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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 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, though, is that this comes in a time when we’re downsizing our homes. 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? 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. You can even dual-purpose many of them as accent tables or bookshelves without getting in the way of their secondary function as desks. Simply pull the desk out and set it up at a 90 degree angle when you need it. Et voila: a corner office that disappears entirely when you’re done using it. The only drawback to folding desks is that you can’t leave out papers or electronics when you show them away. You’ll also need to find somewhere to stash your chair when it’s not in use.

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 stuck with the problem of finding space for a full-sized desk in a 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 in a well-trafficked space like the living room. But simply setting up your desk so that it’s oriented away from your living room (and television!) can help. 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 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!).

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 space 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 snug, 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 room for a small laptop desk. While the two aren’t 100% interchangeable, squeezing in a narrow desk where you’d normally put an accent table is a swap most living rooms can make. And while you might end up sacrificing a little bit of your desk space to a table lamp, you certainly won’t have trouble finding ways to hook up your electronics. Besides, a nice desk lamp never hurt anyone. Bonus: a small end-table desk will give you space to store a desk chair.

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 furniture that looks like it belongs in a cubicle. Of course, you certainly don’t want to spend long hours sitting in chair that’s stylish but uncomfortable. But even if you opt for a traditional office chair, do your best to coordinate with 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 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, it might be worth investing in something more permanent, like an office suite in the style of built-in bookshelves. Having a comfortable setup with plenty of surface space and storage can improve both your productivity and your ability to “clock out” 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 your whole workstation every day. A built-in desk and cabinetry can give you a place to store important paperwork, keep your cords hidden and your electronics set up, and even hide your work-in-progress. This is certainly a pricier option, but can 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!