Whether you’re still working from home due to the pandemic or you’ve decided to make the switch to full-time remote work, you need a proper home office. The problem is you don’t have an office or room you can convert into a home office, and the dining room table isn’t cutting it anymore.
Why not consider converting a closet into an office? Yes, you’ll have to find someplace else to store your stuff, but stashing your winter coats under a bed or in the basement to free up the closet may be the best trade-off you can make.
Measure Twice Cut Once
As you’re surveying your available closet space, make sure you measure the height, width, and depth of your potential closet office. Depending on the closet, it may be no deeper than the width of a hanger, which is about 17 to 18 inches wide. The average desk, though, is anywhere from 20 to 30 inches deep.
With a critical eye, figure out the approximate size of the supplies you absolutely have to have in your new office. For example, if you use a lot of binders or legal-size paper, make sure the closet you’re considering can fit the width and depth of those supplies. If you need to maintain a secure filing system, you’ll need a closet that can handle the width and depth of a file cabinet when it’s closed and when the drawers are fully open.
Get the approximate measurements of your must-have tools and supplies and double check to make sure they’ll fit in the space. Cut out paper templates or mark their outer edges in pencil so you have a solid idea of how everything will and won’t fit.
As you’re measuring and calculating, though, don’t forget to include yourself! It’s easy to say that X, Y, and Z will all fit when it’s not in use. A chair may fit nicely under a desk, but what happens when you’re sitting in that chair? Can you still open drawers without banging your legs? If you push back from the desk to stand up, will you hit the wall?
Pull a chair into your new office and pretend to work for a bit before you start your closet to office conversion. You may find that what looks perfect in theory doesn’t work at all in practice.
Location, Location, Location
Another important consideration in a closet home office is its location. While your best closet choice in terms of size and space might be the one by the front door, all the traffic in and out of your house might be too distracting.
Choose a spot that works with your work style and helps you be productive and effective. That might be a nook under the stairs or a bedroom closet.
Door or No Door
Unless you really need it for privacy, consider removing the closet door completely. Most tiny rooms with a door will still feel like a closet, but a little nook without a door could easily pass as a cute home office that you’ve built into your space. If you really need the separation, add curtains or a sliding barn door to separate and define your office space.
Less Is Probably More
Sure, it would be great to have anything and everything you want in your home office. After all, there’s nothing wrong with having a beautifully furnished office. There may be times, though, when you have to compromise. In a home office closet, functionality often trumps style.
For example, you may want the large executive desk with five drawers and a hutch. However, in a closet office, that probably won’t work. If nothing else, you probably can’t fit a standard desk in the closet office. You may need to choose a simple desk (think: more table than desk) or even a fold down from the wall style desk.
That said, with cloud-based everything, it may be possible for you to fit in more than you thought possible, even if it isn’t physically in your closet office.
For example, most printers are multi-purpose: scanner, printer, copier, and fax machine (if you need it). While you could have an all-in-one machine that’s strictly for your office, consider a wireless model that lets you place the printer outside your office, saving you space. Yes, you’ll have to walk to wherever it is to use it, but it may be worth it if it lets you get back some precious desk or storage space.
Give Everything a Home
In a standard home office (or even an in-office cubicle), there’s plenty of space for your stuff. There’s usually a large desk area that has room for your monitor (or monitors), your computer, pencil holders, phone, pictures, and coffee cup.
Many traditional set-ups also have drawers for files or other stuff, bookcases for books and memorabilia, shelves for more items, and perhaps a locking file cabinet for sensitive materials.
In a closet office, well, there’s not a plethora of space even for your must-have items. You’ll have to be creative about storage.
Running shelves up the back of the closet is an easy and obvious solution. While you’re at it, though, consider adding a rail for hooks so you can hang pencil holders, pictures, or other items up and off your desk.
Pegboards are another fun and creative way to create more space. You can add these boards on walls and doors to create flexible storage space for whatever you need.
Light and Bright
With any luck, you have an outlet in the closet. If there’s not, then hopefully there’s an outlet nearby you can plug your equipment into.
However, in most cases, you’ll need to add an outlet or two into your closet office. This is likely not a DIY project, though. You’re better off hiring an electrician. The National Electric Code requires closet outlets to have arc fault circuit interrupters to help prevent fires.
Closets aren’t known for being bright, naturally lit, or sun-drenched. With the power outlets in place, you’ll need to go about lighting it.
While some closets may have an overhead light, it’s probably not enough light for working all day. Add lamps and task lights to help brighten things up. Or, consider under-cabinet or shelf lights to help brighten up your desk.
Make It Pretty
Just because you’re working out of a closet doesn’t mean that your new office space has to look like, well, a utility closet. So spruce up your space with pretty, sentimental items that are meaningful to you, such as framed photos or a nice vase with fresh Gerbera daisies.
Adding an accent to the back wall of a closet creates an interesting focal point that can help it not look like a closet. You could use vinyl wallpaper, an accent wall paint with painted stencil, wood shiplap, or even a thin peel-and-stick wood veneer. You could also try painting the back wall with chalkboard paint. Draw out a calendar or a to-do list, or just let your imagination wander.
Office Sweet Office
Sometimes finding the right home office requires a little bit of flexibility and creativity. But, as you can see, with some imagination and ingenuity, turning a closet to a home office can allow you to be productive and efficient, whether you work from home temporarily or permanently.
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Originally published August 28, 2013. Updated February 6, 2018.
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