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Room of the Month - Tiny Office Space

By Sarah Van Arsdale on July 16, 2007

At NYIAD we teach our students a simple Three-Step Method for designing every room they create:

  1. A successful room is functional.
  2. A successful room expresses a mood.
  3. A successful room exhibits a sense of harmony.

This simple Three-Step Method is the secret of every interior ever designed. We teach our interior design students to consider these three steps every time they look at a room. You'll find the great home decorating ideas in our Room of the Month series as well as in the design tips on this site helpful in creating outstanding room designs.

When our students mail in their interior design project for analysis by their instructor, the instructor starts by commenting on these three Guidelines. Of course, the instructor analyzes other elements of the project too – decor, layout, furniture, style etc. But the key to good decor – and the essential element of every great interior design – is adherence to these three NYIAD Guidelines.

How do they work? How can you apply them? It's beyond the scope of this Web site to teach you every nuance, but you will get an inkling from the Room of the Month Analysis that follows.

Tiny Office Space

We've chosen this home office space for our Room of the Month to illustrate just how much big use you can get out of a small space, if you pay attention to the New York Institute of Art and Design Guidelines to Interior Design: function, mood, and harmony.

Having a huge window with a great view doesn't hurt, either.

Here, we see what once was a small corner off a living room, opened up to become a home office for a busy real estate agent.


Whenever you're working with a tiny space, you want to have every corner serve a function, without making the room seem too utilitarian. Try to think creatively: if you need a writing surface some of the time but not all the time, maybe you can have a shelf that flips up when not in use.

Another option is a desk with a writing tablet that slides out; you don't have to buy a desk with this, as you can easily install it yourself after a visit to the hardware store.

If you want extra seating for the occasional visitor, find a folding chair or a stool that can be tucked away when not in use.

Looking first at function, consider that this office is only five feet wide at the widest end and three feet wide at the narrowest. And yet the space fully serves the purpose of home office, providing everything one needs for working at home. The bookshelf at the far end of the space holds important books and albums of show sheets, and the full-size desk provides a workspace large enough for folders, pens, and notepads. While a full-size computer and telephone would crowd this desk, luckily there's plenty of space for a laptop and a cell phone.

The rolling file cabinet under the desk offers a little storage for desk necessities, and the bottom drawer holds important files. The office chair is ergonomically correct, and provides good, comfortable support throughout the workday.

Next, let's look at the mood of this room. The first thing to jump out at us is that terrific window view, which sets the open, relaxed mood. This is true of any room with a great view; it's important to recognize that the view will dominate the room, and to work to incorporate and complement the view as best you can. A cosmopolitan apartment with a sweeping view of city lights will by necessity lend itself to a sophisticated mood.

In this case, the homeowner actually installed this window when she decided she wanted to create the office space in this corner; without the window, the corner would have felt more like a prison than like a workspace. Now, the mood is cheerful and casual. The floral-print easy chair provides a comfy place for a client to sit, and the plant on the desk and on the closer bookshelf add a homey touch, as well as bringing the outdoors inside.

Finally, it isn't hard to harmonize a small space such as this, but this is the one criticism we have of the space. If the floral-print chair were covered in the same fabric as the desk chair, we'd have more of a unified feeling here, which is especially important in a small space. Likewise, replacing the painting of a seaside scene on the wall with something more simple and which echoes the scene outside the window would pull the room together more.

Still, given the tiny size of the space, this office makes a big impact, and ets the real estate agent who works in it get plenty done before dashing out to show another home.