Small living room office ideas to transform your WFH situation

Stuck working in a small living room office? Our experts are here to help

Wooden desk with white chair in living room
(Image credit: Article)

You may be in desperate need of some small living room office ideas if you're feeling a little cramped trying to WFH in an apartment or shared space. If you don't have a designated office room, you can totally transform your living area into the dream workspace.

Whether you work from home regularly or are looking to set up a designated office area for your side hustle, transforming your living area into a hybrid setting can not only make room for improved productivity at home but also ensure you keep within the realm of work-life balance. 

From clever shelving to faux built-ins, there are so many small office ideas to create a functional workspace within your living room. We share small living room office ideas, plus tips and tricks for making your space more productive, stylish, and organized. 

Small living room office ideas

Blending your living space with your workspace can get a little tricky, especially when working in a small room. We asked design experts for their best small living room ideas that can be used to help set up a desk, find more storage, and blend your small space furniture with your office essentials.

1. Utilize a compact writing desk

Stone & Beam Modern Home Office Writing Desk

(Image credit: Stone & Beam)

When trying to create a small living room office, you first want to consider your desk. Writing desks, like this Threshold desk from Target, are one of the best options for small areas because they don’t have a bulky design — which alone can make your space feel too crowded — and are more compact in size while remaining functional and chic. 

In some cases, you can even find options with built-in storage either through drawers, cubbies, or both, like this mini desk from West Elm. We found plenty of options with storage in our best Urban Outfitters desks round-up.

To keep with a cohesive look, go for a writing desk that matches your living room decor and feels like an extension of the space rather than an obvious addition. Going for a more seamless look will help everything seem more intentional, too.  

2. Incorporate shelving

Home office with wooden bookshelves and white desk chair

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

If you don’t have a lot of storage space in your living room and need a way to house books, documents, and more, consider adding long shelves or installing floating shelves, like these acrylic ones available on Amazon above your desk to keep all of your office necessities organized together. 

An oversized shelf is also an opportunity to create more design moments, as you can couple together stacks of books with chic woven storage baskets, degrees, certifications, and more in a more vignette-like way that feels decorative yet functional. 

"Floating shelves above a desk in a living room is a great solution because you can store all your office essentials while still creating a place for displaying decor items you may already have in your living room," says Lucy Searle, Content Director, Real Homes.

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property, and gardens for over 30 years, starting within the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-1990s. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she also took on the editorship of the magazine. Lucy is now Content Director across Homes & Gardens, Woman & Home, Real Homes, and Ideal Home. Lucy is a serial renovator and also owns rental properties in the UK and Europe, so brings first-hand knowledge to the subjects she oversees.

3. Divide up your space

Small living room with divider

(Image credit: West Elm)

For an at-home workspace that feels a little more separate from your lounge area, consider dividing up the space with either a stylish room divider or a curtain rod, like this thrifty tension rod from Amazon with over 24k reviews. 

Since the living room is a shared space, Kirk recommends creating a cohesive look but not blending the work and relaxation zones. “Room dividers have made a design comeback and they offer an opportunity to further enhance the separation of your designated work area.” 

Doing so can not only create individual spaces but can also help everything feel more intentional, too. If your room is too small to split entirely into two parts, you can opt for a half curtain rod, like these matte black ones from Amazon, to give you partial privacy from the living room and create a more nook-like feel. 

Room dividers are an especially helpful item for living with roommates as they can help create some privacy and give everyone their own designated space.

Hannah Kirk sitting on white chair
Hannah Kirk

Hannah Kirk is an interior designer and owner of Kirk's. She offers interior design services including home renovations, niche styling and retail store design.

4. Find a corner

Corner Desk

(Image credit: Wayfair)

When you don’t have a ton of room to work with, a corner can come in handy. Plus, it's a great way to fill up an awkward space in a small room. Create your own corner office space — literally — by adding a built-in corner desk with shelving for extra storage and a stylish office chair. 

This corner desk available on Amazon even comes with hidden storage underneath. We also found some of the best corner desks to fit just about any space in a small living room.

You can even go a step further by anchoring your corner desk by painting a colorful DIY accent wall to separate it from your living room without creating a physical separation. 

5. Take advantage of vertical space


(Image credit: The Container Store)

Creating a small living room office means you take all of the space you can get. If you have a large book collection that you want to display as part of your office, consider adding shelving, like this simple bookshelf from Amazon with over 39k reviews, to an accent wall to make room for all of your titles. 

This not only serves a functional purpose, but it also adds a nice touch of color with all of your books showing off. Not sure where to start? We found plenty of living room bookshelf ideas for all the inspiration you'll need

"Additional vertical shelving is essential in any living room office to help divide the room and make use of space that would otherwise be going to waste," says Searle. 

6. Create functional yet visually pleasing displays

Gem stone bookends holding books

(Image credit: West Elm)

In a small living room office, the way you organize your desk and display items matters, not just from a functional perspective but from an aesthetic perspective, too. Since you spend a lot of time in this space, your office equipment should complement your luxe living room decor.

Consider using chic bookends as a way to keep your folders, notebooks, and books together, like these agate stone bookends from West Elm. You can also utilize baskets, some of our favorite desk organizers, and other chic items that double as storage to keep items accessible yet out of view. 

7. Create a built-in look

Office Nook

(Image credit: Wayfair)

Another way to create a living room home office is to create a faux built-in situation alongside a wall. Get a small table or writing desk, like this compact Room Essentials desk from Target, and shelving and cabinets, like this Boaxel shelving unit from IKEA to create a built-in look. Use the space directly above your desk to install the shelves with brackets in a small alcove or nook. 

Doing so can ensure you make the most of your vertical space while also creating storage and a way to store all of your office needs out of sight for a clean and minimalist feel. 

If you're stuck in an apartment and want to pull off this built-in look, don't worry. Making rental renovations to your apartment can still be possible if you plan ahead and get approval from your landlord.

"I made a few improvements to my one-bedroom rented apartment," says Emily Lambe, Deputy Editor, Real Homes. "I just wrote down exactly what I wanted to change and sent it to my landlord in an email. She gave full approval and I was able to install some extra shelves."

Emily Lambe
Emily Lambe

Emily Lambe is the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Rochester Institute of Technology and has been writing ever since. Emily writes about all things decor, fragrance, organization, and other home essentials. 

8. Go portable

Desk on wheels in front of sofa

(Image credit: Amazon)

If you don’t really have the space for a living room office but want to elevate your work-from-couch situation(hello best lap desks!) a rolling desk may be for you. A portable desk designed to provide a desktop with plenty of space for your laptop and notebooks, plus built-in shelving is a great option. 

This clever L-shaped rolling desk available on Amazon is a total game-changer. It's easy to move since it's on wheels so you can move it out of the way when you're hot using it or when hosting guests in a small space. It can easily double up as a dining table in the evening, plus there's storage underneath for all your odds and ends laying around.

Best small living room office buys


How do I set up an office in a small living room?

“If you are creating an office set up in a small living room, it’s important to feel like you have a designated working area,” says Kirk.

“I recommend working near a window or primary natural light source as this allows you both a connection with the outside world during the work day and a visual focus away from your living space,” she adds. 

How do I maximize space in my small home office?

When you are limited with space, Kirk says never underestimate the power of verticality. “By utilizing the space upwards — installing a low profile shelving unit or floating shelves — you are creating a functional storage system upward while freeing up limited floor space,” she explains. 

In addition to shelving, finding the best wall color for a living room can play an integral role in maximizing space in a small office. “By painting the walls a lighter color, it softens the emphasis of the room’s perimeter and creates an illusion of a larger space.” 

How do I combine my living room and office?

To combine your living room and office, Kirk recommends focusing on finding pieces that can serve multiple functions. “Find a console table that can serve as your desk during the work day and then as a decorative surface when you’re off [and] a desk chair that can be used as additional seating when you have company over,” she notes. 

Versatility is the key to creating an office and living space from a single room, so considering all the ways you can shift things around to accommodate both settings will provide peace of home. 

Combining your small living room and office is entirely possible, so long as you keep function and versatility top of mind. Making your small living room cozy while still practical as a workplace can be a delicate balance.

It helps to build your office from stylish pieces that feel like an extension of your decor aesthetic and can serve as additional seating and storage while still keeping things separate in terms of placement. 

And, if you don’t have a lot of horizontal space to work with, take advantage of vertical space through shelving. 

Jessie Quinn
Freelance Writer

Jessie Quinn is a lifestyle writer with words published in The Spruce, Byrdie, Well + Good, Shape, PEOPLE, and more. Jessie has a Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Journalism from Academy of Art University and leans on her background in fashion to inspire readers to hone their personal decor style as if it's their wardrobe. When she's not writing, Jessie can be found browsing the aisles of her local antique stores, creating DIY home decor projects, and taking care of her dozens of houseplants. Her eclectic decor style balances vintage, modern, and artisanal pieces that reflect her artsy style and love for handmade goods.