As we slog on through this lockdown amid what is clearly some of the most unclear advice I have ever come across I shall try to keep this blog a haven of clarity and sensible information when it comes to your homes. Over the last couple of months I have written about how to work from home and why a coffee table is the second most important piece of furniture you will buy (after the kitchen table). I have, so far, avoided the question of choosing the perfect desk.
This is partly because there was a rash of similar features at the start of lockdown, but also for a more practical reason; by now those of you who having been working from home for nearly two months, will have had time to learn what is wrong with your current set-up. And, as regular readers will, often the key element to getting something right is knowing what is wrong.
And while I am, The Mad Husband will tell you, one of the most impatient people on earth, I also like to think about decisions – especially when they involve spending money – so make sure you get it right. When TMH (yes him again) first started working from home there was a lot of hoo-ha about desks and storage and getting the working atmosphere just right. This involved several trips to Ikea, some painting, quite a lot of pondering and then a phone call, a contract and a new job back in an office. Meanwhile I carried on at the the kitchen table…
However, I saw a story floating around last week saying that the right to work from home may soon be enshrined in law. And I think it’s clear, whatever happens, that more people will work from home following this. Or may be allowed to work more flexible hours; I know some people who negotiated starting work at 7 so they could be home in time for the school pick up, or with differing start times which is another thing that companies are looking into to ease the crowding on public transport.
So it seemed to me that now was the time to look at finding the perfect desk for your needs. Everyone will have their own ideas as to what constitutes perfect and their own ideas as to what constitutes need, but I wanted to throw out some pointers for you to consider.
Firstly, this time at home may have helped you to decide where the best working spot is. Many of us gravitate to the (second) smallest room in the house, the undecorated spare room, the attic with its sloping ceilings or the triangle under the stairs. And then wonder why we don’t want to go and sit in those cramped dark spaces or why, because we have no choice in where to go, we are so unproductive when we get there.
This post is not about where you work but what you use when you get there. For me the number one requirement is drawers. This makes it quick and easy to tidy up at the end of the day and, indeed, my last kitchen table, which was my desk for about 10 years, was an old art school table we picked up at a junk shop which had two huge drawers at either end and a small one in the middle – into which we stuffed the receipts while the others held laptops and pens and papers. My current desk, a Georgian writing table from ebay, also has two smaller drawers in it. One is full of useful stuff like pens and contracts and important paperwork. The other is all the rubbish I can’t be bothered to find a home for but know I don’t want to be looking at it all day.
The other point to consider is where your desk will be – by which I mean can it be a permanent fixture in the space? Because if you have decided that you are at your most productive at that sun-filled spot in the corner of the living room but that space is needed for a chair and tv in the evening then you need to look at something that dismantles. Obviously this won’t have drawers so you will need to consider alternative storage in that case. But look for trestle legs – for me vintage would be the dream, or these metal ones from Tiptoe. This also allows you to choose your own desktop and create something that is the perfect size for the space.
If you work in the bedroom then the best solution is a table that can double up as a dressing table – keep one drawer for make up and mirrors and one for laptops and pens.
If you work in a small space then look at console tables. A long thin table means you can put a laptop at one end and all the paperwork to one side. This has the added advantage of being able to move to the hall if you move house or even fit behind a sofa when it’s no longer needed as a desk so it’s a versatile purchase.
Finally, if desks with built-in storage aren’t an option then maybe reverse it and create a built-in desk. This can be in the form of a wide shelf in the kitchen with narrower ones above for storage. Or you can move into a cupboard. When we designed our current kitchen the idea was to build a wall of floor to ceiling cupboards with double doors with a desk in each one for all four of us but that idea fell out along the way. I still sort of thing one working cupboard would have been useful. If you live in a period property with alcoves either side of the fireplace then you can do this in a sitting room with a door on it that you can close at the end of the day.
This does come back to the problem of working in small dark spaces but at the very least you might be able to set up the printer and store all the work stuff there even if you to take the laptop to the kitchen table for the actual working part.
I hope this has provided some useful pointers. Do add your own suggestions below and I have illustrated with pictures of desks that you might like or be inspired by. Captions include links.