How to create a home office space in a small apartment

Working from home needn't mean a constant reminder of work at every turn.
Working from home needn’t mean a constant reminder of work at every turn. Photo Credit: AMC / Patrick Harbron

Working from home may be the ultimate professional luxury, but finding a space to work in a cramped New York City apartment can be a challenge. Should your couch double as a digital conference room? Is buying a desk and proper office chair the best use of your precious open floor plan? Nevermind trying to, you know, face away from your TV so you’re not distracted by binge-watching whatever everyone’s tweeting about when you just want to get to inbox zero.

We got in touch with architect and designer TC Chou, co-founder of New York’s Design Determination, who shared with us a few tips for creating a functional workspace in your apartment — no matter how small it is — so you can WFH in productive bliss.

Designate an underused space to set up a home office

You may not have a guest bedroom to convert to our own personal WeWork, but Chou recommends looking at a space in your home that you otherwise ignore, such as a corner of the living room, or perhaps a nook that just attracts clutter, and dedicating that square footage exclusively to office space.

All your space used up? Move some collectibles to storage (or donate them) and turn a small closet into a home office — Chou suggests removing the closet door and inserting a small desk and floating shelves to create work space.

Consider compact, lightweight furniture

If your home office is in a room you use outside of work hours, go for furniture that’s on legs, which is “an easy way to give the illusion of a more open, airy interior.” Depending on your space, Chou also recommends a wall-mounted desk as “to save space and give the area a contemporary, nontraditional office feel,” he says. “A desk without legs allows for a low chair or stool to tuck nicely underneath to further conserve space.”

Buy a piece of furniture that ‘doesn’t necessarily read as a desk’

If you’ve ever typed an urgent email on a subway bench below 49th Street, sprawled out in a corner of Central Park where you can get just enough Wi-Fi to still be signed onto Slack, or crammed into a cafe table to assert your own square foot of personal laptop space, you’re already an excellent office space adapter — don’t limit your city creativity to spaces outside of your apartment.

Chou recommends pieces like a credenza or console table that are not obvious workstations, but can certainly function as desks. And accessorize completely — you know you’re not realistically packing away your pen jar and desk calendar at the end of every work day.

“Decorate the work surface with items that are functional but also exude the unique, personal style of the room,” Chou recommends.

Go double duty

Is your kitchen also your living room, bedroom and office? Consider building office facets into your multiuse space. “Place a compact desk next to your sofa instead of a typical side table,” Chou suggests. “A similar approach could be done in the bedroom, substituting a desk for a night stand.”

Chou also recommends multifunctional furniture, like Murphy beds that transition into desks or dining tables, to make the most of limited space. Assign shelving or drawers near your workspace to tuck in a laptop, paperwork or other work items you don’t want to see after 6 p.m.