Need to work at home, but don’t have a spare room to convert into a home office? Then you’ll have to carve out a workspace in a room that’s also used for other purposes. How to do it right…

Create visual distinctions between work and living space. Position a bookshelf or folding screen/room divider to function as a partition. Add an area rug to further emphasize that it’s a separate area. The visual distinction will help your mind focus on work matters in the workspace…and leave work matters behind when you’re in another part of the room, whether the room is a living room or a bedroom.

Choose a desk that shuts. A roll-top desk or secretary desk can be closed when not in use, creating the reminder, I’m not working right now. Closing the desk also hides clutter. 

Choose office storage that looks like residential furniture. Metal filing cabinets and/or open shelving full of notebooks and folders look jarring and out of place in your living area. Instead, choose shelving that fits the room’s ­décor and encloses messy files and other workplace clutter in attractive enclosed ­boxes or bins that slide easily onto these shelves. Search “storage bin” or “storage box” on or to find options. 

Storage units that serve double duty as seating or footrests can be a practical solution— has a wide selection. Example: Monadnock Storage Ottomans, from $76.99 for a set of two. 

Orient your workspace so you can see the room. When home offices are crammed into small spaces, desks are often pushed against walls—sometimes they’re even constructed inside alcoves or closets. Doing this forces people to face walls, which can undercut productivity. People become subconsciously unsettled, and stress levels increase when they cannot see the open space around them for extended stretches—the primitive part of the brain becomes concerned that a predator might sneak up even though rationally we know that isn’t likely. If a desk or work table must be pushed against a wall because that’s how it best fits the available space, choose one that has casters (or put ­furniture sliders or felt under the legs of a desk/table) so you can pull it out from the wall and face the room when you work…or orient it perpendicular to the wall or at an angle where you can at least see the room out of the corner of your eye.

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