Desk decor DIY
A little twine, paint, glue gun and old bottles can go a long way in cheering up your desk in no time! Image Credit: Unsplash/Ella Jardim

Looking for a new pen stand… what about a nicely painted can? The global waste crisis has seen all of us reconsidering our lifestyle choices and DIY (Do-it-yourself) can be a way of sustainably enhancing spaces. Without compromising on aesthetics too, of course. An important place to start are our much-frequented desks, that now post pandemic, have not only become spaces for work, but also recreation, connection with family and friends and even education. I have personally spent probably 90 per cent of daylight hours at the desk these past couple of years – whether at work or home, statistics that I’m sure many of you may be able to relate to.

Gulf News spoke to Afiya Vasim, a crafts entrepreneur with the Instagram page ‘handmadebyafiya’, and crafts store ‘Handmade by Afiya’, Nympha Cubile, an art and crafts hobbyist and Celia Vrnak and Joti Dhillon, founders of The Savvy Space, a Dubai-based professional home organising company for some cute DIY ways to cheer up your desk space.

Vasim says, “Simple daily items that we come across can be used to decorate our home. This can not only be cheaper but also reduce wastage.”

Simple daily items that we come across can be used to decorate our home. This can not only be cheaper but also reduce wastage.

- Afiya Vasim, a crafts entrepreneur with crafts store 'Handmade by Afiya'
Your DIY toolkit
Make sure to have these materials before plunging into today’s DIY desk décor adventure:

• Twine can brighten up and add a vintage look to everything DIY – vases, pen stands and more
• Contact paper or self-adhesive sticker sheets – little miracles really. They can transform any surface with a pattern of your choice, and even come in hard marble options.
• Scissors and ruler
• Can opener when using cans for DIY
• Gesso – if you’ve ever wondered how these DIY pages achieve a thick matte finish over what seems like unpaintable plastic or metal, gesso is your answer. You can add layers of gesso to make glass, plastic and metal can surfaces ready for paint – and even add texture using your second layers.
• Paints: Spray paints and acrylics are important for transforming your items and making them colourful
• Glue stick and glue guns: For attaching décor and twine. Glue guns are mainly required for attaching twine and you should be very careful when using them – use safety goggles, heat resistant gloves, and keep it away from flammable materials.
• Gloves, newspapers, aprons and plastic wraps are helpful to prevent paint or glue from getting on your clothes or other surfaces.

1. Work, work, work: Your custom desk organizer

“Always keep everything in handmade organizers to keep tables clean and spaced out in a way that won’t affect our budget,” says Vasim.

“You can make a simple organizer from cardboard cereal boxes – simply cut them into halves lengthwise, arrange in a manner that we get a stationary holder, paint and apply self-adhesive sticker sheets,” she adds. You can layer the cardboard for extra strength, paint with many layers of gesso and form your favourite textures on it as well.

If you have lots of paperwork, we have this really good process where we categorise things into three – things that need to be done immediately, things that you know you need to do but they can be done later this week, and then a file for things that you’ve completed and done. Then you can put them away.

- Joti Dhillon, co-founder of The Savvy Space, a Dubai-based professional home organising company

Celia and Joti have a special tip for using such organizers. Joti says, “If you have lots of paperwork, we have this really good process where we categorise things into three – things that need to be done immediately, things that you know you need to do but they can be done later this week, and then a file for things that you’ve completed and done. Then you can put them away.”

2. Contact paper for a new desk

Many of us have some ancient furniture items populating our homes that one may be thinking of giving away immediately when the opportunity arises; personally… the desk in my room is older than me. Nevertheless, if they are still sturdy old things, you can give the reluctantly beloved items a new life by redoing surfaces. This works especially well when moving into furnished homes where you’d like to give the furniture a makeover.

Simply buy contact paper or self-adhesive sticker sheets that are available in different designs and patterns, to cover the top of the table. To ensure there are no bubbles when laying the paper on the surface, you can use the edges of flat objects such as your bank card to smoothen the surface. Vasim adds, “You can also paint the top with stencils and paints with patterns to cover the table top. This creates an impression of a newly bought table each time the design is changed.”

3. Plant pop: Glass bottles for plant buddies

DIY glass bottle plant vase
Empty glass bottles are perfect to put new plants in for a biophilic look. Image Credit: Pixabay

Any empty glass bottle at home can be used as a plant pot for your desk – to brighten it up with a lively little pop of green, and a new friend.

Vasim says, “Empty glass milk bottles can be used as plant pots like money plants for desks after cleaning and painting, or you can even simply fill with water and place the plant inside.”

The best thing about using money plants in this case is that after simply dunking a cut from a healthy plant in water, you can forget about any care needs or so. It will remain blooming in your vase of water for a long time.

4. Prehistoric roots: Vintage twine flower vases from cans

Like rustic, woody looks with lots of twine knots? With its prehistoric usage that dates back to more than 25,000 years ago, twine is a classic and timeless way to redecorate most items – just cover it with the pretty fibre ropes!

Vasim says, “Empty food cans can be rolled up in jute threads with a bow to make a flower vase of extremely low cost which adds a rustic feeling to our desks.“ The jute twine is to be attached using a glue gun.

It could even work as a pen stand, makeup stand, paintbrush stand and more – it’s completely up to you.

5. To you, with love: DIY framed reminders

Have you always considered hanging a notice board on your office wall for your post its and reminders that are lounging all over your desk and computer? Just grab an old photo frame at home and use cork sheets, or even rows of bottle corks for a quirky custom corkboard.

Vasim says, “Remove the photo and fix the entire area with bottle corks and hang onto the wall or mount on the table. This can be used to pin notes and reminders in the office, which looks framed.” You can even crosshatch a ribbon onto it to ornament it further.

A lot of us have photos, or memorabilia, or inspirational and motivational quotes. It’s a great way to keep these items tidied and still looking good.

- Celia Vrnak, co-founder of The Savvy Space, a Dubai-based professional home organising company

Celia adds that getting a corkboard is a great way to declutter – she says, “A lot of us have photos, or memorabilia, or inspirational and motivational quotes. It’s a great way to keep these items tidied and still looking good.”

6. Paper clip haven: Magnetic tape

If filing is a struggle due to paper clips that seem to disappear exactly when you need them, magnetic strips may be just the answer for you. You can stick a strip of magnetic tape on your desk, and place all your paper clips on it to keep them all together, recommends Vasim.

7. Stationery organiser

To make a pen stand set for your work desk – you can use empty steel cans of different sizes, and glue them to a wooden plank, Vasim says. Depending on the look and designs you want, you can apply a coat of gesso first, let it dry and paint as per your liking – using acrylics, and then painting a layer of varnish to seal on the dried paint.

Vasim advises, “Paint them in metallic to make a stationary organizer for your home desk.”

Some ideas for decorating your penholders are –

  • Applying gesso, paint as per your liking, and coat with varnish. To get even patterns of circles, squares or triangles, dip an object with that shape in paint and press it down on the can for even shapes.
  • Glue jute twine around the can using a glue gun. You can switch between white and brown colours and even stick small decorative shapes onto it for more complex adornment.

8. Bottle box: Soft-drink penholders

Here’s yet another option for a penholder. Vasim says, “Soft drink bottles can be cut into half and slide over a hot iron box over to smoothen the cut area.”

You can apply layers of gesso for a thick texture, paint according to your preference – let your imagination run free - and then fill it with pencils, pens, highlighters and any objects you prefer.

9. Cable control: DIY cable wrappers

A tiny tip for those struggling with cables overflowing all over their desk – Vasim advises sharpening a plastic straw into a thin long strip using a sharpener without breaking the chain in between to create a cable wrapper.

This can be used on a desktop computer tables to wrap the cables spirally without allowing them to tangle, and keep your desk neat and organised.

10. ‘Tis (always) the season to be jolly: A festive vase and flowers

Festive decor spray painted bottles
Spray painting clean bottles and palm twigs makes for a cute festive update to your desk space. Image Credit: Nympha Cubile/Gulf News

Although festive season has passed, this is a special décor object to brighten up any space, as recommended by Cubile. Clean a glass bottle by removing any labels and washing it, dry it and spray paint in a matte colour – brown or red works well. Take dried twigs from date palms, including raw date fruits if preferred. Apply a layer of glue from a glue stick onto the date fruits, let it dry and then spray paint the twigs and date fruits in gold. Place several twigs in the matte bottle for a festive décor combo. You can even paint the bottles red, or paint patterns for added flair.

Such date palm twigs could also be used in your decorative potpourri bowls.