Your new home office has fresh drywall from floor to ceiling, a fragrant new patch of short-nap carpet, and a window that looks out on the backyard garden. Now you just a need a spot to put that computer. And the printer. And all those papers. And the phone.
Maybe it’s time for some furniture.
But before you make a trip to the local office store and come back with a minivan full of flat-packed particleboard, it’s worth doing a little research and planning. We’ve broken down the key elements to any office, explained some of the key factors you should weight when picking them out, and given a few of our favorites.
As the spot where any home office user will spend the majority of their day toiling away in front of a computer, the desk easily becomes the most important piece of the home office puzzle. On the surface, anything with four legs and a flat top will work, but the best home office desks will include a lot more features, as well. Look for one with adjustable height to bring your keyboard and monitor to a comfortable typing and viewing position. Finding a deep desk to give you at least 20 inches of distance from your monitor is also important to reduce eyestrain – older writing desks that weren’t designed for computers seldom take this into account, which can cause problems, especially if trying to accommodate a deep CRT monitor. Under-desk storage will also help you accommodate for all the paper and other clutter that comes with working at home, filing it all away to keep the desk surface clean. If you have enough room, consider an L desk, which offers a side return for even more surface area.
We love the minimalist look, yet unshakeable sturdiness of Kinnarps Series[e] desks, which can also be customized to pretty much any environment. If you’re looking for something a little off beat, Haworth’s clever kidney-shaped Vancouver desks offer a swept radial design that’s less rigid and angular than your typical L desk, and the company also uses an environmentally friendly coating process called EcoShield. For the ultimate in adjustability, Steelcase’s Series 7 worksurface can’t be beat – it literally raises and lowers over two feet at the touch of a button. A lowrider for the office? Indeed.
Unless you really plan on investing in Steelcase’s opulently ridiculous treadmill desk, like our own Rob Enderle, you’re going to need something to cradle you as you work. Inexpensive office chairs might look fine at first blush, but given the number of sheer hours you’ll spend in it, skimping is ill-advised. A long-haul trucker wouldn’t tolerate the crunchy foam seat from a Ford Festiva, and you shouldn’t try to use a $30 task chair meant for a dorm room. More expensive chairs will buy you better, sturdier materials, plus more points to adjust and tune the chair to your liking. At the very least, look for one that can swivel, tilt, move up and down, and offer lumbar support. A better office chair will allow seat pans to slide back and forth, tilt independently of the backrest, and armrests to raise and lower.
We can’t help but be enamored with Hermann Miller’s legendary Embody chairs, which feature a unique spine-inspired “Pixelated Support” system for the back and seat to evenly distribute weight, plus skin-like textiles and three tilt zones. Of course, there’s also the stunning Freedom Chair from Humanscale, which is loaded with unique features like automatic tensioning on the recline, arm rests that move in sync, and backrest that pivots two ways. The crazy Swedes over at Kinnarps have also cooked up a beauty in the form of the Plus, which has a highly customizable headrest to find that perfect alignment.
If there’s one criticism we constantly run into with our monitor reviews here at Digital Trends, it’s weak stands. Many of today’s gigantic LCDs come paired with flimsy, wobbly, fixed-height stands that leave users stooping to see them when they should be at eye level. Enter the monitor arm. Besides giving your display a rock-solid connection to your desk, monitor arms twist, pan and elevate to exactly the height you need them, and leave more desk space below, too. Finding a sturdy mount that will mate nicely with your existing furniture is paramount, but you’ll also need to ensure it will attach to your monitor. Any monitor that claims to have a VESA mount (essentially four screw holes arranged in a square) will usually do – the MIS-D variant being the most common.
For a basic single-display solution, Humanscale’s upcoming M2 monitor arm makes a very practical solution: Unlike typical arms that use gas-filled cylinders to provide support for the arm, Humanscale has used mechanical springs, which are more eco-friendly and more reliable. If additional displays enter the equation, Steelcase’s clever fyi-2 dual monitor arm supports both from a single point, but still allows them to swivel and tilt individually for complete freedom. And if you’re most at home crunching out work on a notebook computer, Ergotron’s NeoFlex Combo Lift stand makes an exceptionally smart way to work at home. It allows you to add a separate monitor for dual-display computing, and brings your notebook up to the same level to eliminate the giant gap you would usually get.
OK, it’s not office furniture. But from an aesthetic and organizational standpoint, all-in-one PCs are one of the smartest ways to go when you’re designing your dream office from the ground up. No separate CPU to hide in the corner, no monitor cables, no need to crawl under the desk to attach accessories. And with the growing popularity of this segment, they’re no longer an expensive niche product, either.
Apple’s iMac – the original all-in-one computer – remains one of the best. The company’s sleek design is still unparalleled, an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and Nvidia graphics card provide plenty of grunt, and the 24-inch screen on the biggest model is beautifully bright and vibrant. For a step up in power and screen real estate, Sony’s swank Vaio RT series comes with a 25.5-inch screen and can be equipped with an Intel quad-core processor, Blu-ray player, and even TV tuners… for a princely $4,0000. If that’s looking way too steep, Asus’ affordable EeeTop PC offers an 15.6-inch touch screen with hardware borrowed from netbooks (like an Intel Atom 1.6Ghz processor). It’s no speed demon, but if you’re jamming away on Microsoft Word and Excel all day, that’s all you need.