Necessity is the mother of invention — and no one gets more inventive than small space dwellers.

Whether your WFH situation is temporary, you’re working with a low budget or living in a tiny home, there are times when buying a large desk just isn’t ideal.

Take a look at some of these low-budget desk alternatives for small spaces.

Lap desk

Turn any couch, chair, or bed into your home office with a lap desk.

These affordable desk alternatives come in a wide range of designs and prices to choose from.

They’re a viable option if you want to work in a café while travelling, or if you just feel unmotivated to sit at your desk for whatever reason.

Opt for a wide lap desk to use a notebook next to your laptop; some brands offer a slide-out tray for a mouse.

BYLLAN laptop support by IKEA
Byllan laptop support by IKEA transforms the hammock into an extra workspace

You can also choose a lap desk with in-built pockets to store supplies like paper clips, pens, as well as other odds and ends.

While lap desks save precious space, the downside is that they aren’t ergonomically designed nor are they suited for long hours working from home.

Mobile laptop desk

If you’re after the convenience of a lap desk with more desk space, consider a mobile laptop desk.

These desks offer enough space for a laptop and mouse or notepad, with some having separate keyboard and mouse trays.

Make-shift WFH desk setup with a portable desk and laptop stand
Make-shift WFH desk setup with a portable desk and laptop stand by a Reddit user plantegral. “I can easily move it around close to a window or another room if want a change of surroundings. Plus it’s compact so doesn't fill up the room”, they say. “The only downside is that the table can be a bit wobbly if it's standing on a carpeted floor (with or without the laptop stand), so a wooden slab underneath or hardwood floors are recommended but not needed”. Photo by plantegral

These desks are often height-adjustable and can be rolled around anywhere.

You can work comfortably while sitting on your couch, or standing in a kitchen.

If you’re working in bed, a mobile overbed table is better suited for the purpose.

Cardboard desk

Over the past years, many brands have come up with cardboard desk designs that make home office furniture more accessible to everyone.

These lightweight desks are surprisingly sturdy. They make for a great alternative to regular desks when you’re working within the constraints of a small space or a low budget (or both).

You can buy a flatpack cardboard desk online or download the designs and make them yourself.

Open-source cardboard desk designs available online allow you to choose from standing desks, children’s desks, and desks with storage and slots for stationery and devices.

With a bit of creativity, you can even customise these desks to suit any specific needs you may have.

A cardboard desk is a green alternative to traditional desks and can be recycled after use — a desk by Refold is expected to last at least 2-3 years.

Wall shelf

A wall shelf is a simple and cost-efficient desk substitute for small spaces.

A minimal floating shelf is all you need to hold a laptop and basic work supplies. A wide wall shelf will give you more space for a monitor or keyboard.

Consider a heavy-duty shelf for added safety if you have at least two monitors or if you tend to lean your elbows on the work surface.

Corner shelves are also an excellent desk option — use them to turn wasted space into a small home office.

DIY door desk

Consider yourself a DIYer?

You can build a desk out of repurposed wooden boards or old doors for your home.

Simply screw in the four legs and flip it over. Be careful not to tighten the legs too tight.

DIY door desk setup
A Reddit user ccwalter11 turned this 100-year-old door into the battlestation. “When my wife and I bought the house we found it in the basement. The house is 113 years old,” he says. Photo by ccwalter11

A tall door can make a table for two, and you can even paint it in fun colours to brighten your workspace.

If you can’t find anything that fits your needs, you could simply purchase a basic tabletop from IKEA. They’re more solid than a door.

DIY Pallet Desk

If you have access to wooden pallets and fairly decent carpentry skills, consider building a wooden pallet desk.

DIY Pallet Desk
A Reddit user v3troxroxsox made this DIY battlestation from old pallets. “PC is built into the desk. The total cost is $0 (excluding the rig). The chair is a Recaro seat from an old car of mine. The GPU and radiator vent out underneath the desk which is why you can't see any fans or anything. It runs nearly 10°C degrees cooler than when it was cramped in a little case”. Photo by v3troxroxsox

A large pallet can be converted into a wall-mounted table, whereas smaller pallets can be turned into office storage units and support for the tabletop.

Wall-mounted pallets can also be used as Murphy desks that fold back into the wall after work.

A fold-up pallet desk
A fold-up pallet desk made by KariAnne from Thistlewood Farm

Utility cart

A utility cart is extremely versatile which makes for a good table substitute.

Rolling carts with flat top surfaces work best for this purpose.

Turn the top shelf into a desk, and use the bottom racks for storage and stationery.

A utility cart
Sarah from The Created Home built this mobile utility cart desk by herself. The top of this desk opens up to reveal a compartment, and there’s a shelf on the bottom

Roll the cart into another room or into the wardrobe after work to store it away and clear up your space.

Ironing board

An ironing board is a serious alternative to a standing desk.

Ironing boards are light, portable, usually have adjustable height levels, and can be folded up after use.

This means a lightweight table for work that stows away easily.

With considerable length, ironing boards also turn into spacious desks with enough space to keep a laptop, books, and stationery side by side while working.

Consider a height-adjustable chair with this desk setup to give your feet some rest and to work comfortably.

Home Office Chair for a Small Space
Find the best chair for your tiny home office with this easy guide.

Kitchen counter

When space is at a premium, you can use a kitchen counter as a make-shift desk.

With a bit of effort, kitchen counters can become expansive desks with ample space for all your needs.

A kitchen counter as a workspace
To work with the kitchen counter height, a tall bar stool or a height-adjustable chair is a must. This is not a permanent solution. It’s suitable for changing work environment for a short period of time, but not a long-term workspace whatsoever

Look for a spot where the counter extends beyond the cabinets to sit comfortably.

You can designate a cabinet nearby for office storage and turn a drawer into a charging area for your devices.

Find out 21 practical ideas for turning your closet into a cloffice.

Side table

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best ones.

Short coffee tables, side tables, and end tables can be turned into laptop desks very easily.

Look for side tables with minimalistic designs, so that you can position your legs comfortably while working.

A laptop on the console table
Pop a cushion on the chair to sit comfortably through the day

Hanging table

Turn a small balcony or terrace into a home office with hanging tables.

These desks hang onto railings for support and can be used as a laptop table in small spaces.

Use them indoors by hanging a table on a sturdy bed frame for a simple bedroom home office setup.

You can even choose a foldable hanging table to clear up the space after use.

Dining table

Dining tables are a tried and tested alternative to home office desks.

Even the smallest of dining tables can turn into a spacious and comfortable desk, especially with an office task chair.

The biggest drawback of using a dining table as a desk is having to clear the table at mealtimes (unless you’re buying a brand new desk — here’s a good guide from our friends at Buildremote.co)

Consider creating a space to keep away your laptop and work supplies.

Utility carts and dedicated shelving units in the dining area might come in handy.

Assign a caddy for smaller items like notebooks, pens, and stationery, and you’ll find clearing your workspace a breeze.

How to Declutter Your Home Office
A tidy workspace does wonders for your mental health and productivity. Follow this step-by-step guide to declutter and organise your home office.

We’re a reader-supported publication. This article might contain affiliate links. It means we may receive a commission if you click a link and buy a product that our maker has recommended. The article was written independently.