My most recent client just downsized from a large, two-bedroom condo to a compact one-bedroom shortly after her husband passed away. She did an amazing job of reducing what they had owned and lived with for over 20 years in that condo, but once everything was moved into the new place, she felt like the walls were closing in on her.
Not to worry, though: I’ve enlisted the help of a designer who is helping us to make the main room feel larger.
In the meantime, my client is working from her “home office”, which is a desk, a rolling cart, and built-in cabinets in a bank of beautiful wardrobe cabinets she had installed just before moving in.
So many changes in such a short time can cause havoc in the best of times. For my amazing and brilliant client, she’s ready to get things in order, and wants to make better use of the “office” space.
While working with her, I started thinking about what I’ve discovered over the past few years while organizing tiny home offices for clients: it is possible to make them super-functional and easier to keep organized. Here’s how:
Choose Built-Ins Whenever You’re Able
Built-ins, including cabinetry and desks, can be of any depth that you care to design, and custom built-ins will use every inch of your already-small space. Freestanding desks and shelves tend to be bulky. Not to mention that when you choose built-in cabinetry, you can choose to have doors if you like a clear, uncluttered look. This is especially important if your office space is located within another room, like the bedroom.
Pick Furniture That Is Scaled Correctly
In some cases, my clients have bought tiny entry tables to use as a desk because they thought, “tiny office equals tiny desk.” That’s not always the case, though. If you’re working from home full time, you’ll likely need more storage, and so you’ll require more furniture pieces. SO, sure, in this case, keep your pieces relatively small. But if this isn’t your primary work space, and all you need is a desk and chair for your laptop in the evenings, then go for something bigger. A tiny desk in an empty room, no matter how small, might just make the room feel like a cave rather than an inspiring office. After all, the desk in this case is THE furniture in the room. Make it have some presence!
Don’t Only Use Office Furniture
It used to be that home office meant desk, credenza, shelves, ugly tall file cabinet. I’ve found that the home office that I’ve loved most in my clients’ homes have broken this archaic rule. Sometimes the desk chair is a comfy, plush wingback. Sometimes the built-ins, like in my client’s home this week, are part of a closet system. Adding something unexpectedly homey into your home office can give you a sense of comfort that’s lacking from your corporate office.
Invest In Good Lighting
Task lighting is key in an office, even a tiny one. Imagine only one overhead light exists in that space; there’s no way that it’s pointed at your keyboard, your paper planner or your notes and books on your desk. In fact, you are probably generating a shadow that covers all those things. If you can’t place your desk directly next to a window, find yourself a floor lamp, desk lamp or sconce that fits your style, and position it so your desktop is well lit.
Use The Vertical Space
When your home office is tiny, the only place to go is…up! Last week, residential real estate brokerage Redfin asked us (my Organizing with Ease podcast co-host, Diana, and me) to contribute to their blog article about organizing small spaces. The article is titled 15 Must-Read Tips for Organizing Small Spaces (click the title to check it out). Diana and I mentioned using a peg board, like in the photo at the top of this post, to clear supplies off your desktop. In a tiny space, anything you keep on a tabletop, desktop, countertop – basically any horizontal surface at all – will make the room start to feel cluttered. Instead, look to your walls for help! Yes to peg boards and slat walls, and as I mentioned earlier, built-in cabinetry – preferably not too deep.
You can, and should, infuse your personality into your tiny home office space. Are you in love with stuffed toys? Do you enjoy fresh flowers? Are you into deep, moody colors? There’s a place for all of that in your tiny home office! The trick is how you add it in there so as not to clutter up the space. And keep your desktop as clear as possible.