Working from home (WFH) is bigger than ever, and more people are making their living spaces double duty as workspaces or home libraries.
One idea that’s really taking off is the cloffice (closet + office = cloffice), a small space for an office created from a closet. For years, this concept has been around, particularly in big cities where space is at a premium. But the pandemic has convinced more people to create a small home office from storage space they aren’t using.
Many people hire a designer to create a space that reflects their personality. As many homeware companies sell affordable components, such as easy-to-install shelves, many people are also designing and installing their own offices. Another trending idea is to add bookshelves and a reading nook to that unused closet space.
No matter whether you are creating a small home office or a home library, here are our top design tips for creating a functional and imaginative space.
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Find the Ideal Space
An unused closet in a spare bedroom may be an ideal spot for a cloffice. This way, you have your own private workspace, away from your bedroom and living or dining area, so work and the rest of your life don’t overlap.
An unused pantry or closet off the entry or the main hallway will also work. Once you’ve set up your cloffice, you can go into it, close the door and keep your home life and work-life separate.
Let Out Your Inner Planner
Spend time planning out your cloffice. Make a list of your workspace requirements. What is your budget? How many things that you need, such as lights, a chair or a desk, do you already have? Can you adapt items you own? For example, do you have a kitchen trolley that you can use or can you repurpose bookshelves or cabinets from elsewhere in your living space?
If you currently have a home office and want to downsize, you may already have most things you need, or you may need a smaller desk or extra shelves.
Use a Closet Design Tool
Using an online graphics design tool will help you visualize your cloffice before you paint or start installing shelves. You can find a selection of free ones online. You can play around with color or how to install a desk or shelves until you find the right arrangement that suits you best.
You may have to cross out some ideas for storage or a comfortable rolling chair if you have limited space, so it’s better to find out in advance. This will help you stick to your budget as well, as you know exactly what you need to buy.
Shiplap is a popular decorating trend right now and can be used to make a small space seem larger. This method of installing boards of wood uses overlapping joints and a staggered array. You often see shiplap in houses or cottages near water or the ocean, as the design keeps wind and water from getting in.
While shiplap traditionally runs horizontally, it can give a small space more height if installed vertically. Putting shiplap on a ceiling helps draw attention upwards, which also makes a small space feel larger.
Add Some Green
Need some green in your cloffice? If you have room to install a spotlight for live plants, they bring a touch of nature to a small space. If there isn’t enough light for real plants, install some artificial ones.
A big trend on Pinterest right now is green vines climbing up walls and bookshelves, often combined with fairy lights and hanging wall racks. These can be natural or manmade. Living wall systems and small vertical gardens are also popular right now.
Trolleys, the rolling stations you might use in a kitchen or bathroom for extra storage, work especially well in a small workspace. Slide one or a few under your desk, or tuck one in a corner or under shelves. You can easily pull them out and store them away again.
Keep everything from files and stationery to pens and tacks that you want to be stored out of sight but need for work. Trolleys range in price and come in a variety of colors to match your decor.
Stock Up on Storage Baskets
Baskets are a great way to get both storages into your cloffice as well as colorful or natural texture. You can store smaller baskets on shelves or use large ones that tuck away under your desk so they’re out of sight.
Baskets will also bring a touch of elegance to your cloffice. You can find baskets in a wide range of materials, colors, shapes, sizes, and prices at most homeware or hardware stores.
Stay Clutter Free
Clutter makes a cloffice feel cramped and crowded. Use baskets or shelves under your workstation to store away items you work with, and keep your desktop clean and neat. If your space is very small, you can hang storage on the walls, using racks, shelves, or even wire screens with hooks to store items.
Keep the floor clear as well. If you opt for rolling carts, baskets, boxes, or other storage that goes on the floor or under your desk or shelves, make sure there’s room to slide it away so your space looks neat and ordered.
Invest in Soundproofing
Walls will reflect and amplify sound, especially in a small space. If you use a lot of videoconferencing or Zoom calls in your job, you may want to reduce any echoes or reverberating noises in your cloffice.
You can do this by mounting acoustic panels on the walls. You can use moving pads, rugs, or thick blankets to muffle sound as well. Foam rubber, thick polyester, or cork are also good material choices for soundproofing. Plus, mounted cork panels can double as boards to pin work materials or artwork.
Pick Up Some Wall-Mounted Racks or Cork Boards
If you have limited desk or drawer space in your cloffice, cork boards and wire hanging racks keep things you need close at hand, while using wall space for books or storage. Homeware or hardware stores stock a variety of easily mountable racks or boards as well as hooks and tacks.
Hang a few close to your desk and keep pens, pencils, brushes, staplers, and stationery items neatly stored. Corkboards are great for bills, letters, artwork, lists, and anything you need close but don’t want to clutter up your desk.
Using a mirror is a great way to open up a small space and make it feel larger. Mirrors give the illusion that a room is longer or deeper. Position a mirror on a back wall or angle one to give a corner more depth.
Mirrors can also reflect light to brighten a cloffice so that it requires less lighting. If you don’t have much wall space, consider putting a large mirror or mirrored panels on the inside of your cloffice door.
Paint With White or Light Colors
Dark colors make a space look smaller, while white and light colors will make it feel more open. Lighter colors reflect more light, while darker colors absorb it.
If you want your cloffice to feel less like Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs and more like a professional workspace, go for light-colored walls and ceiling. You don’t have to stick to white. There are plenty of pastel shades, such as a pale blue or light sage green, and numerous shades of grey.
Do Your Research on Lighting
Often, a closet may not have lights installed or may only have one. You may want to add more light to brighten your cloffice. If you have enough room on your desk, you could add a table lamp. However, if your work area is small, you might consider putting lamps on walls or shelves.
Do you want LED or fluorescent lights? LED lights work well if you need directional lighting, say a spotlight, and maybe better for a small space. LED bulbs use less wattage and last much longer. Fluorescent bulbs give much brighter light and cost less than LED lights. Fairy lights are also a decorative touch that adds a bit of fun as well as light.
Your seating needs will depend on the space you have available in your cloffice. If you are using a larger, or walk-in, closet, you’ll probably have enough room for a comfortable chair and a larger desk.
However, if your closet is small, or you’ve converted a nook, you may want to consider a stool or compact chair that you can tuck away neatly when you’re done. A folding chair is another solution for a really tight space.
We Can’t Emphasize the Importance of Storage and Shelves Enough
Storage is important in a cloffice, and open shelving is usually the easiest option. You can mount shelves above your workstation or use any available wall space to hang them. Homeware and hardware stores will have a range of shelving options, sizes, and costs, including ones with adjustable brackets or floating shelves with hidden mountings.
Depending on how much storage you need, you may want to use the entire floor-to-ceiling wall space or just a few shelves mounted above the desk.
Decide Between a Desk or Workstation
You can find a range of styles of desks or worktops to fit your needs. Homeware stores usually stock or can order desks in a variety of sizes and materials. You can also get one custom-made to fit the dimensions of your closet.
A desk can be as simple as a piece of plywood that rests on filing cabinets or bookshelves, which can give you extra storage space. If you are a renter, you may prefer a desk that disassembles easily for moving, and if you’re a homeowner, you may consider building a permanent workstation.
Use An Old Fireplace
Now let’s talk about your personal library space. A non-working fireplace is a great instant library spot, especially for children’s books or in a kids room or family room, as it’s easily reached by small arms.
Make sure the fireplace is completely closed and sealed so that dust, moisture, insects, or birds can’t get in. You can either stack books inside or install shelving. Creating a book nook this way is an easy and fast DIY project, or you can use a small bookcase that fits the space. Putting a comfortable chair or sofa nearby creates an instant reading area.
Use Rolling Carts
A library doesn’t have to be in one place all the time. You can use rolling carts to store books and move them around a room or even between rooms.
You might want to keep that stack of TBR (to be read) books on a cart in the living room or bedroom, while you keep the rest of your books stored away out of sight. This way, you can easily move the carts out of sight if you’re entertaining or having guests.
Use A Closet
A closet is a great space to build in a small home library. You can mount as few or as many shelves as you need on the walls and even add a bench and pillows to create a cozy reading nook.
Baskets can be stored under a bench for magazines or other reading materials. You may want to add some extra lighting inside to make the space brighter. You can also remove the closet door to make your library visible.
Or Use a Hallway or Entry
If you have a large enough hallway, you can turn it into a home library and install a comfortable chair or two to create a reading area. Put in floor-to-ceiling open shelving along the walls for books.
A front entry often has wall space that goes unused, and you can turn it into a small library and position a small table and chairs for sitting and reading. Using a hallway or entry for a library saves space in other rooms, especially if you live in a small home.
Repurpose That Hutch or China Cabinet
An old hutch or china cabinet makes a great bookcase. The shelves are fairly deep and wide, as they’re meant to hold a large amount of china or glassware. You can line the interior with wallpaper or paint it and fill it with books.
A vintage cabinet adds an elegant touch to a room. You can often find them at second-hand furniture stores or yard sales, and making one over is an easy DIY project.
Consider a Bookshelf Room Divider
A large bookcase makes a good room divider and can separate living, dining or sleeping areas, especially in a smaller apartment. A divider can also break up a larger room into smaller areas or let you create space for a home office without adding another room.
An open bookshelf allows for airflow and won’t block light, but it still provides a solid visual barrier. This is also a good option if you don’t have enough wall space to install shelving or you need extra book storage. You can place artwork or photos on shelves as well.
Install a Ladder
Ladders can be useful in home libraries. If you want to save space, consolidate your library on one wall or in one room and install shelves from floor to ceiling. You can keep artwork and photos on shelves as well.
A rolling ladder on rails allows you to reach high shelves and can easily be wheeled out of the way when not in use. A ladder also adds a touch of elegance to your library. (Think Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.”)
Putting in some standard kitchen cabinets can give you extra storage space at the bottom of bookcases. These can be handy to hide toys, files, papers, or magazines that you don’t want to put on shelves.
If you paint them to match the same color as the shelves or walls in your space, they will blend in. You can use cabinets for books as well if you want to close the doors and hide them away.
Don’t Forget the Stairs
Stairs are a great place to install bookshelves. Even odd-shaped or twisting staircases can serve as a home library. One trick is to slot in the room for books under individual steps. Some people like to stack books freestyle on each side of a step to create an ad hoc library or TBR piles.
If you have some extra room, say under a nearby window or between shelves, you can also build in a reading area or study nook.
Focus on Comfort
A home library ideally needs comfortable seating where you can curl up and read. If you have an entire room, you can put in chairs or even sofas. Adding side tables or a rack or trolley gives you more storage area and a place to stack your TBR pile.
However, if your library is in a small space, you’ll have to get creative. A few comfortable chairs or bean bags will fit in an entry or hallway. If you use a closet, you can install a bench and add a pad and pillows.
Combine a Home Office and Personal Library
Consider turning your unused space or room into a combination of a home office and personal library. A working area has the requirements of a library: good lighting, low noise, and low activity, so the two concepts work well together.
Your budget is also helped if one area does two duties. You can put shelves around a desk, keep the desk in the middle of the room, or place it by a window. This way, the wall space in your home office doubles as the library.
Budget, Budget, Budget
Make a budget for your home library and stick to it. You can use furniture or items you may already have in your home: shelves, a comfortable chair, a table, a trolley, or a cart. If you have a lot of wall space, you can mount bookshelves.
A home library can be a great DIY project, but don’t skimp on quality: You need at least 1.5-inch-thick shelves to hold the weight of books and not bend, and you should have good lighting. Thrift stores are often good places to find inexpensive bookshelves and cabinets, and you can refinish or repaint them.
Use the Internet for Inspiration
Last but not least, turn to the internet for some creative guidance. Sites such as Pinterest and Instagram are full of inspiring ideas for setting up, furnishing, and decorating a home library. You can browse color schemes, seating ideas, lighting, book storage, and more. You may be inspired by colors or ideas you wouldn’t have imagined on your own.
On Pinterest, sift through topics such as “home library,” “home library design” or “home library ideas.” For Instagram, #homelibrary or #homelibraryideas tend to be the trending hashtags. Either site is also good for links to DIY projects so you can see what other people came up with.