By Chris Long
Whether you're an occasional telecommuter or a work at home mom, operating effectively and efficiently out of the house requires a dedicated space in which to organize both your thoughts and your files. Fortunately, slim laptops and wireless functionality mean you don't need to reserve an entire room for an office, a blessing for those of us short on space.
But setting up shop on the kitchen table isn't exactly conducive to completing your to-dos. So how do you establish a place that works without working a full-size office into your place?
Here are some tips and tricks for creating a convertible workspace right in your den, kitchen, or bedroom.
Capitalize on Underutilized Space:
Your home may have more room than you think.
- With a bit of ingenuity, a shallow closet can be transformed into a tucked-away task center that can be shut behind doors when not in use. Pair built-in cabinetry and a slim chair that fit snugly inside the closet. For a bit more storage, add a rolling file cabinet under the desk, and then just pull it out when you're in work mode. Along the back wall, hang a full-length mirror horizontally or group smaller mirrors to help the space feel larger. And be sure to include some sort of table or desk lamp for focused lighting. If your closet has French doors, apply chalkboard paint or a cork board to the inner door panels for jotting down notes and pinning up papers.
- Don't forget to use your corners. Shop for a corner table that can be placed in an empty crook of your bedroom, den, or entryway. Again, task lighting will be important, so choose a lamp that blends with the décor of the room.
- Help your hallway live up to its potential by outfitting it with a slim Parsons table dressed with a wrap-around skirt in a bold pattern. The fabric addition will liven up the space while doing double duty as a hideaway for a filing cabinet and computer cords. Alternatively, you could fit such a piece into a dormer window niche or other narrow alcove.
Create a Custom Desk:
For crafty types, a DIY desk allows you to get creative with workspace camouflage.
- If floor space is at a premium, opt for a fold-down desk. Using two hinges and a latch, you can morph a simple board into a Murphy bed-type workspace. Consider attaching a lightweight art piece to the underside of the desk so that it accents the wall when folded up. If you're really good with wood, try adding a picture frame (no glass!) that swings down to double as a supportive leg, and behind-the-scene storage cubbies to hold writing utensils and paperwork.
- Go functional in your family room by securing a piece of painted or stained wood between two modular shelving units. A storage ottoman slid underneath holds papers and acts as a seat when it's time to get down to business. Don't have a wall to spare? Remember that you don't have to situate your desk flat against the wall. Consider arranging this setup perpendicular to the wall so it divides the space into distinct living and play areas, stowing the kids' toys in the modular unit in cubbies of one color and work items in another.
- To add interest and usability to a windowless wall in a sitting room or den, opt for a dramatic floor-to-ceiling fabric installation that slides aside to magically reveal a workspace. Start by fixing a few long shelves to the wall, one above the other, with the bottommost shelf at desk height. (Add support to the lower shelf with wooden table legs, which can be purchased at any home improvement store.) Then suspend drapery rods from the ceiling a couple of feet from the wall. With drapery panels in place, you can draw the curtains closed to hide your desk when not in use.
Transform Existing Furniture:
Don't have a roll-top desk or fold-down secretary? Rework another piece so that it works for you.
- You can easily convert an armoire into a desk by replacing a shelf with another rollout one, which can be found at most hardware stores. Then equip it for work in much the same way as the closet conversion above, using chalkboard paint, cork panels, and lighting. You may need to cut a large hole through the back of the piece to allow cords to feed through to an outlet. Place the armoire near a low-profile chair that can be easily turned to face the desk.
- If the kitchen or dining table makes the most sense for your convertible workspace, try stowing office supplies in a rolling kitchen cart or buffet cabinet, so that they're in easy reach when needed and hidden from view when not.
Chris Long is a contributor to Home Depot's Home Decorators.com website and has been helping customers as a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago area since 2000. To see the selection of patio furniture available on the Home Decorators site, click here. Their selection of computer desks can be found here