Inspiration · Interiors · Offices

Small Home Offices for a Family to Share

header image from Domino

Our 1920s apartment has a tiny room off the kitchen that was referred to in the original floor plan as the maid’s room. This type of room is commonly found in vintage apartments from the pre-war era, a time when people routinely had to provide a space for live-in help. These rooms are generally small, usually situated off the kitchen, and typically have an attached, tiny bathroom. Some large apartments, which would have required a larger household staff, have two maid’s rooms. Kitchen renovations of vintage apartments often include removal of the separate maid’s room and incorporation of the extra space into the kitchen.

Our apartment retains the original maid’s room, and we use it as an office. It opens directly onto the kitchen, and it is small–8 feet by 8 feet, with some structural beams that encroach at the corners and make it feel cramped and awkward. We use the small bathroom off the office as our laundry room, having replaced the bathtub and shower with a compact stackable washer and dryer.

Before we had kids, the office worked well as a shared work space for my husband and me, but now, with two teenagers who like to use the office as their homework venue, the competition among family members for the limited seating is fierce.

I had sworn that I would not show the office to readers of this blog, because the room is not particularly pretty and is always a mess–but I don’t think you can understand what I am trying to say without seeing it.  Here is how it looks today:


When two people are working in here, one person works at the desk on the left, and the other person sits at the antique drop-leaf table on the opposite side of the room, with the leaf raised, using a chair lugged in from the kitchen. Sometimes, there are three people operating in this space, with the third person sitting on the radiator cover in front of the window. It gets really cramped! Our kids have large desks in their bedrooms where we would like them to work, but they prefer to do their homework in here, near the kitchen, where all the activity is. This is a little frustrating at times!

I am starting to think about how we could use the office more effectively. I would like to figure out how to optimize use of the room so that it feels more spacious and comfortably accommodates at least two people working at once. The space needs to be practical–it has to hold a printer, a paper shredder, file cabinets, and a bookshelf, and it needs to provide sufficient elbow room for two people typing away on laptop computers.

Here are some images that I have pulled of small study areas that have two desks and places to store all the office “stuff”. It would be nice if such a space could be pretty, but I am mostly looking for practical, well-organized, and comfortable.

Stylish Eve

The wood floors and the custom desktop and drawers are good features in this space.


Here, the white built-ins that go to the ceiling maximize storage. The mix of closed and open shelving adds visual interest, and the lower file drawers eliminate the need for an unsightly separate file cabinet.

Design Dump

The gallery wall adds prettiness to the space so that it feels less office-like, and the navy color adds a little drama.  The narrow counter and drawers are a good feature for a small space.

Home Bunch

This room is small, but has space for three people to sit and work. The custom built-in shelves that run to the ceiling and the butcher block desk surface are stand-out features. Clear, acrylic chairs like this one are great in small rooms because they have the appearance of not taking up any space and therefore make the rooms seem bigger.

Amie Corley Interiors

This is not a small space–but I absolutely love it!  The mix of traditional and modern with the pops of emerald green,pink, and brass and the great zebra rug all call my name.

I am not sure what we will ultimately decide to do with our office space, but pulling some ideas together is not a bad way to get the ball rolling on the decision-making process. At this point, I’m thinking the custom built-ins and wood flooring would be a good place to start.

4 thoughts on “Small Home Offices for a Family to Share

  1. Good Morning Elizabeth
    I love the first one – You can surly do this in your room – the bulletin boards on the wall are amazing.
    I just started following you – Thank you for following me too.
    I too love blue and whites ~
    Have a wonderful day
    Much love,


  2. Custom built-ins are beautiful! If you’re on a budget I recommend checking Ikea first. They have a few options for cabinet systems and you can buy upgraded doors for 1/5 the cost of built-ins. You can have taskrabbit come build/install or DIY depending on your ability & desire. Recently I’ve seen mulitple installations of both Besta and Pax function beautifully from floor to ceiling in living space, bedrooms, and playrooms.


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