With easy access to both the living room and the adjacent kitchen, the under-stair space in this 1920s bungalow in Austin, Texas—which won a Merit Award in the 2014 Remodeling Design Awards—offered a convenient spot for a home office. But architect Tim Whitehill of Alterstudio Architecture imbued what could have been merely clever space planning with a bit of extra resonance, carving out a keyhole-like recess that mimics the silhouette of a seated person. Whitehill specified a painted MDF finish for the stair’s railing wall, which “folds” to form a desktop. To highlight the modular layout, Austin-based remodeler Ford Strei eased the panels’ edges. Fir planks salvaged from the original building line the office nook, an earthy counterpoint to the polished interior.

Explore the full list of 2014 RDA winners here.