APT: Washington Heights + Art + Design + Scavenging

Closet office.

Our little apartment has three closets, all quite generously-sized. Since we don’t have lots of clothes or need excessive amounts of storage space, we decided to turn the largest of them into an office. We don’t watch much television these days, but this setup meets our needs in that area as well (no need to miss episodes or Project Runway or American Idol just because we’re in the city!). We have a Slingbox connected to our cable box at the house, so anything we watch up there can also be viewed through our computer in the city. Nice, huh?

Plus, when we’re not using the computer (for work or TV-viewing), we can just shut the doors, return the chair to the kitchen, and the whole thing disappears. It’s nice to be able to shut out technology sometimes.

Check it out—I have a white painted floor in my apartment! Okay, so it’s just the closet floor, but still. All of the closet floors are painted white. They had already been painted previously (the same grotesque shade of flat mayonnaise yellow as the walls, which was badly chipped and extremely dirty), so I’m not breaking any “rental rules” here. (Hah.)

The desk itself is cobbled together out of 3/4″ plywood that was already in the apartment (the building super had attempted to build some sort of closet divider with it). I painted it black to match the wall (that’s the same color as in the kitchen: Benjamin Moore ‘Soot’ (Aura Matte finish). It’s resting on two plywood cleats attached to studs on either end, and gets extra support in the middle from two diagonal braces (pieces harvested from these IKEA trestles). A $10 pull-out keyboard shelf completes the desk. It’s a bit of a Franken-creation, but it works, and the total investment was less than $30.

(And yes, we have wires just like anyone else! They’re all running through this nifty cable organizer which hangs on the back of the desk, and are then attached to the wall with cable clips completely out of sight. I loathe visible power cords and wires, especially in a working environment.)

Oh, and did you notice the Componibili storage unit? That’s the same one we scavenged for $29 back in August 2008. It gives us all the storage we need here. Perfect.

The cute Asteroid bud vases are designed by Koray Ozgen (the creator of our matching Asteroid lamp).

I’m still trying to find just the right place for them, but right now Martha McQuade‘s beautiful “Dipped Horizon” and “Marfa Path” prints have taken up temporary residency in the closet office.

My desktop wallpaper is made from a picture of Michael Jackson in photographer Todd Gray’s INCREDIBLE book Before He Was King. (Raindrops added by me, of course.)

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  • Reply Dana January 28, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Wow, this is awesome!!

    Can I post it on my blog sometime?

    Have a great day 😉

  • Reply Dana January 28, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Btw, I’m adding you to my blogroll 🙂

  • Reply ethanollie January 28, 2010 at 11:20 am

    as usual, so impressed at the rate at which you accomplish such beautiful things

    i love that you have incorporated (even in the slightest bit) one of your dream elements in the white floor

    nice work! keep it comin’….

  • Reply Jackie @ jack + jenn January 28, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Your new office is very beautifully discreet and functional. It makes me wish I had a closet space that I could place my office in!

    And what a steal for the Componibili unit! I’m still looking for a white one myself, but I managed to grab a red unit off craigslist for $25! I love scavenging!

  • Reply Ana January 28, 2010 at 11:26 am

    how do you like your Slingbox? I’ve thought about getting one for awhile.

  • Reply beth January 28, 2010 at 11:28 am

    looks outstanding. the upper shelf really helps it integrate with the living space. like it was born there. i’m envious of the white floor too. i would like even the most weeeee bit of white floor in my house.

  • Reply Elizabeth January 28, 2010 at 11:33 am

    looks lovely (of course.) also, I believe the technical word for the office-in-a-closet is “cloffice.” I had one in a previous apartment.

  • Reply Agnes January 28, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Anna, you’re a decorating genius, but you’ve been told this many times before. You should have your own tv show woman!
    I can’t wait to see the whole apartment finished.

  • Reply Jorge January 28, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Being able to shut out technology is great! Your closet looks so good!
    So you don’t longer have a computer in your home office? Is that the Karlstad sofa? Can’t wait for more pictures!

  • Reply Mary-Ellen January 28, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    I am officially speechless. You, Ana, amaze me. There has to be an award for this kind of innovation, design and space maximization!!!!!! Can you bottle your talent, please?

  • Reply heather January 28, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Yes! I tried to convince a friend to do the same thing with his closet a few years ago – he wouldn’t listen. And look at how much extra space you have this way! I think he still has boxes in his spare closet.

  • Reply Becki January 28, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    This is great! My very favorite home office was in a closet off of the dining room. It is so perfect. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in my current space.

  • Reply Patricia Ann January 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Oh my goodness, I don’t know what I’d do without the Slingbox! Sigh, great idea using the closet as a storage space. I’d do anything to hide computers and what not but that’s just not doable at the moment unfortunately. :/

    Can’t wait to see the whole apartment!

  • Reply nic January 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    you never fail to impress, anna! can’t wait to see the rest of the apt!

  • Reply Dan January 28, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Anna, this looks very smart, and I love how you’ve used limited materials to make this. The apartment’s looking great!

    Isn’t the slingbox wonderful?! Not QUITE like watching a real TV, but it’s a pretty amazing piece of technology.

  • Reply Tess January 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I have seen this idea in magazines. It is nice to see it done in real life (sort of). It looks great!

  • Reply the brick house January 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Looks great, loving those dowel legs.

    What I’m really curious about is that coffee table!

  • Reply jennifer in sf January 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I am loving the black walls. And that cable organizer. I think I need that, I have some cable issues right now.

    Yes. What is the coffee table? Is it the coffee table from CB2 that I was going to buy but that they stopped selling?! (Damn them.)

  • Reply Anna at D16 January 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Dana: As long as you don’t use all of the photos, credit what you do use, and link back to this post, that’s just fine! 🙂

    Ana: The Slingbox is wonderful. Like Dan said, it’s not exactly like watching real TV (the image is a bit pixelated, especially up close), but it’s more than adequate if need/want to watch TV (and access your DVR!) through your computer.

    Jorge: Did you just (correctly) ID my sofa from that tiny sliver that’s visible in the first photo?? Wow.

    jennifer in sf: That’s the one! Good eye. You and Jorge should start a furniture CSI unit.

  • Reply Ella January 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm


  • Reply Live a Colorful Life January 28, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Oh, I love that storage unit. So much. The whole apartment looks amazing!

  • Reply Melanie January 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    You have the most perfect timing – in fact you were probably writing this as I wandered the aisles of our local DIY superstore trying to work out how best/ cheapest to build an office in the space under our stairs. I came away with little more inspiration than I started with, but now I have all *your* wonderful ideas to work with!

    (I also have white floors in my closets, brightens up the space so much)

  • Reply Philmkarin January 28, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Wow, that´s the smartest and most beautiful little office I´ve ever seen!

    I also fell in love with your Michael Jackson background – if you would consider sharing it (or the original picture) with me I would be super greatfull.

  • Reply Anna at D16 January 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Philmkarin: What’s your screen resolution? I’d be happy to share it. 🙂

  • Reply Brismod January 28, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Love it. Neat, tidy, stylish and you can close the door on it too.

  • Reply Maria January 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Beautiful Closet Office! I too have one. My apt building was built in the 1920’s and was an old hotel, so my apt had a Murphy bed in a closet which I took out and decided to use the space as an office. In the process of redoing- wonderful ideas here!

  • Reply Barb F (Australia) January 28, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    You are making me want to paint everything black and white!

  • Reply cshteynberg January 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you very much for this post! At the moment we’re living in a postage-stamp sized apartment with almost no closets, and so we have the computer on a small circular table covered with a floor-length tablecloth that hides the tower and other wires, etc. However, I’ve long pondered how we’ll store/live with our computer since we don’t want it to be the focus of any room. We don’t want a TV for time/lifestyle reasons and economic reasons, but our computer has to function as our TV (i.e. in our living room) and as a workspace. This is such a great idea!

  • Reply laura January 28, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    that looks great, i can’t wait to see the rest of the apartment.

    our office is in a closet too, and i do love it, although our closet is about half the size of yours.
    we ultimately found the door sill to be really annoying when pulling the chair in or out of the office and replaced it with a thin piece of basswood cut to the same shape and stained to match the floors.

  • Reply Piper January 28, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    That’s such a great idea to make the closet an office…we’ve been trying to figure out how to fit in a desk in an awkward space. This just gave me an idea of how to do it now – thanks!!

  • Reply jenna/sweet fine day January 28, 2010 at 9:58 pm


  • Reply Jane Flanagan January 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Looks amazing. I love everything you’ve done with your rental so far. It’s just as inspiring as your home reno, even with all the renting limitations. I’m renter, so I really feel inspired by what you’re doing (thankfully I have a very open-minded super!)

  • Reply uglygirl January 29, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Brilliant as always!

  • Reply ruth allison January 29, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Hi Anna, Ruth from Dublin, Ireland here. I just love the NYC apartment, you and Evan have done so much in so little time. I lived in NYC for 2 years way back in the 90s and I miss it! Loved your piece on JD Salinger, I must read catcher.. again! Anyway LOVE the “integrated” office! Have a lovely weekend…in the country or in the city! All the best Ruth

  • Reply Peter January 29, 2010 at 8:50 am

    You landlord should lower your rent since you have made it vastly better than you found it.

    I once made my landlord very unhappy when I painted the trim in the living room shiny black but, it really improved the look of the place. I love a black and white interior. Paint goes a long way.

  • Reply Monica January 29, 2010 at 8:53 am

    We have had another dark, dreary, wet and cold day here and you just made it better. Thanks.

  • Reply vintage simple January 29, 2010 at 9:30 am

    The apartment is looking great, Anna! I hadn’t been here in a while, so it was nice to be able to sit here while I sip my tea and catch up for a few moments… I love all the choices you’ve made – and it shows how you can make a rental feel like home. It really looks great.

    Thanks for all the inspiration, as always.


  • Reply Kate January 29, 2010 at 10:39 am

    So cool. I, too, love the idea of being able to close the doors so that the office is out of site. Nicely done.

  • Reply Philmkarin January 29, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Oh – you made my day!
    My res is: 1280×800 and at first I tried stealing the picture above but it turned out quite blurry :).
    Another question while I´m at it: do you have the color code for ‘soot’?

    Snowy thanks in advance from sweden.

  • Reply becky January 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    At first, I thought this was a post of your inspiration office closets, I didn’t realize you had accomplished this already! It looks SO GOOD! You are such a black and white graphic inspiration to me – I wish I had your discipline and mad editing skillz 😉

  • Reply erin@designcrisis January 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    This is just crazy good. I’m loving how cheap and creative your solutions are to common problems found in rentals.

  • Reply Kara January 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    In these recent photos I’ve been noticing the floors. In your first apt. photos the floors look scuffed, but in these photos they are so shiny. Did you do some kind of deep cleaning and polishing?

  • Reply Lucy January 29, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Great idea about the closet ! Hope mines were that big 🙂

  • Reply katrina January 30, 2010 at 9:52 am

    I love it! I only wish I had closet space I didn’t need… that would be a luxury!

  • Reply Tara January 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Gorgeous, but I would expect nothing less. I love the snail. Where is she from?

  • Reply Tara January 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Gorgeous, but I would expect nothing less. Where did that snail come from?

  • Reply Laurie Jones January 31, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Do you ever sleep? As always, incredible!

  • Reply cw February 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    i’ve been thinking about making my living room closet an office, your post really inspired me to do it! today is the first time i ever read your blog and i love it.

  • Reply belinda February 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    perfection! slightly jealous that the insides of your cupboards are as fab as what’s outside!!

  • Reply robin February 8, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I know how much you love MJ so I wanted to send you this link.

    The focus is primarily LaToya, but there are some really great MJ pics included. Enjoy! 😀

  • Reply Brett | Design Babylon February 9, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I love being able to hide things behind doors, and it’s even better when what’s behind the doors looks as good as your closet office!

  • Reply down bedding March 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    That closet’s such a good idea! I love that you can just shut the doors when not in use.

  • Reply Tilda B. Hervé March 15, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    wow, this is absolutely great!!

  • Reply Elle X March 17, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Hi, I just discovered your blog (via Adventures of Renovating a Limestone in Brooklyn). I L.O.V.E your style!

    I, like Philmkarin, would love if could share your desktop wallpaper of Michael. It’s the best I have seen. I am a huge fan. My heart still aches. (My resolution is 1024 x 768.)

    Thanking you in advance.

  • Reply rachel July 29, 2010 at 8:45 am

    great post! I’m wondering where you got your coffee table from – looks gorgeous!!

  • Reply janis - pinecone cam August 28, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I love your secret office! I found you while looking for Alexander Girard products and I’m happy I did.

  • Reply hannah September 11, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    I love this and plan to do it in my own apartment in Chicago… we have a similarly huge-sized closet in our living room and my only dilemma is – no outlet nearby. Are you just running cords from another wall into the closet office?

  • Reply Anna at D16 September 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    @hannah: Yup! If you look closely, you can see the thick power cord of a surge protector running across the threshold on the left side of the door jamb. There’s juuuuuust enough space for the door to close over it! Once inside the closet, the cord runs up left wall, across the underside of the “desk”, and is then hanging out of sight in a cable organizer (link & description in post). No visible cords, and the computer, lamp and modem are all plugged into it with a couple of outlets to spare. 🙂

  • Reply Hsiang October 21, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Well organized, simple, effective but .. a bit dark. Its very contrasty from the white background and I couldn’t help but think that its a bit weird to be staring at a black wall when you work.
    We took a look at several closet based home offices and gave some additional ideas on how to take this concept even further:

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