Tag Archives: desks

DIY Electric Lifting Desk

“Loren” (no last name given) of Canada designed and built his own electric lift standing desk, with integrated computer. I do like this. He’s mostly managed to create a desk that I like, while at the same time doing some tricks that I normally think are cringeworthy.

It’s a corner desk, which I don’t tend to like because of they’re inflexible layout, but I do appreciate how they maximize of surface area that’s in reach. It has a glass top, which always seems a bit cold (both physically and aesthetically), to reveal an embedded computer. I’m kind of torn about the embedded computer. Part of me thinks that it’s a bit too gamery, yet I do like how it frees up floor space, and it does simplify the cable runs when raising and lower the desk. Even with all these touches that I don’t really like, the top does look nice. It’s the the legs that I can’t stand.

The legs are very amateurish. He’s using very thin (what half inch, if that?) single board trestle style legs. They’re absolutely horrible. They are literally two boards nailed together in the shape of a tee. The desk just doesn’t look stable. He’s added some simple boards for mounting some linear actuators, but the mechanisms are still exposed on the other three sides. The legs are really a disappointment.

The real find for the desk are the linear actuator arms. HARL-3616+ arms from SuperPowerJack. 18 inch extension and can lift 500 pounds on 36 volts. The real feature is that he could find them on eBay for $50 to $100. They don’t have limit switches though, but those are simple to wire up.

Still, an electric lifting standing desk for mere hundreds of dollars instead of several thousand is a huge win!

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Razy2’s Tab Table

Design group Razy2 (Paulina and Jacek Ryń)’s Tab table, features sliding panels on top that hide storage containers under the top.

I’ve become curious about desk and table tops that appear seamless, yet conceal storage and ports. it’s an interesting idea. If I was to do this, I’d hold the panels in place with rare earth magnets, but main problem is that if you put the panel in the middle of the top, then you have to have a way to pull the lid  off, which means either a handle, or a scoop to lift it out. Placing the lids around the edge allows the lids to be lifted off (assuming the lid overlaps the edge) eleminates this problem.

Of course, placing the storage along the side in little concealable drawers is also a solution.

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Mac|Life’s concept iDesk seems plausible and very expensive. In their concept, Mac|Life images a desk with a multitouch display and bluetooth connectivity. Phones, laptops, and other devices when placed on the desk can have their data accessed and transferred though on desk icons.

It’s a striking design, having your desk be one giant interactive flat panel display. The technology to do this certainly seems ready. Giant retina displays, and multitouch controls exist. (Well retina displays exist, scaling them up to 6 feet by 4 feet, maybe not.) The real problem seems to be more of software rather than hardware. You don’t even really need one display like that. Simply more intuitive graphical and tactile syncing with current separate displays would be nice. I imagine transferring documents from desktop or laptop computer to a tablet by touching the screen displaying the document with spread open fingertips, making a fist (think grabbing) and then touching the screen of the destination device. Of course thinking of local device storage is so 20th century. Everything is going cloud with continuous syncing.

Mechanical Desks

While reading about secretary desks, I came across a related type I had never heard of before, the mechanical desk. A fad of the 1700s, these desks featured mechanisms that hid shelves and surfaces when not in use. It’s a real shame that these didn’t make a comeback when computers became widespread. Computer desks were dreadful. While hiding a 21 inch CRT that weight 150 pounds wouldn’t have been easy, the idea hiding materials when they are not needed appeals to me.

A modern interpretation of the mechanical desk is the Crescendo C2 from Stilvoll. I like how it looks like a drafting table, but expands to reveal bins. Of course, the role these bins play could have been solved with a traditional divided drawer. Still, this got me thinking.

I’ve considered getting a desktop computer, yet I don’t know what I would do with it. At work I love my MacPro and its three 24 inch LCDs, and part of me would love to have that setup at home, even if I don’t do much coding at home. If I ever took to telecommuting regularly, I’d need such a setup, including the Steelcase Leap chair, as even a 17 inch laptop just doesn’t quite cut it. Assuming I had desktop computer with multiple displays, I wouldn’t like having the monitors dominating the desk space. Yes, LCDs have a much smaller footprint than CRTs, but they still are visually imposing. Sometimes that’s what you want, but sometimes it’s not. A mechanical desk that could retract the screens would be great. Even better, if the desktop could expand. Perhaps a second pullout spring loaded leaf, kind of the like the Crescendo C2, but with a pushdown panel that has the screens mounted on swivel arms. Fold up the monitors and push them down into a little protected area behind the desk. Hide the tower and assorted wires in pedestal, and put file drawers in the other pedestal. (Personally, I prefer desks with legs rather than pedestals, but such a desk would look weird with big solid front on it.)

This is something I’m going to need to draw out.

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Interesting, Yet Outdated, Furniture

Writing about traveling bookcases and other dead media storage solutions got me thinking about other furniture that always seems pregnant with possibilities, yet just isn’t practical anymore: secretary desks, and travel desks.

I love all the cubby holes in the secretary desks. Holes full of letters, bills, and checks. Drawers containing pens, ink wells, and seals. All of it lockable. Its very structure conveys, “Important stuff happens here.” Need to do serious work on the go? Get a travel desk, the attache case’s awkward cousin.

While tasks like answering correspondence and paying bills have remained, the form they have taken has changed. No longer are we physically shuffling atoms around, but rather simply information. Email, online banking, and all the rest has replaced paper. Similarly, we no longer need travel desks, as our laptop contains everything that the desk, could and much more. Add a network connection, and almost nothing is out of reach. It seems increasing clear that physical media is dying. Newspaper circulation is down. CD sales have fallen. DVD and bluray are now seen as a transition technology as streaming is becoming increasingly widespread. (Thus Netflix’s price hike.) With the advent of eReaders and tablet computers, even the books and magazines seems in danger.

We’re losing the need to deal with physical items, and as a side effect, it seems like we’re losing an ability to signal our tastes; which is ironic, given how personalization and sharing has taken over the web. When visiting someone’s home, we would occupy ourselves by perusing each other’s bookshelves. The books, CDs, and DVDs were essentially the tag clouds of the physical world. They weren’t there just for storage, but also to signal our personality. Our collections not only express how we see ourselves, but also how we want others to see us.

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Traveling Bookcases

This huanghuali wood traveling bookcase (a “tushu shinggui” if you want to use Japanese)
sold recently for $47,000 at Christie’s. It’s picture had been bouncing around the blogosphere for a while, complete with comments about how beautiful it is. The stain really brings out the wood grain, and it look like the doors were cut from the same board. Which isn’t surprising, given that it dates from the early 1600s. It’s a very simple piece, with very little ornamental woodwork. The metal work is also very simple, but together they make a very elegant package. Unfortunately, there are no photos online of the box’s interior. Inside it contains two small drawers (for writing instruments?) and a single shelf.

When I first saw the bookcase, I immediately thought of another traveling bookcase, the USLHE traveling library. Both are similar in both form and function. (The tushu shinggui is undoubtedly better looking though.) The USLHE libraries were government owned crates of books that were issued on a rotating basis to lighthouses. Every so many weeks, when the lighthouse was resupplied, the libraries would be switched.

Both of these bookcases remind me of my media cabinet. Again, it’s the general shape. Of course my cabinet was designed to hold CDs and DVDs, not books, nor was it it meant to be particularly mobile. Still, they both store media compactly behind closed doors.

Previously. Previously.
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