Ikea office Organization is happening.

When i was little i used to ‘clean’ by shoving things under the sofa, in the oven, behind the toilet. Its a really adorable habit that i haven’t really grown out of.  I don’t like too much visible clutter, but i don’t really put things away properly – i just shove things inside of other things.  

When we moved into our new house I was super excited to have an dedicated office where i can put all the annoying and ugly ‘officey’ things, but unfortunately it had very little storage and what it did have was unattractive.

And i don’t do unattractive very well (which is why i haven’t revealed to you my kitchen or exterior – both needing an insane amount of help that i don’t want to give to a rental).  

I spend 4-10 hours a day in my office – it needs to look and feel good and be functional.    

It has good bones – tons of windows and light and french doors that go in to my bedroom – plus sliding glass doors for clients to have their own entrance.

But it’s still kinda sad:


Don’t you love a good ‘before’ pic?  Ugh. Here’s where it was when we first moved it – pre-organization.  Sexy, i know. There really wasn’t a place for anything.  I needed more storage than those stupid cupboards.   

So i partnered up with Ikea for some organizational ‘consultation’ we’ll call it.  Basically they designed and consulted the perfect storage unit for me.  (yes, in exchange for this post).   

The goal:  an ATTRACTIVE, FUNCTIONAL, storage situation that would make me happy to look at it. PLUS i was dying to have moodboarding space so if it was a clean surface that would be awesome.  

My space was tricky because i needed something narrow in there.  I have a big table that i love and a HUGE desk chair that i can’t give up, so i didn’t want the 26″ deep units.  I went to Ikea and started shopping and there are a lot of options of the Pax unit (which is the name of these closet units).  They have a unit that is only 14″ deep and had a white lacquer front.  

There were a ton of other options –  but i’m a sucker for white lacquer. Plus that gave me a clean surface to have the mood board on the front of it.  Let my mood never been bored, again. 

That’s my thumb…….telling the computer that i approve…?

I was intimidated by the whole process so here’s the rundown:  there are computers at ikea in the Pax section that walk you through the whole process – you pick the size, then the door styles then the components inside. Everytime you add something it changes the price so you always know where you are at. It doesn’t let you add something that is impossible (it only lets you do so many shelves, drawers, etc that work with the unit), it kinda guides you through the process.  It’s super easy, actually.

You can watch your future organizational dreams come true.   

So here we are after installation, AFTER i added some vintage hardware – i had to ‘Emily’ it up somehow.

You ask about the knobs? Of course you did because they are insanely beautiful and you would be an idiot to not wonder where the hell i got them.   I bought them from Rick’s Hardware in the valley – all your hardware dreams will come true there.  They were $30 a piece, which isn’t a steal and adds up to $120, but they are really, really awesome and were worth the splurge.  Oh and i think the whole double unit with all the components cost $1000. The white lacquer is the most expensive option, but kinda the best. 

I mean. Pin that sh*t.

They are the George Clooney of knobs.  Beautiful, but aged; simple but full of character. Unlike George, however, they each weigh 12 pounds.  That’s a heavy knob.

And on the inside? 

Yeah, dawg.  Sooo many places for me to shove things.  

Picture your future paperwork here.  

But here’s mine:


This is real, friends.  It’s not all styled, truly.  Up top i put pretty things that i use a lot for styling. Then boxes full of stuff like ‘random chords’ and ‘headshot/business cards’.  (the navy blue linen boxes are Ikea, too).  Then fabric swatches, then paint decks and wallpaper swatches.  

Oh man.  I’m having an organizational orgasm just posting this.  My life has changed soooo much. 


Check books? no big deal, i got you.

Receipts from 2012? 3rd shelf from the bottom in the bin called ‘2012 receipts’, naturally. 

I always thought that if you use a label maker you may as well wear duck tape your legs together: It’s really the end of your youth and sexiness.  But now i realize how helpful it is.  Its not so much that you know where where to put things, but instead its like this lady:

is saying ‘eh, eh eh…. does that leftover razor blade really go in the box that says ‘camera accessories?”, instead you know where you CAN’T put random things.  

I hate rules more than most people, ask my parents, but this rule kinda does it for me.  


Everyday tools, magazines, spraypaint, ribbon and fabric. Check, check, check, check and check.  I know where EVERYTHING is.  And i get excited to put things away.  

Hey, Emily, do you know where that yardage of gold sequin fabric is? 

Yeah, dawg.  I do.

You know what that is? An empty brain.  It’s not designed yet, but its soooo clean and organized that i’m kinda tempted to not add anything.  



Everything i need, right on my desk. BOOM. Right there.  

In your face.

And all the stuff on the front of the cabinets is stuff that reminds me to push myself, creatively.  Maybe it’s unexpected color palettes, unpredictable furniture or styling that kills all other styling.  I stare at it everyday and it helps, it does.

I still need to DESIGN the room, don’t think this is a fully designed room, but i feel like i can do it now that i have it totally organized.  

In case you are wondering about the other blue office that i make over HERE, my husband, Brian works out of that one. So now we each have our own.  He liked the blue a lot and i needed more space.  

I couldn’t recommend the Pax unit more.  Custom cabinetry is expensive, it just is – i call it the ‘Wedding’ of furniture making, meaning that the second you say ‘custom cabinetry’ the contractor will quote you 6 times more than they would if you said ‘shelving’.  We are quoting for one right now in Venice for a client and can’t get it under $6000.  But these things were around $1000 for the unit completely.  And its ATTRACTIVE.  And since i’m renting i can take it with me.  

Ikea’s blog has also been documenting it, so please check it out.  HERE. 

So what is your biggest organizational downfall? Do you guys hide objects in your oven ever?


  1. So pretty and refreshing. I'm a sucker for organization, but like you, I'm like Monica from Friends and just hide stuff.

    I love how big and open your cabinetry is – allows for things of all shapes and sizes.

  2. scott honre

    wow!!! what a total transformation! it must be so much more fun to work in the space now!
    great post!

  3. Liana

    I love organizational stuff and goodies, but keep things all tidy and in their place for short spurts at a time {I like to pretend I'm organized all the time, though}. I LOVE what you did and that cabinet is so great! I love the lacquer finish!

  4. Very nice! Do you still have the office in the dining room too? I loooooooved that design when you posted it!

  5. sexy knobs! but I'm a little confused, what happened to you're deep blue dining room turned office? did I miss something?

  6. Beth

    this truly is Org Porn!! thanks for sharing!

  7. junior

    i love what you have done. IKEA is the bomb! i want those navy and green storage boxes. i need to get my arse to IKEA !!! going tonight after work!

  8. Emily Henderson

    @jamie and @elissa Oh, i forgot to mention that my husband uses that office now (the blue one that i madeover). I like more light and space.

  9. Tina

    Can you and Ikea come over and organize my home office? i can only dream of having such a chic and well organized space. I'm smitten!

  10. Jennifer Frost

    Wonderful evolution. This space has been saved. Only you can make Ikea look THIS sexy Emily!!

  11. Jennifer Frost

    That PAX collection is god sent! I have the same at home and it changed my life!!!! I can fit EVERYTHING that never had a home before in it. Mine may not look as organized and beautiful as yours but at least its put away! cheers to your NEW office. LOVE IT!!!

  12. lemurlassy

    I'm a big fan of Ikea an even went with an ikea kitchen in our homes. I love their laquer doors! But, is it just me, or are your shelves bowing already?

  13. Bobbi

    I absolutely love the rug in that room! Did you buy that or find it somewhere?

    The organization is fantastic! I'll have to check out Ikea's site.

  14. Kathleen

    Hiding things in the oven! When I was first married at the age of 20 my mother-in-law called and said she would be over for a visit in a few minutes to check out our new rental house. Well I hate doing dishes and didn't have a dish washer. Almost every dish we owned was dirty and piled up on the sink. Not wanting to be found out for the poor housekeeper I was (and thought to be a poor wife) I hid all the dirty dishes: in the stove, under the sink, in the refrigerator. A quick wipe down of the counter tops and the house looked presentable. Little did I know that when I was in the bathroom my husband would take her into the kitchen and she would open the door to the oven and look under the sink. DIRTY DISHES! How embarrassing. I was mortified. It was worse than if I had just left the dirty dishes on the sink. Fast forward many years, many houses and I am again in an older home that was beautifully remodeled but doesn't have a dishwasher. (Who remodels and doesn't put in a dishwasher?) It's a tiny space with no obvious place for a dishwasher. I would have to remove the sink cabinet and get a single door cabinet, new sink, new counter top to make it work. The cabinets aren't made any more so I'd have to redo all the cabinets too. No easy solution. Dang. I again have a pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen.

  15. ebethnyc

    You're not just a talented designer but writer too! Funny. I love the line about the George Clooney of doorknobs.
    Of course I hide stuff in my oven – I live in NYC! but to my credit, they're usually dirty dishes and pans so that's at least related to its purpose…

  16. I too love IKEA. It wasn't until my mom moved in with us and I was forced to make some big organizational changes that I truly got how wonderful IKEA is. We were in a position where we needed to put all three of our teenage girls in one room. It's a decent size room but let's face it, three girls? But I got online, got tons of ideas for organization and then looking at IKEAs website I brought all of those ideas together using their products. Now we have all three girls in a room and they each have their own closet space, drawer space, shelving and storage. And there is even a large amount of floor left! It's truly amazing. And we did it all for about $1,200. Crazy and Amazing!

  17. Katy

    I love organizing!!! My idea of a good time is taking everything out of my closet or off of a book shelf and putting it all back in some new (color coded? alphabetized by author?) way. I really struggle with keeping things organized though. Rather than putting something back where it goes, I throw it wherever, and then need to do these amazing overhauls once every month. Maybe it's time I invest in a label maker! (Oh, and yes, I keep baking sheets in my oven, because my tiny galley kitchen has NO SPACE).

  18. Love the new office! Is your desk Ikea too? (If not, where can I find it?)

  19. Allison

    Love it!! Beautifully done and organized…It always makes me sleep better at night knowing there isn't a pile of awfulness to stare at the next day.

  20. Faireden

    I used to stash dirty dishes in the oven when I wanted to clean up super fast! And of course the dishwasher too! One time I preheated the oven (I could hear the intake of breath – you know where I am going with this) yeah, melted stuff!

  21. Erin Thorpe

    Emily, I love your show. Unfortunately we don't get cable TV….in fact we don't even OWN at TV, so I just watch re-runs of the show on HGTV. I wish they would post new ones. I was wondering if you ever do any design work over the internet? Like people could send you photos and you could give advice?

  22. Christa

    Love the Pax. For whatever reason, IKEA went through a time period where the white lacquer doors weren't available (unless you wanted a gray graphic branch art version). I ended up getting the frosted glass doors, then saw that the plain white lacquer doors were back some months later. Nooooooo! I wish I could swap but the doors alone were $400. :( At this point, the shelves are bowing and some of the nails are popping out of the frame so, hmmm. Be gentle with yours – maybe that's why they are called PAX?

  23. corrie

    I'd be scared of those metal baskets in the middle because i would definitely clog those babies UP with lord knows what…

  24. Hey Emily,
    I love reading your blog and am excited for your new office. Once you said you'd be posting more "how-to's". I think a post on how you organize all of your stuff would be awesome!

  25. Sabrina

    Hah, I spy a West Elm vase that I just bought a couple of days ago. I'm trying to clear up storage space, and I normally don't buy purely decorative objects (and that's really what it's going to be, no matter what I tell myself), but it was on super-sale and the color is so pretty… Anyway, I love the mood-boarded doors, and I want all your chairs. Why won't you give me all your chairs?

  26. shana

    I can't figure it out…how did you attach the knobs?

  27. Cheryl

    I can see how this office space would be more useful to you, as a designer. But I really love the blue one too — moody and rich. I think many readers were influenced by your blue one and probably did their own offices similarly! and now you have the white and light version. oh, oh, more changes on the horizon! I like to adapt ideas, love your blue color for a door, the Ikea shelf for a utility room, etc. always learning from designers like you!

  28. Christine

    You are a better wife than me. I would never have given up that blue office. Nevah!!!

  29. beth

    What is the wall color of this room? I love it!

  30. Katy D

    Ummm, questions. 1.) Who are you and why have I not known about you sooner? 2.) Why are you so damn funny? 3.) Can we be friends?

    I like you, I like you a lot.

  31. Tricia

    Love the knobs too! Anyone know where the expandable wall task lamp is from?

  32. Jenni

    Love this article and theeverygirl one as well! I will be purchasing that brass elephant today.
    Your office is so beautiful and makes me feel much better about my Ikea furniture. Nice to know people I respect use ikea too ;) I will think of you will i am finalizing our tax stuff, hate it too. CPA's are nice, but I think mine thinks I'm 4 sometimes, hehe!

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