home office zen
February 24, 2005 4:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm building a large (about 12 linear feet) corner desk as a general workspace, with an emphasis on computing. Since it is being built from the ground up, I'm planning on doing things like installing an iPod dock flush with the desk, as well as a bank of usb/firewire/media cards ports. I've a few more thoughts, but would like to like to know your good ideas.

Some of my other ideas

  • absolutley NO cords visible: wireless keyboard/mouse, LCD mounted, powerpacks residing in the structures supporting the desktop, cords running along the wall side of a removable back panel)
  • modular design featuring only one built in shelf underneath, perhaps in the corner (for printer, modem, wireless, external drive, sub), the remainder of storage being movable on casters
  • charging station (phones/cameras)
  • easy access to power and VGA in case I ever feel like hooking up my powerbook to the LCD (which supports two inputs)
Besides computing, there is likely going to be some writing, crafting, and sewing a-happening in this area. If you're interested in general construction details, I'll be happy to share.

Have any ideas? Am I missing something obvious or otherwise? I'd especially like to know your ideas about getting my rather unmountable computer speakers off the desk.
posted by ArcAm to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're going to be sewing, (if it's far enough away from where the computer will go) installing a magnetic pincushion somewhere underneath might be neat.
posted by interrobang at 4:45 PM on February 24, 2005

Build some CAT5 outlets in, to minimize cable runs.
posted by cmonkey at 4:46 PM on February 24, 2005

Keep in mind that plug shapes keep changing.

Consider cutting out a larger rectangular shape, into which you'll drill shapes for iPod docking, cable routing, etc.

When the 5G or 6G iPod comes out with a new cable arrangement, or the next version of USB or Firewire comes out, all you do is drill out another rectangular mount to handle the new cable formats, and then replace the old mount.
posted by AlexReynolds at 4:51 PM on February 24, 2005

In your wiring, are you using wiring ties?
You might use Velcro Grip Ties - Instant cable wraps instead.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:55 PM on February 24, 2005

My ideal desk would be one where I could get everything off it without too much difficulty. So monitors (LCD, natch) would be on VESA swingarms, stuff that otherwise might pile up would be placed on a shelf above/below. I'd probably use a maple butcher-block surface, so that I could abuse it. A couple of narrow built-in shelving towers for papers, frequently used books, etc

You might want to read about Joel Spolsky's offices. One interesting idea there is having a covered trough at the back of the desktop for cables.
posted by adamrice at 5:08 PM on February 24, 2005

I often wish that my desk had an inkwell, but that's just me.
posted by interrobang at 5:11 PM on February 24, 2005

If you've got ports coming out of the desk surface itself, make sure there's some form of cover or have a way of getting bits of crud out of the connectors.

Great idea, by the way, I've had a half formed desire to do something similar, but haven't really spent any time working on details.
posted by tomble at 5:38 PM on February 24, 2005

Make sure you check your ergonomics. If it's custom, find the proper height for your keyboard and mouse, where you can comfortably sit for hours, make sure the center of your monitor is roughly at eye level, seat height is proper. You might also think of getting a footrest (it's actually really comfortable). The best way to get comfortable is to sit at your current desk, and elevate/drop stuff until you are comfortable. Then measure and build to suit!

The most annoying thing about a desk is being stuck with "features" when things change in the future. make sure you can make your surface perfectly horizontal and clean. I suggest a rectangular cutout with modules.. (as suggested earlier) which just sit on a lip grooved 1/2" into the desk. Then you can always remove the "interface module" and have a smooth surface again.

Built-in power strips, (get ones with widely spaced sockets, so you can plugin wall warts without losing all your plugs.)

Good luck, and enjoy your project.
posted by defcom1 at 5:56 PM on February 24, 2005

Response by poster: AlexReynolds , that is such a good idea. Very forward thinking, I love it.

adamrice, great link, I'm toying with the trough idea. I think I like it because, while perhaps slightly more complex to build than a removable three-quarter length back to the desk, it a) prevents me from thinking about something other than magnets for attaching, and b) is more accessible.

thomcatspike , yes, i'm a zip-tie fanatic.

interrobang, an ink well might be rad, because I do quite enjoy writing with fountain pens! I wouldn't have thought of it. And perhaps the pincushion can go on the wife's side of the desk.

Which gives me the idea: maybe I'll drill some holes to standard knitting needle gauges so she can drop them down like test tubes.

defcom1, regarding power, i'm hoping to keep access to inside the little (in essence) walls which will be holding up the desktop. I can wire outlets in there and perhaps leave an opening connecting the supports and said trough. Built-in power strips will prolly still come in handy tho. Maybe on the underside of the desk.

Anyone have any brainstorms re: speaker placement? I suppose little shelves on eithe side of the LCD would do, but that seems to easy.
posted by ArcAm at 6:10 PM on February 24, 2005

Sounds like a cool project. I actually had a custom desk built about six years ago and my primary advice is to build in flexibility because your work habits may change, new projects may cath your eye, and technology will certainly change. For example, that "iPod dock flush with the desk" may end up being a different size in two years.

One feature I really liek is one that I see in high end corporate meeting rooms, but could be adapted to a desk. It's basically piano hinged panels--long ones--that reveal a large space for cables, power strip, and various and sundry gear. I'd argue you can't go wrong by leaving much more space than you think you need for things like power bricks, USB hubs, etc.
posted by donovan at 6:13 PM on February 24, 2005

On a much more basic level: make sure you have several large and convenient work surfaces. As anyone who cooks knows, you ALWAYS need more counterspace, and, I find, the same is true with a desk. I spread my papers out all over the place, so a large surface area is very important for me. Don't skimp on the basics for the sake of making room for multiple gizmos!
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:16 PM on February 24, 2005

absolutley NO cords visible: wireless keyboard/mouse, LCD mounted, powerpacks residing in the structures supporting the desktop, cords running along the wall side of a removable back panel)

May not mix so well with:

charging station (phones/cameras)

What happens when you want to grab that cellphone charger and take it on vacation? You have to take your desk apart? Cable management is a great idea, but don't overdo the integration, or you may find it inconvenient later.
posted by scarabic at 7:38 PM on February 24, 2005

Response by poster: Amen, Dr. Wu. I'll prolly have more working space on this desk than in my kitchen, sadly.

The intention of getting everything off of the desk is to create more space, although it is an aesthetic choice as well.
posted by ArcAm at 7:39 PM on February 24, 2005

My advice: don't forget to build up. Every single damned desk I've ever seen never has more than a single bookshelf hutch over the desk. Your average ceiling is something like 8 feet. That's a lot of wasted space. Build a few levels of shelving on top, and leave the design as simple and straight-forward as possible to accomodate future changes.

Go up, young man!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:20 PM on February 24, 2005

Look for sewing cabinet manufacturers (Koala Cabinets is one) for ideas there--the requirements for a good sewing area are quite different from those for a good computer area. Not that they can't coexist nicely near each other, but you won't be using the same space for both painlessly by any stretch.

Everything else I had to say has already been said.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:03 PM on February 24, 2005

Depending on where you are locating your computer tower, think of the heat build-up above and around it, and make sure there is room for air flow. Also, if you are big on customization, perhaps get a nice, quiet computer fan and build it into an appropriate area? I don't know much about such things, but I have a mini-fan in the desk I had built for me to alleviate the heat.
posted by MrZero at 9:23 PM on February 24, 2005

A version of trough implementation I like:
A long trough with shorter cover pieces, some of which have holes in them. When you make the covers, you cut some extra lengths of both "cover strips", and "port strips". If the use changes, you can add or remove cord access by swapping pieces. I've seen this in an office floor. They had strips running down each wall, with a strip dividing the room in half, it looked like an "8" on a digital clock.

You could install a variable DC power supply, with a modular plug, but it would probably be simpler to buy duplicate chargers for your portable devices and install them in the desk.

I've always wanted to exploit the fact that so many flat panel displays use VESA standards for articulated supports. It would be nice to be able to kick my heels up, and twist the monitor out in front of me.

might be of use in your sourcing.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 9:46 PM on February 24, 2005

Regarding speakers, there's no law that says they need to be anywhere near you or your monitor. Why not attach speakers to the walls to the left and right of you (or better yet, build them into the walls).
posted by EatenByAGrue at 10:20 PM on February 24, 2005

Which gives me the idea: maybe I'll drill some holes to standard knitting needle gauges so she can drop them down like test tubes.

As your wife about this, but unless she only ever uses a small number of single points, you might be better to provide a few larger cut outs or bins that are matched to the common *lengths* of knitting needles, but that can hold multiple sets of singles, doubles, etc of different sizes.

Most of my singles are either 14 or 10 inches, though I have some 7s. My doubles are 10, 7 or 5. If you could figure out a way to tame circulars, she'd probably be very grateful if she uses them, because they are an absolute bitch to store.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:44 AM on February 25, 2005

Another couple of thoughts on the crafting angles. Pegboard or pegdrawer for storing threads you be useful. A drawer divided into various cubbies for holding smaller notions, bobbins, buttons, etc. Drawers of varying heights. Some things you want to lay out flat and in shallow layers (notions, elastics, etc), other things you want to file in more orderly manner (patterns). If you can do a swing away sinking machine shelf as in many real sewing desks, that would rock. Look for knit-chets to get some other ideas on things of utility to knitters. Does she have a serger? A waste channel to an out of site garbage bin would probably be appreciated to tame all those clippings.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:05 AM on February 25, 2005

How about mounting some small, quiet computer fans down around where your feet go? There's nothing* nicer than having a cool breeze wafting around your feet whilst you're working on a computer in hot weather! :-)

( * - well, not much that's better, at least!)
posted by Chunder at 8:57 AM on February 25, 2005

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