Strapped for study space? Here are 15 small home office ideas that ooze intelligent design

Looking to create an office space or revamp what you have? Here’s our top prospects for the job.

Whether you’re working, trying to keep on top of your paperwork, or just like to keep your brain sharp with puzzles, having a designated space at home to do it can be important.

But if your home is more bijou than bountiful, creating a work zone that’s both elegant and efficient can be challenging, especially if it involves blending the boundaries with other living areas.

small wooden desk and tall boy in room painted in greens and rustsCredit: John Lewis & Partners
Creating a cosy work area is possible – even if space is limited

However, at Saga Exceptional we believe it can be done – in fact, we pride ourselves on being the best candidate for the job. To prove it, here are 15 small home office ideas that we think you’ll find worthy of promotion.

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1. Utilise under the stairs

Take advantage of angles to create a fantastic but functional space

Under the stairs often resides one of the most unloved areas of a home. Frequently left untouched, it can be resigned to the role of lost-and-found manager. Can’t find it? Look under the stairs. Can’t find a home for it? Pop it under the stairs.

But take a fresh look at the space and you might just discover it’s the perfect location for a small but well-equipped workstation. Despite its often-angular sloped ceiling, there should still be ample head height and space for everything you need.

Our top tip? Choose an established bespoke furniture company for a one-off design and you could find yourself the proud owner of an inspiring new small home office.

“It’s a common misconception that renovations only work for larger spaces,” says Simon Tcherniak, senior designer at Neville Johnson. “There is an abundance of stylish yet practical solutions for smaller zones in the home.”

We love how the light wood finish of this design is contrasted with soft creams and whites – it oozes with style and craftmanship. Blurring the boundaries between work and home is easily achieved by interspersing files and books with carefully chosen vases, artwork and a soft blanket for warmth.

2. Mix and match patterns

Banish boring and opt for opulence

One of the biggest benefits of a home office space is the freedom to decorate however you like. With no corporate branding to adhere to, or bland office blinds to stare at, it’s the perfect opportunity to let your creativity run wild.

Choosing furniture and features that shout “home” far louder than “office” makes it a win-win solution when you have to set up desk in your living room.

Furnish your small home office space with bold patterned wallpaper, layer windows with floor-to-ceiling curtains and choose a desk that can double as a stylish console or cocktail bar come evening.

Helena Davies, head of buying at Barker & Stonehouse, adds the following advice: “Make sure your home office feels like home by bringing in finishing touches like artwork and cushions to bring life and personality to your workspace.”

Her top tips for colours? “Consider weaving in blue and green through accessories that bring pops of energy and vitality to your space to make it a welcome place to get to work.”

For an extra layer of luxury, add furniture and lights finished in tarnished gold.

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G Plan Vintage The Sixty Eight Footstool, Plush Indigo

RRP: £409

G Plan Vintage The Sixty Eight Footstool, Plush Indigo

3. Match your bureau with your walls

But use a different shade inside for a daily serotonin boost

Whether it’s down to the growing interest in upcycling or the fact that people have cottoned on to their nifty benefits, bureaus are a work-from-home solution we love.

Quirky, compact and clever, they’re practically a small home office in themselves. And when it comes to upcycling them, no-one does it better than the queen of chalk paint, Annie Sloan.

We can’t help but say “No-one puts baby bureau in the corner” when we look at this image. Petite yet presumptuous, it’s painted in the same eye-popping red as the walls and skirting board, which allows it to blend into the corner when the lid is closed.

Open it up, though, and a different shade is revealed. Although it’s only a subtle change, it’s enough of a contrast to get your love for dopamine décor racing and your creative work juices running wild.

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Annie Sloan Emperor's Silk Chalk Paint

RRP: From £7.95 for 120ml

Annie Sloan Emperor's Silk Chalk Paint

4. Create a calm and studious space

Use natural materials and an autumnal colour palette

Call upon nature’s abundant autumnal shades to create a small home office that feels soothing, nurturing and calm. Combine the solidity of wooden furniture with walls painted in sage green, and don’t be afraid to dress your desk with foraged foliage and leaves.

“If any room will benefit from trending earth-inspired and grounding interiors, it’s your home office,” says Davies. “Wooden desks are not only durable and practical, but they’re perfect for embracing natural materials and neutral tones for a mellowing influence.”

Use metal bowls for storage, and baskets made from the likes of rattan to continue the theme, and, if you can, turn your desk towards a window to maximise your exposure to daylight.

Hide office clutter in a tallboy and add nature-themed artwork to walls to complete your natural small home office space.

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Spindle 6 Drawer Tallboy Chest, Oak

RRP: £499

Spindle 6 Drawer Tallboy Chest, Oak
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5. Add desk space to your dresser

Let your dining room serve up work space as well as family meals

If you have the benefit of a dining room that’s only used at mealtimes, take advantage of the lower footfall and carve out a niche for your work space in a wall-to-wall dresser.

“Bespoke, made-to-measure designs will ensure your environment is ideal for both your work and your personal needs,” says Rachel Sharp, national regional manager at fitted furniture company Sharps.

“With open shelves for items you need quick access to, and cupboards or drawers for those you’d like hidden away, having a dedicated home office area can not only aid productivity but also help make the most of the space we have.”

Working from the dining room could also save money on furniture. If you don’t need to sit at your desk for long periods of time, you can simply use a dining chair and pop it back for mealtimes.

Add a comfy reading spot

Need somewhere more relaxing to read documents or perhaps study? Take inspiration from this beautifully designed dining room and add a window seat with a wall-mounted task lamp and storage below. Add an office dog to help de-stress and your small home office is complete!

6. Save space with angled wall lights

Save your desktop from clutter by utilising surrounding walls

What’s not to love about this neat little alcove filled with vibrant treasures and a perfectly formed desk where you can tuck yourself away to work.

“If you think your alcoves are too shallow or oddly shaped to be of any use, think again,” says Cari Bateman, furniture designer at Neville Johnson. “These spaces are just waiting to be made useful. Making use of alcoves will instantly make your room look and feel more spacious.”

The only potential issue could be the lack of room for a larger desk. Although many jobs require little more than a laptop, a notebook and pen, there’s still the issue of finding a suitable desk lamp to ensure you don’t strain your eyes.

If your desk surface simply doesn’t have space for anything extra, go for a pretty plug-in wall light like those available at Pooky. The elegant, angled design of the one we’ve used means it can provide task lighting during the day and then be adjusted to showcase your beautifully styled shelves at night.

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Cooper Wall Fitting in Antique Brass With 14cm Wizard Hat Pendant Shade

RRP: £178

Cooper Wall Fitting in Antique Brass With 14cm Wizard Hat Pendant Shade

Avoid DIY issues

Opting for a plug-in design also reduces the need to carry out additional electrical works – something that could invalidate your home insurance if you choose to do it yourself and it turns into a DIY disaster.

Inspired to restyle shelves elsewhere in your home after seeing this small home office design? Read our expert tips for styling kitchen shelves.

7. Work in the kitchen

Add a small home office to your cabinet layout

If you prefer to work somewhere with more hustle and bustle, there’s no place busier than kitchen central. So, if you’re considering a new kitchen, or can source units to match your current one, create a space to one side where you can work, rest and play. Make sure you create a cohesive scheme by using the same base and wall units throughout.

Take advantage of the hardwearing nature of worktops and use it to create your desktop. It’ll make the odd coffee spill far easier to clean and, when you’re not at work, it provides a handy colouring-in station when small guests arrive.

And of course, let’s not forget the benefit of being located near the most important piece of equipment in any office: the coffee machine.

If you’re in need of a new one, our coffee experts, Jayne Cherrington-Cook and Philip Sowels, have some excellent reviews and recommendations at Saga Exceptional’s coffee hub.

8. Conceal your clutter

Add an armchair and disguise a hideaway home office

Although we love an upcycled vintage bureau, we’re also fans of new and beautifully crafted furniture that will stand the test of time. Combining skilled workmanship with clever storage solutions, this Ardingly desk from Neptune would sit comfortably in any room.

And even though it’s beautifully functional, with ample space for a laptop, integrated drawers and even space for a desk lamp, it still clearly says “home”.

Keeping sight of what’s “home” is essential, according to Shelley Cochrane, accessories buyer at Furniture Village. Her key advice is to ensure your small home office doesn’t lose “those joyful touches that make your space so comforting.

“Start off with a colour scheme that promotes focus, such as grounding neutrals, sage greens and warm greys,” she adds. “Introduce furniture in complementary warm woods or dark accent colours for a subtle but harmonious contrast.”

Choose your chair with care

We also love how this small home office also eschews a more traditional desk chair in favour of a comfortable, but still structured occasional chair. It’s formal enough not to feel too cosy, but soft enough to make the working day more pleasurable.

9. Wall mount your desk

Perfect when you only want access to a laptop or tablet

If you’re really strapped for space, then why not wall mount your desk? It’s a nifty and stylish solution when you want some privacy to polish up your puzzling or learn some new lingo.

Add a luscious green plant for improved air quality, plus a floor lamp with a moveable head so you can lower it closer to the task in hand, and you’ve got a ready-made office in minutes.

As it’s not a permanent desk, you can call upon the services of a dining chair to avoid extra expense. Want a little more comfort? Cochrane suggests adding some snug statement cushions.

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Bisley Hideaway Wall Desk, Chalk/Oak Laminate

RRP: Reduced to £319.20

Bisley Hideaway Wall Desk, Chalk/Oak Laminate

Chairs can be less corporate

Even though this scheme uses a dining chair, we think it would also work well with an upholstered one. Once the desk is closed, the chair can be turned around and the lamp shifted to one side, making it a perfect reading spot.

There’s even a handy shelf on the top of this desk to store your latest books. Need more space? Take a look at our book storage ideas.

10. Build bespoke drawers

Make your window seat work harder

The wall space under windows is often left unloved. Even if it’s not home to a radiator, it still seems a crime to place sofas or chairs against it when it means they face away from the light.

If you have an empty wall in your small home office, don’t assume you need to push your desk against it if you have a bit of extra floor space to play with. Instead, contact a local carpenter and ask them to build you a bespoke set of drawers. Even a shallow set can house documents, stationery and small electrical items.

To keep the space feeling like home, Cochrane suggests: “Soften the look by weaving in personal touches. Simple additions like wall art, a handful of vases and cosy textiles go a long way to creating a truly welcoming nine-to-five atmosphere.”

Match your paint colour to your walls, choose minimal-style handles – or even opt for a handle-free design – and suddenly you’ve gained oodles of storage without feeling cramped.

11. Use a runner to delineate

Create a visual boundary between work and home

Sometimes we have no choice but to work from a bedroom, living or dining room, and it can be hard to know where “out of office” begins. Using a runner to mark the space between “work” and “home” is a subtle but surprisingly effective way of defining these different zones.

Pick up a runner from your favourite homeware store and place it just behind your chair. It won’t physically make the space smaller; in fact, it will help to visually increase the sense of length or width (depending on the direction in which you place it). By drawing the eye to the end of the runner you’ll be tricked into perceiving the space as more roomy.

This trick works more effectively with rectangular desks – if you’re using a round table, then place a rug underneath to create a visual work zone.

Featured product

Ringo Handwoven Runner, Terra

RRP: £140

Ringo Handwoven Runner, Terra

Not sure what’s the best size rug for your living room? Find all the info you need in our expert guide.

12. Choose alternative seating

Chairs don’t have to have legs

Not a fan of traditional office chair design? We hear you. It can be hard to make something more functional work with your home when it’s located in full view. Although there’s a wealth of candidates to choose from, they’re often too corporate-looking for a more colourful home.

Fear not – there are alternatives. Instead of a chair, choose a comfortable stool – perfect if your small home office is positioned in a hallway and has a candy-coloured desk.

We love how this stool is both mobile, thanks to the leather carrying strap, and low enough to tuck out of the way during the morning rush hour.

Featured product

Milo Stool

RRP: £330

Milo Stool

13. Work from a walkway

But make your space stand out from the crowd

Do you have a connecting corridor that isn’t used as anything other than a walkway? It could be a great place for working – away from the distractions you might find in other parts of the house.

And although it may be tempting to try to blend furniture into the background, we think there’s no harm in opting for something a little louder. We love how the frames of this desk and chair are painted in a bold cerulean blue, while the fabric and wooden surfaces are more subtle and in keeping with the rest of the space.

Keep your desk accessories minimal. And although we’d have been tempted to face the desk to the outdoors, sometimes you can be more productive when not distracted by a view.

Featured product

Fauteuil Direction Pivotant Swivel Chair

RRP: £2892

Fauteuil Direction Pivotant Swivel Chair

14. Choose timeless designs

Make your scheme evergreen and everlasting with designer classics

Ercol has always been a leader when it comes to simple but stunning and timeless furniture. Constructed with precision and care, the items that can pass down the generations without losing their quality or appeal.

If 2023’s biophilic trend still piques your interest, it’s the perfect partner to wooden home office furniture such as this classic Ercol spindle chair. To avoid feeling like you’re working from the jungle (although it sounds tempting to me), pick a geometrically patterned wallpaper rather than something more foliage inspired.

Don’t be tempted by easy-maintenance faux flowers; take advantage of the fact that you’re at home to pick and regularly water some luscious green specimens to oxygenate the air. Just make sure they’re the safe houseplants for pets if furry friends are your office companions.

Featured product

Lista Storage Desk

RRP: Reduced to £349

Lista Storage Desk

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Ercol Heritage Chair

RRP: Reduced to £299

Ercol Heritage Chair

15. Opt for a desk with the wow-factor

Who said small had to be meek and mild?

Although some of us prefer to blend our work and home interiors, if you find yourself feeling in need of a more businesslike environment, you can still achieve this in your small home office.

How? By choosing a stunning desk that will be the talk of the staff room (or at least the kitchen). It’s also a more complementary partner to an ergonomic office chair if you work in a desk-based nine-to-five role.

Keen to make your desk stand out even more? Paint the wall behind in darker tones, so that your desk is the ultimate sandwich filling between your black office chair and blackboard-coloured wall.

Accessorise with dark filing trays that can be stored safely under the desk, and keep your desktop as clear from clutter as you can. It’s a small home office that is undoubtedly executive, but equally fashion forward.

Featured product

Murray Ergonomic Office Chair, Black

RRP: Reduced to £239.20

Murray Ergonomic Office Chair, Black
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Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her

Published:

Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah Harley was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

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