Unexpected Places for Home Offices

Create a flexible home office in any room of your home, no matter the space.

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A small closet becomes a workhorse in this home office/music room.

Home Office in the Guest Room
In small spaces, combining a comfortable sleeping spot and an efficient office is a challenge.

Repurpose a wide, shallow closet into a "pocket office."
Replace overlapping sliding doors with either bi-fold doors or a curtain panel. Then add a generous work surface with a built-in countertop and wall-mounted shelves for storage. Pull up an occasional chair to get to work. When guests come calling, simply shut the doors on your incognito office and set the chair against a wall to hold their luggage.

Nest your bed inside the closet.
"Take the doors off and slip the head of the bed into the closet, then hang shelving above and mount under-cabinet or wall lights for reading," says Small Space, Big Style's Libby Langdon, a N.Y.-based interior designer.

Replace the bed for a multi-function piece.
Consider a daybed, an expanding bed within an ottoman (instead of a futon), a trundle or a sofa-bed. All provide a cozy place to work by day and morph into a full-sized sleeping spot for guests. Be sure to invest in furniture that serves both functions well: Order firm back and side cushions to turn a daybed into truly functional seating, or upgrade to a deluxe sofa mattress so bedsprings won't dig into backs.

Get pretty organized.
When it comes to furnishings, accessories and art, skip the office-supply superstore and choose home-quality pieces to create a cozy, welcoming feel. Space-saving storage options include:

  • rolling bins under the couch or bed
  • a wheeled cart that hides under the desk
  • a dresser or credenza with room for office supplies and visitors' belongings
  • leather- or fabric-covered boxes, pretty file holders
  • woven baskets on a bookshelf to house rolled-up towels, bath salts and magazines for guests
  • two-drawer filing cabinets covered with fabric that double as side tables and nightstands

    A neglected nook becomes usable workspace in HGTV's Dream Home 2006.
    Separate workspace from the rest of the living room by facing your desk outside.

    Home Office in the Bedroom
    This most personal, restful retreat should be your last choice for adding office space. If there's simply no other place, take care to create a bedroom workspace that won't form a visual or psychological barrier to relaxation. "You want the 'home' in 'home office' to take precedence," says Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, Apartment Therapy author.

    Choose furniture that doesn't scream "cubicle."
    Pair an old-fashioned vanity, wood secretary, a writing table or petite desk with a sophisticated shape with a soft, upholstered chair and a stylish lamp.

    Organize openly.
    Stash paperwork and office supplies in attractive file boxes or storage bins, for an open work area that looks as neat and organized as possible — or "invest in a computer armoire so you can close the doors and shut your office away," Gillingham-Ryan says.

    Home Office in the Living Room
    This is one of the most natural places for a home office. Here's how to make sure you separate work and play.

    Arrange the office so you don't see it when you're not using it.
    "The living room is supposed to be a relaxing, social space so it's nice to be able to make your office 'go away,'" says Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, Apartment Therapy author. One option is the ever-handy computer armoire. Another is orienting the couch and other seating in one direction, and the office setup in another — such as against a window wall and facing outside.

    Divide the room into two distinct zones with a visual buffer between them.
    Small Space, Big Style's Libby Langdon, an N.Y.-based interior designer, loves nestling a shallow office area against a far wall and enclosing it with fabric hung from a hospital track. "It hides your office when you're not working and is a gorgeous design feature on its own" without taking a big chunk out of the room, she says.

    Use the space behind your couch.
    Position the couch in the middle of the room and use a slim console table behind it as an everyday sofa table and occasional laptop station. For Cybele Eidenschenk, a writer in space-squeezed Manhattan who works (and dines) in her living room, flexible furnishings are the key: "My saving grace is my Pembroke table," she says. Unfolded, it's a full-sized desk, "but when guests come over, I just close my laptop and flip the sides of the table down so it sits flat against the wall." Instead of having a separate desk chair, she simply uses a dining chair.

    Home Office in the Dining Room
    Fitting a dining table and a full-sized desk into a small space is tricky, so either your table, your workstation or both need to be lean and mean. "A work surface doesn't have to be a desk," Langdon says. Space-saving choices:

    • Extend a shelf off a wall
    • Mount a demilune surface between two bookshelves
    • Choose a compact "cabinet desk" with pull-out keyboard tray and printer cubby
    • A round dining table placed off-center leaves space for an office nook
    • An expandable table for dinner parties or holiday meals can be kept short when not in use

    Go wireless.
    Rather than carving the dining room into two distinct zones "spring for a wireless Internet connection for your laptop, which frees you up to work at the dining table," Gillingham-Ryan says. For storage, look for a small, wheeled supply cart, or make room for files and office supplies in a nearby sideboard, a closed cabinet or a bookshelf outfitted with clutter-concealing baskets.

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