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Building A Cloffice: How To Turn A Closet Into A Compact Home Office

In many ways, the age of the full sized home office has come to an end. There are, of course, exceptions. But by and large, putting a fully-functional office in a dedicated room is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. There are many reasons for this; from the fact that Americans are downsizing their homes to the growing ubiquity of remote work. But while big home offices are going the way of the dodo, that doesn’t mean home offices in general are. In fact, more people are working from home than ever before – in concealable work spaces that won’t take up a whole room. One of the best ways to get it? Turn a closet into a cloffice.

Closets are the perfect size and shape for adding a workstation, and allow messy desks to be hidden away when they aren't in use (by Johnson Hardware)
Closets are the perfect size and shape for adding a workstation, and allow messy desks to be hidden away when they aren’t in use (by Johnson Hardware)

A cloffice is just what it sounds like: a closet converted into an office. And I’m not talking a big walk-in closet, either; just about any sized closet will do. All you have to do is set up a desk inside the closet or mount a shelf at desk height. For extra storage, add extra shelves above it or to either side of the door frame. This makes for an impressive amount of surface and storage space. It’s a little less than a full sized desk and filing cabinet, but not as much less as you’d think; the space is much more efficient.

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The biggest advantage of a cloffice over any other kind of small workstation is that having doors you can close means it's easy to close off work messes and keep them out of your daily life - and vice versa (by Applegate Tran Interiors, Christopher Stark)
The biggest advantage of a cloffice over any other kind of small workstation is that having doors you can close means it’s easy to close off work messes and keep them out of your daily life – and vice versa (by Applegate Tran Interiors, Christopher Stark)

The real beauty of cloffices, though, is that they have doors that you can close. It can be hard to get settled when you work in a public area of your home. You have to move paper and pens at dinner time, and constantly haul out and put away books and folders. With a cloffice, you can keep everything you need in one place and leave it there when you’re done. Simply close the door behind you at the end of the day and hide the whole thing… without disrupting your work space.

Pocket and foldaway doors tuck completely out of sight, opening the cloffice up to the rest of the room while it's in use (by Ingrained Wood Studios, photo by Susan Gilmore)
Pocket and foldaway doors tuck completely out of sight, opening the cloffice up to the rest of the room while it’s in use (by Ingrained Wood Studios, photo by Susan Gilmore)

Of course, you don’t want a cloffice with a door that will be in your way while you’re using it, or one that will disrupt the surrounding space if you use the office regularly. Installing a pocket door is the most effective way to get the door out of the way, either a traditional one that slides in and out of the surrounding wall, or a more modern style that tucks in flat against either side of the closet. Accordion-style folding doors are another popular option; they take up less space than a regular door, even when covering a larger closet.

Closing off a small closet with a simple curtain is the most compact and economical way to hide a cloffice when it isn't in use (by The Old Painted Cottage)
Closing off a small closet with a simple curtain is the most compact and economical way to hide a cloffice when it isn’t in use (by The Old Painted Cottage)

Working with a particularly small closet with an ordinary door and don’t have a burning desire to replace it? Simply remove the door entirely and hang a little curtain rod at the top of the door frame. You can opt for a built-in that you can conceal, or pick up a basic tension bar at any craft supply store. A full length curtain will serve the same purpose as a door – to keep the office concealed when you aren’t using it – and pulls and ties easily out of the way while you’re inside. The final look is less polished, but will cost a fraction of the price of installing a new closet door.

If you want to store your chair inside your cloffice, make sure to incorporate it into your initial designs to be sure it will fit with the closet door closed (by Studio 512, photo by Casey Woods)
If you want to store your chair inside your cloffice, make sure to incorporate it into your initial designs to be sure it will fit with the closet door closed (by Studio 512, photo by Casey Woods)

Another important consideration when building a cloffice is what chair you’ll be using and where you’re going to store it. If you’ll only be using the workspace occasionally, the best option is to pull over a chair from the surrounding room as needed. In a deep enough closet, you might be able to store a chair or stool inside the closet. But a full sized office chair is probably out of the question. That said, a narrower desk with a pull-out shelf will let you scoot your chair inside without sacrificing workspace. Either way, you also want to make sure that the height of your desk corresponds to the height of the chair you’ll be using, so you’ll be able to do so comfortably.

Cloffices are a great way to give kids their own deidicated workspace, particularly in a room without much floor space to spare (by iheartroganizing)
Cloffices are a great way to give kids their own dedicated workspace, particularly in a room without much floor space to spare (by iheartroganizing)

Cloffices don’t just have to be for adults, either. These work great in a kid’s room, too. They provide plenty of space for a computer and homework without having to put a full-sized desk in the room. With a small closet like this, remove the closet door and leave the workspace open to the room. To make the cloffice look like an alcove, paint it a slightly different shade from the rest of the room. Leave the door frame painted white to make it pop. You can even use chalk board paint inside the closet if your kid is a doodler.

The biggest drawback of putting your home office in a closet is that not every closet comes with built-in lighting or electrical outlets. At worst, that means installing new hookups before finishing the inside of the closet. At best, you’ll need to run a power strip on a long cord into the closet from the room outside. Even so, this is a great way to get the workspace you need without sacrificing a spare room!