Updated: Jul 9, 2021
What do you do if you need to work from home, but you're short on space? Some folks might have a spare room they can dedicate to a home office, but what if you don't have that option?
If you're looking around your home and can't seem to figure out where to put an office, here are a few outside-the-box ideas to help you figure out how to create a small office space at home.
In a closet
Your closets are probably full, but if they are not, then you might want to leverage the underutilized square footage and set up your desk here. Remove the doors, and Voila! It's a home office!
Tip: If you want to hide the closet office when not in use, get a tension rod and curtains to camouflage it when not in use.
A rolling office
If you are going to work at a kitchen island or dining table, consider setting up what I refer to as a "rolling office." A rolling office can follow you wherever you go; this allows you to keep the essentials nearby and may prevent you from piling your stuff in an area shared by others. When you're done for the day, you simply roll your portable office into a corner or a closet.
A rolling office is also suitable for folks who need a change in scenery during the workday. I recommend this rolling file cart by Elfa.
On a wall
Look for open wall space. You can place a traditional desk either horizontal or perpendicular to it. If you need to create a small office space on a wall in your home that's in a narrower area, you might want to consider a wall-mount shelving system like Elfa from The Container Store, a wall desk, or a leaning desk.
I lived in an ultra-small studio apartment that I affectionately referred to as "The Filing Cabinet." This is what ignited my love affair with Elfa. Wall-mounted options are my favorite because they are highly customizable. In addition to having endless customization options, they cause minor damage to walls (this is an essential feature if you're a renter), they are extremely easy to install, and they are elevated off the ground so you can easily clean under them.
My office when I lived in "The Filing Cabinet" circa 2014
Under a window
If you don't have an entire wall, consider putting a desk under a window. If you love natural light and a bright space, this could be a perfect option, but if you choose this option, I recommend getting blinds or curtains to block out light that might create a glare on your computer screen. You can also use the window sill for items like photo frames, plants, and other bric-a-brak.
Behind (or next to) your sofa
If you have an open space plan where your sofa sits in the middle of the room away from a wall, you can create a small office space at home by placing a desk behind your couch. Alternatively, if you have a sofa against a wall, you could put a desk to the side, replacing an end table. This placement is great because it can serve a dual purpose by providing storage and lighting for your office and your living room! Setting up a home office in your living room is also a great option if you need to have eyes on other areas of your home.
Under the stairs
If you live in an older home, like a victorian-era home or a brand new, extra-large home, sometimes there is unused space under or near the stairs. This is often a dead-zone that is an underutilized and often a perplexing area to make use of. A home office is a great option!
Next to your bed
Consider putting your desk next to your bed in place of a nightstand. We don't always think about work when we think about uses for our master bedroom. Still, this room is often extra large and is a suitable resolution if you have space. It also makes for a very short commute.
Suggestions for an office located in your bedroom or studio apartment:
If you do office out of your bedroom, be mindful of the background when in virtual meetings.
Try not to have your bed in the background when possible. It's not professional, especially if it's unkempt.
If you don't have a professional background, use a virtual background. I recommend selecting an office background or something that reflects your line of work.
If you live in a temperate climate, or it's a lovely time of year, you might want to look outside the house and turn the shed into an outside-the-home office. If you love this idea (and have extra money), Bantam Built is a company that makes tiny home offices. Bantam Built has a pre-made "yard office" if you're curious what a tiny office looks like. If you like to DIY, you can get creative and pick up a shed from Home Depot or Lowes.
Be mindful that a yard office will not have electricity or plumbing. If you're handy, there are plenty of how-to articles out there on how to wire a shed for electricity.
Suppose you're genuinely tight on space or need to operate in an area like a hallway or a tiny, multi-use room. In that case, a collapsable desk might be the only option. It's kind of like the murphy bed of home offices.
Look for a Nook
Look for a nook! Here are a few examples of nooks that could be useful. Sometimes an awkward space can make a fabulous office space.
Create a space with a rug or other boundary
Create the illusion of a dedicated area in a wide-open space. A rug makes a fantastic space divider, and it also adds an element of class, coziness, and comfort. Ensure the location is practical and that it's not a disruptive or high-traffic area of your home.
If none of these are viable options, ask yourself:
Where do I have the MOST unused space?
What area of my home gets no (or minimal) use?
These days, a laptop is all we need to create a small office space at home. You can lounge on your sofa or relax on your bed. While the flexibility is delightful, it's not always ideal (especially long-term). If you're craving a more businesslike option, I hope one of these ideas has caught your attention you're still stuck or want me to take a look at your space and come up with some customized options with you, Schedule a Strategy Session.
Once you've selected a location for your home office, these blogs may be helpful:
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