When Vintage Won’t Do: Creating a Modern, Retro-Inspired Home Office in Vermont

For years Eric and I welcomed friends and family into our various apartments and current home and were proud of our space as we pointed out the origins of many of our favorite pieces.  The vintage credenza, old radio turned into a bar cabinet, our lane cedar chest, and our Victrola record player.  Despite the pride we took in much of our home, the one room that always got bypassed or dismissed as a work in progress was our home office. 

I work from home full time and Eric runs his wedding photography business from the space as well.  We spend a lot of time in the space, yet it was always our dirty little secret of design failure.  The space was cluttered with IKEA-by-way-of-Craigslist finds that served to be functional, but did not necessarily mirror our retro style nor fully serve all our storage needs.

(note: we had already moved out much of the clutter prior to taking this photo)
Whenever we found ourselves at vintage stores or thumbing through the pages of Atomic Ranch or vintage home blogs we could never quite put our finger on what we wanted to do with the room.  A modern home office for two with plenty of places to hide dozens of cables is not a design problem that the mid-century modern family or furniture designer of the times had to tackle.
We looked at modular systems, idea blogs, and modern solutions that took vintage design into account, but these too had issues.  Many lacked customizable options that would accommodate a petite lady and average heighted man.  Our space is also limited as the room also serves as our guest accommodations and the home to our piano. 

We contemplated creating something ourselves with IKEA options or other DIY solutions. However, after much searching and truth-telling, we realized that we weren’t sure the “Y” could “DI.” Our largest home improvement project to date was changing out a kitchen faucet and that required four trips to a home store and many “phone a friend” and family member SOS calls.  The DIY route also wouldn’t necessarily result in a smaller price-tag given the amount of tools and supplies we would need to purchase just to even think of performing such a job. Despite fearing what we might be getting ourselves into, we decided to seek the help of local professionals.

After using the online IKEA  design tool to come up with a basic sketch of what we wanted along with receiving some Formica countertop samples, we turned to South Burlington cabinet maker Simpson Cabinetry.  Naïve to any formal home renovation projects, we went into it thinking it would be just like some 30 minute show on HGTV. Much like everything that appears on a 30 minute HGTV show, this wasn’t exactly the case.

We encountered Wil at Simpson Cabinetry  when we stopped by on a random Saturday.  Given that the samples of their work appeared to be contemporary, "stereotypically Vermont" kitchens, we weren’t sure if our vision of a two-person retro-inspired home office could be translated into reality. But Wil picked up on our aesthetic quickly and helped put our vision into cabinet-maker vocabulary and sketches as we settled on white painted flat slab cabinets and drawers, topped by a boomerang patterned Formica countertop and chevron/boomerang handles from Rejuvenation. 

The design process was a relatively straightforward one with us being able to tweak an initial set of drawings allowing for a slightly lower than standard desk height and the maximum amount of storage we could fit. Getting the cabinets actually installed in our home was a bit more slow going as we needed to have a fire alarm box raised in height on our wall and then needed to wait for a time slot to open up in Simpson Cabinetry's busy schedule.

Three months later Wil and Al made numerous trips around the maze of our condo building and did a fantastic job installing our very awesome and very vintage-inspired, but functionally modern home office.

The desktop is Formica Charcoal Boomerang and the Boomerang drawer pulls are from Rejuvenation.  They offer plenty of room for our work stations, electronics, and even provide space to display our PEZ and Robot collections.


We’re thrilled with the results and would encourage anyone who is having a similar dilemma to skip the piecemeal approach and wait it out until you can afford to get what you want done properly.

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