Micro-living Solutions: Home Office Ideas for Your NYC Studio Apartment

Given $2,000 to rent a place to call home, you could get a 2,892 square foot 4-bedroom house with granite kitchen countertops and refinished wood floors . . . in your dreams . . . or in Kansas City, MO.  In NYC (Central Harlem, for instance), the same $2,000 could get you a 550 square foot studio, with a shelf-less closet as its big selling feature.

But if you were living in that spacious house in Missouri, you would step outside and not be in New York City – the city of opportunities, entertainment, and worldliness.

New Yorkers may have smaller spaces, but they know that size doesn’t matter – it is all about how you make good use of the space you have. When it comes to having a “home office” setup, here are some tips that will give you optimal use of space:

Define your space

If you plan to work from home a significant part of the time, you owe it to yourself to define a space as your “office.” Of course, you don’t have a spare bedroom, but even small spaces need to be defined. By establishing your office space, you set the boundaries between home and work.

A hideaway desk is a space-saving hack that is great for NYC telecommuters. But watch out for narrow desk tops that do not offer space for your legs, promoting poor posture.  Also, the fold down edges could restrict wrist movement. You can buy one like this model from Crate and Barrel or you can opt for a Do-It-Yourself solution.  Of the two, the do-it-yourself option offers a hidden bonus.  You can set the desk height to one ideal for you- If you’re 5 foot 5 inches or under for example, a desk at 25” or less is best.

Another idea is to use a closet (if you have one) as your office. Just clean it out, make it pretty by painting it your favorite color and adding some photos or artwork, add a desk and chair (preferably adjustable ones, see below), and voila!



Some things should be stable: your income, your determination, your internet connection, and your commitment to stay away from the TV and the kitchen while you work. Other things need to be adjustable.

However you create your work surface, ensuring that it is adjustable goes a long way. Adjustable height will allow you to sit or to stand and to easily transition between the two. Adding an adjustable ergonomic office chair will give you comfort and support as you work during the day.  Both an ergonomic chair and a sit stand desk can adjust to accommodate guests and occasions.

Up High- Not Down Low

Be creative when it comes to strange space. If you have high ceilings, you can get the most out of the space you have by adding high shelves next to your workstation. Adding drawers beneath your work surface is referred to as the evil pencil drawer because it will impede movement – you should always allow ample room for your legs (and, if needed, footrest!). Putting drawers beneath the desk will create a domino effect for awkward postures and should be avoided at all costs.

Also, keep your most-often used tools close by so that you do not put your body in odd positions as you lean, stretch, lift, or bend.

Consider lighting

Home office ergonomics isn’t just about a comfortable chair and a sit-stand desk. Ergonomics is about a work space that works. Set up your desk perpendicular to large windows to avoid screen glare, which can damage eyes in the long term. Consider adding task lighting so you do not strain your eyes as you work.

A well-lit work area is good for your body and your spirit and, as an added benefit, ample light (and light colored furniture) will make your space appear roomier. Not to mention that it will keep you awake and energized when you work after a night out in the city that never sleeps.


Avoid sitting all day (or working all night)

One of the benefits of working from home is that you can always work. Unfortunately, this is also one of its pitfalls. To be effective, set a schedule. Plan your start time – and your end time! Of course, working from home affords you some flexibility, but you should not abuse it.

You also need to plan to take breaks, get outdoors, move your body, and get your mind away from your tasks. Use reminders, like setting an alarm on your cell phone to take stretch breaks, get away from the computer for meals, and go outdoors with people. Your body, your mind, and your work will thank you for the break!

In most professions today, it doesn’t matter if you are working from a 10,000 square foot Beverly Hills mansion or a 100 square foot shoe box. The work you do happens in your head, on your computer, or on your phone. Being effective doesn’t take a lot of space (unless you herd cattle for a living).  It takes organization, a comfortable work space, and focus.

The ergonomic advice will take care of your health and well-being to keep you in tip-top shape to perform – no matter where you work!

About the AuthorKaren Burke is the founder and president of Kare Products, specializing in active ergonomic solutions. She has 30 years experience in ergonomic product design and consulting.

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