Up Near the Roof

I asked author Candice Ransom to blog about her recent office remodel. Thanks, Candice, for sharing the story and photos.

I am delighted to write about my recent home office re-do. I posted about the transformation on my own blog, Under the Honeysuckle Vine, which shows numerous photographs.

I decided to become a children’s book writer at the age of 15. My first office was half of my mother’s sewing room. I decorated my side in lime green, turquoise, and purple (this was the late 60s), plunked my Montgomery Ward typewriter on a hand-me-down student desk, and got busy. From then on, even though my address changed, I managed to carve out a place to work, usually a bedroom. When we built our new house 14 years ago, I finally got my dream space: a 400-square-foot room over the garage.

As the years marched on, my big office was filled with exercise equipment, sick cats, litter pans, books, papers…. Soon I felt beforesqueezed into one corner with my computer (left). It occurred to me that writers are like hermit crabs—we outgrow our shells. I had outgrown my office. Though I was still writing for children, my course had changed. I wanted a new office to reflect my new direction.

Designing the makeover took about six months. I clipped pictures from shelter magazines, haunted the paint chip aisles in Lowe’s and the Home Depot, and made field trips to favorite antique markets. The old “children’s book-y” look would be replaced with warm colors, vintage objects, and cherished mementoes. The cluttered space would be divided into stations, leaving most of the new hardwood floor bare.

Then came the hard part. Every book, paperclip, file, picture, pencil, and piece of equipment had to be shoveled out. It took months. But by handling every single item, I was able to decide what would go and what would stay.

in process Stacked and labeled for the redo

I turned to French philosopher Gaston Bachelard to guide me. In his book, The Poetics of Space, Bachelard discusses how people’s thoughts and memories relate to space. “Up near the roof,” he says, “our thoughts are clear.” In addition to houses, he also describes the virtues of cupboards, drawers, nests, and nutshells. I cleared away bookcases and useless desks, replacing them with vintage dressers and armoires. The white-painted furniture looks clean and whispers its history in the backs of its drawers.

after After: warm colors and niches and nests

As a seventh-generation Virginian, I wanted to honor my heritage. Many of my Lerner books have a Virginia background, and I’m currently writing novels set in my native state. Stuffed animals were replaced with family photos. I framed vintage Virginia postcards and stacked vintage highway maps on a side table.

books drawer Vintage children’s books fill a dresser drawer

I know who I am in this room. I know where I’m going. It’s a road that leads me back into my past and on into the future. While I’m in the present, I will enjoy dreaming and creating in my new space.

catAh, bare floors!