Small Space Solutions: Home Offices

By Kate Riley February 23, 2012

One of the comments I received last week was to write about ideas for small space living, so today let’s talk about work spaces and home offices. So much of what we do now is online compared to 20 or even 10 years ago, it seems having a little place to set your laptop or store your desktop is an absolute must in any home.

Absent the luxury of an actual room to turn into a home office, there are many other ways you can pull up a little horizontal space to catch up on your email, do your online banking, or better yet, blog!  So where do you squeeze in a space for a home office where there is none?  Here are ten ideas.

1.  Contained Office.   A tall computer hutch is a great way to use vertical space to pack all things office into one piece of furniture.  Consider customizing one you already have with bulletin boards and a pull out desk (that’s what we plan to do with our family room’s armoire – build a family computer station where kids can be supervised and do homework too.)

wisteria armoire

via Wisteria

green computer hutch

PB Hutch via Freshome


Stylish secretary cabinets are also useful for a quick pull down desktop.

elle decor hall secretary

Elle Decor


white secretary desk

source unknown

The best part about these furniture solutions is the benefit of closing it up out of sight when you’re done working, for when guests come over, or to simply to hide it away at day’s end.


2.  Clever Cucinas.  The kitchen is the heart of the home where much time is spent with friends and family.  Who needs a home office when a little cabinet space can be sacrificed to a compact work station that allows you to get caught up as dinner simmers on the stove.

kitchen zone bhg

via Better Homes & Gardens

tobi fairley kitchen desk

Tobi Fairley


white kitchen office space bhg

via Better Homes & Gardens



3.  Creative Use of Console.  Think about snagging a sofa table or console that lacks a bottom shelf, so you can turn it into a mini desk behind your couch and pull up a chair.  Bonus, you can update your Facebook status while you can catch up on your TV time too.

console behind sofa

via Apartment Therapy


4.  Bedroom Sharing.  Steal a little space in a guest room for your office – and make the desk part of the decor.

guest room office

via this model tour

guest room home office

via ReNest

Or borrow some space from your master bedroom to pull up a desk under a window.

sr gambrel writing desk

SR Gambrel


5.  Reevaluate your Bookshelves.   If you have a series of two or more free standing bookcases and a little wall space to spare, why not create a little shelf in between for your office?  Use the neighboring bookcases to corral your office supplies, chargers, and memory storage devices.

shelf inbetween bookcase

via Better Homes & Gardens


Or follow Amy’s lead and grab some shelving that also acts as a mini office like these do with a deep workstation where you can pull up a chair.

office on a shelf eatsleepdecorate

via Eat Sleep Decorate


6.  Keep it in the Closet. Yep, you’ve seen it before, those clever souls who turn a closet into a workspace, a completely brilliant solution to create a mini “room” inside just a few square feet.

office in closet bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

closet office houzz

AMI Design on Houzz


office in closet

via Better Homes & Gardens


7.  Fill a Niche.  Perhaps there’s a little unused corner of your casa that could be better used as a small workspace.  Tucking a little desk and bulletin board into a niche is a fantastic way to create an office space where there was none.

office in nook bhg

via Better Homes & Gardens

I love how Sarah at The Yellow Cape Cod actually built herself desk in a niche as a place for her desktop and with plenty of natural light.

yellow cape code desk niche


Any underused part of your home like that extra space under a staircase can become a home office.

yaletown loft

Yaletown Loft by Maria Killam

leslie goodwin home office

Leslie Goodwin Photography


8.  Small Scale Desk.  If you love the idea of sitting at a desk, look for one that’s smaller in scale and doesn’t take up much real estate.

west elm parsons mini

West Elm

A nice looking desk that complements the rest of the room’s decor will be more  seamless than a modular from an office supply store.

aesthetic outburst desk on houzz

Aesthetic Outburst on Houzz

If you have the space, tuck a small scale desk into a foyer or hallway.

pb small space desk

via Pottery Barn

Have you considered building your own?  There’s always the option of a wall mount work surface like this tabletop repurposed into a floating desk.

wall mount desk bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

Or this mini laptop desk – building instructions here.

mini laptop desk

Fresh Home Ideas


9.  Dining Table Work Zone.  Make your dining table perform double duty as a work station by afternoon and dining table by morning and night.  Keep nearby office supplies tucked away in close cabinets for quick access.

breakfast table workstation

Better Homes & Gardens

dining room office martha stewart

Martha Stewart


dining table or desk

Better Homes & Gardens


10.  Dedicated Drawer.  And how many of us pull up our laptop at the breakfast table?  *Raising hand*  Just about everyone I know with a laptop does this, so consider the easiest small space solution – dedicate a kitchen drawer to office supplies so you have all of your needs right there next to your favorite work zone.

drawer organizer martha

Martha Stewart


office in a drawer

Better Homes & Gardens


If you want to see a roundup of more small space living ideas, Ashley at The Handmade Home has written about several different rooms in her series, so check it out!

Where do you carve out a little space to do your daily computer work?  Got any more clever small space home office solutions to share?

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  1. Great ideas! I’m guessing this is the response to my comment from last week :)
    The amount of research you do in finding pictures to show as examples for each point is incredible!
    I like that mounting one – there’s SO much empty space right on the walls more than anywhere else in my small apartment :D
    Would also love more decoration ideas; I want to add life to my plain & boring cave!
    Thanks for sharing these, Kate :)

  2. I love all the ideas but I’m wondering if you could do one for BIG spaces. I have a huge master bedroom and trying to assemble something that has so much floor space is frustrating. Everything I read in magazines or blogs is about making the most out of small spaces. I need to make the most out of my large one! :)

  3. This is such a timely post. My husband and I have been talking about putting a home office in our tiny apartment should he get a remote job. Looking at removing some closet doors, since right now we have a rickety desk in the corner of our livingroom.

    Also…Kudos to all the inhabitants of these work spaces if they always look as pristine and organized as they do in these photos! I imagine they do! I know I could get a lot of work done in any one of these!

  4. This are all amazing, but to say we have a small space is an understatement. I sit on the couch with a lapdesk to work and slide my laptop between the couch and the wall to work. I have a cup of pens and pencils next to the couch, and a few papers on the end table. It’s a mess!

    One reason I’ve stuck with this system (even though something like a shelf between two bookshelves would probably work) is that I hate having my back to the room when I’m working. I really prefer to be facing the room, able to see the kids and whatever is going on.

    One more note. A service like AboutOne is great for people with small spaces because you can scan and file all of your papers and not have to hold on to the paper clutter that plagues many of us.

  5. These are all very good ideas! Not sure any of them are big enough space for all my “office” stuff. I love the old table top mounted to the wall. Very comfy looking… perfect for a country home!

  6. I totally keep my laptop on the sofa table :) I sit down on the couch and just pull my laptop over onto my lap. Then I can sit comfortably and watch tv with the hubby while I browse pinterest. But the table is its resting place, along with some pens, paper and chapstick. It works great cause the power cord is behind the couch too, so everything is out of the way when we have company over. I used to have a desk under the stairs, but the stairs are open steps. Way too much dust and dog hair would fall from the stairs and onto my desk/laptop. It turned out to be a really dirty and dark spot for a desk. Plus my back was turned to the living room, and I felt leftout.

  7. Nice ideas. For once thou, it would be nice to see photos that honestly deal with constant cascade of wires required for laptop chargers, routers, cablebmodems, lamps, speakers, and printers. These idealized work station photos drive me CRAZY with their insistence on ignoring this constant problem.

    • Yes, I agree Brian, the cords are always invisible, right? With the trend toward wireless, I think we’ll see less of them in the future, but there are always the cords required for desktop functions – I prefer to use a surge protector where everything plugs in together and can all be shut off to save energy. Those velcro cord wraps work great too to keep them all wound up tight in one place and better concealed.

  8. I am so glad you posted this! I am redoing our guest room and was just thinking today about the possibility of making the closet into my own little mini office/craft space. These photos are great inspirations!

  9. Small spaces are tricky. I’ve lived in nothing more than 600 square feet for the last seven years. (Yikes – never thought about it like that before.)

    Anyway, I converted my closet into an office recently (see recap here: I re-purposed the bi-fold doors as the desktop and shelves, used left-over paint from a bathroom renovation, a couple leftover pieces of wood and up it went. If you’re counting wall anchors, screws and painters tape, and throw in the used green desk lamp I bought at a Habitat for Humanity Restore, then the whole project cost me maybe 35 bucks.

    It not only added a lot of workable space (to keep me and my work off the kitchen island), it also added some character and depth to the bedroom it’s in.

    Wish I saw this post before I got to work – even if I’m happy how mine turned out.

  10. Thanks so much for sharing this! I have been thinking lately about our guest room doubling as an office. It’s not a large room, but this has given me motivation to figure out how to make it work! Thanks!

  11. Kate,

    This is really helpful and has some great ideas. I’ll will definitely save it to the file since I am currently look for a way to place a work area somewhere in my small home. Thank you.


  12. I love the idea but had an office armoire of my own for many years. It was purposeful when I lived in a dinky apartment but once I moved and had an actual office I ditched it fairly quickly. At the time I worked from home and it simply wasn’t comfortable. Maybe it is okay for the quick emails and bill paying after work but if you spend more than an hour working at one of these armoires it gets very claustrophobic… and I’m not even a paper person. That said it was FABULOUS when I lived in a small apartment and had to work from my living room… made it easy to close off work at the end of the day.

  13. LOVE this round-up, Kate! I just shared it on my FB page. I know some crafters looking to find good use of their small spaces. :)


  14. Inspiring as always, but very few of these actually show a printer anywhere? I know we do need our printer enough that we are not going to take it out of a closet and hook it up to use it…..I wish more of them would be more “real life” Many of the photos I wonder where you would hide any cord, unless you have a wireless printer, etc.

  15. Oh my goodness! I am so in love with your blog. I was just thinking the other day that I need to find some baskets to use as storage for my living room armoire. This post has def given me some great ideas. :-)

  16. I just turned a small walk-in closet into a home office with a big L-shaped desk, shelves and photo ledges. I really like that it is tucked away in its own space without taking up an entire room.

  17. What a useful and inspiring post!~ . Loooove your blog so so much. I’m with Amber, I need help, ideas, inspiration for a massive master bedroom. Trying to make the space cozy and functional with an office area is tough!

  18. Lovely photos Kate and great article! My new book, Small Space Organizing: A Room by Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space, published by Revell Books, gives all my best tips from living in 13 small space homes of all types during 30+ years of marriage. Let me know if you’d like a giveaway copy for your blog readers and I’d be happy to send you one. It was just featured in Family Circle magazine, and many other media outlets this past few months. Best. Kathryn Bechen

  19. Love this post and the detail that went into it. Lots of great, adaptable, ideas. Just wondering, though, was there no where else to put the tulips?? If I set up my space like that, my cat would have no where to sit ;-)

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