New Hampshire mother of six Yalan Connell (pictured here with her children, clockwise from left: Tabatha, 10; Leo, 8 months; Mabel, 7; Evalyn, 4; Annabelle, 5; and Rachael, 2) imagined a cheery bill-paying zone with a homework spot for her oldest daughter. Could all this happen in an awkward nook off the entryway? Real Simple thought so.
2. Dual workstations. Yalan shares the desk with her oldest, Tabatha, or gives it over to two of the kids when they need it. Tabatha uses the upper-right-hand shelves to keep valuables safe from the little ones. (“They used to draw on my journals,” she says.) Bright, open office chairs add color without crowding the tiny room.
3. A tough but pretty rug. The office is steps from the Connells’ front door. A wipe-clean indoor-outdoor rug can handle traffic and helps rolling chairs stay put; the lively pattern adds energy to the space. Under the desk, pullout mesh baskets act as a divider, delineating workstations and staving off sisterly discord.
A crisp roller shade, which replaced a shapeless curtain, lets in plenty of filtered light. A compact file cabinet tucks into a corner, whereas its predecessor took up valuable under-desk space. The paper shredder (to the right of the cabinet) is a sliver of Yalan’s old bulky model and safe for kids to use.
A rotating display of favorite drawings keeps Yalan company while she works. Magnetized on the edges as well as on the front, these small boards click together easily to create a surface that fits your space.
To buy: Tacktile message boards, $30 each, cb2.com. Lindmon venetian blind, $25, ikea.com for stores.