Office Space
September 27, 2011 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Best practices for moving computer and printer into living area without it looking terrible?

I have a three-bedroom house. Currently my two boys share a bedroom. We use the third bedroom as a "computer room". My eldest is getting older and will need his privacy. The computer room will become his bedroom.

I am not keen on putting a computer area in my living room but it is the only place for it. It is our one and only living space and I am afraid of the area looking junky and messy. We do not use our computer for work (apart from answering emails and ordering for our very small business). We will not have piles of files and paperwork. We use it for recreation.

I wish to go to laptops only but my husband is not interested in that. He wants his big monitor. We don't have a large computer tower -- it's a mac mini and pretty streamlined. I absolutely do not want a computer and printer in my bedroom. Our kitchen is not big enough and I don't want it in there anyway. We don't have a basement or a big laundry room or a formal living or dining space. It's a small house with five rooms. We essentially have nowhere to put the computer except our living room. We have a free wall where we would like to put a new desk and a streamlined printer.

It is a six foot space of free wall next to our couch. See photo. See photo two. When you open the front door you will have a straight view of the desk area. See photo three.

I am kind of against computer armories because they are heavy looking. I have a dark brown couch and some dark brown and black furniture, I don't want to create more heaviness. I know they come in white but I'm not sold on the idea.

After all of this rambling and needless explaining, I wish to get a neat, clean, and streamlined look that blends with the wall and rest of the room. Maybe something like this with computer, monitor, and printer on top of desk only versus the monstrosity and craziness that is my (husband's) desk currently. We can keep files elsewhere.

I'm not interested in a convertible desk because I think it would look odd in the space.

Do you have any other ideas for neat and stylish desk areas in living spaces? Do you have an office space in your living space? Is the desk I linked above a bad idea for a computer? What are best ways to conceal wires? What is the best printer to get that is not ugly? What are the best ways to make area look attractive and homey instead of cluttered office space?

Thanks for all advice.
posted by Fairchild to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have this.
posted by AlliKat75 at 1:11 PM on September 27, 2011

My office has my big monitor on a swing out mount. When I get the chance, I want to build a cabinet so that when I push it back against the wall I can swing doors over it (maybe put a painting on the door) so that it's hidden. Perhaps something like that?
posted by straw at 1:12 PM on September 27, 2011

I'd consider rearranging the living room to put the computer into its own corner, instead of near the traffic zones and the straight line-of-sight from the front door. I like the simple little desk you linked, but one drawback of a table is that there's no "away" to put things, and everything involved is always in plain view. Maybe add to that a shelf underneath that has just a big enough footprint to put the printer down at knee level? Or maybe that shelf would actually be the top of a storage cube? has a series on making workspaces look swanko, including their Flickr pool. They often have combo work/living spaces, or a desk tucked into a closet, or novel solutions to stuff. I'm not sure whether to recommend that you browse the Flickr or try doing searches on the main site.
posted by aimedwander at 1:15 PM on September 27, 2011

If you're trying to reduce the cluttered look, minimize the number of wires needed for the computer. Get a bluetooth (wireless) keyboard and mouse. There are also printers that connect to wireless routers so that you don't need a cable for that - just look at the printers on Amazon and find one that you think isn't ugly. Some of them fold up when not in use so they can be quite small. A Mac Mini is a great start on having a streamlined desk layout.

There's no reason you can't have a laptop with an external monitor - you can attach the big monitor whenever you want to use it and just use the computer like a normal laptop when you don't.

If you like desks in the style of the one you linked (they're very versatile), the search term you want is "Parsons Desk". West Elm sells one and they're very popular, so I've seen quite a few on craigslist.
posted by asphericalcow at 1:17 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

we JUST went through this. we ended up with this ikea desk and here's another look.

Its VERY shallow and they come in several shades of shiny etc so it looks quite a bit nicer. stick the mac mini (and your NEW laptop :) into a drawer to be powered/charged etc and it stays nice and clean. the monitor itself wont be too disruptive.

the unit is one of the more upscale pieces from ikea, its got very sturdy metal legs, and is nicely heavy so that it feels very secure.

cheers (and enjoy that new laptop he's buying you!!)
posted by chasles at 1:22 PM on September 27, 2011

Something like this? A simple Parson's-type table will look more like living room furniture than a desk. The other things you put on the table could come from what you already have in the room--a nice lamp, a vase, a large decorative object or stack of books, etc. I'd hang some art work above the table, maybe something behind glass to give a reflection. I'd also keep what's on the table with the computer fairly simple.
posted by marimeko at 1:23 PM on September 27, 2011

Check out the "workspace of the week" postings at Many of the workspaces are computer workspaces, with varying degrees of minimalism. They are all real-world examples.

One of the problems with the computer-in-the-living-room arrangement (if you're the sort of person who cares about this sort of thing) is the Chair Issue. I like how this workspace uses an upholstered chair to achieve a less "offiice-y" look.
posted by drlith at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2011

You might enjoy browsing Ikea Hackers. They seem to have many articles that revolve around hiding something.
posted by ES Mom at 1:25 PM on September 27, 2011

Does your living space have a large television in it? If so, can he use the TV as his monitor?
posted by dgeiser13 at 1:34 PM on September 27, 2011

I can't tell from the pictures, but if you have a shallow closet with bi-fold doors, you could have your very own disappearing computer room.

One of my friends turned her kitchen pantry into a computer closet. (She's not much of a cook :)) She took the doors off and installed a nice pair of curtains so that she could pull them shut when she wasn't using the computer. It's not a good idea to tuck a computer away in a deep closet or shut the doors...computers need ventilation. A shallow closet and curtain worked well for her.
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:35 PM on September 27, 2011

Seconding the advice on wireless stuff. In particular, I'd see about having your printer be elsewhere -- on a bookshelf or something -- and connected wirelessly. If you also have a wireless keyboard and mouse, then you can just stash the Mini below the desk surface somewhere; make a little bracket for it if the desk you get doesn't have a lower level. Then make sure your monitor has a nice-looking stand, and you'll have a pretty little space. Provided you can keep the surface clear, of course!
posted by wyzewoman at 1:36 PM on September 27, 2011

OK, here are a few ideas.

I'd add a standing plant nearby, maybe another on the desk.
posted by bearwife at 1:36 PM on September 27, 2011

Also, check out Unplggd over at ApartmentTherapy; they do a ton of pictures of desks w/ computers that people have set up in their homes, with a frequent emphasis on minimalist setups.
posted by wyzewoman at 1:39 PM on September 27, 2011

Check out the "desk" tag for Apartment Therapy's Unplggd for some interesting ideas.

Cable management is going to be a key to not hating the setup. One of the smarter techniques I've seen is to mount some pegboard to the underside of the desk, and zip-tie routers, cable modems, etc, to that.
posted by adamrice at 2:07 PM on September 27, 2011

I have this CB2 Helix desk in my foyer/office area in a small studio apartment. It doesn't take up much space and it's lighter and more open looking than some of the other leaning shelves/desk setups.
posted by andrewraff at 3:15 PM on September 27, 2011

Wires are always the worst problem: they look like ass, they're hard to sweep and vacuum around, and your favorite pet or child is liable to chew through one and die. Try to use a socket and table arrangement that lets you hoist all cables up out of the way behind (or in) the furniture. Some suggestions here.

And then work on keeping the top clean. Just a monitor, computer, keyboard, and mouse. Arrange them so you can easily hide or move the keyboard and mouse to leave a clear table area.

If you can keep it looking spare -- just a plain table with three or four attractive pieces of computer hardware on it -- you'll be OK with this.
posted by pracowity at 12:37 AM on September 28, 2011

For cables, check out IKEA's Signum cable trunking. Drill it to the underside of your desk and drop all the cables in there.
posted by mr_silver at 1:37 AM on September 28, 2011

Oh yeah—following up on my previous comment, and somewhat in the spirit of Ikea Hacks, is Decluttered, which shows various ways people have dealt with cables and electronic bric-a-brac.
posted by adamrice at 11:12 AM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of these helpful replies. There are some great ideas here. I will definitely be checking out Apartment Therapy's Unplgged and the Ikea Hackers links as well as all of the other links. Hopefully I'll be able to post a pic when it's done. Thanks again.
posted by Fairchild at 12:37 PM on September 28, 2011

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