25 creative home offices

Get ideas for an office or studio in your trailer, garage, attic, kitchen, corner, or closet

Closet becomes office

Thomas J. Story

Office in a closet

Her small San Francisco home didn't have space for a home office, so Sara Menuck converted her living room closet into a chic, streamlined work-station.

For $1,000, including materials and labor, her designer removed the closet pole and added an upper covered storage area, a floating middle shelf, and a work surface with an almost-hidden drawer. Says Menuck, "I hardly ever close the doors."

Design  Paris Renfroe Design (651/233-0063).

More  20 fun DIY projects


mobile office desk

Photo by Mark Compton

Mobile office

When landscape architect Andreas Stavropoulos heads to a job, he tows this 2003 cherry-red trailer behind his Honda CR-V. Everything he needs is inside: workspace, reference books, and desktop computer.

Perforated steel siding from a metal-supply shop lines the wall behind the desk; Stavropoulos clips his plans to it when he’s working. Sold by the sheet, it can be cut to any size.

A “shadowless” translucent skylight illuminates the work area, so supplemental daytime lighting isn’t necessary.

Full story

San Francisco Idea House

Thomas J. Story

Murphy bed office

To quickly transform the office into guest quarters the "flip" side of this desk and shelving unit houses a Murphy bed. A rolling filing cabinet lets you keep work essentials close by or tuck them away at a moment's notice.

More:  Eco design goes glam in San Francisco

Homework centers

James Carrier

Kid-friendly homework center

Adjustable Plexiglas shelves keep everything in this workspace handy but out of the way.

More:  22 ideas for shelves

Small office in the Modern Cottage.

Thomas J. Story

Suspend a desk

The office space in Sunset's Modern Cottage prefab show home featured a desk made from old door topped with frosted glass.

It's suspended from the ceiling on 3/16-inch cable wire.

Paradise found

Thomas J. Story

Borrowed space

This office is part of an amazing DIY makeover of a condemned beach shack in Venice, Calif. A short wall was added between the old den and living room to form the space. Color, multiple storage spots, and recycled materials give it warmth and character.

More: Get the full story of this jaw-dropping makeover

Garden cottage

Christina Schmidhoffer

Office in a water tower

This 1920 backyard water tower was built when this property used to be a ranch. Now a residence, the owners needed a home office.

“The first time I saw it, it was very close to falling down, but I thought it was fantastic,” says architect Geoffrey Holton. “It was like a little piece of history on a typical suburban lot.”

Builders stabilized the tower and added flashing to make it waterproof. They restored the windows and added a ring of transomlike windows at the base of the tower. After finishing the interior, the old ranch water tower is now a cozy home office.

More about this project


Art Gray

Home office retreat

Home life and work life had become far too intermixed for architect Linda Brettler. "I had an office room upstairs in our house," she says. "But once the kids started multiplying, it became impossible to work there."

The solution? Working on a budget of $25,000, Brettler transformed the family's two-car garage/poolhouse into her workspace.

Design Linda Brettler Architects, Los Angeles (323/935-3999)

Easy craft table

Thomas J. Story

DIY workspace

To create your own instant workspace anywhere, put a flat birch hollow-core door atop two adjustable sawhorses.

Cover the door with self-healing vinyl board cover (available from art and drafting supply stores). The closer you can get the board cover to the exact size of your door, the better.

Stencil a basic measuring system onto the board cover, and you'll never need to hunt down a measuring stick.

Time: Four hours plus drying time

Cost: About $175 

A slant of light

John Granen  

Into the attic

The intersection between the sharply pitched ceiling and the low wall provides a perfect spot for a long built-in desk that functions as a craft center.

Large openable skylights that double as windows fill the area with natural light making it perfect for detail work. Sconces just above the work surface add even more illumination.

More:  Creative attic ideas 

Lotta Jansdotter Office

Thomas J. Story

Multi-functional table

By day, this is a his-and-hers work space. After 5, tuck the laptops away, put the lamp on the floor, and the office becomes a dining space for casual entertaining.

More:  Creative living in 725 square feet

Garage makeover: loft in the new guest room

Thomas J. Story 

Rethink the garage

Reed Maltzman and Jennifer Gosselin had a two-car garage off of their house in San Francisco, but they needed space for people, not cars. So the couple transformed half of the detached structure into this 400-square-foot guest room and office.

"It's small, but we’ve all found a different use for it when guests aren’t visiting," says Maltzman, a fifth-grade teacher. He uses it as a quiet getaway where he can grade papers.

More:  Garage makeover creates new living spaces


2008 Menlo Park Idea House

E. Spencer Toy

Family workspace

Wall-to-wall modular desks from Ikea make best use of space in a narrow loft. The playful family spot is accented with colorful throw pillows from Reclaim and bench seat fabric from Sunbrella.

Steal this idea: Create a family message center using a montage of cork tiles and magnetic white boards

More:  A distinct interior in Menlo Park, Calif.

Card art

Thomas J. Story

Inspired desk

Like a clothesline of ideas three 18-foot cables on the wall of this studio hold bits of inspiration to spur the creative process.

More:  How to decorate with whimsical groupings and colorful collections

Backyard home office in a shed

Backyard home office

Martha Mendoza’s days are filled with deadlines, after-school commitments, and other pressures. Yet the celebrated journalist, teacher, wife, and mother―who won a Pulitzer Prize at age 33 for an investigative series on the Korean War―leads a surprisingly balanced life.

Her secret? This tiny home office, housed in a converted potting shed in her Santa Cruz, California, backyard. Here she can steal away from her domestic responsibilities to write, study, and pursue breaking news stories for the Associated Press. "Being detached from the house is key."

Read more about this backyard office 

San Francisco Idea House

Thomas J. Story

Sweet and streamlined

Instead of a pink canopy bed this girl's room features sleek modern elements that can easily transition to teenage tastes. The desk is perfect for crafts and homework.

More:  Eco design goes glam in San Francisco


One smart house

Thomas J. Story

Sleek home office

A desk on casters keeps the room flexible.

Takeaway idea: Love technology? Embrace the look with stainless furnishings and glass-fronted cabinets.

More:  Take a photo tour of our House of Innovation


Rob Harrison

Reclaimed workspace

The long workbench and shelving in this garage are made from sections of a yellow pine bowling-alley lane. Behind the table is a floor cabinet used for storing tools; the drawers came from a school science-display cabinet. The wall-mounted glass-front cabinet for hobby supplies is a vintage kitchen cupboard. 

More:  Eco-savvy garage

The wraparound counter

Jay Graham

Wraparound workspace

The wraparound counter of a corner work center combines good design and wheelchair clearance.

More:  Four more rooms in this house

Family workspace

Thomas J. Story

Wide open workspace

When this kitchen was remodeled to accommodate a family of five, one of the major priorities was to incorporate a homework center with room enough for three computers. The parents wanted to interact with their teenagers when they were on their computers.

More:  In plain sight

Desk area

John Granen

Shed turned office

Recycled wood makes this new "family shed," used for desk work and summer dining, look old.

Design Carleen Cafferty, NWSID, Interior Design, Seattle (206/768-2565); Karla Arnold, Through the Garden Gate, Seattle (206/972-8166) 

San Francisco Idea House

Thomas J. Story

Creative craft room

A Mondrian-like geometric arrangement of colors forms the face of a storage unit in the craft room. Mounted with compression poles open and closed shelving holds large items like a sewing machine and computer as well as smaller craft supplies. Shelving from ISS Designs.

More:  Eco design goes glam in San Francisco

Computer desk

John Granen

Kitchen office

With a window seat stretching along one side, and a built-in computer desk edging another, this pop-out kitchen addition becomes a light-filled retreat.

Design  Rik Adams, Mohler Architects, Seattle (206/709-3070)

Study/office alcove

John Granen

Study/office alcove

This study/office space fits into an alcove beside a pivoting window and is separated from the kitchen by a single-step level change. "It is still in the middle of everything but is tucked off to one side," architect David Coleman explains.

It puts inevitable clutter out of sight.

Design  David Coleman Architecture, Seattle (206/443-5626) 

A lens in the landscape

Martin Tessler/Gamma Pro Imaging

New workspace for a new life

Ed and Lee Riddell sold their advertising and design company in order to simplify their lives and concentrate on photography and painting. The clean slate gave them a chance to rethink their living space.

"There isn't a distinction between life and work now," says Lee Riddell. She and her husband Ed work side by side in a studio lined with books. A long horizontal window in front of their desk frames a stunning swath of nature.

Design:  Will Bruder Architects, Ltd., Phoenix (602/324-6000) 

See more of the Riddell's new home

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