23 creative ways to work in a tight space

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  • Whether you work from home permanently, enjoy flexi-working, or need somewhere for the kids to do homework, having a dedicated work space is key to productivity. Most of us don’t have the space for a full sized study, which is why small home office ideas are so helpful in making the most of what we do have.

    Contrary to popular belief most home office ideas can be reinterpreted to work effectively in smaller settings. You simply need to plan more carefully to get a stylish and practical desk area.

    The first thing to do is, of course, decide which room you’re going to turn into a home office, or co-opt space from within. Are you going to use a box room, a kitchen corner, or tuck yourself under the stairs?

    Next to consider is lighting. ‘Getting your lighting right and giving a once dark and gloomy part of your home a new lease of life can be just as motivating as your first coffee in the morning,’ says Natalie Mann, New Product Development Co-ordinator for Iconic Lights. ‘To make the most of your space, invest in an angled task light. It allows you to cast a wide pool of light or a more focused spotlight as you need it.’

    Finally, storage and furniture can be brought into play. ‘Choosing the right furniture for your office is extremely important to make the most of the space,’ says Juliette Thomas, Founder & Director, Juliettes Interiors. ‘Try and purchase furniture which has a double function. Think a desk but with storage underneath that can store paperwork and other items. Even if it’s a multi-functional space, make sure you have storage to put everything away that has nothing to do with work. Nobody works at their best when surrounded by laundry!’

    Small home office ideas

    No matter how petite a space you have, or where it’s located, here are our favourite ways to make small home office ideas work for you.

    1. Carve out a nook among wardrobes

    Small desk in between white wardobes

    Image credit: Future PLC

    If you’re working a home study space into a bedroom, consider sacrificing some wardrobe storage to carve out a nook. You only need a couple of feet across in order to fit in a small desk. Choose a slimline option so once the chair is pushed in, you’re not coming into the room much more than the wardrobe doors.

    You can keep the wardrobe sections above head height. Just ensure you leave enough room to have a light at a comfortable and practical distance away from the desk.

    2. Utilise under stair space

    Home office with green cabinetry underneath staircase

    Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young

    Under stair spaces are often wasted space in homes. Instead of allowing it to become a dumping ground for tote bags and trainers, turn it into a stylish home office. Avoid home office design mistakes and go bespoke. This is your best option here as you’ll be able to build in cabinetry to make the most of every available inch.

    Build in as much storage as you have room for. Not all needs to be for office supplies, you can keep a cupboard for coats, and maybe a pull-out drawer for all the miscellaneous hallway paraphernalia.

    3. Zone with paint

    Desk in front of wall zoned with blue and white paint

    Image credit: Crown

    Use paint to define your work space in an open-plan area. Cover an area in contrast colours to the main wall, making it roughly the width of your desk and just below ceiling height, so it creates a framed backdrop for your desk.

    ‘This could work very well in modern properties with an open plan living space,’ adds Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown. ‘And by painting just a smaller section of the room you can go really brave or dark with your chosen colour.’

    4. Choose a corner desk

    Corner desk in small home office

    Image credit: The Cotswold Company

    Nobody puts baby in the corner… but maybe they should. A corner desk is an excellent solution for fitting in a workspace and storage without overly encroaching on the rest of the room.

    Keep ergonomics in mind and find an option with a pull out keyboard so you can comfortably type while staying at a good distance from your screen.

    5. Stick to a light and bright scheme

    White home office with wooden desk and rattan chair

    Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Jane Watson

    Whether you’re using a small box room or a part of a larger space, colour is key. Light, bright shades and materials will make the space seem larger than it is. Think crisp whites, pale woods and glinting metallics.

    Remember that home office lighting ideas are important, even in these brighter spaces. ‘Lighting can increate productivity and prevent fatigue,’ says Juliette from Juliettes Interiors. ‘Make the most of daylight, but have your desk side onto a window so that the light does not shine directly onto your computer screen, and use tall lighting for specific areas, where you need to concentrate on detail.’

    6. Make use of alcoves

    Home office in white alcove

    Image credit: Kelling Designs

    ‘When it comes to creating a home office, you ideally want to carve out a space that you can dedicate to it,’ advises Emma Deterding, Founder and Creative Director, Kelling Designs. ‘However, space is often at a premium in modern homes and apartments, so dedicating a whole room isn’t always possible. The last two years has seen the home become more multi-functional than ever, so being creative with your space is key.’

    Use every inch of space at your disposal. Find space in an alcove in your living or dining room to act as a smart home office area. As well as fitting in a desk, you can easily add shelving above for all your working day necessities.

    7. Go long and narrow

    White built in home office

    Image credit: Neville Johnson

    ‘Opting for built-in storage will help to make the most of every ‘nook & cranny’,’ says Jamie Godfrey, Senior Design Consultant, Neville Johnson. ‘This maximises every inch of your small office space to meet your exact storage needs.’

    If you have width but not depth, take your cabinetry across the room, keeping it long in length but slim to the wall.

    8. Use panelling to define the space

    Green panelled wall in front of desk

    Image credit: Interior Fox

    To really delineate your home office in an open plan space, consider revamping that section of wall. Add interest while zoning by inserting a panelled area. Enhance the look even further by painting this section in a contrasting colour to the rest of the wall space.

    For a chic finish, paint the desk shelf in this same colour. This also makes it multi-purpose, as once you remove your work essentials it could double up as a cool home bar or display area.

    9. Put up a single shelf to use as a desk

    Window nook study with rounded built-in desk and green window blind

    Image credit: Future PLC/Nick Smith

    This has to be one of the smartest ways to make a small space work for a home office. A simple wooden shelf placed under a window creates the perfect perch for work.

    You can go as big or as small as you have room for, but try not to go too thick or it can seem out of proportion.

    10. Use all available walls wisely

    Navy room with wall mounted wooden shelving above desk area

    Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore

    When space is limited it’s key to utilise every inch of space to the max. For a small home office desk or craft room ideas the solution the key is in making the walls worker harder.

    A wall-mounted storage unit with fold-down compartments provides ample space for a desk and storage without taking up space. You can choose to fold each section flat against the wall when not in use.

    11. Transform a dividing wall into a smart desk area

    Kitchen with small desk on dividing wall

    Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore

    If you have an open-plan kitchen design try transforming a dividing wall into a computer station. Invest in a narrow tall desk with enough space to balance a laptop and plenty of shelves for storing office supplies.

    Instead of buying a single purpose desk chair, double up a breakfast bar stool from the kitchen. A pegboard hung above the desk will help free up desk space further.

    12. Conceal your desk inside a cupboard

    Grey cupboard with home office and blue pinboards inside

    Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore

    It’s important to keep a healthy home/work life balance, so having a home office you can shut away is key for properly switching off. This solution is also an ideal small home office idea to avoid the presence of a screen or computer from encroaching on a compact living space.

    Transform an old cupboard into a home office that can be opened up whenever you need it. Include a shelf for storage and a board on runners for a keyboard.Attach pin boards to the inside of the cupboard doors as a place to keep track of to do lists, tickets and postcards.

    13. Float a desk to take up minimal floorspace

    Neutral bedroom with wooden floating desk beside fireplace

    Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young

    If you’re limited on space, using a bedroom as a home office may be the only solution. Making a desk double up as a dressing table makes it a useable furniture piece with a bedroom purpose too.

    A narrow, floating desk won’t protrude too much into the room. Pop a mirror on it to transform it into a dressing table. Keep your home office essentials minimal, so you have less to hide away.

    14. Welcome wallpaper

    Home office with floral wallpaper

    Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore

    Don’t be afraid of introducing pattern into a small space behind a desk, as an interesting wallpaper or mural will cleverly distract from a messy desk and can play with the perception of space.

    If wallpaper isn’t your thing, you could use a pin board or wall-mounted clipboards to make an interesting backdrop to your study area.

    15. Utilise the wall space beside the bed

     Blue bedroom with wall unit as beside table and desk

    Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young

    Make the most of every inch of valuable wall space with a wall-mounted unit that doubles as a desk. Simply fasten the bottom half away, to hid all trace of a desk element.

    With drawers and storage compartments it doubles up a standard bedside unit to place a lamp, book and some fresh flowers. Add a small stool for when you’re using it as a desk.

    16. Make the most of attic eaves

    Attic room used as home office

    Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson

    If your loft space is already boarded out it will be simple enough to convert the space into a small home office idea. a lick of paint and a roll of carpet goes a long way to transform an attic for storage into an attic where you wish to spend time.

    Sloping roofs are the perfect example of a space that might otherwise be redundant. It’s often tricky to make use of the half height ceiling, due to the awkward measurements, but a desk will slot happily in.

    Remember that it’s a good idea to position yourself near a window, so you don’t feel completely shut off from the world.

    17. Keep office clutter behind closed doors

    Cupboards holding home office trolley and supplies

    Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young

    Don’t mix business with pleasure. Ensure your home office doesn’t encroach on your living space by keeping it well hidden. Give office essentials a dedicated storage cupboard, that you can shut the doors on after a long day.

    Complete the vibe with a trolley you can wheel desk-side and lot of boxes, files and jars to keep it all under control.

    18. Soften the look of a functional home office

    Home office with black painted wall and wall planner

    Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young

    Don’t compromise on interior style, make the small space work harder within your home. Soften the edges of a functional workspace by incorporating decorative home accessories and plenty of plants.

    A cluster of houseplants, in varying heights, leaf shapes and pot textures can help to instantly add an informal feel to a home office.

    19. Corner off space to fashion a workstation

    Small white living room with fireplace, sofa and desk

    Image credit: Future PLC/David Woolley

    No spare room? Then use a corner of your living room ideas for your home office. Traditionally, an office keeps you shut away from the rest of the house, but these days, social and work lives are more closely entwined.

    Hang family photos to ensure the space still feels like part of the original room.

    20. Look upwards

    Home office with tall and vertical shelving

    Image credit: Future PLC/Jonathan Jones

    When space is limited you have to be smart with your home office storage ideas. Use every space available to you, particularly with vertical storage. From tall bookcases to wall mounted storage, the only way is up to create a clever small home office.

    Keeping floors clear and clutter-free will help to create the illusion of more space.

    21. Turn an outbuilding into a home office

    White garden room used as home office

    Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars

    Garden office ideas are the perfect way to keep work and living areas separate. Especially if indoor space is limited. Using one side for correspondence and filing and the other for more creative work helps create a sense of serenity.

    Plus, there’s nothing more inspirational than a garden to look out over while working.

    22. Work in a corner of the kitchen

    Armchair at table in kitchen with filing cabinet and orange anglepoise lamp

    Image credit: Future PLC/David Merewether

    Small homes don’t often have the luxury of a whole room dedicated for a home office, but fear not – just a corner will do the job!

    Create a small work station by pulling up a comfortable chair and small table in the corner of the kitchen. When not in use the chair can be used elsewhere within the room and the table pushed against the wall to avoid it taking up valuable floorspace

    23. Upcycle existing furniture for a make-shift office

    Small home office with side tables used for desks

    Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain

    Who says you need traditional office furniture in your workspace? If you’re using the space infrequently you may not want to invest in new furniture, or pieces that feel too ‘office’ like. Even a bedside table can double up as a mini desk if space is tight elsewhere in the house. We love upcycled furniture ideas to revamp and repurpose old furniture pieces.

    Two bedside tables side by side can provide more than enough room. Fit shelves above for display and keep a space clear for your laptop.

    24. Use white as a backdrop

    White desk area with pictures hanging from a peg rail

    Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes

    Keep walls white in your home office so you can display photographs and pictures to inspire you. Continue the theme with co-ordinating stand-alone furniture and accessories, such as the desk lamp and shelf unit, for a cohesive feel.

    Decorating with soothing white shades not only evokes a calm feel, the blank canvas creates the illusion of greater space.

    25. Make a dressing table double up as a desk

    Dressing table used as a desk in a bedroom

    Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole

    Use a dressing table in place of an office desk. The storage within the design allows for somewhere to stash work essentials, while the top provides just enough space for a laptop for working.

    At the end of a long days work simply restore the space to a dressing table if need be.

    Where is the best place for a small home office?

    One of the bonuses of small office ideas is that they can be integrated just about anywhere in the home.

    ‘Finding the right spot for your home office is key to productivity,’ advises Joanna Baumard, Co-Founder, Purlfrost. ‘You don’t necessarily need ample amount of space, but you do need natural light and a space that feels clear of clutter. If you haven’t got the luxury of a separate room, the dining room or bedroom can often be the next best spot.’

    ‘The spare room is often an ideal place to work,’ recommends Juliette Thomas, Founder & Director, Juliettes Interiors. ‘It’s usually the quiet space in a home but is so often used as a dumping ground. If space is an issue, consider downsizing to a single pull-out trundle bed or a sofa bed that acts as a daybed or sofa when not in use. Choose a compact desk, console or dressing table that looks great but can be flexible and will allow you to hide work away when guests come to stay. This leaves more room for you to work comfortably and you still have a functioning spare room.’

    If you opt to set up your home office in an open plan space, make sure to delineate the area. ‘Simply working on the dining table or kitchen island won’t help to focus the mind,’ says Poppy Peace, Creative Director, Milc Interiors. ‘By effectively using rugs, bookshelves and lamps, you can create the perfect working zone, that works with the open-plan interior, yet ensures a dedicated space for work.’

    How do you integrate storage into a small home office?

    Just because your home office is short on square footage does’t mean it has to be lacking in storage.

    ‘Floating shelves or a tall bookshelf that extends to the ceiling will provide ample amounts of storage and a place to showcase decorative items,’ says Mariana Ugarte, Co-Founder, Interior Fox. ‘The possibilities are endless when you go bespoke. Creating furniture for your room that is designed to fit seamlessly means that every inch of the room is catered for.’

    Alternatively, build in storage as you go. ‘Why not create a dedicated home office within built-in joinery in the kitchen or living room, that can be shut away when you’ve finished working,’ suggests Emma Deterding, Founder and Creative Director, Kelling Designs. ‘It’s ideal for creating integrated storage where you need it. By hiding it behind doors will allow the space to function as a kitchen, diner or family living space with ease.’