Working from home is a practical solution to managing a family while earning essential income. But, if a lack of space confines your office hours to the living room, you could be drowning in clutter instead of running a tight ship. Find storage for your work files in unexpected or deliberately selected places. Files slip easily into furniture, behind screens and under wraps to keep them available but not always visible.
1. Decorative Trunk
Fit an antique trunk with a wire hanging frame from the stationery supply store and fill the trunk with your hanging file folders to store hard copies. Adapt your storage to the dimensions of the trunk; some will hold letter-size paper, and some are long or wide enough for legal-size documents. File folders are handy for your stash of business cards and stationery, too, and you can store printer paper, mailing envelopes and other supplies conveniently out of sight. A flat-topped trunk provides extra seating with a foam cushion, covered to coordinate with the sofa or the colors of the room. If you have a lot to store, a graduated stack of old trunks blends into the living room with as much capacity as a small cabinet. But save this storage solution for items you don't need every day to avoid stacking and unstacking the furniture when it's time to get to work.
2. Hidden Away
Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that swing or slide open to reveal hidden cabinets or shelves keep your office files out of view but close at hand. A book-lovers' living room is more than a library when your collection conceals the blueprints, client files, samples and other documents you work with during office hours. When constructing concealed storage is not an option, attach doors to the lower half of a bookcase and place file boxes behind the closed doors to keep paperwork and projects private and clutter at a minimum. Locks on the cupboard doors protect business materials from the curious small people who regularly invade your work space.
3. Convertible Table
A combined living-dining room is also a home office with a convertible office-dining table. A polished wood tabletop with cubbies and drawers tucked under the surface turns into a dining table when the laptop is put away. An extra shelf just beneath the tabletop holds horizontal files, paper supplies and reference books. Drawers collect file labels and separators, folders, pens, ink cartridges, tablets and chargers -- even a small laptop. A pendant light with a dimmer, centered over the table, sheds bright light during work sessions or over a party buffet and can be turned down for romantic meals once the kids are in bed.
4. The Art of Deception
That valued vintage cabinet is potential living room storage, so claim it for your work files. An antique armoire or a period Chinese cabinet complements your decor and may even be a focal point in the living room. Celebrate its craftsmanship and beauty -- and secretly gloat over its utility each time you swing the doors open to reveal wicker or linen file boxes, office supplies and materials for your current project organized on shelves and in drawers. If you've been using an armoire as a media cabinet, hang the flatscreen on the wall like a minimalist sculpture, tuck the DVD player and music system into the bookshelves, and claim the space inside the media cabinet for your new office. A shelf that slides out at keyboard height lets you turn the entire thing into an office that disappears when the doors are shut.