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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. While there are, of course, exceptions, by and large having a fully functional office in its own dedicated room is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. There are many reasons for this, from the fact that Americans are starting to downsize their homes to the growing ubiquity of wifi and wireless devices that make it easier to work on the go. 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 occasionally working from home than ever before – they just want compact, concealable work spaces that won’t takeĀ 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)

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A cloffice is just what it sounds like: a closet that’s been 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 (or even install a simple board at desk level) inside the closet, and build up shelves above it and to either side of the door frame. This makes for an impressive amount of work and storage space – less than a full sized desk with a big filing cabinet, but not as much less as you’d think, because the space is designed more efficiently.

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)

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The real beauty of cloffices, though, is that they have doors that you can close. One of the worst things about trying to work in a public area of the house is that it’s impossible to ever get fully settled – paper and pens have to move at dinner time, books and folders have to be continually hauled out and put away. But with a cloffice, you can spread out or store everything you need in one place and leave it there when you’re done. When the family gets called to dinner, simply close the door behind you, and the whole workspace becomes invisible, 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, as 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)

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If you’re working with a particularly small closet that has a totally ordinary sort of door and don’t have a burning desire to install a pocket door or accordion style door, simply remove the door entirely and hang a little curtain rod at the top of the door frame. The rod can be built in and concealed or a simple tension bar you can get 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 a bit less polished, but will cost you a fraction of the price of installing a new type of 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, probably the best option is to simply pull over a chair from the surrounding room when you need it. 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, installing a narrower desk with a pull out shelf can give you more room to scoot your chair inside without sacrificing usable 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, as they provide plenty of surface space for a computer and doing homework without having to put a full sized desk in the room itself. With a small closet like this, you probably want to go ahead and simply remove the closet door and leave the workspace open to the room. To make the cloffice look more like a “bumped in” alcove, paint it a slightly different shade from the rest of the room, but 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, and at best running 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!