We moved to our new place couple of months back and having an extra bedroom let me finally have a personal workspace that doubles up as our library and reading space. Using cheap furniture either from Walmart, Ikea or even the Used Furniture store in town, I created a simple clutter-free space. Since most of my work is done online, paper has been nearly eliminated and the clutter-free look is largely achieved by my need to hide cables and wiring. This workspace was featured last week on Lifehacker in their Featured Workspace series and they termed it as a budget-conscious design although it was largely that way by necessity rather than design.
The workspace is furnished mostly in black and white with the occasional color thrown in form of solid-color rugs. I picked up the desk from a used furniture store in College Station for $50. Actually, it is half the desk that I got. I got rid of the top bookshelf that could be attached to the desk (see previous version) but it was making the desk look heavy and I rather have my books on the shelves against the walls. The leather chair is something I picked up off Craigslist when I first moved to Texas four years ago and has served me well so far. A Herman Miller is out of the question since it would cost as much as all the furniture in the current setup.
The workspace is powered by an Apple Macbook Pro that I’ve hooked to an external 22″ widescreen monitor. The laptop sits on an ergonomic clear-hard-plastic laptop stand from Logitech that I carry along when I work at a cafe. I’ve a spare power adapter in my bag so I don’t have to unhook the one that sits on this desk. Apart from the power cord and external monitor, the laptop is plugged in to the USB port of the monitor so that I get two additional USB ports on the left side of the monitor to charge other devices. The laptop when shut is controlled by a bluetooth-enabled Apple Wireless Keyboard and a Logitech wireless mouse (no Mighty Mouse for me). I can also keep the laptop lid open and use the system like a dual-monitor setup, if need be. Additionally, the audio is outputted to two spaceship-like JBL speakers that sit on either side of the monitor and the amplifier dome sits below the desk hidden from view. Also, the external HDD (currently at 160 GB; its 4 years old) is stashed away on the keyboard try hidden from view and hooks up to the monitor-USB port from the back. The keyboard tray also holds my earphones, USB charging cables for the iPhone,etc.
Behind the main desk is a horizontal bookshelf from the Expedit series from Ikea that mostly has textbooks and other reference books in four cube slots. Three cubes have cardboard boxes filled with assorted papers, manuals, blank DVDs, and spare cables and cords, and one cube contains my camera bag that has my Nikon D40 and its other accessories. My old laptop, a Lenovo-IBM Thnkpad T60 sits on top in a corner and can be remotely accessed from my Mac in case I want specific files or want to run Windows-only programs. I don’t have enough Windows-only programs to warrant a Bootcamp or Parallels installation on my Mac and I’ve eventually found almost equivalent (or better) apps for the Mac for the work I did on on my PC.
As you see in the photo above, the cables from the monitor, the speakers, and the laptop vanish in the back of the desk. Behind the black matboard that I purchased from Hobby Lobby for $7, I’ve affixed the Signum cable management tray from Ikea to the top of the desk top. All the cables are looped in the grid and ungainly power adapter boxes sit snug in the tray. Only one thick bundle of cables that I tied together with those black flexible cords you get with any cable purchase (or around plastic bags in the produce section of a grocery store) goes to a power strip hidden in the back and another bundle comes up the desk to the laptop and the monitor. The cables as you notice are either black or white which fortunately go with the general color scheme of the room.
Library and Reading Space
Considering most of my reading is done online, I use the word library very loosely and basically represents three bookcases that I purchased from Walmart and Ikea (see first image). These bookcases hold most of our book collection that includes fiction, non-fiction, and Harry Potter books :) The middle birch-colored bookcase holds our Wired and National Geographic magazine collections, the only two monthly paper magazines that we subscribe to. Next to one of the bookcases in the corner, I’ve a Poang Arm Chair from Ikea that we use for reading. My wife and our dog like to keep me company when I’m on my computer. The reading lamp behind the chair provide direct and ample light during the night and the small window above provides natural light during the day.
I’ve tried to keep the wall art to the minimum and whatever is on there is either personal or in tune with the design. The Obama poster that I got my Move On Dot Org seems to rile up many people but then if you’ve been around the political Internet, you won’t find that surprising and I don’t see reason to apologize for lack of inspiring people in other people’s lives. The other wall art are the four black-and-white photos of the most important people in my life, my parents, my wife, and our dog Lucy framed in 17″ x 15″ black border frames from Target. The medal-like thing and the plaque on the side are couple of awards I received in college and are a testament to my vanity. The small stool near the window is a favorite perch for our dog during the day to look out the window and go crazy barking at skateboards and motorbikes. Four other pieces of art (not seen) on the walls to the right of the desk are vintage-style posters from transportation ads (see them in this photo from our previous apartment). Of course, a leafy plant keeps me company.
I enjoyed creating this space as much as I love using it. Although now that I’ve graduated from college, I no longer use it for work but mostly for browsing the web, organizing and working on our photos and videos, and mostly as a TV-free family room. This was created entirely on a shoe-string budget not out of choice but more out of necessity (recent college graduates will understand) and was organized rather than design from what we had in our previous apartment supplemented by some new purchases. The stores that we used mostly were Walmart, Ikea, a used furniture store, and Target and no designer stuff (if you exclude the Mac) was used. In my opinion, form follows function and I’m not out to impress anyone so I’m sure there are plenty of fancier workspaces out there. I would love to hear your suggestions on how to make it better or even help you figure out how best to organize your personal workspaces. Better still, I would love to see your home workspace so feel free to share your photos or links in the comments.