The trick is that you rarely press the entire garment or project as you sew, you are pressing small areas of the entire project and that rarely calls for needing the entire pressing surface offered on a full size ironing board. So why do we always fight to fit that big cumbersome ironing board in to a small area? Sure we eventually need the entire ironing board but do we really need the entire thing most of the time? I don't!
My solution for a long time, and a solution many people swear by, was a pressing pad. In my sewing room though, I found that things ended up set down on the pressing pad because it is a firm horizontal surface. Every time I needed to use the pressing pad, I had to take the time out to clear it off so I could use it. My sewing room consists of Formica counter tops which were not effected by steam and heat that can transfer through an ironing pad. If your sewing space is a finished wood surface, DO NOT use a pressing pad. The steam from your iron as well as the heat of the iron can and usually will damage the wood surface.
The solution that works best for me is a medium sized ironing board, measuring approximately thirty inches long, by twelve and a half inches wide and stands approximately four inches from the surface it is placed on. Small ironing board are available in very small sizes, which work well to press a sleeve but the medium size set up near your sewing machine is very convenient and in almost all cases, it is large enough to press the area you you sewing, eliminating pulling out the full-size ironing board until you have finished your sewing project.
The biggest problem I have with almost every ironing board is the chintzy pad and cover that come with ironing boards. Sewing my own cover has proven to be the best solution.
The medium size ironing board is stable enough for the iron to sit on without it teetering which could be a dangerous situation. It is also raised off the working surface which works to keep me from stacking things on top of the flat surface. If you are on a wood surface, I would protect under the medium ironing board from steam and heat damage but it would be much safer than a pressing pad.