Organizing

How to Fit a Home Office Into Any Corner, Any Room

An office you'll actually want to use.

January 28, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

I’ve been living in a renovation for the last two years, during which almost every room in our house has been overhauled. My husband Austin and I have been able to live through this, because A) we have amazing family members who have selflessly lent us their time and talents and B) because we work from home.

While our home renovation ambitions have absolutely benefitted from our flexible work schedules, I can’t say that our renovation has necessarily helped Austin or I get work done. Not surprisingly, It can be distracting to sit down and attempt to get anything done when the doorways are covered in plastic or you have no idea where the documents you need are piled. Since moving in, I can list five different spots I’ve considered my “office” and I’m about to move my work zone yet again.

Office #1:

When we moved into our house, a second dining room right off the kitchen was great for Austin’s office. He’s a photographer and in and out with heavy gear, so a first-floor space made the most sense. The space I chose was a small bedroom connected to our master bedroom. A larger spare room, instead, would be the guest room. So, we got to work renovating Austin’s office downstairs and my office upstairs.

Office #2:

Except...a week after we finished my office, we found out we were expecting our first child. No sweat, right? Since my “office” was ideal for a nursery, I started to transition my things into the guest room. There wasn’t room for a desk, though, with the couch and bed we already had in there. Okay, no big deal. I turned the closet of the guest room into an office hub of sorts, tried to organize all my things into a shoe cabinet, and decided to work from the couch.

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Top Comment:
“I am relatively new to working from home, but as I mostly use a laptop for work my favorite "home office" solution has been a wide, shallow basket. I use the basket to corral my laptop, mouse, chargers, notebook, and pen then move it with me throughout the day. Since it's winter my office has mostly been an armchair infront of the fireplace, but come spring I'm planning to take my basket outside to the deck.”
— Kate H.
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This solution seemed workable on paper, but wasn’t practical in real life, because of course the guest room wasn’t just the guest room—it was our dumping ground for renovation madness. If we were working on the bathroom across the hall, tile saws, vanity cabinets and approximately one million hand tools covered the floor. I made it work until the baby came and then it was just too much to keep organized while staying productive.

Hide your laptop, files, and supplies in the bottom of a dining hutch Photo by Lauren Day

Offices # 3, 4, & 5 (Seriously):

From there, I've worked at a makeshift desk between our family room built-ins, the dining room table while storing items in the buffet, the living room with storage from a credenza, and now back up in the guest room. We redid it this summer to make it more conducive to work; it now has a circular kitchen table between two little dressers deep enough for storing files and office supplies. Of course, now our daughter is about to move into this room.

PHEW. Still with me?

All those moves later, I’ve become a pro at making any space into a hardworking office—well, maybe with the exception of the bathroom. Whether you work from home or not, an organized and functional place to get things done is key. I’ve found that it’s less about a designated room than it is about getting resourceful with the ways any room, or even part of one, can be turned into an office.

Photo by Lauren Day
Photo by Lauren Day

How to uncover Your Home Office Potential

  1. Decide if you need a desk surface (if you use a desktop computer or do a lot of handwriting) or if work can be done from a couch or chair with the help of a tray.
  2. Scan your home for under-utilized space that could potentially become a functional work zone, even an empty corner will do.
  3. Look around for storage pieces you already own like a dresser, credenza, shelf, etc that can be emptied and repurposed for office space. Even a deep storage ottoman or open cart might work.
  4. Digitize as many documents as possible to lessen what needs to be kept on hand.
  5. Consider replacing a large printer/scanner combo with the pocket versions that are more portable and storable.
  6. Sort through office supplies and consider giving away duplicates or items that don’t get used often.
  7. Purchase or DIY small storage boxes, baskets and bins that feel more like home decor than office supply solutions.
  8. Invest in a file sorter with handles so it’s easy to pull out when needed.
  9. Find a caddy to keep all of the essentials in one place so getting things out doesn’t feel like a full process.
  10. Organize drawers and cabinets with small containers to make keeping your non-traditional office storage clutter-free. Place those containers on a tray to be pulled out when you’re working and simply put back when you’re done for easier clean up.

What are your tips for fitting a home office into a small space? Tell us in the comments below!

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Lauren Day

Written by: Lauren Day

Interiors Writer, Editorial Stylist & DIY Enthusiast

5 Comments

Kate H. January 29, 2020
I am relatively new to working from home, but as I mostly use a laptop for work my favorite "home office" solution has been a wide, shallow basket. I use the basket to corral my laptop, mouse, chargers, notebook, and pen then move it with me throughout the day. Since it's winter my office has mostly been an armchair infront of the fireplace, but come spring I'm planning to take my basket outside to the deck.
 
Arati M. February 2, 2020
Great idea. Also, if only that basket had wheels, right? Does it?
 
Liz S. January 29, 2020
This article made me think about my own home office. I am self-employed, "hired gun" computer programmer and have worked from a home office for almost 35 years! Not the same house, but similar setup: a "nook", jog in a room … currently (and for the past 13.5 years) in a sunroom off my kitchen. I've been mostly single and like being near the kitchen as cooking/baking sometimes functions like a work break for me. My desk and also a craft table in another room, I made from setting a hollow door on top of saw horses. I finished the doors to match woodwork, cut saw horses to the height I wanted (correct height for laptop on my desk and "stand to work" height for the craft table. This works very well for me in both spaces but … a long preface to say that my large work space with the door for a desk top was originally because years ago I had more "paper" and reference material that I wanted to spread out. Now, I don't … iPad and Apple pencil for quick notes, iPhone ... but all else happens on the laptop and a large monitor for windows with reference info. So, I could go with a much smaller "desk". In fact I have in my motorhome where I work in the passenger seat which has a pull out desk enabling to set a printer in the "well", monitor on top an kind of stand over the printer and my laptop on the pull out desk. And while I don't need to shift or change in my current "home" office, I could and maybe use the sunroom space in a different way. "Food for thought" … pun intended. Thanks for the inspiration!
 
M January 28, 2020
Considering your experiences, it sounds like fitting an office into any corner shouldn't be about finding space, buying new boxes and baskets, and finding a place to rehome items in current storage, but rather investing in some sort of mobile storage that can easily be moved from place to place. Otherwise you're spending a lot of time and money to fix a space that isn't permanent.
 
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Lauren D. January 28, 2020
That’s a good idea too! I already had these storage solutions and I know that eventually I’d be back in my original office so I preferred repurposing things I already had and supplementing with a few new bins but if I ever need to relocate my permanent office again, I’ll definitely consider something I can roll into the closet when I’m done. Great thought!