Fit a Small Office in Your Small Home

Setting up a small office in your small home means finding new uses for closets and other tucked-away spaces.

No matter where you choose to put your home office, make sure you have enough room for storage and, ideally, some natural light. Image: M. Studio Gallery, Cold Spring, NY/Sandy Viola "Wings of Love" photography

Yes, you can! Squeeze a small office into your small home, that is. But that doesn’t mean you have to take over one of the kids’ bedrooms—just look for under-utilized space.

After that, it’s decision time: How much to spend, how big to make the office, and how you’ll use it.

Here are five solutions to consider:

1. Kitchen helper. From a $400 store-bought island for bill-paying to a breakfast bench nook with file drawers built in under the seats (cost: $5,000 to $15,000), your kitchen is a treasure trove of small office possibilities. Even a slide-out cutting board (about $500 in a cabinet package) can serve as a nifty desktop.

2. Closet conversion. Get rid of unused stuff or consolidate it in another area, and a 3- to 8-foot-wide closet accommodates a built-in desk, shelves, and lighting. Make a nearby chair do double duty for your desk.

With doors and wiring for lighting and a phone, and possible added drywall, your new small office would cost $2,000 to $4,000. Keep in mind that the more floors and walls that wiring has to travel through, the costlier it gets.

3. Porch possibilities. Convert that long, narrow space on the side of your small home that gets only seasonal use to a year-round office for about $15/sq. ft. Use plug-in space heaters and fans for your HVAC system.

Use inexpensive, freestanding shelves to provide storage space. Cost: About $70 for a 30-inch-by-80-inch bookshelf.

4. Those out-of-the-way spaces. Alcoves, lofts, stair landings, basement and garage corners, and bedroom nooks qualify as potential office space. Use freestanding shelving units and bookcases. Plants or privacy screens can “wall” the area without making it feel smaller.

You can build a bench for visitors with storage space inside for about $130. Want a craftsman to build it for you? Add another $300 to $400.

5. Under-used dining rooms. Formal dining rooms can be overrated. If yours isn’t being used regularly, convert it to a small office. You’ll be close to your main entry, making it easy to receive clients and business associates. If a nearby kitchen or other busy household area is a noisy distraction, install French or sliding doors as acoustic barriers.