Introduction: The Nano Office

Like many young couples, my wife and I live in quite a small flat. It’s more than enough space for happy everyday living, until work gets thrown in the mix. My wife is a writer, and was desperate for a space of her own. She wanted somewhere she could order me out of, graffiti up with ‘brilliant’ ideas and trash with papers. She rhapsodised about it constantly, usually while ordering me out, graffiting up walls or trashing our flat with papers. It got annoying.

What was even more annoying was the way she worked. The only sensible place was the kitchen table, but all her books and papers would have to be moved for every meal. She’d lose things, smash dishes as she reached for pens, spill pizza sauce and chocolate ice cream on important letters, etc. When she couldn’t be bothered clearing the table, I’d come home to find her hunched up on the floor in the corner of a room, rodent-like, her legs all heat-rash splotched from the laptop fan or sprawled on our bed with her typing hands crunched up in front of her face like little t-rex arms. It was sad.

One chilly March day we were binning a Christmas tree that had sat forgotten in the hallway closet and was now attracting alarming hoards of wood lice. As we dragged it into the hall, my wife’s eyes lit up.

‘This could be my office!’ I gave her a skeptical look. ‘Why not? Oh please! I’m small! Really, look how small I go!’ She curled into a fetal position on the floor amidst pine needles, sap and wood louse corpses to demonstrate. ‘It’ll be great!’

‘Look at the boiler.’ I grunted under the weight of the tree she was no longer helping stabilise.

‘So?’ She bum wriggled over and pushed ineffectively against the massive metal pod with her feet. ‘We’ll put it somewhere else. Like… uh…’

I sighed. ‘It’s a boiler. It’s attached to lots of things that are really very important. We can’t just move it…’ She was so excited; I hated to be the voice of reason. I looked around to try to find another way to explain to her how it would be impossible, when suddenly, I wondered if it was really so impossible after all.

And thus: the Nano office. In one weekend we transformed a useless space into a whimsical little office. You too could find secret, unused nooks and crannies in your home and make a place where you can focus on doing what you love most.

Here’s how...

Step 1: Find a Good Spot

Watch as our messy, unused boiler cupboard is transformed into a functional, playful office. An added bonus is that the boiler keeps it cosy in the winter! No more fingerless gloves while typing... 

Step 2: Build a Floor and Some Wall...

First I created a floor. I built it up using 12mm plywood with a 2x2 frame around it for structural strength. This floor was then put on 2x4 timber stilts and fastened into the walls and the floor of the flat. Done! Next was to put in some false walls to cover up some unsightly piping and cabling; for this I used 8mm MDF on a 2x2 timber frame.

Next I fitted a custom sized desk (a sheet of ply - nothing fancy, made from the same material as the floor and painted blue), fastening it to two walls and the door frame using a little bracket. See photo for details. We painted it gold (her idea) which had the surprising effect of revealing some hidden wallpaper detailing and appearing almost brocade-like. Then I cut a nice car boot sale rug to size for classiness and cosiness. 

Step 3: Add Some Organisation

To keep things tidy, I made some paper storage units out of 8mm MDF and some 2x1 timber. These simple boxes are screwed to the inside of the door so they are easy to access when you're locked in. (FYI I do not lock my wife in this closet - she does it herself.) I painted the walls of the office and the storage boxes with blackboard paint to allow for notes, reminders and general organisation.

I fastened an angle-adjustable green banker's lamp onto the false wall at the back of the office to create an appropriate working mood and installed an old mini stereo speaker as the Nano Office sound system. See images for details. My wife uses a small wooden ladder I cut to size to get in and out. Sometimes she kicks it out of the way as an excuse for me to get the tea.

The great thing about this project is that you can customise it to be whatever you want. It's for you and you only - no one will even know it's there unless you tell them. So get making/writing/thinking! I hope this weekend project inspires you to make use of those boring, utilitarian spaces and see that they're bursting with potential. 

Over and out,


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