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Creating a functional workplace in a small space

Posted at 05/19/2017 11:12 AM by Pat O'Connor


Doesn’t it seem like the world is shrinking around us? Tiny houses, miniature breed of dogs and horses, and even handheld art are a few examples of our fascination with smallness.

Heck, Colorado even has it’s own Tiny Town!

But for people living in a restricted space, pint-sized thinking is critical to living large. Just because you may have a small apartment or house doesn’t mean you can’t have some of the same amenities as those living in lavish accommodations.

Take for example an office. Sure, many homes have an entire room set aside for a study, resplendent with book cases, desk, appropriate lighting and ambiance. But guess what? You can achieve the same effect with half the space and a little imagination.

Denver native Jonna Mulqueen is an interior designer who has first hand knowledge working out of a home “office.” However, that office hasn’t quite fit the mold. Here are some of her tips on creating a functional workplace in a small space:

Question: How have you seen the study/home office/workplace evolve over time? Are there any trends that you see?

Answer: I think that one of the main differences that we are seeing today versus, say, 20 years ago is that more women are working from home than ever before. Speaking from my own experience, as a mother of three girls, it was a battle for me after my second child to have the ability to not work. This forced me to be creative and I had to figure out how I could bring in extra income while not having to sacrifice the time I knew my children needed from me.  I began working like a lot of people do from their dining room table. A six-foot desk with a leather rolling desk chair are no longer prerequisites for a home office.  

Question: What advice would you give to people trying to create a work space in their home? What should they do if they don't have a separate room for this purpose?

Answer: In general, I would say try to think about using all spaces of your home almost every day. I personally am not a huge fan of formal dining rooms for the sole reason that you typically go into this room less than a dozen times a year. I feel this way about guest rooms too. If you find  yourself only using one room in your home less than a handful of times a year do not surrender this space! Think about rooms having dual purposes. If you need to have a guest room and you have a larger budget, have a Murphy bed installed. If you have a decent budget, then maybe think about putting in a small pull-out sofa/bed in the room so you have room for a small office off to one side. If you have a small budget, think about buying a really nice blow up mattress. Seriously, they make some pretty nice ones these days for less than $150.

"We think we need more square footage but really what we need is to be more creative in how we use our space."

Sometimes I am able to turn a space that was originally designed to be a formal dining room into much more than just an office. I am able to dual purpose it as a music room for the kiddos or a craft/art room and a home office. The key is to first start with the layout of the room and use it as effectively as possible. Sometimes it is good to call someone like me to bounce off ideas off and/or someone that sees your place in a fresh new light. We spend so much time in our homes that sometimes we become overwhelmed and frustrated with our spaces. We think we need more square footage but really what we need is to be more creative in how we use our space. Find creative ways to hide clutter and add storage wherever you can. If you do not have a separate room for a work space, then think about storage. We all have a counter in the kitchen or a dining room table. No matter if it seats two people or eight, this can be your workstation. Clean out those cupboards in the kitchen that house the Christmas plates and use it for your needed office supply storage. Eat on your good plates or china year round.

Question: What recommendations would you give to someone who must multipurpose a room (i.e. combining the kitchen and work space)?

Answer: Start simply, be realistic and come up with a budget. A lot of times my clients will ask me what their budget should be. I usually laugh and let them know that my husband's nickname for me is “J-MONEY” -- they do not want me deciding their budget! Hire a designer and pay only for the consultation fee of a couple hours. We are in homes all the time and see what is a good use of space and what is a bad use of space. I typically have clients that have varying financial abilities so I am happy to let them know what is realistic. Remember, the Nextdoor app is your best friend! People are always getting rid of things, whether selling or giving items away free. You do not always have to buy new. It makes redecorating a room feasible for a lot more people.

Question: Do you any suggestions on accessories or decorations that will make the work area more pleasing and encourage completion of assignments?

Answer: I personally feel lighting, a good paint color and art can take a space from predictable to personal. I do not think you have to go into the Container Store (although they are pretty awesome) or Office Max and buy your typical office accessories. I like thinking outside the box. For example, I grew up with the most amazing cookie jar you have ever seen. It was ceramic and had these dancing figures with animals and kids going around the entire outer surface. When I grew up, I asked my mom if I could have it. It now sits on my desk filled with markers and pens, It also holds my hole puncher and a few rulers. It still bring me that same joy I felt as a kid when it was filled with my mom’s oatmeal cookies, but now it helps me be creative and inspires me  every day.

Mulqueen describes herself as a lover of all things shiny and bright, including people. She has more than 20 year experience creating high impact rooms that are unique, thoughtful and texture driven. You can find out more about her at:

Jonna Mulqueen

Jonna Mulqueen

Posted by Pat O'Connor

Pat O’Connor has dual citizenship in both Wisconsin and Colorado, having been born and raised in Wisconsin Dells, but later adopted by the Centennial State. A graduate of the University of Colorado (B.S. Journalism, 1980), O’Connor began her career as a sportswriter at the Boulder Daily Camera under the tutelage of the venerable Dan Creedon. Her experience also includes stints in public relations at Aspen Highlands Ski Area, the Colorado Trial Lawyers and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. When she isn’t piecing together sentences, the self-proclaimed “Cheesehead” enjoys traveling, running, playing golf, hiking 14ers, horseback riding and skiing. During football season, she can be found cheering for the Buffs and "whooping it up" when the Packers win. She loves talking sports and giving recommendations on cheese curds.



Topics: Home Improvement