Carving out a home office

Household 3 min read

If you work from home, like we have for over six years, you’re no stranger to needing a spot to get the job done. Although we have a dedicated office in our current house, it wasn’t always that way and we were forced to find ways to squeeze productivity in other rooms.

Here’s what you can do to add some office-y function without sacrificing the cozy factor or completely taking over another room.

Start with a dedicated work surface

Fight the instinct to force a spot with another function. Don’t allow a dining table or kitchen counter to serve double-duty by adding “primary work space” to its list of functions. You’ll constantly find yourself in a tug-of-war between its original purpose (food, prep, eating, etc.) and your productivity goals. Having to move your stacks of paper and computer cords out of the way prevents you from feeling settled and can waste valuable time that you could be spending getting work done. Believe me — we’ve lived the nomadic laptop life and it’s not a recipe for success in the long run.

In our first house, we added a small Parsons desk to the corner of your living room. It blended right in with the other living room décor, while creating a small but useful space that was specifically designed for working.

Beyond a traditional desk, you might want to consider these alternatives:

1. Leaning ladder desks are typically sold at places like JC Penny or West Elm. They essentially look like a ladder with long slats that jut out to create some upper shelves for open storage with an even deeper slat below that creates a desktop surface. They don’t take up much floor space and it’s nice to have that extra built-in vertical storage (many of them are $99 or less).

 2. A deep shelf supported by brackets at desk height also creates enough space for a laptop and notebook. This saves wall space and is affordable. (A thick piece of wood from the home improvement store along with two brackets may only run you $40 or less.)

 3. An old roll-top secretary desk or small armoire that can be closed to conceal desktop clutter is an option if you’re hoping to keep all the paperwork behind doors when it’s not in use. You can pursue thrift stores or Craigslist to find a secondhand option to save the budget.

Don’t overlook a comfy chair

Finding a chair that you can spend hours in comfortably is a must for any office — at home or otherwise. Trust us that the low-profile wooden stool we once attempted was not a back-friendly choice! But before you hit up the office supply store on the hunt for the obvious “black plastic castors and some sort of spandex-like seat option”, there are several comfortable and supportive chairs that look a less office-y, which means they’ll slip into an existing room in your house more easily. Even a leather Parsons dining chair has a nice padded seat and enough back support to make it really comfortable, even for longer stretches of work.

Declutter and add hidden storage

Perhaps the key to seamlessly integrating an office into another room is not let your work supplies run amok. Clutter will make you feel like work is taking over your entire room/house, and can even be a distraction while you’re trying to get things done.

Be brutal with yourself about what you really need on your desk at all times and then find ways to conceal the rest. A desk with drawers is an easy piece to slip your used supplies into, while file boxes and storage ottomans are great options for wrangling papers, business receipts and binders. You can even use a pretty opaque vase to corral all your computer/camera cords. That way they can live on your desk within reach, without cluttering up your view.

Beyond those three key ideas for squeezing a workspace into another room, be sure to consider other items that will help you feel focused and productive, like a small desk lamp that doesn’t take up too much surface area or a cork board hanging on the wall.

Even if you don’t have the budget to spend on a new desk or chair, you can get started by decluttering and adding a few make-you-happy accessories to your work zone – which should instantly feel more inviting and less chaotic. Even adding a fun screen saver (a favorite family photo or a pretty shot of the beach or the mountains) can make you smile – and it’s free!

There’s no time like the present. Take time on a weekend to get started.

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