5 small office layout ideas you've never thought about before

Get creative with these new small office layout ideas and mix things up

An example of one of many small office layout ideas: Small office with wood desk and white chair
(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

We recently updated this article in January 2024. In this update, we added a trio of product blocks to each section, to provide you with suggestions to shop. Admittedly, we haven't bought or tested any of the items we've selected, so we have relied on picks with highly rated reviews from brands we love.

Finding new small office layout ideas isn't easy when you feel like you've tried just about everything. Shimmying and shuffling furniture, stretching cords to be as close to power outlets as possible, all while trying to position yourself under ample lighting to avoid eye strain. It's a tough ask, right?

One of the biggest challenges can be creating a small office in another room such as a living room, bedroom, or even kitchen. Then you need to find a way to make it feel separate. Fortunately — this is doable. 

We spoke with two interior designers to discover their best small office ideas. Whether it is micro-sized, in the corner of another room, or even shared with another person — these layout ideas will change the way you live and work. Finding new small office layout ideas isn't easy when you feel like you've tried just about everything.

Small office layout ideas

Having a small office can feel frustrating because working in a cramped space is never comfortable. After all, you need at least enough room to fit a desk into your small office. However, sometimes it isn’t necessarily about how much (or how little) space you have, as it is how you use it.

1. Use curtains to divide a space

Office with two desks divided by a curtain

(Image credit: Decor Whore)

Working from home often means creating a workspace in another area such as a small living room office. Curtains, like our favorite Urban Outfitters curtains, are a really easy way to solve this problem. 

“Curtains are a fantastic way to divide a space that has more than one purpose, especially since so many of us are working from home these days,” explains interior designer, Kate Dawson.

Curtains, like these blackout curtains from Amazon, can also be used to separate workspaces if two people need to be in the same room at the same time. And, having a separate, personalized 'cubicle' of your own may be the one thing that might help you to feel motivated in a small office space.

“These can create a visual division for multiple workstations, and then in an instant just pull it over to the side to make it all one open space again.” 

Kate Dawson headshot
Kate Dawson

Kate Dawson is an interior designer based in New Jersey who also works virtually, making her well-versed in creating home offices with style.

2. Paint a wall

Home office with dark red walls

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Paint not only looks nice, but it also helps your brain know you are in a space where you work. One way to do this, according to Kate, is by painting an accent or feature wall

“I also recommend painting the area... even if it's a wall that is long and the area doesn't really have its own walls,” she says. 

Kate is also a proponent of the color-blocking method. “Pick one color and paint a segment of the walls, and I'd include the ceiling too, but just for your workspace. You can keep the space open, but it's also very clear how the different areas function.”

Not sure what hue to go for? Here are the best colors to paint a small office, plus the worst colors to paint a small office. Alternatively, if you're looking for apartment decorating ideas that are a little more renter-friendly option to emulsion, consider the best peel-and-stick wallpapers, which can be easily removed instead.

3. Put down a rug

Small office with rug and floral wallpaper on dark blue

(Image credit: Decor Whore)

Even a simple rug, like our favorite Target rugs, can make a major design impact. “Rugs can also be a great way to differentiate one area from another. Mostly you just need to have clear lines around the ‘area’ you're using for the office,” says Kate.  

Go with a plush rug, if you like to work barefoot. On the other hand, if you have pets at home, a washable rug with a busy pattern (hint, hint: Ruggable) may be a smarter choice. There are so many different options out there (even the best Amazon rugs do well in small spaces). The possibilities are seemingly endless but do peruse our best rug guide, which includes four things to consider when buying floor covering. For example, a pack of these Home Techpro Rug Pad Grippers from Amazon is a must if you're buying an area mat.

4. Save space with a floating desk and chair on wheels

Built-in desk in dark gray office

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the biggest challenges with a small office is trying to find a way to fit your desk chair into a small space. Solve this issue by using a floating desk. This type of desk is affixed to the wall and doesn't have legs to take up valuable space. Just be sure it is properly mounted because you don’t want the desk to fall off the wall. 

Then add a wheeled desk chair, like this faux-leather desk chair from Amazon, so you can move around without feeling cramped. If you are working from your living room, you can also use it to seat guests when you have people over.

Don't like the chair option we've highlighted? Taste is so subjective, so why not have a look at these Amazon office chairs instead? There is a section dedicated to small spaces.

5. Keep everything within reach

Small office with black chair and gray desk

(Image credit: Caitlin Scanlon)

One of the biggest small office layout challenges is when you convert a small space into a home office. Interior designer Caitlin Scanlon recommends creating a space where everything is within reach and decluttering your small space.

“The trick is to make sure you have space within reach for the items you use daily and storage that can be further away for the things you use on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis,” she explains.

Then Caitlun says to add a small table lamp, like our favorite Target lamps, with a shade to warm things up, along with a compact office chair. 

When it comes to chairs, she suggests forgoing aesthetics for the sake of comfort. “The quality ones are pretty unattractive but necessary — your back, neck, and hips will thank you when you are over 40! I throw a small lambskin hide [like this one from Etsy] over the back to camouflage.”

Caitlin Scanlon
Caitlin Scanlon

Caitlin Scanlon is an interior designer living in Los Angeles. 

Small office layout buys

While you can make over an office on a small budget, there are a few buys that may help improve the layout of your room.

Prices were correct at the time of publishing.


Is the best way to decorate a small office to create a new layout?

There are so many ways to decorate a small office. You can paint the walls, use wallpaper, and put rugs down on the floor. Don't forget a lamp and desk accessories. 

What can I do if I can't fit my furniture into a small office?

Thankfully, hope is not lost — there are many ways to arrange a small office. Try drawing all the furniture to scale and arranging them on paper first to see the best layout.

Now that you've set your office, it's crucial to keep it decluttered. Follow these simple tips for what to do when you feel overwhelmed by small office clutter. Go around the room and toss out anything you don't need or anything that doesn't work. Then ask yourself if there's anything you haven't used in over six months like old papers, dried-out pens, or old equipment. In the wise words of Marie Kondo, pick up an item, and ask yourself: “Does this spark joy?” If not — in the trash, it goes!

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!