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Where To Put A Desk In Your Living Room To Get A Home Office You Can Live With

Whether you have a full time desk job or live your life gig by gig, the nature of the work we do every day (and where and how we do it) is very different than it was even ten years ago. Nearly ubiquitous wi-fi means that many jobs that used to be cubicle-bound can now be done in part or entirely from home. Heck, some people even run whole businesses off a single laptop. The problem that arises, though, is that this comes in a time when we’re downsizing out homes. That means that now that there’s more of a need than ever for a home office, there’s less space to dedicate to one. The good news is, there are a few ways to integrate a desk into a living room without making your R&R space feel like a cubicle.

Fold-Out Desks Hide In Plain Sight

If you want a home office that disappears seamlessly into your living room, you can't beat a fold-out desk (by Lita Dirks & Co)
If you want a home office that disappears seamlessly into your living room, you can’t beat a fold-out desk (by Lita Dirks & Co)

I think my favorite way to subtly integrate a home office workspace into your living room is with multi-purpose furniture; specifically, a fold-out desk. Like futons or Murphy beds, fold-out desks tuck away seamlessly when they aren’t in use, and are designed to blend in with your living room. Many can even be used as accent tables or bookshelves without getting in the way of their secondary function as desks. When you need it, you simply pull the desk out and set it up at a 90 degree angle to the other half of the table or shelf, effectively creating yourself a corner office that disappears entirely when you’re done using it. The only drawback to folding desks is that you can’t really leave papers or electronics on the surface when you show them away. You’ll also need to find somewhere to stash your desk chair when it’s not in use (unless you spend little enough time at the desk to be able to sit on an ottoman instead).

Put Your Home Office Out Of Your Living Room’s Line Of Sight

Sometimes the best answers are the simplest: to hide your home office, put your sofa set and your desk back to back to keep both out of sight and out of mind of the other (Photo by KuDa Photography)
Sometimes the best answers are the simplest: to hide your home office, put your sofa set and your desk back to back to keep both out of sight and out of mind of the other (Photo by KuDa Photography)

If you don’t opt for some kind of hideaway desk, you’re more-or-less stuck with the problem of finding a place to put a more-or-less full-sized desk in a living room that’s already full of furniture. What the best option will be for you depends on two main factors: how much space you have to spare, and how much you need to minimize distractions while you work. Without a dedicated home office, interruptions are almost inevitable – especially if your setup is in a well-trafficked space like the living room. But simply setting up your desk so that it’s oriented away from the rest of your living room (and especially your television!) can help minimize outside input. Setting the desk up behind your sofa but facing a wall is a perfect way not only to “hide” the desk without blocking walkways, but also to help give yourself a little privacy and focus.

Use Your Desk As A Sofa Table To Watch TV While You Work

If you like to engage with different forms of media while you work, using your desk as a TV-facing sofa-table might be the perfect setup (by Abitare Design Studio, LLC)
If you like to engage with different forms of media while you work, using your desk as a TV-facing sofa-table might be the perfect setup (by Abitare Design Studio, LLC)

On the other hand, if you’re the type that thrives on a little distraction while you work, you might want to use your desk as a sofa table instead. That is, rather than putting your desk in the space behind your sofa, put it right up against the back of it. This is a doubly good option for an open greatroom, where you’d like to hide the back of your sofa. The double-layered seating means you won’t be disrupting people in the living room if you don’t want to be, but you can also be a part of movie-night or TV-time when the family is there (or enjoy your favorite music or podcast in surround sound when you’re home alone!) while still being able to get a little uninterrupted work done, and without anyone peeking at your screen.

Upgrade An End Table To A Desk (For A Teeny Tiny Home Office)

Don't think you have room for a desk in your living room? Think again - almost any sapce can stand to swap an end table for a small desk and chair (by Simply Home Decorating)
Don’t think you have room for a desk in your living room? Think again – almost any sapce can stand to swap an end table for a small desk and chair (by Simply Home Decorating)

That said, if your living room is already feeling a little snug without an extra piece of furniture in it, finding a spot to put even a small desk can be a major headache. Here’s the good news: if you have room for an end table next to your sofa, you probably have enough room for a small laptop desk. While the two aren’t 100% interchangeable, squeezing in a few extra inches for a narrow desk where you’d normally put a small, square accent table is a sacrifice most living rooms can afford to make. And while a little bit of your desk space will presumably be taken up by a traditional table lamp, the bonus there is that you’re basically guaranteed an adequate hookup for your electronics. Besides, a really nice desk lamp never hurt anyone, and unlike some of the other setups on this list, a small end-table desk will give you ample space to store a desk chair when you aren’t using the desk.

Choose Furniture That Feels Like Home, Not Like The Office

First and foremost, any office furniture you put in your living space should feel like living room furniture - whether that means matching your prevailing style or going for something a little less buttoned-down (by Maisons du Monde UK)
First and foremost, any office furniture you put in your living space should feel like living room furniture – whether that means matching your prevailing style or going for something a little less buttoned-down (by Maisons du Monde UK)

Wherever you decide to put your desk, maybe the most important thing you can do to keep yourself from carrying your work into your off hours is to avoid any kind of furniture that looks like it belongs in a cubicle. While you certainly don’t want to spend long hours sitting in a chair that isn’t made for that, even if you do opt for a traditional office chair, you should do your best to match your desk to your living room decor. Other than being a comfortable sitting-height with adequate workspace, a “desk” can be just about anything, from a stylish antique midcentury desk that matches the rest of your furniture to a sleek modern console that adds a touch of style to your living space. The more desk-like your desk looks, the more it will stand out in your space, and remind you of work to be done when you should be relaxing!

Build Your Office From The Floor Up (Or The Wall Out)

A good built-in office setup should add to - rather than distract from - the style and comfort of your living space (by Brickmoon Design)
A good built-in office setup should add to – rather than distract from – the style and comfort of your living space (by Brickmoon Design)

If you do all or most of your work from home, though, it might be worth investing in something a little more permanent, like an office suite in the style of built-in bookshelves. Even if you don’t have the space to dedicate a full room for use as a home office, giving yourself a nice-looking, comfortable setup with plenty of surface space and storage can really make a difference both in your productivity and in your ability to turn your work off when the day is done. One of the biggest problems with having your work in your living area is that you either have to leave your work clutter out in your off hours or tear down and set up your whole workstation every time you need to boot up your laptop. A built-in desk and cabinetry can help immensely with this, giving you a place to store important paperwork, keep your cords hidden and your electronics set up and accessible, and even a way to hide your work-in-progress like roll-top desks of yesteryear. While this is certainly a pricier option (and admittedly one that won’t work for renters), it’s a great way to make your office feel like an organic part of your living space, and really put the home in your home office.

There are tons of ways to sneak a little surface space into your living room, whether you need a space to occasionally check your email or keep your small business running from home. But the most important thing to remember is that if you don’t want to spend your life in a cubicle, don’t build a second one at home!