home office horror
March 26, 2010 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Help! I'm married to a computer geek, and we are in desperate need of some home office solutions.

One side of the room is fine: the corner houses a rather functional elbow-shaped desk, which is surrounded by a tall window on one side and a deck door on the other. No major problems there, but also not a lot of room for change.

But oh, the horror that hits you as soon as you turn around to face the room's one and only long, uninterrupted wall! Picture two mismatched desks. On top of one is our large printer/fax/copier, while underneath it are several computer towers and other miscellaneous electronic bits with flashing lights and snaking cords. Yeah, that's a sexy look. On top of the other desk is a small bookcase (there's no room for it on the floor); it holds countless books and binders, and the ones that couldn't fit are stacked around it. Below it are several plastic Office Max bins that hold files. Again, very sexy. Finally, between the two bookcases is a black filing cabinet that tends to collect all sorts of crap on top.

Dear MeFites, please hit me with your best ideas/discoveries in the area of attractive, geek-friendly office storage solutions. We wouldn't mind keeping the existing filing cabinet; however, everything else can go! We are hoping for something that can be attached to the wall to take advantage of the vertical space and conceal some less-than-pretty bits (these?). We crave a tidy and clutter-free look, but are not at all interested in craft-lady office storage with pretty baskets and such. On the other hand, we are also done with the plastic bin look. A horizontal surface of some sort is needed as well (at least to house the printer), but we don't absolutely need another desk in there.

Many thanks in advance.
posted by onepot to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Go to Ikea.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 10:17 AM on March 26, 2010

consider using kitchen cabinetry to build what you need instead of just office furniture.
posted by kch at 11:17 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

How much money are you prepared to throw at this problem?
posted by adamrice at 11:21 AM on March 26, 2010

It's all about cable management, hidden below the back of the desk. Use zip ties (or velcro strips for things that need swapping occasionally.

Also have him consider virtualization to be able to cut down on the amount of computers he needs to be running at a given time. This may or may not be an option for him.

We might have more specific advice if we could see the room. We won't judge.
posted by JauntyFedora at 11:24 AM on March 26, 2010

Take a look at Unplggd.com, which has a bunch of home office/organization ideas and examples.
posted by chengjih at 11:29 AM on March 26, 2010

I have a bookshelf and next to the bookshelf a CD tower from ikea. The CD tower holds my computer tower on a lower shelf, and then a shelf for the various things with lights (modems, USB hubs, external hard drives, etc.). I have one shelf that just holds those little boxes on the electrical cords (you know the DC adapters always have those boxes mid-cord? I have those all one shelf set just to the right height for that.

I cover the whole front of the cd tower with black so all the things inside aren't visible. THe beauty of the cd tower is that it's vertical, so the footprint is small and so the cords don't snake around the floor. I have my surge protector mounted to the wall behind the CD tower and plug everything in there. The plugs that go from one box to another (e.g. router to computer) all going vertically too, so the cords never touch the floor. I use elastic bands to coil the cords so only the amount they need + a little slack is loose.

My printer is on top of my (small) filing cabinet).

So: Put the filing cabinet between the two desks and put the printer on that. You mention two bookcases, though I not clear where those are. Go get one or two billy bookcases with height extensions. Get the matching CD tower, or two if you have two computers. Stick them next to the bookcases. Put all your computer stuff in the CD towers. Put all your books and junk in the bookshelves.

All this is courtesy of ikea. Go to ikea.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:33 AM on March 26, 2010

So, at the risk of ruining a geeks day....buy a much more powerful box, run VMware and consolidate all standalone physical machines in to virtual machines. It will cut down _dramatically_ on the clutter. I had to do this when I found myself staring at 8 machines all of which were running different operating systems and performing old strange tasks. It ended up being easier to consolidate the physical hardware to a single box and P to V the boxes so I didn't have to deal with rebuilding the functions all in one go.

You'll also want to go to a Graybar or Fry's or even home depot and buy Velcro. Cable dress every 6 inches.

For the filing cabinets our solution was a scanner and a weekend devoted to getting rid of all non notarized/watermarked/etc paper. It cut our filing down to about 1/50th of the volume and we were able to go to one larger filing cabinet.
posted by iamabot at 11:36 AM on March 26, 2010

Check out the elfa office solutions for your wall. If they're not within your budget, keep in mind that you can arrange a similar setup with cheaper knock-off brands – while not nearly as pretty, the industrial garage shelving in our laundry room is just as functional. Elfa also goes on sale twice a year (30% off, I believe).

Additionally, I've always found Real Simple's home makeovers full of great ideas and tricks. Here are some examples of home office organization.
posted by halogen at 11:48 AM on March 26, 2010

Oh, this would be a fun IKEA project. They have planners you can download for kitchen or office products. I think cord management might be easier with a kitchen setup because presumably there would be a laminate countertop involved, and you can drill through that wherever you want the cords to come down. I'd vote for a nice sleek row of cabinetry along the wall and a round table in the middle of the room.
posted by lakeroon at 3:17 PM on March 26, 2010

Lifehackers Workspaces tag and the corresponding Flickr pool may or may not help.
posted by Duke999R at 1:58 AM on March 27, 2010

Here's my theory for our office at home - pick two main colours for the room. Try and purchase items in either colour (preferably the same shade), because it makes everything look tidier. Don't worry about patterns for now. So if I were you, I would take those two mismatched desks and paint them the exact same colour so that they're slightly more in sync with each other. Our office is a dark green and black (ooh, like the chocolate brand! Just realised), as all our computer hardware is black, and green is a nice gender neutral colour that didn't offend us both.

For storage items, The Container Store has some useful looking "ecofriendly" items that could easily be painted/decorated on the outside as to your own whims (and are much better than plastic, oh how I covet these!). For shelves, IKEA is a good bet because you have the option to mix and match brackets and see how they look in person. I think they might have some smaller table-like desks that could house your printer. CB2 is my current go-to for ideas, although their furniture can be pretty pricey.

And finally: Unclutterer is a great blog that can give you some inventive ideas. They have Flickr pool where people post their own workspaces.
posted by saturnine at 9:41 AM on March 27, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for so many good ideas.

While I am a huge IKEA fan, I felt rather uninspired by their office offerings during our last visit: there seemed to be many spindly contraptions with names like Hulaag that offered to showcase instead of hide our ugly stuff. But! Perhaps I've been thinking inside the box and need to go look again.

So, how about this for thinking outside the box: we're contemplating using an IKEA countertop (this or this or this) to create a large horizontal surface on top of the 2 filing cabinets. Are we missing something? This somehow seems too cheap and too great to be true.

We will definitely look into the CD tower option as well, and appreciate the elfa, cable management, Lifehacker, Container Store, & Unclutterer suggestions. And, iamabot: great ideas re: consolidation. But alas, we already have a virtual machine at home and a remote server--and the room is still a mess.
posted by onepot at 3:04 PM on March 28, 2010

The only thing I would caution about using two cabinets plus countertop is to see if you need any additional support - the countertop may not be built to hold, say, the weight of a big printer in the middle if it's only resting on a cabinet on each end. I don't know if that's true; if it does sag you could always rejigger. Just thought I'd throw it out there. Have fun!
posted by lakeroon at 9:31 AM on March 29, 2010

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