Working from home: how to create an unobtrusive office space in your living room

Create the perfect working from home space in any kind of home

Working from home tips
(Image credit: Getty)

For many of us, our homes weren’t designed to be offices – but with many of us now working from home some or all of the time, we’ve had to bring our offices home with us. That’s a challenge: how do you find space to work without making your home look like head office? Thankfully, there are some simple solutions that can make working from home work for your home. Let’s explore those options.

Work with what you’ve got

Working at your dining table isn’t always ideal, especially if you’re using a laptop: dining chairs are often too low for comfortable computing. You can always try seat pads on your existing furniture to raise you up a bit – when you’re using your computer your thighs should be horizontal and your calves vertical with your feet flat on the floor – but a more stylish option is to invest in some office/dining chairs. 

These dual purpose provide good support and height without looking like they came from an office supply company. John Lewis’s Classico range is contemporary and stylish, while the 675 chair is a genuinely beautiful design classic which you'll enjoy for years to come.

The 675 Chair by Case is a classic

(Image credit: Heal's)

Hide your home office

If you’re working from home, don’t have much space but need quite a lot of room to work, a secretary desk – also known as a hideaway desk – could be the answer. They’re designed to fold away so they look like sideboards or cupboards when you’re not using them, but they unfold to deliver stacks of working room. 

Secretary desks and hideaway desks come in all styles and sizes. For example the MC Secretary Desk has a simple, modern design in white that unfolds to deliver a surprisingly roomy workstation, while the Poul Secretary Desk adds some Scandinavian wood and the Grayson Bureau uses a more traditional roll-top design in oak. Some designs look more like traditional kitchen units than workspaces. 

The Poul Secretary Desk is a desk in disguise

(Image credit: Wayfair)

Another useful option is a desk that slides away like a drawer. IKEA has a few options here, and many office-style desks have sliding trays for keyboards and laptops.

That’s the desk taken care of, but what about the chair? If you won’t be working for long periods, a stylish stool is an effective and easy-to-hide option, and many look more like kitchen or dining furniture than office equipment. If you think you may be working from home for fairly long periods, make sure you get one with a bit of padding. Sometimes it’s worth sacrificing a bit of style for practical comfort.

Consider the corners

Corner desks can provide quite big working areas without taking up too much of the room, and they range from teeny-tiny ones in Argos to more substantial and beautiful oak furniture such as M&S’s Sonoma range. If you don’t need a huge amount of working room the Sayers Corner Desk is practical and cute, while floating corner desks such as this L-shaped floating desk enable you to get some working space without losing any floor space.

Marks & Spencer's Sonoma range is made from solid oak

(Image credit: Marks & Spencer)

Work at your window

Many of our homes have space that we haven’t used or filled with furniture, often below and around windows. With a bit of careful planning you can get lots of space for work without blocking the light or the view, and if you use white furniture and white or pastel-coloured chairs you can still keep things looking bright and airy. There’s also the added bonus of being able to look out of the window when you’re working.

If you’d rather not do any planning, a good old-fashioned writing desk can be a great option for working near the window. We like the Lawter Writing Desk, which is practical and pretty with drawers to shove your paperwork into at the end of your shift.

Get a ladder

Not a corporate ladder: we mean a ladder desk. Ladder-style desks, sometimes called leaning desks, are great when space is at a premium. They’re big enough to make room for your laptop, keyboard and work essentials but their simple frame means they don’t look massive. And because they’re made largely of space even the really nice ones don’t cost too much. We’d recommend looking for ones that include a reasonable-sized drawer so you don’t need to leave anything sitting out when you’re finished working.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (