So Long Desky Friend
I’ve lived in a lot of houses. Since 2002 I have moved house 19 times – on at least three occasions I moved back to houses I previously lived in. For the whole of that time, and even a couple of years before it, and through all of those house moves only two things have remained constant in my life – my desk and my chair.
I’ve spent many hours pondering the nature of the universe tilting back in this chair and I’ve spent quite literally years of my life sat at my desk. I love the desk so much that when it tried to break in 2003 I patched it together with brackets for “just one more move” and it’s still going 13 years later.
In February this year I moved into a new house with a really quirky layout. It was spread across four floors with the top floor being a tiny square watchtower measuring just 2.4m by 2.2m but with windows across all four sides. I used this as my office and with a lot of struggling got my desk up there and thought it would be excellent for my morning meditations and work.
It turns out that four walls of glass at a lookout across a city just means there is never any shade and you very quickly build up resentments against every time of day. It’s super-hot, there is always glare, the pyramid ceiling is fun but super annoying when trying to record audio and the room was too small for me to have anything apart from a little bit of storage, my desk and my chair with printer and comms rack for foot rests.
Building my new computer and switching to a desktop (along with the justification of my new YouTube channel) made me start to think about what I wanted from an office. I’ve tried a couple of times to have a really clear and clean office but the only place I managed in we only lived in for six months and I never used the office whilst there. Everywhere else I’ve tried to make the best I can of bad space and always made do. I have managed to build server rooms in the garage and plenty of other crazy things – but I’ve never really got my office just right.
This is the heart and soul of my life so it seems crazy I’ve never spent the time sorting it out. Before I start my new life as a student later this month I decided to get it sorted. I wanted somewhere peaceful that I can work, somewhere I can spread out all my computer equipment without it feeling cramped and somewhere that I can actually display the computer items that matter for me.
I decided to use my basement. It took me a while to decide convince myself that this was the right thing to do. I felt sad at changing my desk, I would miss the sunlight but I knew it was time. So long old desky friend – time for something new.
Hello Mr. Linnmon!
My new found student budget meant I had to shop at Ikea and see what wondrous cardboard-products-pretending-to-be-wood I could use. The Linnmon series of desks is what I chose to go for – with varying depths, shapes and lengths it should be easy to create something custom fairly cheap. Whilst the desks may be nothing more than glorified cardboard the advantage is that should they break for any reason all of the parts are easy to obtain and very cheap (1m worktop from just £5 in the UK and legs from just £3).
I elected to create a giant L shape desks made up from a 2m length, a 1m length and a 1.2m corner piece – almost five and a half metres of desk space should be plenty for me to work and display all my computers.
The basement itself is currently filled with bedroom furniture that we never used as a bedroom, a bunch of boxes in storage that I cannot easily get rid of and an old washing machine and tumble dryer that came with the property we are renting which we have to store. That means I need to empty the current room out as well as box off all the storage somehow without it feeling cluttered to work. I decided to get a Kallax storage unit (four squares by four squares) and use a spare one that we had my daughter’s toys in to box off a corner of the room and hide the rubbish. The bedroom furniture is being given to a friend.
This should give me a super clean and clear office with plenty of zen. The finishing touches aren’t from Ikea but are a multi-monitor desk mount, LED lighting, a number of 8-way plug sockets, cable ties, sticky cable tie holders, Velcro ties, Velcro strips and a small light-weight wireless access point and gigabit switch (the basement has four-foot-thick walls so no signals get down here).
Finally, the basement is super humid. When I took a few readings it never dropped much below 90% and was regularly in the high 90s. A cheap but energy efficient dehumidifier has dropped the room to around 55% humidity and dried it out enough for me to start my office.
Activate the Bunker!
After over twenty hours of tidy-and-build time I’m over the moon. It took so long to get this room empty, the smell of cats removed and to get everything built. It took even longer to tidy all the cables. I’ve never spent so long cable-tying in my life. I am over the moon with the results though.
I’ve got the cleanest and tidiest office I’ve ever had and I finally have space to get most of my vintage computers on display. The basement is so large that I’ve actually been able to keep my old desk and put it up down here as extra workspace – I’m planning on using it for any project work, soldering, etc. where I don’t want to use a lightweight cardboard desk.
The Linnmon desks do what they need to. I’m not overly confident about them holding three large monitors on a mount but it seems to be holding with an extra leg for support for now. If all else fails, that’s what insurance is for I guess. The lighting matched to the computer and my desktop wallpaper finishes the room off perfectly.
The two things I am lacking are some pictures to fill up wall space and some curtains to hide the LEDs around my window. I’m going to get a custom set of curtains made up although to save money they’re coming from china so may be a while before they’re here.
The rubbish-corner has been much tidied and the Kallax and Expedit units have worked wonderfully at boxing off the room – it doesn’t feel like random floating storage in the room but genuinely feels like a room that has been divided well. I just wish I had the money to replace the Expedit with a matching Kallax so that the colours matched – that’s a little wasteful though!
The only thing I’d change doing this again (other than not underestimating how long it would take by a factor of infinity) would be to get slightly more desk space. I could have easily fit another 2 or 3 metres of desk space in my L-shape and that would have given me more room to put out other vintage computers that for now are displayed elsewhere but not on the main workspace.
For the first time possibly ever I’m truly happy with my office and it doesn’t feel like I’ve done a half-assed job as I was too busy to finish it for once. I’m looking forward to getting the room setup for filming, getting the final finishing touches and making it my new tech bunker filled with all my gadgets and gizmos from the last 30 years.
Shiny office, shiny desk, shiny LEDs, shiny monitors and shiny walls – all I need now is a shiny new chair. Soon…