how can you set up a home office space in tight quarters?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I am starting a remote job, and I live in a pretty small space (less than 900 square feet). I’m looking for suggestions and ideas about what has worked for others for a remote office set-up in close quarters — what kind of furniture, creative ways to set the work space apart from the living space, etc.

Readers, please share what’s worked for you in the comment section.

{ 340 comments… read them below }

    1. plincess_cho*

      second the shelves!! i have one of those ikea kallax bookshelves that i have between my bed and my desk and it is a game-changer!!

      i’d also suggest mounting screens if possible with fold-out arms so you can tuck them away when not using for more space.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        It also makes a good background for zoom calls. You keep that part of the shelves tidy

      2. Hannah Lee*

        I second mounting the monitors.
        Also if you can mount a fold down work surface, that lets you reclaim the floor space when you’re not using your laptop or keyboards.

        Lastly, about the bookcase, if the one you get has an ‘ugly’ backside, prints from Fathead or wallpaper can make it a decorative feature. Even paint could work to spruce it up.
        And depending on your layout, preference, if you give the wall that’s visually behind it from the main vantage point in the room either the same treatment or a contrasting on, you can make the bookcase “disappear” or be a feature, as you wish.

    2. Frinkfrink*

      Yes–friends of ours used bookshelves and a shoji screen to block off a space in their living room for a home office.

    1. B*itch in the corner of the poster*

      I second this, these are great in general for small spaces to break up rooms. Did this is my lovely 490′ square foot studio i used to live in

      1. Got to Van Gogh*

        I have a room divider screen that is a Van Gogh painting on both sides and I bought it from a local hardware store (I think Lowes). I get a ton of compliments on it, and since my WFH setup is in my living room facing a window, on weekends I tuck the screen around my computer equipment and it is a great way to put away my work when I’m not working, and when I am working, I do not have to worry what my living space looks like. Plus, it’s a burst of color and art in my room.

        1. PickleFish*

          I’m now Googling this divider. I hate walking past my work space in the evenings and on weekends. It’s in a bump out off the main hallway. I thought about a floor to ceiling curtain to divide off the whole space, but that would block windows. The panel would hide the desk and leave light.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      THIS! My life changed when my partner convinced me to move my laptop from the table that was perpendicular to the couch and TV…so it was in my peripheral vision anytime I was in my living room. I moved it to the back of the room, behind the couch. I really feel like I am “going to work” when I sit down in the morning, and “going home” when I walk the few feet to the couch after work.

      Also, try to be near a window. Just the ambient light makes a difference. (And I have many videos of the squirrels eating peanuts on my windowsill :)

      1. SarahKay*

        +1000 on near a window.
        I spent the last two years WFH and I had a window directly to my right, looking down into my back lawn. It was such a huge benefit – natural light most of the time, and watching assorted wildlife (albeit mostly then scared off by my neighbours’ cats trotting across it), plus it was good to have a changing scene to gaze off into when on boring meetings or thinking hard about something.

      2. Not good with names*

        I second the window idea! My days became so much better when I shifted my desk to get more natural light and to be able to glance out now and then.

        Quick PSA on the peanuts – we have neighbors who put peanuts out for squirrels and birds. Those squirrels and birds bring the peanuts to our yard where they leave crumbs and shells all over, including on our deck. Our small child has a very serious peanut allergy, so playing outside in our own yard is now a hazard. Many people don’t know that this happens when they put them out, so I like to spread the word in case people can choose a less allergenic option.

    3. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      I have seen some clever use of shelves as room dividers as well (like an IKEA Kallax). If you can separate the space physically it definitely helps with the mental separation.

    4. stargazer*

      I did this and it made a huge difference! I blocked off a corner of the living room, leaving a gap to go in and out of the screened area. It’d be easy to fold back the screen if I temporarily needed more space, although I find I like leaving it in place so I don’t see my work stuff when I’m using the living room to relax.

      I’d also recommend good noise cancelling headphones. The screen and headphones go a long way towards being able to focus and get into a work headspace, at least for me.

        1. PickleFish*

          I love my Bose. I had Beats Studio 3 and my ears hurt terribly. I get good battery life and comfort out of my Bose. I have the quiet comfort 35 version. I got them for $170 in November. I appear on video calls wearing them now. I can hear better than with the computer.

    5. Princex Of Hyrule*

      Seconding this! This is what I did when I had my first few remote temp jobs and it helped a LOT.

    6. Global Cat Herder*

      My daughter lives in a one-room apartment and uses a screen. She also uses a narrow-ish table (like a console table) instead of a desk, so it looks less like an office when she’s not working. When she’s “at work”, the table has an open laptop in the center and a vase in the far corner, chair facing table, and the screen set up behind her. When she “comes home from work”, she folds the screen, puts the (closed) laptop in the far corner of the table and the vase in the middle, and turns the chair to face the room.

    7. mooncake*

      Any visual barrier helps. My desk is in my bedroom, visible from everywhere in my tiny studio. But I haul a curtain over my second screen and desk at the end of the day so I can’t see the actual workspace. Just having it visually gone is so helpful even though I still trip over my desk. It’s not “work” when it’s covered by a big black curtain!

    8. danmei kid*

      Yes. I have a foldable room divider to block off the space behind me, and it’s really helpful.

  1. CheesePlease*

    My aunt lived for 20 yrs in a tiny Manhattan studio apartment. She had a queen-size lofted bed, and underneath had her desk / bookshelves. It was like a little cubicle underneath, and could hang a curtain so that at other time, the workspace is more hidden

    1. Foofoo*

      this is the set up I have. My apartment is just a bit over 400 square feet and having lived in small apartments before, I knew how I wanted to set up this one…. I invested in a double size loft bed and jammed my desk under it so that’s 50 square feet of items being constrained to 25 square feet. All my desk, business, computer, work stuff is in the “cave” under my bed. I don’t block it off but I can if I wanted to hang a sheet or blanket behind my chair from the bed.

      It’s a great set up and I’ve had it like this for the entire 10 years I’ve lived in my apartment.

    2. Books and Cooks*

      Those are fantastic for setting aside or delineating a space when there’s not a lot of room, and then that space can be decorated differently to emphasize even further the difference between home space and work space.

      And then, it’s fun to sleep up high, too.

      1. Sally*

        unless you need to crawl over the person on the outside to climb down in the middle of the night! :)

        1. Sally*

          Fortunately that didn’t happen very often. My then-girlfriend had this loft-bed-over-the-desk setup for many years in her 250 sq. ft. studio. You get used to ducking to go into the “office,” and it gives you so much more space in the rest of the apartment.

    3. Snarl Trolley*

      I low-lofted my full-size bed mid-pandemic when it was evident I’d need to find workspace in my very tiny shared apartment, and my bedroom was the only viable option for it. It’s low enough for my dog to hop onto using a compact storage ottoman as a step, and made it possible to have a “work corner” with my work laptop and small desk, then my regular desk with my personal laptop facing the windows. Everything else went into the under-bed space – low bookshelves, storage, the dresser, dog items, with the exception of a tall bookshelf that moved to the common area.

      I know it sounds silly to have two separate desks, but I’m the kind of person who struggles to really disconnect from work when it’s time to clock out, and having a specific, designated space that is never used for Personal Fun things helps drive that home in a way I need in order to survive the remote-work era intact. Lofting the bed made that possible without making me totally claustrophobic – strongly recommend it when possible!

      1. Foofoo*

        I built a ramp from the counter to the bed so the cats could get to the loft bed without jumping. They still have to jump to the counter, but there’s a cat tree next to it so it’s floor -> cat tree -> counter -> walk up the ramp to the bed. It’s worked perfectly for them.

        Living in small spaces means you figure out clever solutions for most of it!

      2. usually anon*

        Having two desks makes such a huge diff in my headspace that it’s worth sacrificing the room space. My 102 yr old house has a tiny ‘bedroom’ we use as a pantry/storage but it’s painted nicely and has a bookshelf in one corner that makes a good zoom background, so my work desk (a small table) is in there, right next to a window that looks out to my hen yard and old growth fir trees. My personal desk is in the living room (my partner also has her personal desk there) which holds the old school desktop PC etc that also runs my weather station, security cameras etc. It’s so nice to close the work laptop and step into the rest of the house at the end of my day. Even though I’m working more in the office than at home these days, I still like having a private little nook to work form.

      3. Frickityfrack*

        It’s not silly – I had 2 desks while I was working at home for the same reason. Plus, I have dual screen setups for both work and home (and my home desk also serves as my vanity) and trying to manage that on one desk while keeping work supplies separate from my home stuff wasn’t feasible. I bought a full-sized loft bed, put my work desk underneath with some string lights and fabric to cover the slats on the underside of the bed, and kept my home set up on the other side of the room so it felt like a semi-separate space and kept the background clean for video.

        I don’t work from home anymore, but I still kind of love the loft bed. I moved my dresser and my dog’s bed underneath and my fairly cramped room feels so much bigger. I have open floor space now! Not much, but it exists!

    4. mlem*

      Just take care not to lean down from the lofted bed to grab something from the desk, because if you’re not careful, you can reach too far and slide off and give yourself a concussion on said desk. Not that I, um, did that in college or anything.

    5. Nessa*

      I had a lofted bed for a while with my desk under it when I worked from home. I liked putting colourful strings of lights under the bed slats for a cozy feel. I had a bunch of leaf shaped lights from Ikea and Snowflake ones for winter. At my last workplace I got string lights for around my desk and the lights were also clips to put work notes on.

  2. King Friday XIII*

    Queen Sarah and I both work from home in about 900 square feet, with my setup in our bedroom and theirs in the main room. A big key has been furniture that closes; we both have two desks, one of which has a secretary-type door that closes up at the end of the day. (Closing both would be ideal, but we haven’t found an armoire or other piece of furniture that would allow the monitors to be shut up and while working in the space.) The biggest thing for us has been having a way to fully be done. For them it’s closing the desk up and shutting the laptop, and it’s in a corner so they can walk away from it. For me, it’s literally pushing the button to switch monitor and keyboard/mouse over to my personal PC instead of the work PC.

    1. Anon again*

      This has been key for me – a secretary or armoire, where I can “close the lid” when I’m done. For me, less about separation and more that I hate clutter – and my workspace is inherently cluttered (even when organized).

      It can take a while to find the right piece of furniture, because the secretaries can be hard to find, if you’re looking for something that fits a size requirement, and it’s sturdy enough to actually put a keyboard on and work on. But, it’s worth it.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Second this recommendation. This is what I did when I had to make a workspace out of my living/dining space. I wanted something that would blend in with the rest of the decor/layout — something that I could hide away both for aesthetic reasons and to keep my work papers locked away when people came over. I managed to find one at Target — it’s not especially high end but has proven quite sturdy. I might upgrade at some point but for now it does the job quite nicely.

    2. WhiskyTangoFoxtrot*

      I found a vintage secretary on OfferUp and it has been life changing. My old desk was right across the room from my bed, so I was staring at my “office” even when I was off the clock. Now I can put my laptop away and close the secretary and it doesn’t even look like a work space. Highly recommend!

    3. Claire W*

      Not quite a closing desk but a previous manager of mine converted a built-in wardrobe but putting a fitted shelf in as a desk and some thinner shelves above it and wallpapered the walls of the wardrobe. It mean that like you, she could close the wardrobe doors at the end of the workday and the room was back to being the bedroom!

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      If another person is working from home in the same space, no matter how much you like each other, contrive to achieve some separation, as King Friday and Queen Sarah have done. No one wants to hear you in the background of your partner’s work calls.

    5. Sally*

      I used to have an IKEA table that attached to the wall on one side and folded down when I wasn’t using it. I used it as a dining table, but it could be a desk. It was fairly small, but it would definitely fit a laptop and keyboard/mouse and possibly also a separate monitor.

    6. Ophelia*

      Similarly, Hamlet and I now both WFH in a 900SF NYC apartment. We have a very small 3rd bedroom that acts as our office. We have two wall-mounted fold-down workbenches (you can find them at Home Depot, etc) that we use as our desks. This means when we have guests, we can “collapse” the office, and put a blow-up mattress in that room. It does mean that we use either just laptops, or wall-mounted monitors, rather than having desk-based setups, but I travel a lot for work anywya, and am used to working pretty virtually.

    1. Melanie Cavill*

      I had no idea these things existed. You may have just changed my whole life for the better.

    2. Mother of Corgis*

      Murphy Desks are wonderful! I have one that I use for a dining table/crafting area, so I don’t need to make space in my small house for a full dining set I’ll never use.

    3. Apartment Dweller*

      I have a desk from Room and Board that has a pull out shelf – sort of like the old keyboard trays, but bigger. I keep my keyboard on there all of the time, but take my laptop and put it on the official top of the desk when working and put it back and push in the tray at the end of the day. It keeps it looking nice and tidy. It’s called the Cophenhagen Office Cabinet, and also has things like a file drawer and other storage – but it doesn’t scream “DESK” to me.

      It does mean I can’t have a full second monitor, but looking into the portable monitors, so I can hide it away too.

    4. St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research*

      My parents got a Murphy desk when they downsized to a smaller place, and it was so amazing I immediately got one for myself.
      Not only does it save the floor space where a desk would go, but all the little shelves and pockets in there mean that you can tuck away all the “junk drawer” crap that otherwise gets everywhere – pens, notepads, stickies, paper clips, etc.

    5. Captain Swan*

      I am totally looking into this. Husband has been TW from the dining room since shortly after COVID started because it was the only space in the house he could use. That puts Mr. ADD right in the center of all the traffic going through our house.

    6. AY*

      It was quite expensive, but we purchased a Murphy bed with a desk in 2020! It looks like a Murphy bed, but when the bed is stowed away, there’s a desk shelf. It allowed me to have a home office without giving up our guest bed.

    7. Ashley*

      Depending on living situation, you can build one easily into a wall using a butcher block counter top (sand and seal) and then a wall bracket.

    8. Mid*

      I want one so bad, but I use two monitors and haven’t been able to find one big enough to hold them. If anyone has found a murphy desk that can hold 2 32″ monitors, please let me know!

      1. Yeah summer!*

        The ikea Norden table folds down to nothing and has drawers. You could put together shelves over top to stow when not using.

      2. Magpie*

        If you’re at all handy, it’s incredibly easy to make a basic one with a gateleg. Aside from wood, you need a drill, a piano hinge that spans the length of your desk surface, and a couple hinges for the fold-out gateleg. Plus some sandpaper and stain, to make it look nice.

    9. Becca*

      Etsy is a really great source for Murphy desks! Search “fold down wall desk” or “fold up wall desk.”

  3. OneTwoThree*

    This is more about mindset, but…. My husband has a pair of headphones that he only uses for work. When he sits down at his desk to work, he knows it’s time to work. It helps him disconnect from everything else going on. He might not even turn them on…. just habbit.

    An unintended benefit, it helps me know when he is in work mode and to not bother/ distract him. :)

    1. OneTwoThree*

      I should note that he uses the same desk area for other things on his personal time.

    2. CatCat*

      I do something similar with a small decorative lamp. The lamp is not really needed for light, it’s really just a mental cue for me. When the lamp is on, I am “at work.” When the lamp is off, I’m not. I even turn it off during lunch breaks and the like. Because I’m not working.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        I have a lamp at my desk too for that reason! It’s weird but it helps!

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My desk is in a corner of the open living/dining/kitchen area, and there are separate light switches depending on which zone I want to light up. When I’m at work, I turn on my “office light” (i.e. the overhead lighting at the end of the room where my desk is). When I’m at lunch or done for the day, I turn off the “office light”, so now people in my house know if the office light is on, then I’m at work.

      3. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        My partner has a lamp near their desk with a similar function. They turn it red when microphone and/or camera is active, yellow when otherwise working, and green when not at work. They’re working from home one day out of five now, and it’s still useful.

        We considered putting up a ceiling track for a curtain, but they were 80% back in the office before we were done considering, so we didn’t. We do have a lace tablecloth across the exposed side of the desk, partly as a peripheral vision block but mostly to keep the cats off the printer.

    3. Miss Muffet*

      I am not in a small space but do WFH, and have long used a similar practice with getting dressed/doing my hair to move into “work mode” – even if im not dressing up, i’m in something not-pajamas, and the transition time just helps the mindset. Similarly, having a way to “close up” at the end of the day is useful for delineating that time.

    4. Liz*

      I do something similar with browsers – Chrome for work, Firefox for personal. Since I often end up doing personal stuff on my work computer, and occasionally need to handle work stuff on on my personal computer, I like having an additional cue to switch mentalities.

      1. L'étrangere*

        I find it a helpful cue to setup different color themes for work and play too, as additional insurance against potential confusion

      2. Shira*

        I do this too! It was more about keeping all the settings and history etc separate but I find it a helpful mental separation as well.

    5. Minimal Pear*

      I do the same thing with my clothes–I generally change right out of them, or at least remove some of the elements, as soon as I’m done with work. (Unless I have to run errands.)

    6. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

      Same idea here. When I was remote, I had a drawer for my work stuff (laptop and headset). When I was done for the day, I could literally put work out of sight and out of mind.

      Small desk with drawers that fit a laptop perfectly cost less than $150 at Target, has outlets built into the top. I use those curved shelves meant to be used in kitchens to maximize space.

  4. Melanie Cavill*

    A friend of mine has a loft-style bed with a desk underneath it.

    If you live alone, co-opting any dining room space and turning that into a work area may also be an option. I live in a 700 sqft apartment by myself, and you can bet that my dining table serves every purpose (including at-home manicures!) but dining. Unless I make soup and don’t want to risk carrying it to the couch.

    1. Storm in a teacup*

      Haha my old apartment was 900 sq feet (which actually for London is pretty large) and I think I only ever ate at the dining table when home alone when I had something I didn’t want to spill

      1. Mid*

        To be fair, 900 sq ft would be huge for me as well. The biggest apartment I’ve ever lived in was 1200 sq ft, but I had 3 roommates (and only 1 bathroom.)

    2. Turtles All the Way Down*

      I lived in an adorable 2 bedroom duplex in West Hollywood that was built in the 1920s. Very small bedrooms and bathroom. Much larger “public spaces” as people used to do. The whole thing was probably not much more than 700 sq ft. Our second bedroom, which was probably 9 x 7, had a futon for guests, a nightstand, and my husband’s desk. Our MASSIVE dining room had a 4-top table on one side, in front of a window, a bar against the wall in the middle, and my desk on the far side, with a bookcase nearby. It gave us both private work space that was separate from both our bedroom and our living room space.

      So just knowing that the space is 900 sq ft doesn’t really tell me much. There could be 2 bedrooms. There could be 1 bedroom. There could be a separate dining space… or not. There could be more interior walls, or it could be open concept. All of those factor into how to set up the best office space!

  5. Marie*

    Anything you can do to cover up your workspace when you’re done for the day is really helpful. I’ve worked out of small AirBnB’s before, set up on the small kitchen table, and tossed an afghan over everything at the end of the day and even that visual separation helped out. So think about ways you can put away the laptop, cover up the monitor, hide the keyboard, etc. I know there are desks that mount to the wall that have enough room to keep the monitor setup, etc but that fold up and close- that would be another great way to not only separate your workspace but also to have a physical act that you have to do when you start your day and end your day, which can help your brain to stop thinking about work as well.

    1. Ama*

      This is what I came here to say. The room I WFH in is also the room all my clothes are stored in so I have to come in here every day whether I’m working or not (our actual bedroom is so tiny the dresser and the closet for my hanging clothes has to be in a different room). The best thing I did for myself in the early days of the pandemic was rearrange my closet so I have designated storage for my work laptop, keyboard, mouse, and the notebooks I make work related notes in. It’s such a small thing, but not having to even look at my work stuff on days when I’m not working has really helped.

      I also have a few items of loungewear that I have forbidden myself from wearing except when I am not working, which is particularly nice in the winter when it’s already dark and cold at the end of my workday and I can’t just go take a walk to get a mental break.

      1. OP*

        Ohhh this is a good point. I could make a very concerted effort to not work in sweatpants every day…

        1. Lynn*

          Even just (in my case) having actual sleep clothes and a separate set of “day jammies” makes a difference. I’m still wearing the same types of things, but putting on the clothes that signal “work” to my brain helps me keep work time and not work time separated.

          1. L.Stevens*

            I second this! I have specific lounge wear that matches well for working at home, and specific PJs for bed. Changing out of the “work clothes” helps me relax at night, and having them all match in tones of black and gray helps me feel put together and ready to work during the day.

          2. Ama*

            Yes, this is what I do — I have plenty of pajama pants I wear when working, but then I have my “off hours only” sweats (my favorite, most comfortable sweats) that only go on when I am not working.

        2. Kes*

          Yeah even though I’m mostly working from home I definitely still have “work clothes” and try and dress for work (admittedly the wfh dress for work is a little more lax than what I’d wear to the office, eg I may wear shorts, but there are clothes that are work only and others that are non-work only and then some that can be either). I find it helps me get in the right state of mind.
          Spacewise I agree on having work be out of sight when you’re not working where possible. I live and work in a 600sqft condo but it’s a 1+1 where the +1 is basically a nook in the hallway – that nook is my office and it means it’s out of sight when I’m sitting in my living room after work or at night in my bedroom. Previously I was living and working in the same room and often working sitting on my bed but I would close and put my laptop away somewhere at the end of the day, and then take it up again in the morning to start work. Having a separate space for work is definitely better where possible because the space will help put you in the right mindset, but I think one way or another, having some kind of cues for transition into and out of work mode is important.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            When I WFH during the first year of the pandemic I split my clothes to two areas. I had my “work” clothes closet and then a armoire with my evening/weekend clothes because I dress pretty differently between the two. They are combined again now that I am back in office most days. But this REALLY helped when I was spending so much time at home. I know not everyone has room for an armoire but if you can make the separation work somehow it can be helpful.

        3. pandop*

          Yes, I did this during the lockdown when working from my existing desk in the living room. Work clothes are for work time, home clothes are for home – it gave me that mental separation between the two. I also made sure to have a screen break at the end of work – even if I was going back to the desk to do things on the PC for myself later (eg study)

    2. PSA*

      SO important! I wfh at the kitchen table in a very small house and when I forget to put my laptop/other work materials away when I’m done for the day, I can feel a notable side dish of “I never clocked out” heaviness at dinnertime.

  6. Sauron*

    O_O <- me looking at this post when my boyfriend and I are about to move into a 400 square foot apartment and we both work from home. 900 sq ft is very workable! I agree that shelves are great for making the spaces feel separate. My boyfriend is more of a desk worker so we're getting him a small raising desk, and I will likely use a lift top coffee table as my work space.

    1. ND and awkward*

      I know what you mean, 900sqft is our three-bedroom house! I think we’d have struggled when we lived in a 425sqft flat if we both worked from home (husband’s job can’t be done remotely), but we’ve always shared a home “office” space.

      My just-under-half of the room is about 1m x 2m, so my tip would be to be a workplace minimalist. A laptop, wireless mouse, and a pen and some post-its is my work setup. Keeping everything electronic means I can comfortably work on a 55cm x 42cm standing desktop, and the end of the workday just means shoving the laptop in my work bag.

      1. OP*

        If ours was separated into 3 small bedrooms, that would almost be better! We only have 2, so I’m choosing between setting up my office in my bedroom (where I am worried about mental separation, e.g. can I sleep if I’m in my ‘work space’?) or in the living room which is right smack in the middle of all the action.

        1. L'étrangere*

          The choice will come down to how distractible you are, most likely. If it was me I’d end up in the bedroom. But you have a lot of good suggestions here about a screen, a wardrobe/closet that can be shut, a different wardrobe and headphones… I’d even suggest a different coffee cup for work

          1. Christy*

            100% agree on the coffee cup thing. Which is weird, but at the start of the pandemic one nice *treat* for myself was to not use my industrial size travel coffee mug, but instead a fun camping style one for just a solo cup of coffee – since i could make more coffee at home if needed. I’m hybrid now, and it is still part of my routine on my WFH days. I upgraded recently to a rifle paper company corksicle one – a splurge that makes me happy every time I use it.

        2. Not A Racoon Keeper*

          Calling in from my 1-bed/600 sqft apartment with 2 full time WFH-ers! I’m set up in the bedroom, and while I’d love my work to be in another room, I like it better in the bedroom than in the living room. At least in the bedroom the non-work time I spend near my computer is sleeping…in the living room, my work was only a arm’s length away from my spot on the couch, which is where we eat and do basically everything else. I could never get away.

          One unconventional trick that worked for us was moving our dressers into the living room. This gave us room to both move our work into the bedroom (where the only A/C lives) during our heatwaves last summer. It’s weird and takes the brain some time to adjust to (laundry hamper still lives in the bedroom) but overall a much better situation for us.

      2. Thegreatprevaricator*

        Yeah, I’m in the UK and that is the size of our standard post-war three bedroom semi-detached house. I live here with my partner and my child. I work at the moment mostly from home, I have the smallest bedroom as a dedicated office space. I have a desk and second monitor set up although I work from a laptop and it gets moved around. I am a fan of dedicated space if possible.

      3. Media Monkey*

        same – my perfectly normal for the UK semi detached 3 bedroom house is just over 1000 square feet (me WFH 2 days a week, hubs WFH all the time, 1 teen, 2 cats).

    2. B*itch in the corner of the poster*

      There’s a fabulous youtube channel called “Never too small” about tiny apartments and stuff. It focuses a lot on interior design, but it’s very soothing and helped me be more “minimalist” when it came to living in a small space.

      1. Cendol*

        I was wondering if someone would mention that channel here! I love it, amazing stuff, especially the apartments that are more maximalist in decor.

    3. jm*

      haha thank you for saying this. i’m going from about 500 square feet to 375 so that 900 number feels like a mansion to me.

      personally one thing that really helped is having defined sections. my place has a half wall that separates my sleeping area. my work station is next to my easy chair, but they’re facing in different directions.

      1. Sally*

        For rooms that don’t already have a half-wall, the screen or bookcase ideas (from above) might help. And if you use a half-wall height bookcase, it won’t make the room seem that much smaller (than if it was full height).

    4. Melanie Cavill*

      To be fair, the LW says ‘less than 900 sqft’. It’s possible they are significantly south of that number.

      1. Jules the First*

        It does, doesn’t it! (We’re 600 ft2 for me and the toddler, and when the grandparents come to stay it is…full…)

        How much home office do you need? I have a narrow Ivar shelving unit that is just deep enough for my laptop and long enough to also hold a cuppa or snack and my compact travel mouse. I have it set at standing height, with a perching stool tucked around the corner. When I need a second screen, I take the call on my iphone and pull up files on the laptop.

      2. Becca*

        I’m in 650 for me, my husband, a toddler and a dog. My husband and I both work from home but it’s take a while to get the setup right. I recommend getting one setup done in the “for sure” space (for us, we knew for sure one work setup would be in our bedroom). Then we had a second more temporary setup while we got used to the apartment, and realized over time we should actually have the second setup in our toddler’s bedroom instead of the living room like we originally thought. Our toddler goes to daycare and her toys are mostly stored in the living room. She just sleeps in her bedroom (for now) so we divided her room and put my husbands setup in there. Now our living room is our “off work only” space and its really nice. Our bedrooms are TINY (9×9 for my husband and me, a weird oblong shape that’s like 4 ft wide in places for our toddler/office) so we make it work with a fold down Murphy desk for me and a “kids size” electrics sit-stand desk for my husband.

    5. MT*

      Yeah, I’m kinda surprised that the OP considers this to be a small space. It’s double the size of the 1 bedroom apartment my partner and I both worked from home in for the past few years!

      We had one desk in the bedroom, and one in the living room, and just dealt with it. Other than the desks, we literally did not have the room to add extra furniture to separate out the space any further. We would each sit at our desks, shut whichever doors between us we could to create some level of privacy, and then just got on with it. At the end of the day we would each shut our computers and then would move away from our desks for the evening or weekend. You just find a way to have your mindset as “this is work, this is home”.

      1. kicking_k*

        A less than ideal layout can make a place feel cramped even if the total square footage is not bad. We live in an older house that was extended without benefit of architects, and what with extra doorways, and corridors carved out of part of a room, it’s been tricky to find anywhere an extra desk could be positioned. We seem to be bizarrely short of either uninterrupted wall space or free corners. (We will probably solve this by moving.)

    6. Pool Lounger*

      This partly depends on how the space is arranged and partly what you’re used to. My partner and I grew up in the suburbs, where you could get a lot of space for little money. Neither of us ever got used to tiny NYC spaces, and luckily got out before the pandemic. We absolutely hated being on top of each other. We now have a pretty large space, but the way it’s subdivided wastes a lot of the space. I’d actually prefer less square footage, more hallways and doors.

    7. Antares*

      I was coming to say that I don’t take up a lot of space, but it’s because I’ve got a bulletin board and monitors that go up tall, so I’ve got all my screens and paperwork right there on the wall.

  7. LawLady*

    I have a tiny desk at home, which always felt cluttered. I recently put a mount on it for a monitor and laptop tray, so that my laptop and monitor aren’t actually sitting on the desk, but floating above. I’ve been shocked at how much more spacious the workspace is now.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I don’t have space issues but recently got mounts for my two large monitors. It does make such a difference!

    2. Squeegee Beckenheim*

      There’s a lab I work in a lot that always felt cluttered because the test setup took up most of the table and then the monitor stands took up the rest. We got an arm that clamps to the back of the table to mount the monitors on and it made a huge difference! It’s also nice because it’s height-adjustable so it works better for more people.

    3. Hannahnannah*

      Yes, this. Anything to get items off your work surface is great. You can get a small set of shelves to place above your desk/work table to store smaller items. Bathroom cabinetry and shelves look nice and make good use of available space.

      Also, if you have a laptop, consider adding a lap desk. They are nice for when you need to take a break from your work space and sit on the couch/bed. The kind with a beanbag or foam padding on the bottom of the desk platform are most comfortable.

      1. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

        The problem with a lap desk is that it allows work to bleed into areas meant for rest. I wouldn’t try it unless OP is sleeping in a different room.

      1. LawLady*

        Mine is the VIVO Black Fully Adjustable 13 to 32 Inch Single Computer Monitor and Laptop Desk Mount Combo (from Amazon).

        In addition to helping with the clutter, it’s nice to have my screens at an ergonomic height.

      2. fieldpoppy*

        I’ve been working at home since 1996 in various configurations. I also like a place to get all the work stuff out of my line of sight when I’m not working — it’s less important about WHERE I work and more about de-working the space when I’m not working. I like things like the Ikea Idasen.

    4. Foofoo*

      I have two monitors on mounts and yeah, it really clears off a lot of desk space. I always felt like my desk was too small but moving to two flat screens, then mounted off the edge cleared that all up.

      If I could only find a solution to get two laptops off my desk, I’d have even more desk space.

    5. Tiny desk user*

      On a similar note, when I lived in a 500 ft2 apartment, I wall-mounted my computer monitor in front of a narrow console table. With the monitor off the surface, the tiny desk (barely over a foot deep) was actually surprisingly spacious.

  8. Spicy Tuna*

    I have a small work desk in my living room since I don’t have another room to put it in. I refuse to work anywhere else in my apartment, or sit at my work desk for a non-work reason. The mental separation helps to make the work desk feel like its own space, even though it’s right next to my couch.

    1. PennylaneTX*

      This is my exact set-up and process. Desk is in a corner of my living room and I only sit at it To Work and I don’t work from anywhere else (no couch-sitting or working from bed). I also close my laptop at the end of every day and push the chair in and it really feels like I’m closing the door on Work.

    2. Bee*

      I kind of do the same, though my job requires a lot of reading and I do often take that to the couch or my armchair. I don’t have room for a screen divider or shelves or anything, BUT my desk is on the other side of the, like, passageway through the living room (I have a railroad-style 1BR with all the doors tucked to one side), so that works well as a mental divider. I turn off the computer and push my chair under the desk and I just forget it exists!

  9. aliaranel*

    I spent most of 2021 working remotely from my dining room table. I live with my fiance and we don’t have kids, so thankfully we only needed about half the table accessible for eating. I didn’t have an office chair to work from, so I bought one of those ergonomic seat cushions to put on one of my dining chairs to make it more comfortable to sit in for long periods. It worked out well enough for me.

    In January, we moved into his parents’ house (they’re retired and mostly up in their second home), and it completely changed my work from home set up. I now have a real desk and a real office chair, but they’re set up against/facing the wall in the dining room. The new dining room is much more of a pass-through space than the old one was, so between no longer being at the table and the higher likelihood of someone walking through, I feel much less… secure? in my work from home environment.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I know several people in cubicles who have done this over the span of my career.

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          When I was in Cubeville, I used a tiny convex mirror meant to stick on a car side mirror to get a better view of the blind spots. Really helpful! (Except for when I disappeared into hyperfocus and the motion didn’t register, yay ADHD. I eventually got a wireless doorbell with a blinking light, and unplugged the sound chip.)

    1. L'étrangere*

      Can you move the dining room table to the wall, or a corner, since you are not having dinner parties every night? That would maybe allow you to pull your desk out from the wall and face the interior, maybe even a window. You should definitely consider the addition of a screen and headphones no matter what, so you have better privacy and fewer distractions. Would it be possible to reroute traffic so at least some of it doesn’t go by you? Add a door or even a curtain to close the room, start using a different door to the outside etc? You may also try to rename the space from “the dining room” to “my office” to reflect its current main function

  10. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

    I have a wall-mounted monitor arm and an IKEA BJURSTA mounted at the right height for a standing desk. There’s enough room on the shelf-part of the BJURSTA to stash a wireless keyboard.

  11. Ground Control*

    I use my home office desk for work and sewing. I bought a desktop organizer/laptop stand (like this one: last year and it was a game changer! It holds all my work stuff during the day, then in the evening or on weekends when I want to sew it takes two seconds to pick it up and move all my work stuff at once to another area.

    1. OP*

      This is an awesome find, thank you! Storage for notebooks and things will be great, my desk is currently in the living room and I hate being able to see all my work stuff when I am trying to settle in for the evening.

    2. L'étrangere*

      +1 for sewing sharing!! Fortunately I don’t have many large projects but it gets crowded, I do the machine/serger dance frequently

  12. The Cosmic Avenger*

    No matter how big or small a space, I like having my back to a wall. Something about the space behind my desk (where I sit) being this little pocket of personal space sets it apart for me. And I just looked up “computer desk” on that river-named company site, and there are some very minimalist desks there much like the one my spouse has for their home office. It’s compact and leaves a lot of room for file cabinets or boxes underneath if you want. It’s basically just metal bars for legs and a board for a desktop, I’ll put a link to an identical one in a reply to this comment.

    1. desdemona*

      This is similar to what we’ve done for my husband – he’s facing the couch, but in a corner with his back to the wall and a wall on his left.
      However, his monitor is HUGE – so it blocks his view of the living room unless he’s craning around it. (our desk was originally for a gaming PC, hence the large monitor)
      We did just upgrade him to a nicer desk, with built-in shelving, so it feels more organized.

    2. I Wore Pants Today*

      This. Walls are also a good background for the endless video calls. It doesn’t show your small space or mess to coworkers or clients.

  13. Madeleine Matilda*

    You can purchase desks that fold flat against the wall when not in use. I’ve seen them on Amazon, IKEA, Wayfair, and Etsy.

  14. Anne*

    When I worked from home, I was health coaching and only needed my work cell phone/headset and laptop, so I would set up at the kitchen table or the sofa. I’d keep everything in my work bag once the day was over.

    We’re in a 1200 square foot apartment now with two bedrooms. We converted one of the closets into a office for my husband in the bedroom we don’t sleep in. He likes being able to close the doors at the end of the day. We have a very narrow desk in there and shelving on top for office supplies.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Oh this is a good idea. I am moving from 670 to 1160 later this year and will have a dining room. I was going to use that as an office space but I like the closet idea! The spare has a large enough closet that I could consider this instead. My only hesitation with the dining room is I would still see it in off hours.

  15. Vintage Lydia*

    I share my 900 sqft 2 bedroom apartment with my two kidlets. The primary bedroom has two standard closets so I converted one into a “cloffice.” I removed the doors and the desk I already had was the perfect width. The apartment came with an adjustable closet maid system and I lined the wire shelves so I can use them to hold my reference books, file box, and extra office supplies. I’m not perfect and I don’t love my office being in my bedroom, but I needed it in a space I can close the door. Unfortunately you can see my my entire bedroom from the camera so I both make my bed and use the blur filter on zoom.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I just posted something similar. This is what I did to make myself a sewing room when we were tight on space. It works pretty well IMO! Except I kept the doors on so I could hide it when not in use.

      1. Vintage Lydia*

        My desk is too deep to keep the doors on, unfortunately, but I wasn’t about to go our and buy a new one when what I had works OK. I really wish I was able to close the doors, though.

        1. L'étrangere*

          As WFH goes on and on, it might be worth it to start hunting for a desk that fits in the closet? Keep an eye on freecycle sites, offer to trade yours for a narrower one?

    2. OP*

      I have seen this in my Googling and I love the idea of it, I wish I had a closet that would work.

      1. Books and Cooks*

        If you have a spare corner, you could “make” one–it won’t be the same as a built-in, but a screen or shelving unit to block off space and a curtain (or folding doors, even) over the “doorway” could do a lot.

        We have two adults, two older teens, and a German Shepherd in about 950 sq ft., so I know how difficult it is to find a spare or empty corner, but since the concept interests you I wanted to mention it anyway.

      2. L'étrangere*

        The older version of a closet is.. a wardrobe. There are lots of Pax or Ivar offices out there, google ‘ikea hack office’ and you’ll be busy for days

    3. Plain Jane*

      I have a cloffice too! I love being able to close it at night or to leave things ready for the next day (like notes, etc). We converted a front entry closet into my office. We so rarely have visitors during the weekdays anyways. It has been great for mentally separating work from home.

    4. Soliga Dagar*

      I also built a cloffice, and can recommend it! I live with roommates, so our bedrooms are our only private workspaces. After about a year of WFH, I got sick of my desk taking up all the available floor space in my room. I vacuum packed all my out-of-season clothes to clear three feet of space in my closet, then bought a small and shallow desk. It’s tight, but there’s room for two monitors, a lamp, keyboard, mouse and phone.

      It’s still my closet, too, so there are clothes hanging on either side of me while I work, but you can’t see them on Zoom. I can put up a folding screen behind my chair to hide my bed if it’s unmade. The best part is, at the end of the day, I can push my chair under the desk and close the door on my “office.”

  16. Det. Charles Boyle*

    Could you post a link to where you got the mount, and/or what it looks like? My desk seems so full, too, and I would love to get more room.

  17. Work life separation*

    I have a portable desk setup (with laptop, keyboard, mouse, and monitors) that I move in and out of the middle of my living room every day (at night it and my office chair fit behind the couch). It has drawers to put any papers, notebooks, etc., so once it’s put away, I feel like I’m done with work. Might not be feasible for everyone but has done wonders for my mental health to have that separation, while still having a full desk setup!

    1. JHC*

      Same. I set up and break down my computer (external monitor and keyboards) at my kitchen table every day I work from home (which I did full-time until recently). It’s an efficient use of space because everything is doing double-duty. And I find that the ritual of setting up and breaking down in itself creates a division and a transition between Work and Home.

    2. Uranus Wars*

      A friend of mine has her TV on a bar cart that she rolls between living room and bedroom (she watches the news while she gets ready in morning). If she has guests over she hides it in a closet. I have though about doing that as well but for my home office – I could just roll it away at the end of the day. Even though I am digging the closet idea. I only plan to WFH 2-3 days a week once I have dedicated space to do so. Right now I am in 4-5 days by choice.

  18. SaltedChocolateChip*

    A small thing, but I’ve found that even though my desk is in my living/dining space, the fact that it’s not in my eye line when I sit on the couch or at my table is really helpful. Even though I do work from both on slow days, it keeps my desk as the place for “focused” work.

  19. Ann Onymous*

    When my mom started working from home, my dad build her a small wooden platform to use as a desk that she could set on the kitchen table (or on the counter for a standing desk) but it could be easily moved out of the way at the end of the work day. If being in a small space prevents you from having an area in your home that can be fully dedicated to work, establishing a routine where you have certain items that you get out at the beginning of your work day and put away at the end might help you create some mental separation between work and home.

  20. TimeTravlR*

    If you have a closet with bi-fold doors, you can often fit a small desk in there. (I have done it for a sewing space.) When not in use, close the doors, and move the chair to a corner of the room. You don’t always have to even take all the clothes out. Just push them to one side.

  21. A Beth*

    My space is a little bigger than that, but I live alone. After a few shifts over the years, I ended up kind of making a nook for myself at the dining room table, where I’m basically closed in on 3 sides (workstation in front, small bookcase along the wall to my right, wall with zoom-friendly art behind). I was worried it would be claustrophobic but ended up being a nice way to keep my office contained. I do very occasionally set up my laptop on a tv tray in the living room for a change of pace, which is easy enough because I set it up on the outside of the workstation. But I like having the permanent space at my table. I could theoretically eat at the other end of the table, so I didn’t really lose that space either.

    I also put everything on risers, just cheap wire shelves from big lots or somewhere that are made for, like, kitchen cabinets. It puts everything at eye level (ergonomics, babey), plus I can put files, charging phone, bills, whatever under there to keep it handy but out of the way.

    1. pancakes*

      We have our bed on wood risers mostly because we like having a tall bed (and didn’t want to go lower when we got a new mattress that doesn’t require a box spring) but being able to store more stuff under the bed is a big plus.

  22. Jenthar the Destroyer*

    We (me, my husband and 10 yo daughter) have a long, narrow “living room”, with our front door at one end of it. My desk is literally in our entryway. We separate my “office” from the “living room” with a couple of big plants, a lamp and a storage ottoman. It definitely takes dedication to make sure my desk doesn’t become everyone’s dumping ground for their stuff – to that end, we have a coat rack at the front door and a basket for hats and misc junk. Sometimes the disorder of the living room distracts me, so I take 10 minutes and tidy it. My husband needs silence to work, so he’s in the office upstairs, but I’m okay without. Our girl is really good about hushing up for meetings, and keeping her noise/interruptions to a minimum, but we definitely have some rules – no tv during our work day, for one.

    1. Spcepickle*

      The best Christmas gift I ever gave myself was this desk: MONOMI Electric Standing Desk, 55 x 28 inches Height Adjustable Desk, Ergonomic Home Office Sit Stand Up Desk with Memory Preset Controller (Natural Top/White Frame)
      It is big enough for two monitors, but not huge. It goes up far enough to push my chair under it at the end of the day. So I can keep all my work stuff together and compact, but also have a comfortable place to work.

      Also Bluetooth, work only headphones. They are only connected to my work computer and help make the mental transition.

  23. SQL Coder Cat*

    I used bookshelves to create a ‘room within a room’ just big enough for my desk and chair. My chair faces away from the wall, so I have a nice clean background for video calls. The bookshelves face away from my desk, and I put some cheap posters on the back to give the feeling of walls there too. The physical separation makes it easier to ignore when I’m not working. Depending on the size of the desk you get- mine is a standing desk big enough to support two monitors- it can be pretty cozy, and the physical separation makes it easier to ignore when I’m not working.

  24. ecnaseener*

    Visual separation of space is key (for me – ymmv). I have a sort of nook set apart by a half-wall, meant to be the bed’s place but I have my desk there instead. A screen would work if there’s no wall.

    The other key part of this is that the work nook is on the very end of my studio, furthest from the exit. I never have to walk through it to get from one part of the non-work space to another.

  25. Jamie*

    I use an IKEA wall mounted customizable shelving unit (Algot I think was the name?) on a wall in my great room as my desk. I wish the shelves were a little deeper but other than that it works well. Definitely takes up much less space than a traditional desk would.

      1. L'étrangere*

        I used for years Ivar shelving with a pull-out keyboard shelf, that was ample desk space. Shelves above for manuals and printer, and the desk chair could slide right in

  26. bishbah*

    I got a ladder desk that doubles as a small bookshelf. The writing surface is about 24” square—big enough for a laptop and mouse and not much else. I also ended up buying some drawer slides and mounting them underneath with a spare piece of wood to create a keyboard tray. That and a small task chair and the whole setup takes up eight square feet when I’m sitting at it.

  27. Important Moi*

    I sit in a dedicated corner in my home. I have dedicated small table (for computer, papers, etc.) and chair. I “go” to work every day, by reporting to my corner.

  28. Toodie*

    Before the pandemic I had an odd work arrangement where I worked at home on Mondays and Fridays, and then from HQ city (living in a studio apartment) Tues-Thurs. I did that for about five years, and I grew to hate hate hate anything that meant I was lugging more stuff from home to the studio and back again. So I worked hard to put as much of my work as possible on my computer: no more sticky notes all over–use Notepad or the notes that are available in Office instead. No more calendar with deadlines all over it–use the calendar in Outlook (and, if needed, a separate personal calendar in Google) exclusively. My working spaces weren’t especially small, but figuring out all the things I could do to reduce stuff helped a lot.

    1. OP*

      This is a really good suggestion, thanks. I am usually a sticky note person, but it will drive me nuts to see them all the time when I am trying to use the space for something else.

      1. Liz*

        I am a sticky note person as well, but converted to using a digital sticky notes app instead for this very reason!

      2. Hlao-roo*

        If digital sticky notes don’t work for you, you could post your sticky notes on a clipboard or small white board and then stow that in a drawer or turn it around when you’re done with the work day so you can’t see the notes when you’re off work.

      3. Claire A.*

        I keep my post-it notes in a binder that travels with me when I work from home. I literally have cardstock in page protectors with labels (TODAY, Follow up, etc.) so I can file the post-it notes in the right place. The TODAY page actually is the front of the binder, so it stares at me everyday.

        Then, I can put the binder in a work bag and be done with it for the day.

    2. BubbleTea*

      Similar to this, if you’re using a personal computer for your work, set up a new profile specifically for work. I found it way easier to keep my focus on my job if I treated my login like it was an actual work computer. Thankfully I do now have a work laptop.

      1. Princess Clutter*

        As someone who has been in a hybrid situation since the pandemic started, my saving grace has been a scrapbooking bin. From the craft supply store, it’s around $6, 12”x 12”, and I stick my “on the go”
        Items in there. Use the inside of the lid for post it notes. And as a bonus, it is perfect for giving my home laptop a small boost in height for my online meeting (more flattering camera angle).
        It’s also small enough to put into a work bag for transport, or to tuck away at the end of the day.

  29. Claire*

    I live and work in a 600 square foot condo (900 sq ft sounds luxurious!) and what’s been helpful for me is to have really good storage so that everything can be kept out of sight when not in use, to reduce the sense of clutter. Check out the Alex drawers from IKEA, you can tuck one under your desk or even use a pair as legs for a desk top. Also get high bookcases or shelves to make use of the vertical space in the room. Choose furniture that’s nice to look at, not just functional.

  30. mae*

    My husband’s new job is remote and we converted a closet into his office. We got a desk on wheels so it could move and mostly emptied the closet (one shelf above the desk has some items on it). He likes that he can close the door when he is done rather than see his desk all the time. Getting a really good desk chair and a monitor, keyboard and mouse also helped.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Came to say the same about a chair. OP, if you can, splurge on a really good ergonomic chair. DON’T GO CHEAP. I went cheap and now I’m looking for a new one. Forty hours of sitting per week flattens the bottom cushion VERY quickly. Make sure it’s adjustable in multiple ways.

      There are good reasons why office chairs are expensive. My lower back and neck have found out the hard way.

  31. Pam Adams*

    My sister and I both worked from home in the pandemic- I advise college students, she teaches 3-year olds.. I put a desk in my bedroom. She set up on a dining room table in the living room, as she needed to move a lot more . Headphones became my friend, so my students wouldn’t hear Baby Shark being sung in the other room.

  32. The Original K.*

    I live alone in about 900 square feet (and that doesn’t feel particularly small to me, although it probably would if someone else lived here) and I have a small den that I use as my office. (No door and not enough room for a bed bigger than a twin, but works well as an office space.) Desk, shredder, filing cabinet, etc. It’s basically the back of my living room so there’s no door to close. I have my living room furniture set up so that it kind of blocks off the space. The back of the living room couch walls off the den so it feels like a more distinct space. (The flooring is also different, which helps.) I do not use this space for anything other than work. When I was looking for a place one of my criteria was a separate work space or failing that, a living room large enough for a work space – I don’t bring work into my bedroom, ever.

  33. The Ginger Ginger*

    I’ve done a desk under a lofted bed before (makes changing your sheets kind of annoying to potentially really difficul depending on your physical abilities). Corner desks are good because corners often don’t get used. It’s also helpful to have a (comfortable) chair that isn’t obviously an office chair so it can get moved and used in other areas.

    When I worked from my studio apartment, I had a smaller desk with a lower back office chair that was upholstered to look closer to a living room chair (since it was also in my living space). That way visually, everything looked like it belonged in a living space. Nothing stuck out as too office-y, so it didn’t interrupt the visual flow of the room. The lower back chair also meant that there wasn’t something with a lot of height interrupting the visual space and making the room look smaller.

    Also! If you have a chair that can be pushed all the way into the desk (so no arms get stuck and make the chair stick out further), that really helps keep all your office space contained to your desk.

    And the cleaner you can keep the top of the desk (no papers, few knickknacks, etc) the less obtrusive it will be into the rest of your space.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      A friend has a loft bed over a desk. She uses curtains around the bottom to hide the desk when it’s not in use.

  34. Excel-sior*

    Honestly, i have a big cardboard box that i can stick everything work related that i don’t currently need. Low tech, but means that everything is in one spot.

  35. Constance Lloyd*

    I’m not able to add any sort of physical separation to my work space, so I do two things to help with the mental transition between work and non-work hours. 1. A lamp that I turn in when I clock in and off when I clock out. 2. A candle that I light in the morning and blow out at the end of the day. I don’t have a door I can shut but having these two (briefly) physical tasks that also serve in some ways to change the appearance/mood of the space I cannot otherwise alter helps with the mental separation.

    1. Wolf*

      I tend to go for a ten-minute walk “to work” and “home from work” on my wfh days. It helps as a signal to separate work and free time.

  36. kiki*

    One piece of advice I have is make sure your workspace gets some natural light, if possible. Don’t tuck your workspace into a dark corner. I’ve worked in windowless offices and cubicle farms far away from any window before without being too bothered, but I think living and working in the same space and not getting natural light for ~8 hours of the day can do a stealthy number on mental health.

  37. AcadLibrarian*

    I like those cabinet desks (Armoires or secretaries.). At the end of the day, just close it up. You’ll want to make sure you position it so that what is behind you is professional if you’re on a lot of zoom calls.

    1. solecism*

      I love my desk armoire–it’s the heaviest piece of furniture by far, and I can only fit one monitor in it along with the laser printer, but it’s great to shut the doors at the end of the day and not have work clutter staring at me. I put file boxes and a vertical organizer on top, and the doors include a corkboard and dry erase board, plus a hanging file drawer and various compartments to store lots of supplies. Unfortunately, I can’t tuck a chair in, so I move that out of the way when I’m done. It sits at the junction of my living area and kitchen/dining area in the main room, and it’s great to have everything contained in one place.

  38. academicadmin*

    I’m in a 950 sq/ft 2-bedroom with my partner and toddler. Our bedroom has one desk (for my partner with more meetings) and our dining area has another desk (for me who needs more frequent breaks). The key thing for us is that it is easy to navigate around each other’s computer cameras. I can use our main bathroom area without walking by my partner’s screen, and they can walk around to our kitchen area for a snack without walking in view of my camera screen. The blur screen feature on Zoom also is a big help, because then you don’t have to worry about your background as much. Also, having a laptop connected to a screen is nice because (unlike a desktop) you can close your laptop and mentally shutdown; the large screen is still there, but being able to hide my laptop makes a weird mental difference.

  39. cucumber*

    At the start of the pandemic, I lived in a 600 sq foot one bedroom apartment with my husband, and we both needed office set ups. I really needed to not be in my bedroom all day, so we each got small desks (but big enough to hold two monitors each). It helps if you have a laptop docking station to tuck behind the monitors. Then we used pop up screens to separate the two desks from the rest of the living room – we also put the desks by the slider door so we’d have light all day. After work, we’d tuck the sliders in the closet so we could have light coming in.

  40. Megan*

    Same hat! Tiny apartment, and I don’t want WFH to eat up the room. This has worked really well for me:

    -A folding 2 tier desk that can easily be tucked away. Having the little upper tier is very good for an ergonomic desk/posture situation! Laptop or monitor up there, keyboard on the lower desk area.
    -Rolling stool without a backrest so it fits fully under the desk and is a low profile in the room.
    -A really good cushion for the chair (my butt is happier now!).

    When I’m done for the day if I really want work to “disappear” I can put away my laptop, stow my peripherals in a fabric bin on a nearby shelf, and the desk goes away!

    If you’re looking for links:
    Desk, ala this

    Chair, ala this

    1. ApollosTorso*

      Seconded on the folding desk. I found that Home Depots website has a good selection and options for all budget levels.

    2. pancakes*

      Some of you wanting to hide things away might like the west elm coffee table with a pop-up part. Will link separately.

  41. Traveling Nerd*

    When I lived in my studio , I had about half of your space, so I used a “c table” as a desk, and had one side of my couch as “work” and one as “play” — and I walked around the block each morning to “go to work” and around the block at night to “go home” — that silly ritual gave me enough mental break to help.

    I also bought hue (color changing) light bulbs — at “work” they were on a bright/cool white and at “home” they were on a warm light color – the visual cue really helped me to move my mindsets.

    Look up “floating desk” on sites like wayfair — you hang the desk from the wall and then can fold it up if you need more space.

    1. OP*

      Ooh the hue changing light bulbs are a really interesting idea, I am going to look into that.

  42. Moose*

    Look for a compact desk with built-in levels and shelves. Mine made it easier to set up my monitor and laptop and store other things I need for work (mostly books) without the need for a large desk, bookshelf, etc. and made the workspace feel less crowded. I have this one:
    Can probably search for similar styles on Facebook Marketplace or other resell sites for your area and save a few bucks!

  43. Rain's Small Hands*

    Whatever you end up with, make sure its ergonomically sound – I just moved into (A LUXURY, I know) my (finally moved out of the house adult) son’s bedroom as my office and “my space” And I’ve been using a table and a chair – which isn’t a good solution. The new chair will arrive tomorrow. My previous setup was nearly as bad – a much better chair (that went into my husband’s office where we play PC games when he is done working) – but an IKEA Hemnes secretary where the monitor was too high and I had headaches all the time. And I really only work a few hours a week and the rest of my ergonomically unsound computer time is doing stuff like this, which is optional – that isn’t the case with most jobs.

    Also, make sure you have enough space for items other than your laptop if you need it. My new table has enough space for me to lay out paperwork I’m working on, a coffee cup, lunch if I want to eat at my desk, a book, some office supplies, etc. With the secretary, I’d use some target TV tables to hold the invoices I needed to input, contracts I was reviewing, etc. – (the coffee cup would fit and the secretary had plenty of shelf and cubby space for “stuff” – just not enough work surface) As with the subject of a letter yesterday, I like paper and will print out things to work on them rather than working from the screen – but then I need space for the the paper. I also prefer an external monitor and use the laptop monitor as a secondary screen – and that takes up space.

  44. Zennish*

    Also live in a 900 sq ft. space. Shoji screens are your friend… they take little space, make a great divider and also a good Zoom background.

  45. Manders*

    Folding or murphy desks are great! The one thing I wouldn’t recommend trying to make too compact is the chair–I used a chair I could jam into a narrow space for a good chunk of the pandemic and ended up with some back and shoulder pain because it wasn’t very supportive.

    If you own your space or if you’re allowed to modify it, get creative with a closet or an awkward nook. There are some cool tutorials online for creating built-in desks inside closets.

  46. Trawna*

    My office space, starting Day One of lockdown, has been a small pretty vintage desk in the corner of my bedroom. My laptop, logbook and a few pens get stacked in a neat pile at closing time. Around August 2020, when I realized that Covid wasn’t going away anytime soon, my site butt and I swapped out my kitchen chair for a new, pretty and comfy desk chair (kids size). I use a stool as my credenza.

    I wanted to be comfortable, while not having my office overwhelm my space, decor or psyche.

    Congratulations on your new job!!

  47. Cheezmouser*

    I worked in my 900 sq ft townhouse during the pandemic with a baby and preschooler underfoot. No need for a separate desk or office set up, just sit wherever: dining table, couch, etc. Definitely use a fake background for calls. (This is assuming you have a laptop)

  48. LinesInTheSand*

    I know you said you wanted to make your house workable. That said, if you haven’t already, spend maybe 10 minutes looking at private office leases. I realize this may not be feasible for any number of reasons, but as a small house dweller (750 sq ft with a partner also WFH), I leased a private office and it was one of the best things I did. It got me out of the house, set a clear boundary between home and work, and kept me from doing laundry all day.

    1. OP*

      I have definitely thought about this. I live in a pretty rural area so I don’t want to travel too far (not having a commute is a big perk of this new gig) but I may find that this is the best solution if I’m not doing a great job of mentally separating.

      1. Books and Cooks*

        Along those lines, storage units might not be as fancy as office spaces, but they’re potentially a lot less expensive, and are often air-conditioned and have electricity/outlets available inside the units–a lot of people rent them for hobby spaces or even small stores, so no one there would look at you funny if you asked about that kind of thing. We have one {to actually store things}, and I occasionally go over there, sit on an old pillow, and work. You need a code to even enter the lot, much less the buildings themselves, and there’s a caretaker who lives on the premises, so it always feels quite secure even after dark (but that probably depends on your area to some extent).

        1. pancakes*

          Every lease I’ve ever had for a storage space prohibits using it for things like an office space. The reason storage space is cheaper than living space or coworking space is because of zoning and habitability codes, etc., not because people are overlooking a bargain. If you want to look for a rented work or studio space you’d be better off looking at something like The Listings Project – that’s specific to where I live, but I assume other cities have similar listings.

  49. Gigi*

    I was working from home in less than 900 sq feet for most of lockdown, so I feel you. I have my grandmother’s desk, which comes from a time when 1) furniture was smaller and 2) ladies used desks for shopping lists, not multiple monitors. But old furniture works great in smaller spaces for exactly those reasons! Plus, you’re reusing something that’s already out there and can probably get something with some character. I would check out a flea market or antique mall and see what you can find.

  50. middlemgmt*

    i repurposed a bakers rack. like a DIY hutch desk. it’s narrower than a regular desk but enough for a laptop. plus shelving.

  51. Generic Name*

    I’ve seen desks set up in closets. As in a wide but not very deep closet with 2 bi-fold doors typical in houses built since the 1970s. You open both doors and work with the doors open, usually sitting partially in the room, and then you close the closet at the end of the workday. You can put shelves above the desk for storage, and there’s usually space under the desk for 1 or 2 2-drawer file cabinets.


    I would kitty corner a desk so I was looking out over the room instead of my back towards everything. This made it easier to work from home and not feel scrunched into a corner during the pandemic. I also bought a small platform like thing to raise my monitors off of so it gave my desk more workspace.

  53. Echo*

    IKEA makes a very small desk called MICKE. It’s perfect for this kind of setup. I use that with a Roost laptop stand so that I’m not crouching over my laptop all day. I also have a small Bluetooth keyboard and external mouse. In my current setup, there’s a bookcase between my work area and my bed; in previous apartments, I’ve had my desk next to my bed—where a bedside table would be—so that I’m not looking at my bed while I’m working, and my coworkers can’t see my bed in the background.

  54. MistOrMister*

    My first thought was one of those loft beds that you put a desk under. But there are also the Murphy/wall mounted desks others have mentioned as well as some smaller floating type desks that also have a bookshelf attached.

    If you work from a laptop, you could keep a box/storage container of some sort by your dining table and move your work station stuff to the table during the work day and then back to your storage bin at the end of the day. If you’re in need of a coffee table, they make tables that double as storage containers so that could be where you store your work stuff. Or if you have a book shelf you could keep some space free to store the stuff there. Also for laptop work, theh have laptop stands that are not terribly large and some come with wheels so they can be moved, and I believe you can choose between sitting and standing, so that would be an option possibly.

    If you work from a desktop and can’t move the computer daily, I would think either sticking the desk in the corner somewhere or having on under a loft bed might work.

  55. Chairman of the Bored*

    I suggest evaluating whether you need/want a desk or other typical office furniture.

    I find I can work very well from a Poang chair with my laptop on my lap. I have a small end table for my wireless mouse and coffee cup, and use the area underneath the table and the chair to store files, reference material, and office supplies.

    When I’m not working it double as a regular chair and table.

    This definitely won’t work for every job or every person, but it’s worth considering (and maybe trying) before you move single-purpose furniture into the space.

    1. LawLady*

      You work with your laptop in your lap? Doesn’t that hurt your back/neck/shoulders over time?

      1. Elle by the sea*

        I have done that for years. I don’t have any pains. Even now I tend to do it a lot, even though I have an office space.

  56. Nicki Name*

    I have a nook carved out from a room that’s mostly used for other purposes. My work table has a short end against one wall, near a corner, and my chair has its back to a wall so that I face the rest of the room across the table. My laptop and extra monitor provide enough of sense of division to make the space feel screened off from the rest of the room.

    The table is on wheels, so if I really needed to economize on space when not working, I could roll it so it and the chair so they are scrunched up against the wall I sit with my back to.

  57. CatPerson*

    Take a photo of a nice spot in your space to use as an online background for calls. When I started working from home in March 2000 (was that really so long ago??) I was reluctant to use video on my computer calls; I think many others were as well. Finally, it got so prevalent that I felt like an oddball for not using video, but, let’s face it, I had my kitchen in the background and I hated the “off-the-shelf” backgrounds available in MS Teams. During the pandemic, I had a fun hobby of looking at all of the bookshelves of the various commenters on CNN. I realized that I had an attractive set of shelves that had a variety of sewing and textile books, my favorite poetry and art books, and some personal items. But…it was in my sewing room, although I worked at my kitchen table! So I took a nice snap of the shelves at an appropriate distance that it would look like a background. You would not believe the number of compliments I got on that background!

  58. Rona Necessity*

    Shelves are nice as dividers, but they can take up a lot of depth. IKEA recently put out pegboards with hardware to mount to your desk without drilling into it, which I found really helpful. My main priority was blocking my view of my kitchen and TV while I was working, but I also hate when my desk faces the wall. So my solution was to set one short end of the desk against the wall, with enough room for my chair. Then my two monitors blocked most of the front facing view, and I put a pegboard on the other short end. It doubled as storage on both sides and kept me from getting up every ten minutes because I saw a dish I could put in the dishwasher.

    Very rough diagram of that half of my studio below. P is the pegboard. “-” and “|” are walls. I is the sole window in my apartment.
    [tv] |
    ki |
    tc [couch]|
    hen P [desk] |
    [chair] I

  59. Internprobs*

    I work in my walk in closet. It’s a little dingy but it really helps me mentally log off at the end of the day. I can also close the door when I need additional soundproofing.

  60. Kool4Katz*

    When I started working from home full-time in 2009 in a 950sq ft 1 bedroom, I decided the “eat-in” section of the small kitchen would work as my office. I bought a computer armoire that was not huge, but had doors that closed, pull out desk and keyboard shelves, lower section for printer, router, supplies and interior light. I paired that with a file cabinet that looks like faux leather suitcases and it has worked for many years. I set up a dining area in the living room.

    1. Kool4Katz*

      A couple of other things that helped the space, which is approximately 5 x 7, is there is a large window next to the armoire. This gave me great eastern light, a view to rest my eyes, and a windowsill for plants and my cats. Besides the company provided computer equipment and peripherals, they also sent a wonderful ergonomic office chair.

  61. Alex*

    My partner enjoys an excessive amount of monitors (and likes one of them to be vertically oriented, not horizontal) but we rent, work from home, and have a very small office / art room / living area / anything else we need to squeeze out of it to share. She ended up buying to clamp onto the desk and it’s worked great so far and doesn’t leave permanent marks. Raising the monitors off the desk leaves more room for other things on it, and makes cleaning easier.

    I also bought a standing sun lamp (not cheap, but WOW was it worth it!!) that I turn on when I’m working and turn off when it’s “home” time.
    I point it at a wall behind me to get a big bright sky feeling – it really helps my brain feel present in an otherwise small and dark attic space. Plus, the lighting’s better for work calls if that’s a thing you have to think about.

    The other change we made was to dedicate a tiny bit of shelf space to laptop storage. I can tuck away my work laptop and its cable when the day is over and trade it out for my home laptop. I’ve trained my brain that which laptop is out tells me if it’s home or work time. Having the visible reminders of work tucked away helps so much to get me to relax at the end of the day. Not as easy if you have a desktop setup, but finding some way to visually separate home and work makes a big difference.

    Also it’s a small thing but go outside as often as you can! Or even just take a minute to stand up and stick your head out of the window. If you’re not careful you’ll spend 90% of your day at home staring at a screen and that makes you miserable quicker than you might think. I find a need 6-8 breaks a workday, some of which are as small as going downstairs to sit on the stoop for 5 minutes and feel a little fresh air.

    1. asterisk*

      AMEN to “if you’re not careful you’ll spend 90% of your day at home staring at a screen.”

      My office was in my bedroom for almost 3 years, and it was really getting to me–I felt like I never left that room except to eat, shower, and use the restroom.
      When I got married, we moved my office to the living room, and while I still spend too much time at my desk (because I have a KMV switch to flip the monitor and keyboard between my personal and work laptops), it feels much better to get out of my bedroom. Outside breaks are hard because we don’t have any outdoor space to relax.

  62. Random Bystander*

    I live in a house built pre-WWII (formerly my grandparents’, now mine), so it does have a smaller footprint than most modern buildings. There is a weird space near the stairs for upstairs and a 36″ space on the wall between the door into my bathroom and a tiny linen closet. So I got a corner desk that fits into that spot.

    Since I have two monitors, I am able to put one on each side (so they sort of meet at an angle) and the keyboard shelf helps, too. Then a nice fabric shower curtain can be used as a ‘dust cover’ to hide the work stuff when I’m not working (easy to find a color/pattern that works well with your space).

  63. not today, thank you*

    I put myself in a tiny corner nook, but facing into the room instead of the corner; this gives me a small, controllable backdrop so it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the rest of the room. The laptop goes on a small stand that is set at the right height for Zoom and gets collapsed flat after work.

  64. Lilo*

    During the pandemic I was able to make do with a corner desk. As far as small spaces go, this kind of desk worked pretty well. I use dual monitors so I bought one small monitor to angle next to my laptop screen.

  65. Devin Singer*

    I worked from home in half that space and set up my desk in my walk-in closet. It was nice having a dedicated work space – I tried using the living room but it was way harder to separate on and off time. (It helps that I am the furthest thing from a clothes horse and could spare one whole rod to put the desk under.)

  66. Eliza*

    I live in a space that’s a little over 700 square feet and I turned my dining nook into an office nook. It’s not really separated from my living space in any way but I have a lamp on my desk that I turn off when I’m done for the day which is a good mental barrier.

    I also have a second, smaller desk that I use for personal business and I keep separate supplies at each.

    Luckily I have an eat-in kitchen so my dining room becoming an office hasn’t taken away my dedicated eating space, but for the first year-ish of the pandemic I lived in a much smaller apartment (450 square feet) and I worked at the kitchen table, which had two seats. I worked in one seat and then during lunch/at the end of the day I put all my work stuff away in my closet and ate all my meals in the other seat.

  67. Elizabeth West*

    If you’ve got a corner with a window, it helps rest your eyes if you can look out once in a while. I set up an office in my old house’s extra bedroom, which I mostly used while in college. I found that facing the corner made me feel like I was in detention at school. The bedroom had two windows—to reduce the feeling of confinement, I set my desk sideways so the light from one let me see papers and books, and I could see out the other one.

    This is a great question. I’m going to bookmark the post for ideas (when not if!) I have my own space again.

  68. just a thought*

    When I was in a 700 sq ft studio, I have my work area desk in a corner near a window. I only went there for work. I just had a very cheap desk, and at the suggestion of a Havenly designer before covid, a really nice office chair. It worked well since I never sat there except to work.

    Someone at my current fully-remote job said she has a rolling desk that she can just move around her house. That could be a solution, so you can just roll it out of sight when the day is over.

    1. pancakes*

      I like that idea. I know CB2 sells one. I have a file cabinet from them that’s held up well. Will link separately.

  69. urguncle*

    My second monitor is a “portable” monitor on an iPad stand. This has saved me a lot of space and it means if I want to move to another part of the apartment, I have that option. I also converted an IKEA garment rack into a space divider so I can put it behind me when I’m on a meeting to neutralize the space, hide a cluttered living room. I also put it in front of my desk when I’m done with work so I’m not looking at my desk all the time.
    Specific to myself, I use a stool that’s adjustable and on casters instead of a large desk chair, so I just slip it under the desk.

  70. BellyButton*

    For the last 10 months I have been living and WFH in a tiny RV with my husband and 2 dogs while my house is being built. I am going crazy! I am so over it!! It will still be about 5 more months- gawd I hope that’s all.

    For a tiny space in an actual house or apartment. I put up a small bookshelf that was just a few inches taller than the height of the arm of my sofa. On the other side of the sofa, I got a really nice comfy club chair with an ottoman and a laptop desk on wheels that fits over the arm of the club chair and adjusts from sitting to standing height so I can do both. The shelf had enough space and cubby holes that I could keep whatever office stuff I had there. On top of the shelf I had a little lamp, so it could be used a side table from the office or living room side. I did not use an extra monitor because I didn’t want my “office” visible when I was on the living room side.

  71. Sad Desk Salad*

    My wife and I bought a 900 sf house during the pandemic, and fortunately for us the space was very well designed so that each inch of the house is optimized. She had a huge screen for her work (the size of 3 average office monitors), so we set that up in the spare room, where we also installed a Murphy bed for use by guests. This room also serves as a workout and music studio, so it’s pulling quadruple-duty and had to be very intentionally designed. Fortunately for me her role changed and I got to adopt her giant monitor, and she bought a fold-down tabletop from Etsy for a corner of our living room, where she works on her laptop.

    If we hadn’t had that setup, I had my eye on a separate fold-down workstation from Etsy that I would’ve installed in our main bedroom, and she could keep working in the spare room. The designers and woodworkers on Etsy do some absolutely magical work in space-saving, and I would highly recommend anyone in need of a genius setup spend some time browsing their solutions. We also found plenty of other space-saving options, like a clothes hanging system that folds down to the wall when not in use, for when guests stay over (the closet is being used for storage) and need to hang their clothes.

  72. Parcae*

    I live alone in a 700 sq ft one bedroom, and while I could have set up an office space in my (fairly large) bedroom, I opted to put a desk in the corner of my living room. This means that I spend my working hours next to a big window with a view of trees (instead of just the neighboring building) and in the same room as the air conditioning unit. This has proved critical.

    I’ve made zero attempt to make my desk a work-only space; I enjoy computer gaming and I see no sense in having two different set-ups. Instead, what made the difference is my new(ish) ultrawide monitor (I need space for spreadsheets!) that manages all my peripherals and lets me switch from my work laptop to my personal desktop at a touch of the keyboard. The early pandemic when I was unplugging and replugging things on the daily was awful– I never felt like I was working in a permanent space.

    Funnily enough, my background for video calls worked out to be almost ideal. My desk is positioned behind the couch, which faces the TV and my bookcases filled many, many books. Since my body blocks most of the TV, you primarily just see books in the background… and they’re far enough away that I don’t have to worry about scandalous titles. ;)

    1. asterisk*

      We might be the same person, except that my view out the window is still just the parking lot and the building next to mine!

      1. Parcae*

        Haha, and I was wondering if all that detail would make me identifiable to any coworkers reading these comments! Guess not.

        My sympathies on your parking lot view.

  73. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    If you look on Amazon, they have these folding desks with a riser that fold flat against the wall (about $80). You could carve out space if you have a small alcove, corner, or closet. If not, I’d suggest a room screen/divider, or use a bookshelf to make a private nook. I once saw someone use a rolling garment rack with a curtain to create a divider, which might be a cheaper option. Given half the world has been on WFH since pandemic, I’m sure there are lots of crafty ideas on TikToc for this too.

  74. I'm just here for the cats!*

    My mom works from home and her set up is in her bedroom. this is what she has done

    There is a small nook in the corner. Its just the right size for a small desk and its far enough away from her bed. She also puts the computer and her head set away at the end of the day. Out of site out of mind.

  75. Ell*

    My household has two people working from home in 750 sq ft so I understand the challenge.
    It was easy enough to filter desk options that fit into the space, but more challenging has been to make sure the background is consistently appropriate for video calls. We’ve tried to keep these corners/areas mostly plain and cleaned up.

    In my space I have dual monitors on an arm that attaches to the back of the desk, and leaves space under the monitors to keep stuff under it (including my laptop and docking station) and makes the smaller desk feel less cramped.

    Neither of us use the desks for non-work things. Ordering groceries online gets done on the couch or bed or lounge chair etc. so that the desk is only work and it doesn’t spill over.

    In my partner’s space, he has one external monitor, and keeps his laptop on a stand next to it, so that he doesn’t have to make room for a docking station (since one monitor really only requires a cord) or the laptop on the desk.

  76. Golden*

    Last year my husband and I lived in a 900ish square foot 1-bedroom apartment and had great luck with an “IKEA hack” shared desk in our living room using two ALEX drawers and a SALJAN countertop. It didn’t take up a huge footprint jutting out from the wall, and I think the countertop comes in different sizes so you can choose a shorter length.

  77. AE*

    I live in a ~600 sqft 1-bedroom apt. I’m a big believer in designating work space where I can, so I use my breakfast bar, which I don’t use for anything else, as my base. I replaced one barstool with an ergonomic office chair that matches my decor. I also invested in a few high quality, ergonomic desk “tools” (laptop stand, desk mat, under-desk clamp-on keyboard arm that doesn’t require drilling into the bar, separate keyboard, and mouse) that can be stored in a large, designated box in a nearby closet at the end of the day or on weekends (I like to do this so I don’t have to look at my office setup in my off-hours, but don’t actually need to store them for space because they’re small). The entire setup feels more like the comfortable desktop setup I used pre-pandemic in the office.

    Here’s what I use:
    – Laptop stand:

    – No-drilling, clamp-on under-desk keyboard arm: From Ergotron (it’s large, so measure your desk first. There are smaller alternatives on Amazon that I haven’t tried)

    – Desk pad:

    – Canvas zippered storage container large enough to hold everything on this list: Discontinued by Container Store, but there are similar ones on the website. I recommend one with a cover/zippers to protect against dust or damage from being knocked around in the closet, and one that’s large enough to avoid having to struggle to shove everything in there.

    – Laptop, keyboard and mouse provided by employer

    1. pancakes*

      I like the laptop stand very much. There are so many of them out there but most I don’t want to look at daily.

      1. AE*

        Yes, it’s beautiful in person, too! Form is just as important as function is to me, especially in a small space. I don’t want to look at something ugly and was glad to find a few attractive pieces that also get the job done effectively.

  78. Just Me*

    I personally got a tiny laptop desk (like a TV tray) that was easy to pick up and move around the apartment, and that helped. One of my colleagues lives in a tiny one-bedroom apartment and she got a nice folding desk so she could just close it up and hide it at the end of the day. During the pandemic my boyfriend and I sometimes had to juggle our workspaces, so I had one tiny designated area that always looked nice for meetings (literally 3′ x 3′ in front of my closed closet door) and then didn’t have to worry how the rest of my apartment looked when I moved around during the rest of the workday.

  79. Rae of Sunshine*

    The thing that has helped me the most in a small apartment is to act like I’m hot-desking, apart from my monitors. I have a cube storage system next to my work area, and at the end of the day my desk is completely cleared of laptop, keyboard, paper, mugs, everything. I have 1 cube for my desk items that come in and out, and another cube for a storage bin for any other work items I don’t use as often. Even on evenings when I don’t use my desk for anything, it’s still a way to delineate that I am not currently working.

  80. Angrytreespirit*

    It’s so space specific, but we have a similar sized apartment with two functional rooms aside from the kitchen & bathroom. The only door that closes is the bathroom door. We were downsizing when we moved in, so we don’t have a couch- we bought a long rectangular table with a bench in the days we imagined we’d be having people over. For 2 1/2 years my workstation has been at the end of that table. The monitor is on the wall and the computer sits under it. A few things make this work:
    Spouse does not work from home hardly ever
    No paper sits on this table for more than 8 hours. It gets scanned, recycled, or put away. Everything has a bin or gets moved off the table.
    The neighbors are not very noisy (I spend a lot of time speaking unmuted in meetings)

    The only thing I miss is my standing desk. Every so often I spend a day in the office to shake things up a bit. But also, they’re trying to make us all come back.

  81. SeluciaMD*

    At the beginning of the pandemic when I thought working from home was going to be a few weeks, I worked in my living room at my lift-top coffee table. I kept my work things in the coffee table when I wasn’t working so they were out of sight and out of the way at night and on weekends, but easily accessible during the work day. It also allowed me to have a work surface that was the right height during the work day but in a piece that looked like a normal coffee table when I was done.

    Once I realized WFH was going to be a longer-term thing than I’d originally planned for, I swapped out the sofa/console table I had behind my couch for a long narrow desk. This one has plenty of work space, two small file drawers and two shelves so I’ve got everything I need. It’s not perfect – at the end of the day it’s still a desk – but it allows me to have truly separate work space that I can walk away from at the end of the night and when I’m sitting on the couch watching TV it’s behind me and out of my line of sight. Here’s the desk I’m currently using ( and I absolutely love it!

    Good luck OP! Hope you find a solution that works well for you!

  82. AAA*

    I also have a very small WFH set-up which I use for 90% of my working time. I bought a vintage writing desk thats about 2.5′ w and 1.5′ d, and my friend gave me an ergonomic chair with a very small profile. I hate clutter anyway, so this helps me keep the items on my desk to a minimum and makes sure that there’s no paperwork piling up or living here. The desk faces directly out of a window for light, and there are some plants on the window sill so it doesn’t seem sparse. But if you want a small desk and can’t find one new, try searching for vintage writing desks on Facebook marketplace or Craigslist.

  83. Catalin*

    You can also get portable extra monitors for laptops that don’t require much space. They can be propped up for second-screening and then disconnected and slid into a drawer like a notebook.

    Also figure out if you’re actually a desk person or a lapdesk person. I have a dedicated space upstairs I never use because I always work from my favorite chair with a lap board.

  84. DeeDee*

    I have a “cloffice.” I basically put rails around the walls and then put a big piece of plywood across it at desk height. I drilled a hole in it to run cords through. I can close it up at the end of the day. When I started working from home, I painted it a nice, soothing colour and got a nice lamp that I like to add a bit of character. I did get a wall-mounted monitor, as well, and plug my laptop into that and run it in clamshell mode. (I got a webcam that sits on top of the monitor, too.)

    I’m lucky enough that we’re not hanging stuff in the closet, so I don’t have to worry about losing the storage, but it could still potentially work if the clothes can be slid down to one end or the other. I imagine there are some clever people who have come up with even more elegant ways to let the closet work as functional storage while providing a workspace. If you look on places like Pinterest etc you can probably see lots of different examples.

    1. DeeDee*

      Er, in case it’s not clear, “cloffice” is “closet office.” I ran the rails as cleats around the interior walls in the closet.

    2. L'étrangere*

      I saw a similar setup on apartmenttherapy recently – what they did was install clothing rods high and sideways at each end, so less-used clothes are relatively out of the way but still accessible. A good solution for those dark closet corners that don’t work well as straight closet either. And the central portion above the desk got some ordinary wall shelves to make it a more functional office

  85. Storm in a teacup*

    Up until last year I was working in a similar sized space from home and now am permanently hybrid.
    I had a small alcove in the sitting room where I put a small desk with monitor and a laptop stand for my laptop to act as a second monitor (for ages it was my only screen) separate Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to be able to tidy away as needed and reduce wires. Ring light mounted onto laptop stand. Pull out tray under desk to write on. Stationary / files etc tidied away on a shelf above. Behind me were IKEA bookshelves that I’d jhujed up that acted as a room divider and a good background for video calls.
    Gave me some good work life separation as I could ‘leave work’ by leaving the alcove.
    A lot of colleagues have been creating home office pods in their gardens – basically fancy sheds with lighting, heating and WiFi.

  86. double spicy*

    I’ve been working from home the whole pandemic, initially from a 400-some square foot apartment (last year I bought a house and moved, so I now have a dedicated home office space). While I don’t have tips on arranging your home, I do have two pieces of advice. First, make sure you have a suitable chair to sit in, and an ergonomic work setup. Second, if possible, try to create some sort of ritual or routine to transition into and out of your workday, like going for a walk, changing your clothes, using room spray, etc. Good luck! The AAM commentariat has lots of creative ideas that will offer you some inspiration.

  87. John Smith*

    I found buying a load of plants useful. Trailers to go on shelves and big bushy plants to go on the floor. Acted as a natural screen, gave me a new hobby (a big learning curve during which many a fauna have suffered), reduced my stress and also made my living space feel healthier.

  88. The one who wears too much black*

    When I lived in my 750sqft apartment, I used rugs to define space instead of trying to create the illusion of walls.

    I had an affordable 5X7 rug which was the rug used to define my office space; all of my office furniture could be arranged and rearranged on that rug. That rug was a different color and texture than the carpet I had my couch and living space furniture on, which was different than the types of nonslip bath and kitchen mats I used in, well, the bath and kitchen.

    I found it worked a lot better for me than bookcases, screens and shelves which added visual bulk to an already small space in my experience.

  89. Peace and love*

    I would go to IKEA! They usually have set ups that you could look at/get inspiration from.

    1. SmlCreaturesSuchAsWe*

      Yes, this, if you’re at all close to an IKEA, or page through their catalog if not (I think you can do that electronically on their website). European company = designed to adapt small, >100 year old living spaces into something that fits modern needs. I think the showroom usually has a 150-300 square feet space setup showing their ideas for extra-small space living. Even if you’re too far from a IKEA store to buy things there, then their inspiration setups should give you some ideas.

      I will also say that a decade ago when my now husband was a post-doc, his tiny studio apartment had a Murphy bed, and it actually worked pretty well. I think it even had a normal mattress.

      Good luck!

      1. pancakes*

        More and more IKEA stuff over the years (where I live, at least) can be ordered for delivery direct from the website.

  90. Renee Remains the Same*

    On the off chance this is helpful… I currently live in a 600 sqft jr. 1 BR. (Love NYC) Basically, it’s a studio with a bedroom hidden behind a half-wall. I work hybrid (2 days out, 3 days in). When I worked from home 10+ years ago, I lived in a 450 sq ft studio. (Love NYC).

    In both spaces I had a kitchen table. I live alone. The kitchen table was used largely for company. So in the absence of company it became my workdesk. I do not move my laptop off that table during working hours. The kitchen table is essentially my office. When I get up from the kitchen table… I am out of the office. When the laptop is moved off the kitchen table – the work day is done (as much as it can be sometimes).

    In the end, when you live in a small space, I’ve found that the division between work and personal space is sometimes philosophical and something that needs to be framed your mind rather than physically.

    Also get a good chair. Sitting on a standard dining / kitchen chair is not going to give your tush enough support and if you’re sitting all day it can be really rough on the back. I think it will also help further designate whatever space you use as your office space.

  91. Laura*

    I work remotely from my touring caravan, sat on the sofa with a folding table. I use my TV as a second monitor and have my laptop on a very neat little folding stand to bring it up to eye level. I use a wireless keyboard and mouse. I stack my cushions behind my back with a lumbar cushion to provide back support. It all packs away very neatly at the end of the day so I can go back to ‘home’ mode.

  92. Elle by the sea*

    I’m from Europe, so by my standards 900 square feet is a pretty generous living space. But a lot depends on how it is partitioned and which rooms can you use. I live on 800 square feet with my partner, which includes 2 bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and two bathrooms. We have one of the bedrooms dedicated as office space: there is a double bed in it, but a desk, a chair, a chest of drawers and a book shelf fits relative comfortably. My partner works in the living room at a bigger desk.

    1. L'étrangere*

      My use of the spare room improved dramatically when I realized that guests are not a daily fixture, and that modern sofabeds are worlds away from the old bar-in-the-back model. Poof! Instead of a double bed taking up all the space I got a nice alternative seating spot, and my guests still got a comfortable bed easy to setup

    2. allathian*

      Yes, this. The house we currently live in is about 1,600 sq ft (150 square meters), and it’s the only place I’ve lived in as an adult that’s larger than 900 sq ft…

  93. Rose*

    I was living in a tiny one bedroom w my husband when the pandemic hit.

    Two things worked (kind of) for us:
    -Use vertical space. I had a tiny desk but hung different baskets on the wall to hold papers, notebooks, etc so my minimal desk space wouldn’t be too cluttered.
    -more important than a visual screen etc to separate the space, TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER at the end of the day. (And yes we should all be doing this already but still.). Don’t plan to maybe answer one more email in a little. Just turn it off. This was way more important working from home in a small apartment then my current larger place

  94. Naked If Cape Ability*

    I converted a closet to an office. Mine was a pretty big closet, so I worked inside it, but I’ve seen set-ups where there’s a table-style desk in the closet, shelves over it, and a chair that tucks under it.

  95. yala*

    When we moved into our smaller place, I got a corner desk with a hutch. Instead of setting it up in the corner, I set it up so one of its back walls is perpendicular to my door. It sort of creates a little “entryway” and also closes off that side of the room to make it feel like it’s specifically Work Space.

    Bonus–the board for the back of the desk had a whiteboard on one side. I flipped it so it’s facing the outside of the desk, and use it to jot notes to myself that I see when I come in/out. Keep meaning to turn it into a proper kanban board.

  96. General Organa*

    My partner and I live in a ~750 sq ft one-bedroom. I have never been able to work in a bedroom, so even though space-wise it might have made more sense to put a desk in there, mine is in the living room. I settled on a ladder/bookshelf type desk and have been very happy with it. It doesn’t take up much of a footprint and the vertical space is helpful. We re-configured the living room furniture so that the desk is in its own little corridor, between the L-shaped kitchen counter and our couch/armchair (also in an L-ish configuration), which helps it feel more like a separate space. It also helps that my setup is pretty easy to put away–I use a laptop on a stand with a Bluetooth keyboard, and then I have a second monitor that I plug in via USB when I need it, and all are very easy to put out of sight at the end of the day.

  97. Kayem*

    My office is what was portrayed as a bedroom by the agent, but is what’s more of a walk in closet, as it’s not enough space to even put a crib in here. This has required some creative organizing, even more so since I have a lot of archival materials to store.

    The two BEST organizational additions was a corner desk and installing shelving near the ceiling. The corner desk is flatpack: metal frame with pressed particle top. I had to assemble it in the office because there’s no way it can fit through the door. I shoved my second monitor on the corner so that space gets plenty of use, with risers under it and my laptop so I can store notes and pens. I specifically chose a desk that has no built in drawers because those take up space and I might need to use the under desk space for something else, like the filing cabinet and some equipment.

    The shelving I installed near the ceiling. It’s just high enough for a standard file box with a few inches of clearance. That’s where I store all my archival materials, photography equipment, unsorted files, office supplies I don’t need every day, spare cables, and other items. I have one on each side of the room across the full length, from the back wall to the door and it is a miracle. Seriously, all that space near the ceiling rarely gets utilized and there’s so much of it for shelving. And as high as it is, I don’t worry about bumping my head on it. I just have to accept that I need to get on a step stool to get a box down. I went cheap on the shelving. I got heavy duty brackets from Home Depot and the shelves are just lengths of pine board that I painted white to match the walls. I mounted the brackets into the studs so they could hold a whole lot of weight since I didn’t want anything coming crashing down on my head.

    I also have two rolling carts with the plastic drawers (usually sold for craft materials). Both have a mix of shallow and deep drawers so I can throw cables in one and documents in another. I put vertical organizers on top of them to hold binders, notebooks, and printer supplies. My filing cabinet is a set of three stackable file drawers that can come apart, so two are under my desk and a third on a shelf above me, as otherwise there’d be no place for them to fit.

    I’m also using a set of three plastic stacking document trays to hold three organizing trays I made out of small hobby boards. They were made to be slide out organizers for drawers in a desk a long time ago, but I’ve kept them as they’re so useful. And putting them in the document trays makes it easy to pull one out to get supplies without having to awkwardly stack things or find a drawer to fit them in.

  98. kiki*

    This may be a little bit of a tangent from the exact question asked, but when I was working from my small apartment, what was more important than having a separate workspace or hiding my work equipment was making a point to leave my apartment complex every day for at least an hour. I’m really lucky to have a great apartment building with amenities (gym, pool, affordable grocery store downstairs, etc.) For a long stretch, especially at the height of the pandemic, I didn’t need to leave, so I didn’t. That did not go well. Take walks, drive to a park, get coffee from somewhere needlessly far away. Just make sure you’re doing something, preferably not entirely an errand or chore, outside your apartment every day.

  99. Dawn*

    So I live in a 400 sq.ft. space and the way I’ve set mine up is with multiple desks and monitors; on my left I have my MIDI controller (keyboard,) bookshelf, and the secondary monitor for that, in front of me I have my main desk and monitor, and on the right I have my day-job computer (issued by my employer) and my monitor for that. It creates a space that’s generally bracketed and clearly communicates that there is A Workspace inside of here.

    Depending on your environment and who you share it with you might need more physical dividers than that and if you need to, you can buy actual partition dividers or modular shelving fairly reasonably on Amazon (and soundproofing panels) but overall the important thing is establishing a physical, line-of-sight boundary between Here and There.

    If anyone would like to actually see the layout, give me a poke and I can see about getting a picture up somewhere.

  100. Fried Eggs*

    I built a desk into my window.

    Pros: Natural light. Looking into a different physical space (out the window) while I’m working puts me in a work mindset. Doesn’t really take up any space in the room. Looks good. Is off to the side, so I’m not looking directly at the work and being reminded of it when I’m not working.

    Cons: Can’t have big/multiple monitors (would block the light). Awkward height (I had to buy an adjustable stool to get the exact right height to be comfortable typing). Window radiates some cold in the winter (on the other hand, my legs are snuggled against the radiator under the desk).

  101. Remotework*

    I hung a curtain rod on my ceiling with neutral curtains that I can easily open or close to separate my work space from the rest of my bedroom. They’re thick too and help block out house noise during the day. They also serve as a zoom backdrop.

  102. PrettySticks*

    My first suggestion is having a desk chair that isn’t a chair – in my case it’s a low shelf with a cushion on it, so it’s also storage. With the caveat that I’m not physically at the desk all day, so that may not be comfortable for a lot of people.

    We also have a very lightweight Ikea desk, so when we sit down we pull out the desk and it behind it, instead of pulling out a chair. This has a couple of benefits. First, it lets us have a wall as a Zoom background, so we don’t have to worry about what the apartment looks like. Second, the desk is pushed against the wall and out of the way when we’re not using it, and there’s no chair sticking out either.

    We liked the Murphy desk idea too – we just didn’t have a good wall space to attach it.

  103. Artee*

    I have a closet office, aka “cloffice”! It is very important to me to have a workspace that’s not my main living space, so I took half of the large-ish closet next to the living room and created a sit-stand setup. The closet already had modular shelving, so I adjusted the shelf to be at the right height for my keyboard, and I prop my monitor (one, but large) on top of books to be the right eye height. I have a high desk chair and a lamp behind my screen for better Zoom lighting. At the end of the day I pull the curtain and have a separate office space.

    Overall it’s great, the only problem is that there isn’t a ton of natural light (still is a closet!) so I just make sure to look out the window every so often. The other (more minor) issue is that it doesn’t provide a super polished Zoom background, since it looks out into my living room. I mostly blur my background. Obviously it won’t work if you don’t have a closet you can use, but if you do, it’s something to try.

    1. All Het Up About It*

      So glad to hear from someone using this set up and generally liking it. Space is not an issue in our current spot, but I’d like to downsize next time we house hunt and I have to admit something about the cloffice just strikes me as so efficient and a great way to close work away!

  104. Anonymous platypus*

    I put my desk (which is in the living room) behind a huge plant on top of shelving unit. It’s lovely to look up from my desk and see leaves, plus it hides the desk from the room when I’m trying to relax in the evening (and the room from the desk when I’m trying to concentrate during the day).

  105. H.C.*

    Since I only occasionally work-from-home and live alone, my furniture investment was a lift-top coffee table (looks similar to Ikea’s Trulstorp, except the whole tabletop lifts up & out). This allows me to work comfortably from the living room couch when needed and functions as a regular coffee table at other times. Also bonus perk of extra enclosed storage under the lift-top, which can fit a laptop + accessories.

  106. Pam Poovey*

    It really depends on layout. My apartment has a little nook next to the kitchen where a dining table would normally go, and I’ve converted that into my office. If you don’t have something that’s self-delineated like that, I agree with the commenters who suggest putting up a shelf or divider to separate off a space.

  107. H*

    I just redid my home office which is a 5 foot x 9 foot space. Having a super long desk along one wall has been a great choice (I think it is 7 feet long? A countertop piece from Ikea). It makes my placement of monitor, lamps, printer, laptop+dock much more cohesive. And lots of shallow drawers (also from IKEA, from their Alex drawer line) have been awesome. These two changes have made a substantial improvement in my use of the space.

  108. SMiya86*

    I had to set up my office in a bedroom. So I moved my desk (a cheap IKEA table) away from the wall by a few feet and sat with my back to the wall. This meant I had a blank background and no one knew I was in a bedroom.

  109. Daisy-dog*

    I lived in 700 square feet with my husband and rowdy pup for the first year of the pandemic. It was only one bedroom though, so all the areas were pretty roomy. I set up a small desk just off my kitchen. It had previously housed a bookcase. It was very much “in-sight”, but I had other techniques to keep it “out-of-mind”.
    – No sticky notes over my workspace. I switched to using notebooks for all of my quick notes.
    – Nothing else in the workspace that draws the attention. Close the notebook. Keep the cords wrapped up and out of the way. Just fully tidied.
    – Lighting. Use a certain arrangement of lights only when working.
    – Work clothes.
    – Routine.

  110. saradesel*

    I have a screen and it works nicely to separate my space. But also, when your desk is in your living room there aren’t always great options. Sometimes at night or on weekends I throw a sheet over the whole operation to remind myself to stop thinking about work when said desk is always in my line of sight. It sometimes works. ;)

  111. Creative use of space*

    I used screens during lockdown to create a “pod” to work in which helped enormously but since then have converted the hallway into an office area. It is absolutely perfect as I can close the door on work/home as needed, without sacrificing any of my living space. I also work on a leaf table rather than a desk so I can fold it out and in as I need.

  112. Working in my PJs*

    The answer kind of depends on if you have one or two bedrooms. I live in a condo that is 980 square feet and has two bedrooms. I second the Murphy bed desk I saw recommended earlier. I recommended it to a friend who was moving from a house into a studio apartment and she loved it. I have one in my second bedroom so it feels much more like an office normally but if I have guests I can turn it into a guest bedroom really easily.

  113. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

    If you splurge on one thing, I suggest getting a dedicated, comfortable office chair; I have worked from home in a variety of spaces with more or less separation from “home’ over the course of the pandemic and I think the chair made more difference than I expected. Even switching out the office chair for the dining chair at the same table feels different to me. And it’s so much more like the chair I had in the office, it helps put me into “work” mode.

    Also, wow, the span I spent working from my couch was TERRIBLE for my posture and the general condition of my spine. Bad choice, self.

  114. hayling*

    When we first went to WFH during COVID, I worked on the dining table, and I hated having my desk in the living room. Then I figured out how to rearrange my room so I could shove a small desk in the corner. A couple things that help:

    – Closing my laptop and tucking away my notebook at the end of the day
    – A very nice-looking sit/stand desk
    – And at the end of the day I move the desk to a high position so I can push the chair under and give me a little more space
    – Artwork above my desk that has a funny office theme, which gives my “office” a bit more visual separation

  115. Parakeet*

    I know not everyone would want this, but my home office is in my bedroom. Desk with my computer and office supplies on it, ergonomic chair, and a Gig Gear dual-sided StreamScreen (attached to the chair, has a white side for if I just want privacy and a green side to serve as a greenscreen if desired). After work I put the privacy covers on the webcams, close the laptop, and store the StreamScreen.

  116. A Genuine Scientician*

    I admit my entire house is 960 sq feet, and I’ve got a great home office set up in a small spare room (it’s 8′ by 10′). Desk, office chair, multiple screens, bulletin boards, with the space behind me (and thus visible on Zoom) being some bookshelves and my diplomas (I’m in academia; diplomas in offices are the norm here), plus a very neutral piece of art (think landscape photograph — it’s not that, but it’s along those lines). BUT, I’m also the only human in this house, so that may well make it easier for me.

    My primary suggestion is to consider whether there is a small space you can carve out. If you’re at home — particularly if you’re alone in the space — you might be able to be comfortable in a much smaller space than you would be in the office, given the lack of interruptions, and the control of the environment you have. Under a lofted bed, a corner by the laundry machines, a guest bed where you remove the normal bed and use either a futon or a fold out sofa, even a large closet can all be viable work spaces at home. I know a number of people who hate not having a window in their office at work, but don’t mind a lack of window in a home office because they feel more able to take a 5-10 minute break in a more comfortable space, for example.

    You can also look into design suggestions for dorm rooms, or for teens who have to share rooms. Most of those would be ridiculous to try to pull off in an actual dorm, but might be useable in a smaller space that you have for a longer term, whether that’s a house or an apartment. If you and a partner need to share a space, could your desks face each other, maybe offset so each of you is blocked off by a shelving unit to give you a little privacy and sound dampening?

  117. nnn*

    The crucial starting point is: how do you use your personal computer?

    Where in your home are you when you’re using your personal computer? What furniture are you using?

    What aspects of this are and aren’t appropriate for work and why?

    If you ever use a computer in your home, you don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel here.

    1. Hey Nonnie*

      I’ll add that if you already have a computer desk setup, you can get an HDMI switch and use your existing monitor with your work laptop. Plug both your personal computer and work computer into the monitor, and use the switch to change between them. I also have my monitor on a riser, and have a keyboard that can also switch between computers, so the work laptop gets tucked away under the riser, and I use it like I would a desktop computer. Changing from work to home computers consists of hitting two buttons to switch the monitor and keyboard.

  118. AceyAceyAcey*

    While teaching from home, I put my laptop atop my dresser, and set up a fake bookcase backdrop over my garment racks, so it looked like I was teaching from my (non-existent) home library. My partner’s home office is half the living room, and right behind him is the front door and the bathroom door (yeah, our apartment has a weird layout), so he uses a folding screen to block those from view on his camera. The biggest challenge we face in our small 2BR apartment is my parrot yelling from the second bedroom during our meetings, but our colleagues and students have been okay with that.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      If I were in a meeting with you, the parrot would be a plus. One thing I love about remote work is seeing people’s pets and kids make appearances. Meetings are so much better than they were when everyone was in an office!

  119. RuralGirl*

    I work/live in a 450 sq ft apartment – it is tight! got a desk with a hutch to create a division in the space, and on the other side of the hutch I have some bookcases lined up so that you have to walk around them to realize I created an office nook. It look me two years of working remotely to figure this out but I am loving it.

  120. The German Chick*

    There is a YouTube channel about designing small spaces, named NEVER TOO SMALL. Have fun!

  121. bek*

    In my previous tiny apartment the only space I had was in the main room, meaning that it was always visible and not hidable with screens or other furniture, but on weekends and staycations I put all the computer equipment in the closet so that it was just an empty table with a comfy chair, and used it for crafting, ergonomically correct internetting, etc.

  122. HannahS*

    2 adults and a baby in about 750 sq ft here. Our workspace is in continual progress, but will be a narrow desk from IKEA, some bins for storage of various headsets, and some wall shelves (use the vertical space!!) all in one area of one room. We also have a low shelf with a printer and shredder. Currently we have a full-sized desk, but that takes up SO much space and became a dumping ground for papers.

    1. HannahS*

      Meant to add: the desk is used for work only. It’s a compact space, and worth the sacrifice of square footage to have the mental separation.

  123. Ex-Dog Coor*

    I’m in a similarly sized rental, and my WFH set up is in my living room, right next to my tv. I opted for a lift top desk WITH drawers, since I need space for clutter but wanted a standing desk. I ended up getting the “Westerleigh Height Adjustable Standing Desk” (Wayfair or Joss + Main) and I love it. Perfect for a small space, and it looks nice without being “too corporate” for my living room. I can fit my laptop on a riser, external monitor, external keyboard, mousepad, and wrist rests all on the part of the desk that rises, leaving the static part of the desk for my notepad, cup o’ pens, and beverages.

    I also opted for a desk chair that was nicer visually than it is functional, but made up for the not-as-ergonomic shape with a lumbar pillow. If I have to see my WFH set up while relaxing in my living room, I at least wanted all the pieces to look nice!

  124. Magiggles*

    I have a work from home desk (that is the brand name). It’s a tiny modular desk and you can purchase add-on shelves. It’s pretty functional for a tiny desk and gives a bit of flexibility in terms of set-up.

  125. Katefish*

    This wouldn’t work for everyone, but I’ve always resisted work sending me extra monitors and just use the split screen function on my laptop. That and blurred background in video calls are your friend. – Lives in NYC, has worked remotely at our kitchen table across several jobs

  126. Cakeroll*

    I have a closet with sliding mirrored doors (pretty standard in apartments, I think). I popped the doors out of their tracks, and set them aside (they’re propped against another wall, as big mirrors, which is nice). My desk and chair setup went in the closet – I even covered the bottom track with a desk mat so my chair rolls smoothly over it.

    When I’m done with work for the day, I unfold a folding screen/room divider and cover up the closet/desk. That way, I don’t see the desk anymore, and so it no longer visually “intrudes” into the now-personal space. Hanging above the desk, where you can see above the room divider, are personal items/art, further helping it to seem like a purposeful decoration rather than just my desk in the middle of the living room.

  127. WoodswomanWrites*

    Like you, I have a small place. My desk with my personal laptop has always been in my bedroom in the only spot it fits. I have no choice but to work from that space. I also require an ergonomic set-up to avoid issues with my arms, which I’ve got going at my home desk. When I’m working, I unplug my personal laptop and plug in the one from work using my same screen, mouse, and connections. I’ve got the video background blurred so no one can see my bed and whatever clutter might be happening in the moment.

    What I’ve found has worked well for me is unplugging the work laptop at the end of my workday, turning it off, and putting it away where I don’t see it. I replace it with my personal one, and just ritual has made the difference for delineating my home and work life. I suppose it might be harder if I had physical stuff associated with my job that I had to keep around. For me, all my work is digital so that hasn’t been an issue.

  128. Retired (but not really)*

    I will add my vote for the folding screen. Mine has been a trifold with fabric on dowels at top and bottom inside the wood frame. Works great for a divider or to hide clutter or just for visual interest.

  129. Michelle Smith*

    900 square feet is about 3x the size of my apartment. Do not fret, you can make it work! Pick a corner that has excellent internet connection, wired if possible. Do what you can to separate it from the rest of your space. I’m in a studio so everything is one room. But I have a massive ikea bookshelf (5×5 Kallax and a strategically placed futon that sort of shut this corner of my room off from everything else. Get a green screen if you are concerned about your background (I have one because even though my bookshelf looks dope af behind me, you can still see my bed in the camera view and that’s way too intimate for me). I also don’t have the luxury of having this *only* be work space. So I bought a cart from the container store that I can put my work items into when I’m done (think laptop, wireless mouse, work cell phone, papers, pens, etc.) and then voila, my space is back to being my living room/corner + gaming station in under 2 minutes.

  130. Aloha Olson*

    I live in a 765 sq ft condo, and shelving above the desk is your friend, and so are corner spaces. If you’re handy enough, by all means, DIY. If not, have a professional install shelving that is deep enough and sturdy enough to hold your printer and other stuff (small hole drilled through for power cords). Keep your desk space for your computer and writing/doodling space. Anything that can be hung on the wall- do it! Pen/pencil holder. Tape dispenser. Scissors… whatever.

  131. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

    It’s not so much about the amount of space as it is the clear dividing line. You could have 3000 square feet, but if your workspace is 10 square feet you can’t avoid, work is always going to follow you. Yes to saving space and making it as comfortable as you possibly can, and very much yes to rituals that signal the beginning and end of work. I never thought the soft snap of a laptop closing or the act of changing clothing could make such a mental difference, but it’s huge.

  132. Dragonfly7*

    Since my ability to work from home is temporary, I have a folding table set up immediately behind my couch, like a console table, covered with a tablecloth and runner plus two lamps. I pull the lamps a bit closer when I have a video meeting, and they are easy to reposition when I want to read on the couch in the evening. If this didn’t involve external equipment, I would just work at my dining table since I can just fold up my work (laptop) and put it away for the night.

  133. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

    The first year of the pandemic I was just in the corner of the living room of my shared 1-bedroom. My recs:

    -L-shaped corner desk, if possible!
    -Whatever desk shape, let the legs etc take up as little space as possible so you can stick stuff underneath if you have to, even temporarily
    -Lightweight monitor stands with shelves in them
    -Laptop stand with space underneath so you can shove your keyboard under it when you need desktop space for other stuff
    -Pay attention to lighting! My old apartment had no overhead lighting, which would have killed my focus in the darker months, but an inexpensive (and skinny) LED floor lamp saved me
    -Personally, I vote gamer chair over office chair. Office chair prices range like wild, and I couldn’t tell what would actually BE good versus LOOK good. Gamers know sitting. Got a great rec on an inexpensive gaming chair, and it could turn around at night for TV (and games!)

    I’ll post links in a comment.

  134. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

    Monitor stand (I got two):

    Laptop stand (folds up!):

    LED lamp (fit behind my desk):


    Gaming chair (mine has a footrest and built-in Bluetooth speakers, all for $170!):

  135. Alexander Graham Yell*

    I’m in a 375 ft2 apartment and I found a little niche next to the fireplace to use. I got a desk that fits (though I may custom build something since small desks seem to be more cheaply made and shake when I type), and instead of two monitors I use one large monitor and my laptop. Plus as many shelves above it as possible for notebooks/files/etc. INVEST IN YOUR CHAIR. Do I wish my chair were cuter because I see it literally all of the time? Yes. Did opting for the cute chair vs. the supportive chair completely bork my back? Absolutely.

  136. interior designer sharing a 1 one br :)*

    I recently moved into a new apartment and built a bookshelf with a pull-out keyboard tray for my laptop behind a set of doors. I dont need a ton of space for my work setup, just a laptop and mouse, so this works for me! it was based on the link below but sadly the space between my fireplace mantel and wall was exactly 2″ too narrow for a Billy so I had to build it myself, haha. it’s super important to have a space that you use only for work so you dont start to resent your “free time” space in the rest of your home. I love being able to close the cabinet doors to hide my work stuff at the end of the day.

  137. JHS*

    I would suggest checking if you’ll have any ergonomic requirements. I’m redoing my home office space and just learned that my government workplace will require my new home desk to be a certain depth. The one I’d picked out before wouldn’t have met that requirement, so I’m checking options with my office to find out what we can do. At least I found out before I spent any money!

    1. JC*

      I used to be a federal employee, and I remember my telework checklist having pretty absurd requirements. Are you sure that you couldn’t get away with just signing the telework form even if your home office doesn’t fit the specs? Most people in my old office and my husband’s current federal office consider those requirements to be a formality and ignore them. Back when I was a fed I lived in a 1 bedroom apartment and teleworked with a laptop on my lap, and I am pretty sure I signed a form saying that my home office space met certain ergonomic requirements (although I don’t remember something as specific as desk depth!!).
      But maybe you have greater integrity than I do, in which case, kudos to you!

  138. JC*

    I live in a 900 sqft apartment with my husband. We both WFH full time for two years after the pandemic started and now do it about half time, sometimes on the same days. We bought the Ikea Alex desk for our spare bedroom and a matching Alex set of drawers. We didn’t used to have a desk at at home at all and I wasn’t sure we could fit a desk in the room, but the desk has a small profile. The desk plus the drawers are enough to fit an external monitor, keyboard, mouse, plus extras like a lamp. We probably could have made just the desk work if we didn’t have room for the drawers.

    When we’re both at home together the other person works from the living room/dining area, either from the couch or at a table. We only have the space for one external monitor (on the desk) so the living room person makes due on their laptop. (We actually didn’t buy the desk until recently, so we were both making due on our laptop screens for a lonnnng time.)

    With both of us at home, noise canceling headphones have also been key so we don’t have to hear the other person’s meetings. Now when I am in the office and not wearing them, I get so distracted by other people’s voices!

  139. Nina_Bee*

    I live in UK in a smallish 1 bedroom flat and work from home on my small dining room table.. I got one of those standing desks made from wood slats that are assembled together. The laptop platform can go into any of the slots for different heights, so it’s handy if you want to move around to sit on the floor or anything like that. The panels come apart and can be stored when the table needs to be used.

  140. Strawberry*

    I have an “accordion” office in my 10′ x 10′ -ish bedroom, which has a closet that’s 5′ wide by 2′ deep, and I absolutely love it. Here’s how it works:

    -I have two tension rods that go all the way across the room, near the ceiling. One (rod #1) is right along the wall, and the other (rod #2) is 4 feet from the wall. The two rods are parallel to one another.

    -My desk, which is 4 feet wide, is snugged up against the wall in the corner, under the two rods.

    -Rod #2 has a moveable curtain that stretches from floor to ceiling and is 7 feet long (it’s a duvet cover I got at goodwill)

    Here’s the accordion part.

    -Between rod #1 and rod #2, there’s a third curtain rod (rod #3), which is perpendicular to them, forming an H. Rod #3 attaches to rods #1 and #2 with curtain rings, which are taped to Rod #3. Thus, rod #3 can slide along rods #1 and #2.

    -There is a second curtain on rod #3.

    When I slide rod #3 away from my desk, I open up a 7 x 4 space that is curtained on two sides and has walls on the other two sides. I can’t see my bedroom, and on video it just looks like I have curtains behind me. It feels spacious and nice, especially since I face a window and can see outside.

    When I slide rod #3 towards my desk, the office “accordions” shut. I push my chair under my desk, and the whole thing sticks out about 3-4 feet from the wall. So I regain 3-4 feet of floor space when I’m not working and I can’t see my desk when I’m using the room as my bedroom. This is so so helpful in leaving work at work.

    The rest of the room is pretty spacious, but that’s primarily because I downsized to a full-size bed and I’ve tucked the head of the bed in what used to be the closet. The only other furniture I have is a dresser, an end table, and a ladderdrobe (my optimized take on the chairdrobe). So I don’t have a closet, but the ladderdrobe is better for hanging anyway, and I have some closet space in the public spaces.

    I like it much better than my old home office and bedroom, honestly. It uses space much more efficiently and is better tailored to my needs. And I can close my door for privacy!

  141. Airkewl Pwaroe*

    I recommend the Bylas Computer Desk by Rona (available on Wayfair, and fairly inexpensive). It basically rolls in to become half as deep at need, which I love!

  142. EJane*

    Everyone’s advice is excellent!
    If I could recommend one thing, it’s this: get a desk that doesn’t wobble. My desk is very pretty, but doesn’t have enough crossbeam support to not wobble when I type, so I had to arrange my home office around the fact that my desk absolutely had to be anchored to the wall.

    I have a 600sqft apartment that I share with two large dogs, both of whom have very large crates, and one of whom gets legendary zoomies, so I had to figure out a desk setup that wouldn’t be an eyesore, that would be easy to connect my laptop to/from, maximize open floor space, and would work for my weird little ADHD peculiarities.
    Rather than describing my entire setup, I’ll tell you what I like best about it:

    1. It’s near my sliding glass door so I get natural light without it bouncing off my monitor
    2. I have a pendant light mounted ab0ve and behind me, for general light, and I have fairy lights on the wall in front of me, so it feels less dreary
    3. everything fits on a 5’x7” rug, so my “office” is separated from the rest of my apartment visually without creating hazards or taking up more floor space.

    There are lots of little details, like dog bed positioning and the desk chair I chose, that really make it work, but that’s the most important thing.

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