The world has changed rapidly in the last few years, but change is the one constant of existence. The other constant is the fact that your tiny living space isn’t going to get magically larger just because it’s now your office as well as your sleeping chamber, gym, movie theater, and spa. The way everyone just blithely assumes we all have plenty of room in our homes to keep shifting every aspect of our lives there—the powers that be are even pushing “hospital at home” now—is anxiety-inducing.
But for many of us, work from home (or a hybrid approach) is here to stay. If you’ve been working at your kitchen counter or sitting on the toilet with your laptop balanced on your knees, it’s time to finally figure out how to cram a dedicated office space into your home. That’s not such a huge challenge if you have a bit of room to work with—a second bedroom, one of those vaguely-defined “dens” Realtors love to hype so much, or even a nook produced by some quirk of the architecture—but what do you do if you’re living in a tiny apartment that is approaching terminal density?
You get creative. Having a defined working space is essential to a healthy work-life balance—there’s something powerful about being able to leave work behind in some definable sense, which makes carving out a place dedicated solely to your job a good idea. Here are a few ways you can get that defined office space even if you literally have no more space.
A closet office
If your tiny home has at least one closet, you’ve got the makings of an office—or a “cloffice,” if you prefer (please don’t). Even one of those shallow, pre-war closets designed for people who owned exactly two outfits can be an ideal work space—all it takes is a desk surface (which can be a shelf), some storage, a chair, and some thoughtful lighting. Larger, walk-in closets could become actual offices, but you also have the option of taking just a portion of the closet and leaving the rest for your clothes. If you’ve only got one closet this does present the dilemma of where your clothes will hang, so this is an ideal solution for people who don’t lose sleep over questions like that (and who possibly don’t mind using their oven for sweater storage).
A floating desk
Defining an office space doesn’t require walls. If you have a section of wall in your home that isn’t blocked by furniture, consider installing a “floating desk.” Some of these floating desks even fold down, so you make them flush with the wall when you’re not working, re-claiming that precious floor space for weekends and days off. Adding in an area rug and possibly a design on the wall can further define this as your workspace, and borrowing a chair from your living area will cut down on the clutter (and the expense of creating this new area).
Use the space under the stairs
If your home has more than one level, there’s a good chance you have a large amount of wasted space under your stairs. Stairs are generally enclosed for aesthetic purposes, which means you can opt to remove the drywall and expose the space below. This will be a weird, cramped space with a sloping ceiling—but that’s honestly all you need for an office space. This might take a bit more effort than you’re willing to put into the project—it involves at least some construction skills, and a little expense if you’re going to finish the space again—but you’ll reclaim additional usable square footage, which is kind of awesome.
Loft your bed
Are you sleeping at floor level like a normie? Then you’re missing out on the perfect spot for a home office. Swap your current bed frame for a loft bed, and instantly have about 30 square feet of office space to work with. In fact, you can buy loft beds with desks and storage built-in, making this an instant solution that won’t require more than your blood, sweat, and tears putting everything together. Just make sure you’re not afraid of heights first.
A corner desk
Maybe you’re over-thinking this. Corners can be problematic because you look at each wall and think, that’s not enough space to work in—but a corner desk solves that problem. If you’ve got a corner of your home that isn’t hosting furniture, it’s an opportunity to install a small corner desk and instantly have yourself a defined office space.
Use a column
If you have a column smack in the middle of a room or a dividing wall in your space, you could consider a very narrow ladder-style leaning desk. You can find these in widths less than two feet wide, making them ideal for extremely narrow wasted spaces in your home. Add in some vertical storage above and you can fit a tiny office space just about anywhere.
Use a nightstand
If you’re really pressed for space, go to your sleeping area. Do you have a nightstand of some sort next to your bed? That could be your office. Swap out your existing nightstand for a floating version that you can pull a chair up to and that has a pull-out tray or shelf option. Bam! You have an office space. If you can’t find a nightstand with a pull-out shelf to act as a desk, one that has a drawer can be transformed into a desk by placing a shelf or other piece of wood over the drawer when you’re working.
Stay with me here. This is weird, but if you literally have no space to work with in terms of a home office, there’s probably one option you’ve overlooked. Even the tiniest studio likely has a bathroom that is, well, a room, and thus it’s a candidate for a home office space. If you’re already sitting on the toilet with your laptop, why not just commit? Installing a folding desk over the toilet might be all you need to do, and would leave the bathroom usable for its, er, natural purpose. The major downsides would be keeping the bathroom pristine, and the humidity: Your devices might not enjoy your steamy showers. But a robust exhaust fan (or just leaving the door open or packing up your stuff every night just as you would at a real office) could solve for that.