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Out-of-Sight Offices

Q: I need a home office but I don’t have dedicated space for one. How can I create a workspace that’s easily hidden or transformed when not in use?

A: Unless you’re a college sophomore, a lap desk won’t cut it, and anything on wheels—well, just don’t. Rather, direct yourself toward a slew of desks whose simple, compact designs promise no visual clutter. Any of them would work well in a hallway, foyer, kitchen, or corner of a bedroom.

A wall-mounted desk ($720) from @WorkDesign (7500 W. Madison St., Forest Park, 708-488-9297, atworkdesign.com) has a large working surface and nice storage space but also the lightness of a legs-free aesthetic. It’s made of English walnut, so it has a refined presence rather than a loud one. More akin to a tricked-out shelf, the Ludvig laptop shelf ($70) from Ikea (1800 E. McConnor Pkwy., Schaumburg, 847-969-9700, ikea.com) is perfect for a wireless worker. The surface—about a foot deep, 31 inches wide—slides out, away from the wall, and the unit is outfitted with a hidden, felt-lined compartment that stores cords and chargers. A cutout at the bottom makes it simple to guide cables to the wall outlet, while a leg in a squared-U shape supports the thing. We’re also keen on the chocolate ash Flip Desk ($299) from West Elm (2155 W. 22nd St., Oak Brook, 630-368-3591, westelm.com), which easily converts from a desk to an end table: Just retract the pull-out desktop and close the hinged top to conceal all pencil cups and Post-its.

If your home office involves a printer, fax machine, and scanner, then you’ll need a sounder structure and more storage options. Where could this go? You may need to look no farther than your own closet, says Joe Galow, owner of Closet Creator (856 Cambridge Pl., Wheeling, 847-541-5449, closetcreator.com).

Galow has installed closet offices for several clients who were low on space but still needed a semiprivate area to work. Generally, he will either outfit the closet with a desk or fit a desktop that attaches to the back and side walls without touching down—and your closet doesn’t have to be a walk-in palace to pull this off. For a client in a small Palatine home with a reach-in closet in a den, Galow installed shelves on the closet’s side walls, as well as a cabinet above the desk for storing a computer, a printer, and the rest of the client’s work equipment. “It’s my job to make everything fit,” Galow says. “They can just close the closet doors and the room becomes a den.”

Denise Butchko, a design consultant for Closet Works (2000 N. Clybourn Ave., 773-244-9700, closetworks.com), has been involved in similar projects. She recommends assessing your space by using tape to mark out on the closet floor where your office equipment will be. “People might have a five-by-seven walk-in closet and feel like it’s the Taj Mahal, but your stuff fills up the space fast,” says Butchko, who recently created an auxiliary office space for a Vanity Fair writer who lives in Ukrainian Village.

Once she has outfitted a closet office, Butchko likes to place a mirror above the desk to create the illusion of more space and enable her client to see people approaching. She’s also sure to leave room for clients to move from side to side, and avoids installing shelves that are more than 12 inches deep: “You need to be able to work in the space without hitting your head,” she points out.

Wall-mounted desk by @WorkDesign
1 A wall-mounted desk by @WorkDesign artfully pairs a large working surface with a subtle, legs-free design.


Flip Desk from West Elm
2 Shut the hinged lid on West Elm’s Flip Desk and clutter disappears.


Ludvig slide-out laptop shelf by Ikea

3 Ikea’s Ludvig slide-out laptop shelf—barely a foot deep—has a hidden compartment for cords and chargers.

Have a design or renovation question? Just drop us a note at chicagohome@chicagomag.com and we’ll do our best to answer it. Sorry, we cannot take questions by phone, or guarantee individual responses.


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