How to Set up a Great Home Office (Even When You Don’t Have Much Space)

sunny home office with a small office and plantsPhotographee.eu/Shutterstock

Just because you do not have a lot of space does not mean you have to work on your coffee table. Here's how to create a workspace when the space itself is scarce.

When most people plan to work from home, they imagine a spacious, well-lit home office. Your fantasy desk could have a sleek desk and a high-tech ergonomic chair. Or maybe an antique oak desk and a powdered leather chair is more your style.

But when you look at your studio or your cluttered little house, you quickly realize the reality. Is there even enough room for a real office? How much work can you really do on your couch? Maybe you should just work sitting on your bed, as you did your homework at college?

The prospect of carving a home office in a tiny living space may seem impossible. But with a little creativity and resourcefulness, you can create an office space that will help you enjoy homework even more. Here's how to do it.

Looking for natural light

When you decide which part of your living space you will use for your work, we want you to keep in mind, first of all, natural light.

Even in an apartment in the basement, you probably have a small window that leaves at least a little light. You can use these sources of natural light to your advantage. Studies have shown that access to natural light is the first thing employees feel good in their workspace.

Without natural light, you will quickly feel bored, tired or locked up. Your brain will struggle to draw the energy needed to focus. So no matter where you decide to place your home office, make sure it has an unobstructed view of a window. The bigger and brighter the window is, the better it is, but work with what you have.

Think about your needs

Now think about what your home office will need.

For most people, an office and a place where to sit will do the business. But what should be the size of your office? Do you regularly work with two large screens or do you use a regular laptop? Do you need a place to spread a lot of papers or can you work with a single notebook?

Reflecting on this, be sure to separate the needs from the desires. You may want to use a large and nice monitor, but a laptop will work just as well. Also look for creative solutions. Maybe you can hang this big monitor on the wall so that it does not take up space on your desk.

Identify the right space

With that in mind, it's time to identify where you will place your home office.

Unless you really need a lot of space, you really do not need more than a few feet. However, depending on your cramped living situation, you may need to rearrange some furniture to open this office space.

Find or create an available corner, a piece of wall, or a space under a window. Move items as needed until you have an open space where you can set up a desk. If there is no space available on the wall, you may be able to place a desk against the back of your sofa. You can even use an extra closet as an office (but let's be realistic: how many people living in small living spaces have closets to spare?).

Compact home office nestled under a staircaseel lobo / Shutterstock

Your office may also be in your hallway, driveway, kitchen or even your bedroom. No matter where with a few extra feet of space works. Our editor, Jason, turned an unused alcove down a hallway into an office at home for his wife: the size of this piece of furniture was ideal for two filing cabinets, an IKEA wood counter and an office chair. You may have a place in your own house like this: a space at the end of a hallway or under a staircase where a modest home office could sit.

If you put your desk in your bedroom, try moving it away from your bed so that you do not think about napping all day or work when you are in bed.

Choose your desk and your chair

Now you have a place to put your office. It may be only a few feet wide, but all you need is enough space for you and your essential work supplies.

Then find (or create) an office that will fit this space. Use a tape measure to see what you need to work with. Then think about which type of office will work best.

Most people do not need a full traditional office. You can place shelves or buy stand-alone organizers to replace the drawers. So, in addition to shopping for an office, think about ordinary tables. The bargain stores often have old desks and tables of different sizes at unbeatable prices.

You can also install a shelf to serve as a desk. A solid shelf wide enough for your essential tasks will do the trick. This is a great way to get the most out of a very small office space or unusual shape, and the supplies are usually cheap. You can even place your tablet on a sufficient height to use as a desk, then use a high chair to allow you to sit.

The chair you use is your choice – make sure it's comfortable enough for every day. You can also help a small house feel less crowded by carefully choosing the design of your desk and chair. Styles with slim legs and clean lines, or even clear acrylic that blends in with the background, do not add a lot of visual noise to a room.

Consider dividers

If you live with other people, you may want to find a way to divide your office space from the rest of the living space.

Of course, the dream is to have a home office with a door that you can close. But since it's not always realistic, be creative. Try the hanging curtains or set up a divider folding room screen to separate your office area from the living space.

These solutions will not block noise, but will minimize visual distractions. You can use noise canceling headphones take care of the noise aspect.

Find storage solutions

If you have a small living space, you probably have trouble finding places to store your belongings. Fortunately, your home workspace can also become a source of new storage space.

Look above and below your desk. Can you place shelves just above the desk or add drawers? Do not forget that vertical space is your best friend in a small life situation.

Your storage solutions may contain your work supplies. But if you do not have a lot of work, they can also store everything you need to store.

Get versatile

If you're still struggling to find a space in your home that's only suitable for work, you can create a dual-use space.

Perhaps you simply need to rearrange your dining table so that it can easily turn into a work table after breakfast. Some rolling drawers to keep your work supplies at hand could do the trick.

Or maybe the new office space you have built can serve as a coffee corner. Just make sure that you can easily take your work with you when you want to use the space to relax.

Add personal keys

Your home office is not only convenient. It should also include fun and personal touches that make it an integral part of your home.

If you do not need to hang shelves to store it up to the ceiling, you can hang your favorite artistic prints over your desk. Watching them will inspire you on dark days and make the space less utilitarian.

You can also stack your favorite books on your desk shelf, install some cute plants on your desk or buy office supplies in your favorite colors. Do whatever is necessary to make your work space at home feel like home.

Creating a home office in your small living space can inspire you to find other ways to use your space more efficiently. Most importantly, it will provide you with a place where you can quickly go into "work mode" and accomplish your tasks.

Of course, you can also take your work to a nearby café when you want to change the scene. Then check out our guide to do the work in public spaces.

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