The culmination of several months of tinkering and not being completely satisfied with my work area has come to a head. Here’s a bit of back story on how this came to be, why I did it, some of the stuff I tried (and failed), and all the relevant links to what you see here are included at the end.
Let’s get this train moving.
About a year and two months ago from when I write this, I left my job in an alright office to take up a position at Papertrail. There were two primary lures hanging from this position that drew me in: the kind of people I’d be working with and the allowance of working remotely 100% of the time.
I had toyed with the idea for several months prior, wanting the flexibility to travel more often and even relocate from where I was living at the time (silicon valley) without having to look for yet another job.
This meant needing a high quality work area in which I can sit for 6-10 hours per day and get all my most important work done. For some, that can literally be anywhere–a coffee shop, the couch–I’m not quite like that. In order for me to mentally be in the right place while I work. Distractions are my arch nemesis.
With this concept in mind, I had to figure out what I’d need in order to be successful, or at least feel like I was being successful (have to check that bias box, you know).
Unfortunately, the realization didn't come until about two months ago (see section five of this post) when I decided I needed to start taking this more seriously.
The (Super) Early Incarnation
When I lived in California, my first workspace was an IKEA desk that fit just perfectly in the little den in my overpriced silicon valley apartment. At six feet (183cm) wide, it was good enough for the time. Realistically, I couldn’t make it any bigger, anyway. The room was six and a half feet (198cm) wide. Snug.
This desk housed my monitor, keyboard, mouse, and laptop. A few other miscellaneous things here and there like my XLR microphone and interface eventually made their way onto my desk, but that was it. I can’t stand desk clutter and am of the idea that if it’s not useful to you at the moment, it shouldn’t be there save for minor aesthetic complements.
When I moved, I voted to get rid of everything. It saved on moving costs and gave me a great excuse to start fresh… which lead to…
The Second(!?) Early Incarnation
My first attempt at a clean, functional workspace post-move involved a huge L-shaped corner desk build out from IKEA. I took two 47″ x 29″ (119cm x 74cm) rectangle tables and plopped a 47″ x 47″ (119cm x 119cm) L-piece with a curved cutout in the middle, giving me a massive 98″ (248cm) long-in-each direction L-shaped desk thing. The idea was wonderful in my head, but in reality, it didn’t turn out quite like I had planned.
The first hurdle was the curve. Because of how deep it was, any chair I found that could support long sitting sessions didn’t scoot up far enough thanks to the chair’s arms bumping against the desk edge. This meant I had to lean forward in order to even just barely reach my keyboard without it hanging over the lip. Not good.
This setup started after I moved from California to Washington in October 2016. This lasted almost five months before I had to call it quits and start from scratch (again).
Inspiration and Another Go
I started browsing the Internet and combing Instagram for ideas on how I can create a super clean, more minimal workspace without breaking the bank. The minimal desk design style is super hot right now and I wanted a piece of that hotness.
I came across a few others on Instagram who had used wood kitchen counter tops for their desks for a few reasons: they’re
One of the concepts behind this clean/minimal workspace movement is large swaths of the desk going unused in the traditional sense. It also allows for a decent number of items on the desk without drawing too many parallel lines with the cluttered feeling.
With countertop in hand, I opted to reuse the legs from my previous botched desk setup as a means for holding it up. At roughly 60 lbs (27 kg), it’s not incredibly heavy but remember, this is a solid slab of wood. If it’s not heavy, it’s at least awkward.
This is where having power tools came in handy. Sinking the screws into the wood required some torque and body weight to lean into my 18 volt cordless drill. With some effort, they screwed in and weren’t going anywhere. Handy tip, the screws that come with the IKEA desk legs–the ones you can buy individually—are short enough to sink into a wood counter top without punching through. Go team.
I was able to muster along with this and a set of drawers (also from, you guessed it, IKEA) as the support on the other side. The drawers are exactly the same height as the legs, making this an easy build.
Good, But it Could be Better
This configuration only lasted a couple months as we approach present day. I had seen the IKEA trestles being used in other setups like this one:
and I knew that’s what I had to do. Further, I was completely confident the birch with white trestle legs would look super clean.
So that’s what I did.
Fixing the top to the legs required a bit of elbow grease this time, too. Since the trestles will be level, I don’t need a ton of security; enough to keep the legs and top lined up is enough. I marked out where the legs need to go and where I needed to drill. I created a pilot hole then sunk the screws that act like pegs that came with the legs. That’s it! Not rocket science by any means.
In addition, I swapped out a lamp I had since I moved in for the standing version of my desk lamp, and it made all the difference. During the day, I have enough light from the window to not need to worry about filling the room with light. At night, these two lamps flood my desk with enough light to be able to work with ease.
When I got to a point where I’d be comfortable sharing it with the world, I posted a picture (the same one you see in the header of this post) on Instagram. Turns out Instagram loves this stuff and ate it up. If I ever seriously wanted to increase my Brand, this would be how I’d do it. (lol)
Here’s what you see in the photo–with relevant links:
- WordPress-branded coffee cup
Or is it?
At the time of this writing, I still have a couple tweaks to make. I need to create a more permanent home for my work Macbook Pro in the form of a vertical stand (probably from Twelve South) and a desk mat. One of the downsides to this butcher-block wood slab is it’s not a super smooth texture. Butcher-block requires treatment if it’s going to get wet, something I haven’t done, and probably won’t do for some time.
In a few months, who knows what I’ll end up doing. I’m moving again next October into hopefully a more permanent home so this build might need some tweaking. Who knows, really…