopping trip together to check out Rusty Rose Pickins and so I could get a feel for her style of ‘farmhouse’. On this trip we found this old blue door leaned up on the side of the building. We bought it on the spot and I told her we would make it work. It is a stunning robins egg blue show-stopper that you can see right down the hallway from the front door.
Resimercial Kitchen – Before
Resimercial Wrap Up
It is not every day I get to turn an office into a home and have a client who so completely trusted my vision. And it is this trust and vision that gave Darrah an entirely new lease on her business marketing. Darrah now hosts ‘kitchen table chats’, where she discusses all things real estate, moving, and transitioning in a real, honest, personable way with her clients and prospective clients. It is a marketing initiative that was born purely out of the redesign of her space and has taken on an identity of its own. And that is the ultimate success and testimonial.