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The Good, The Bad, and The Desks

So I’ve been using the same laptop at work for years. It’s actually not a bad laptop for basic business needs – a Latitude D620 – but given that I have a tendency to work with rich media applications and run large numbers of programs at once, it was well past time to move on.

Amazingly, my boss agreed. In fact the entire department got a much needed upgrade. I now have a much faster and somewhat larger laptop to work on. I also got a docking station, keyboard, mouse, and double-monitor setup.

Most of you know that I work from home the majority of the time. I’m in the fortunate situation where this is a choice, not a requirement. I do have a desk in a local plant location, and I do go there when it’s necessary (or when there’s free food, ’cause, really… free food), but most of my time is at home. I have a room I use as my office, a few feet from my bedroom. (As a side note, this makes for some phenomenally low pedometer readings.)

As this is a choice, the furniture and such are my responsibility. For the last few years I’ve had my (thankfully rather large) desk shared between my personal PC and my two work computers – and a phone, some pictures, some CDs, and about a billion papers. It ends up working out that 95% of the space is taken over by papers (because that’s what papers do when confronted with empty space), leaving just enough space for the work laptop to fit in front of my personal keyboard. After the day is over, I move the laptop to the side (on top of some papers, usually), and pull my keyboard forward to work on personal stuff.

You may remember that I mentioned recently receiving a double-monitor setup. Obviously that’s not going to work with the current desk and sharing space with my personal electronics. I’d end up with monitors in front of other monitors, which is rather pointless. So I found I needed to buy a second desk.

Now we’re in to territory I hate on multiple levels:

  1. I hate rearranging rooms.
  2. I hate cleaning my desk.
  3. I hate shopping for furniture. But I also don’t want to compromise and get a piece of junk.
  4. I hate spending enough money to get a decent piece of furniture.
  5. I hate moving furniture up my stairs. Especially furniture that is pre-assembled, because it’s invariably too big.
  6. Did I mention I hate rearranging rooms?

Fortunately my desperation for a decent office setup has outweighed all those concerns (but just barely), and I went shopping for a new desk. I started looking online, and then in office stores like Staples. Predictably, while there were some interesting designs, they were mostly crap materials. But even they still cost more than I wanted to spend. I went to a couple real furniture stores and didn’t last long. Nice stuff, even though it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for – a lot of focus on form over function – but way too expensive.

Finally I heard about a used furniture shop near me and went to check it out. This place has some great furniture at amazing prices. Unfortunately the inventory is rather random, so you gotta be prepared to take something immediately if you like it, or someone else will. When we finally got there, I saw a great desk that was 95% of what I was looking for within 5 seconds of entering the place. It was a little larger than I wanted (there’s that fitting it up the stairs problem), but I was seriously considering it anyway. Really nice, solid desk, with consideration for computer equipment built in. I decided to do a lap through the store to see what else they had, and by the time I got back to the front someone else had bought it. Not happy.

A couple weeks have gone by since then, and tonight we went back. Again, I saw an amazing desk within the first minute. Lots of cool features, but again, a little too big, and so solid that I couldn’t even imagine how two people could lift it to get it up the stairs. The crowd was MUCH smaller tonight, so I chanced looking around some more. This time, no one bought it out from under me, but in the end I decided against it. I loved the variety of access points, the wire handling, the USB/Network enabled power-bar built in… it was awesome… and it looked great. But I couldn’t see how I could even get it to the room, let alone how it would work in my rather small space.

I did, however, find an alternative this time. I gave up storage requirements (it has no drawers, just two kind of small shelves), but it’s small enough to fit in the room, large enough to handle my equipment and needs, and has a very wide keyboard shelf, plus a built in power-strip. And it was less than $100. Totally awesome.

So now I have a desk that will let me set up the equipment I have from work. Except it’s still in the back of the van. There’s no where to put it in the house yet. My office is completely not ready. Still papers all over the desk. I need a plan for how to rearrange the room and still fit everything in. And then I have to actually do the cleaning and rearranging. As you may remember, I hate that.

I was going to do it tomorrow, but it turns out I’m going paintballing. This will be all day, probably in a combination of searing heat and driving rain. I’ve decided to go through with it as the first salvo in my campaign to man-up and address the problems I mentioned in my last post. I’ll be lucky to survive.

So … that’s where I’m at. The good: new computer stuff; the bad: dealing with the now required office refit; and the desks – which don’t fit in the same room yet.

If I make it back from tomorrow without shooting my eye out, I might tackle some of this on Sunday. Or maybe I’ll huddle whimpering in pain in a corner. Hard to say.

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8 comments to The Good, The Bad, and The Desks

  • Paul Neralich

    Was this blog post actually an elaborate plea for me to come over and help you move your desk? I think it was. Remember I work for food.

    – Puddin

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    ha… you got me. And as luck would have it, we have food.

    Actually that’s a lie. But we can procure food.

    We do need to get together. Got any free time?

    Reply to this comment

    Pam says:

    Uh, yes please, Paul! Come on over and we may or may not put you to work, but we definitely will enjoy a visit and some food!
    Pam recently posted..Embers: Remains of the DayMy Profile

    Reply to this comment

  • Pam

    And, by way of an update, the desk is still in the back of the van, and the room is still not cleaned. But we ARE having corn-on-the-cob for supper tonight. So … there’s that.
    Pam recently posted..Embers: Remains of the DayMy Profile

    Reply to this comment

    Paul Neralich says:

    So I’m in Lake Wales, Florida this week; therefore, I may be late for corn-on-the-cob, but I appreciate the invite. When I get back to Philly we’ll figure out a good time for a visit.

    Reply to this comment

  • Danyelle Franciosa

    I also hate rearranging rooms and cleaning up my desks, not because I don’t want a tidy table but because I hate it when I need to remember my stuff’s new spot! lol.
    Danyelle Franciosa recently posted..Allkind Joinery Brisbane – Upholding a Proud TraditionMy Profile

    Reply to this comment

  • Fred Dietrich

    I faced the same challenge of how to get workable furniture in the home office. After buying a standard desk with drawers, it was not enough surface or drawer space, especially as computers, monitors and peripherals proliferated. I hit on a great idea … build my own work surfaces. It was cheap and easy, needing only a wrench.

    I walked around Home Depot looking for ideas and found …
    -Slab doors, unfinished, no holes and neat wood grains. ~6’8″ x 30″.
    -3-4 inch PVC pipe, black, and pre-cut to 30″ by the store.
    -Toilet flanges, Black PVC, with 4 bolt holes.

    Voila!! just bolt the flanges on each corner of the door, and insert the pipe ‘legs’. Leg length can be ‘adjusted’ by trimming, or not. I used 4″ flange and pipe for extra strength. Mine are in black, but also available in white.

    I left the doors (I made 2), unfinished, and still coated with plastic wrap.
    The wrap peeled a little eventually, so I taped it. Klutzy, but still looks good.
    If you want to do more, you can stain the doors before bolting on the flanges. Still gets nice wood grain, or even paint them to match any decor. For a simpler ‘finish’ get a piece of formica or plexiglas pre-cut by the hardware/lumber store to door size.

    Don’t need cable holes since cables just drop behind the tables. But I did add some power strips to the wall just above the tables so I didn’t have to crawl under down to swap plugs. Another idea is to bolt shelving or cabinet systems to the wall above the tables, for manuals, CD storage, supplies, stereo, etc. Bolting to the wall lets you put them where you want/need them and saves floor space.

    Don’t want to bolt to the wall? I put a short 30″ bookcase up ON the end of one of the tables. The sturdy PVC legs support the weight easily. No drawers, but you can add short 2-drawer file cabinets, or get some that roll in-out under tables. Maybe at Ikea, Costco, Walmart or Target.

    Nice thing too, is it all goes in (and out), in pieces, so no heavy lifting. But you can still have a party to feed your friends while they admire your creativity. LOL

    http://www.lifeandhome.com/pvc-closet-flange-w-out-test-cap-3-or-4.html

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    Yeah, you’re definitely related to my Dad, Fred. :)

    Excellent stuff!

    Reply to this comment

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