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2020 was a year like no other, for a lot of different reasons. A big one was the number of people finding themselves working from home for the first time. While it can seem like a simple enough transition, working from home presents a lot of challenges, not least of which is finding a dedicated space to actually do the work. In small studios and apartments, that task was an even larger feat, especially for people living in already tight living quarters. If you weren’t used to working from home, for example, you may not have had a comfortable office chair or even an available work surface.

Thankfully, ingenuity in the makeshift-work-from-home world was off the charts this year, particularly for the renters and homeowners below who were able to carve out room for home offices in small spaces. These small-space dwellers turned closets into miniature home offices, squeezed home offices in their living rooms and their bedrooms, installed fold-down work surfaces, DIYed desks, designed custom solutions, and worked with what they already had to create highly efficient work zones… that also looked great, too. Whether or not you foresee yourself working from home more in 2021, the ideas in this roundup will inspire you to take stock of your own at-home work and craft spaces.

1. A Sleek Fold-Down Desk in This 235-Square-Foot Studio Apartment

Emily Forgione lives in this teeny 235-square-foot Brooklyn studio apartment, and like many other pre-quarantine New Yorkers, her small home was just a place to sleep and recharge between outings exploring the city. “Suddenly having to work and spend all my time here pushed me to do a complete overhaul of my space, to make it as comfortable, bright, spacious, and pleasant to spend time in as possible!” wrote Emily. She added a wall-mounted folding desk and chair to save her from having to sit on the couch as a workspace.

2. A 300-Square-Foot NYC Studio Goes From “Work to Weekend”

Caitlin Tateishi rents this 300-square-foot studio apartment in NYC’s East Village, and she put thought into how this super small space would work for her life throughout the week. “I have definitely worked and planned a lot to make my small space super functional. The convertible side table in the entrance folds out into a full dining table for dinner parties. During the work week, while we’ve all been working from home, I set up a corner office with a great minimal fold-down desk. This comes down every Friday so the space feels like it’s ‘weekend ready’ again,” wrote Caitlin.

3. A 296-Square-Foot Brooklyn Studio Apartment With Closet Mini Office

Kim White’s studio apartment is FULL of genius small-space maximizing ideas, and she has invested money and energy on many projects to make the space more efficient and comfortable. One of my favorite spots is the itsy-bitsy “office” she squeezed into a former closet. There’s a tiny workspace with just enough room for a laptop, there are storage shelves above and below the desk, and even the folding desk chair is the perfect addition to the space.

4. A 400-Square-Foot Brooklyn Studio’s Home Office Works With What’s It’s Got

Esi Agbemenu and her dog, Turkey, call this small studio space home, and Esi has done an amazing job adding lots of color and style to it. I found her “office” zone to be quite inspiring because it doesn’t look like it takes up all that much space while offering up ample work area. When your entire home is just one room, you can’t have half the space be your office! The desk from Overstock is white and blends in with the surrounding wall, helping it blend into its surroundings. Esi also uses the window ledges as extra office storage, but wisely corrals much of the supplies in baskets and trays, keeping it looking uncluttered and organized.

5. A Custom Desk and Media Center in a Small Brooklyn Condo

Anne Louise Marquis just has 600 square feet in the small Brooklyn condo she owns, but came up with a very clever design solution for her living room/home office. “My boyfriend spent a weekend building my custom bookcase/desk suite that I designed on a piece of paper,” wrote Anne Louise. It’s a good reminder that you can craft a custom work-from-home space that won’t make you look like you live in an office suite.

6. A Nook in This 525-Square-Foot Brooklyn Studio Is Functional and Beautiful

Emily Edelman’s 525-square-foot Brooklyn studio also has a great example of turning a closet into a workspace. “My biggest spend was on the stack of flat file drawers in the office nook that used to be a closet. You can store a surprising amount in drawers that are only 1.5″ high, including tools, jewelry, scarves, hats, memories in the form of papers and trinkets, and shells!” wrote Emily.  

7. A Wall-Mounted Work-From-Home Solution for a Shared Home

Oyin Antwi, and husband Jeffery Antwi share just 550 square feet, and both of them are busy entrepreneurs. They came up with a solution for them to both work from home thanks in part to this sleek walnut ladder desk from CB2 that offers a surface for working without taking up a lot of floor space. The green saddle task office chair from Wayfair rolls under the desk snugly, making the entire office area compact and unimposing.

8. The Office Area in a 650-Square-Foot Apartment Blends Right In

I love the workspace in Ryan Ervin Cox’s 650-square-foot apartment because it’s hiding in plain sight. An antique table fits in with the style of the rest of the apartment, and the whole area is surrounded by lots of decorative elements that take attention away from the computer screens. But the computer monitors also cleverly feature an art-themed screen saver—an easy trick for making a home-office area look a little less “home office-y.”

9. A Tiny London Studio Takes Advantage of a Weird Spot

Mariana Guimaraese’s studio apartment isn’t just small at 300 square feet, it’s also a weird shape with an awkward layout. “I had a lot of time to plan the layout, which was quite a challenge because it’s such a small footprint and I had a lot of stuff, but I work in interior design so I used the tools and knowledge I have to make the best of such a small space. I’m getting good at planning small spaces (this is my second studio) and my attitude is to do the best with what we have. The landlady is a friend of my friend and they both said they had tried everything in the flat before and no one had ever come up with a solution as clever as this… and I was really proud of the result, too,” wrote Mariana. The layout includes this little home office she squeezed in between a large cabinet and the bed.

10. A 400-Square-Foot Studio Includes a Very Cute Mini Corner Office

Natasha Satisfield lives in just 400 square feet, but it’s a very organized studio! And while she doesn’t officially have any “rooms,” after a makeover she does have a place to work. “I love that I now have a corner ‘office’ where I can sit down and work, pay bills, or just journal. I love that even though it’s a studio apartment, I can still have a dedicated workspace,” wrote Natasha.

11.  This 550-Square-Foot Apartment Features a Workspace Without Needing to Buy a New Piece of Furniture

Fold-down and wall-mounted desks are great for creating a home office in a small space, but you definitely don’t have to spend a lot of money or even buy anything new to create a space to work from home. “The books used to be lined up from one end of the bench to the other, with all of the plants on top. But when we started working from home in March this year, I tried to think of how to create a workspace without needing to buy a new piece of furniture, and voila: the bench desk was born,” Gabi Horowitz explains about the solution in her 550-square-foot San Francisco apartment.

Adrienne Breaux

House Tour Editor

Adrienne loves architecture, design, cats, science fiction and watching Star Trek. In the past 10 years she’s called home: a van, a former downtown store in small town Texas and a studio apartment rumored to have once been owned by Willie Nelson.

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