I admit it. I’m… I’m… I’m a serial furniture re-arranger.
There. I feel better. But it seems every few months the things that aren’t right about my office space start annoying me enough that I decide to dive in and fix them by moving stuff around. Which doesn’t really solve the problems, it just changes them around and resets the annoying counter.
That said — my current office setup is pretty good, and I’ve hit that point where changes I make are pretty cosmetic. So it’s probably time to share it and talk about some of the bits and pieces I love and what I’ve learned from trying stuff over time and what’s worked for me.
For context, my office is a space about 9’ x 8’, and it shares a nice big room with our media/entertaining space, which is to my right with the TV, couch and recliner. That’s where Laurie and I hang out in the evenings, and this also allows me to be with her if I’m here “in the office” doing stuff. To my left is the patio door to the back yard, so if I look left, I can see the bird feeders and wonder why I’m not outside in the sunlight instead of in here at the keyboard. Laurie’s office is directly behind me through a door into another room.
One implication of this setup is that we have to be a bit careful about bumping into each other while working; we both use headphones instead of speakers most of the time. Laurie has a TV in her office for Cubs games so she doesn’t need the big TV while I’m working most of the time, but it also means we can fire up a baseball or hockey game for background noise if we want. We both have Bose QC35 headsets that do a great job in noise reduction, so we can put those one while working when we want isolation from the environment a bit.
For a long time my primary desk was a big, beautiful Oak desk with a top almost 4’x6’. It was gorgeous, had lots of drawers and storage spaces and shelves, and one day I realized it wasted an incredible amount of space. The storage areas also were designed in the days of a small inkjet printer and a tower PC, which weren’t remotely useful to me. So that desk left, which was a chore in itself because it also weighed what seemed to be a ton.
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To replace it I decided to get a motorized sit-stand desk, which I bought from Geekdesk. These are open frame desks with no drawers. The top is 32 deep by 48 wide which has turned out to be about the right size: it’s not so deep that you waste space behind your gear that isn’t used because you can’t reach it, and it’s not so wide that it makes it hard to fit other things around it, and it nicely holds my computing setup and the gear I want while I’m working on the computer.
With some minor re-arranging, I can free up a couple of small work spaces on the desk, which gives me a bit of flexibility, but I don’t really have a large space where I can sprawl a project out.
The table top is set for my typing height. As it turns out I don’t use the stand height much because me knees don’t tolerate standing while not moving well, but being able to raise the desk to get under it to wrangle wiring is useful. I also have defined in a third height which is lower which I use for — seriously — putting my feet up on it when I want to lean back to read or use the Playstation.
With the desktop at typing height, that’s going to put the computer screen too low, so you need a riser. I use the Rolodex riser, which I really like. It’s black and silver metal mesh, it’s rock solid, has a space where I can stash the keyboard and a small pull out drawer I use to stash small things. They have a less expensive version without a drawer, but if I were going to buy today, the AmazonBasics Monitor Stand is cheaper than both, solid and stable and would do the job just fine. I’m actually using two of them elsewhere in my setup and I really like it.
To my right is a second desk that functions as the “hold all the stuff” desk. It’s a flat pack desk that I put together. It’s pretty well built and has held up fine over five years of use and it’s just the right size for how I use it.
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Neither of these have drawers, and I’m someone who prefers putting stuff away and out of sight when I’m not using it. I found rolling drawers from Winsome that I’ve used to give me storage, and I’ve really come to like them. They come in both 5 drawer and 7 drawer versions and the office now has four of them, two of each size. The five drawer fits perfectly in the sitting area under the flat pack desk and turns that unit into a storage table for me, and I have a second chest to my left and two against the far wall behind me. As of today, I actually have one drawer that isn’t assigned to storing stuff, too, so I actually have enough space — for now. These drawers are on casters, which means they’re easy to move around if I need to clean behind them or chase something I dropped or move the wiring around — or if I decide it’s time to rearrange the furniture. They’re well made and I initially bought one because I needed something, but now they’re a major part of how I put together the office.
I have an office chair which, well, is an office chair. Given my weight, I’ve been somewhat limited in what kind of chairs I can use that are also comfortable. This one’s okay but not awesome, but it does the job. At some point I’ll likely upgrade it.
I needed something to keep my photo printer on, and it’s too large to put on one of the Winsome cabinets. I ended up deciding to use the wire utility carts. My favorite right now is from Seville, and I get 3 shelves that are 18×34. For the top shelf I bought a 1/2” thick plastic cutting board and trimmed it down to size.
I’ve actually bought two of these; one thing still missing in my office, and the primary reason I keep re-arranging it, is a decently sized space I can use for projects. I finally solved this problem by adding a second utility cart with a cutting board top, and I can use it in the office and wheel it out of the way, or I can take it around the house to wherever I have a project I’m working on. That’s worked out surprisingly well, and so I always have a workbench handy — and so far I haven’t been tempted to turn it into permanent “temporary” storage.
As a long timer in the computer/tech industries, I spend a lot of time on computers, and so my office is fit out with a lot of gear. As a photographer and a podcaster, I’ve had to fill out the gear to support both of those activities, too. And, of course, there are times when I want to kick back and relax, and so I’ve got the office set up so I can play video games when I’m not working. Here’s how this all stacks up.
On my main desk is my new 27” iMac 5K, which is my primary computer now. The screen is insanely good, and it has enough power to handle stitched panoramas and video rendering, tasks my laptop struggled at. One of the few things I’m not thrilled about the iMac is the quality of the built in web cam video, so I have my trusty Logitech sitting on top of it.
CalDigit TS3 Light Thunderbolt Dock
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The other thing I find a bit bothersome about the iMac is that all of the ports and slots are on the back side, which is so Apple, but it means it’s hard to get stuff plugged and unplugged without rotating the computer for access. To minimize that, I’ve added the Caldigit TS3 Light Thunderbolt dock which sits on the monitor riser and brings the ports into reach and removed most of my need for dongles. For audio I have the M-Audio MV32 speakers which are quite nice.
For private audio I use the Bose QC35 headphones with noise cancelling, and they’re fantastic. I actually bought pairs for both myself and Laurie so we can both tune each other out as needed. Mine sit on a Satechi stand which plugs into a charger so I can plug the headphones in to charge as needed; the stand has three USB-A ports which give me a couple of spares when I need to plug something in like a battery charger for my camera gear.
Because everything in the universe charges by USB these days, I’ve put a USB-charger both on my desk and on my other desk (and basically, both are full). The charger I use today is the Anker 60W USB-C Charger (and in fact I have a third one in my go-bag for on the road).
Sennheiser MB Pro2 Bluetooth Headset
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Sennheiser Charging Stand
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Connected to the one on my main desk is the Headphone stand, my phone headset (the Sennheiser MB Pro-2 on a charging stand) which is paired with my phone. Having tried a number of headsets, I like this one best because of the quality of the microphone, and I’ve found I have to use two-ear units because of some hearing loss in one ear. For video conferences and the occasional podcast where I need strong isolation from house noises, I use the Sennheiser SC660 headset, because I don’t want to trust a wireless connection for recording audio or conference calls.
Also attached to the charger are a lightning cable which charges the iPad and a micro-USB cable which charges random things as needed. The iPad lives on the desk on a stand; having tried a bunch of stands and docking units for the iPad, I’ve decided the Anker stand is my favorite by far. It’s dead cheap, but rock solid, flexible and adjustable, and folds to a small size — I have a second in my go bag for when I’m out and want to prop the iPad up.
The last thing on the main desk is the podcasting microphone. I’ve recently switched from a desk-attached arm to a table stand because I never seemed to be able to put the mic where I wanted it. I’m also experimenting with the Sure 58A instead of my current 57A-LC to see if I can get better isolation from the noises around the house since my recording spot isn’t in an isolated area. I’ll talk about it more once I’m sure I’m happy with it, because it is still frankly in flux.
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To the left of my main desk is my printer, the Epson P400. It’s used only for photo prints. I can print up to 13×19 on it and I’ve been really happy with the results, which cover the walls here in the office. On the shelves below it I have a Rolodex mesh organizer and a Rolodex Supply Caddy. These hold the wallet, keys, pens, pencils Xacto knives and other random stuff. The shelf below that is storage for my photo paper, which I won’t describe because I’d be embarrassed showing how much I’ve spent on sheets of glossy paper.
On my other desk is all my other gear. That includes my scanner, an Epson V550 that I’ve been using for a long-term archiving project with an organization I volunteer for, the sound board for my podcasting, which is the Behringer X1204USB, which is in all honesty overkill for my needs (but looks cool in photos t make me look like a “real” podcaster) and my Playstation 4. I use a pair of those AmazonBasics monitor stands to raise things above the table and create little storage spaces underneath; the Playstation lives in one.
Acsell Round Surge Protector
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To bring electricity to the desktop I use the Accell round surge protector (designed for conference rooms), which also happens to have a few more USB charger plugs in it (because you can never have enough). The playstation is hooked up to what used to be my main monitor before I bought the iMac, which is an LG 34 inch LCD which I really loved until I saw the iMac screen. It’s still pretty darn good. That’s living on an AmazonBasics Monitor Arm, which I originally bought because it was cheap but I’ve decided is actually quite a good product. I also have things set up so I can connect the laptop to it if I want to work on the laptop in parallel with the iMac on a project.
The desk also holds my two NAS units, one of which is my primary file storage and the other is my backup to my primary NAS and my Plex server. They’re both Synology devices, a DS414 (since replaced in the product line by the DS416) and a DS216Play respectively.
Because you can never have enough USB ports (at least I can’t), I have an Anker 10 port 60w powered USB hub on the 2nd desk to plug in my stuff that connects to the iMac, and another of the Anker USB-C chargers I mentioned above. Plugged into that is my iPhone charging dock, which is the Hi-rise by Twelve South. Also plugged in is the charging dock for my watch, which is the Tom Rich t50 which is serviceable. I still haven’t found a charging dock for watches I absolutely love, but this is fine.
Otto the Sea Otter
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And, of course, I have my sea otter tape dispenser, Otto, because honestly, don’t we all need one?
And that pretty much covers how I’ve fitted out the office. Sometime down the road I’ll talk about the software I use to get my work done and why I’ve chosen those packages, but for now, I hope you see one or two things I’ve found and ended up using that you think might make your work environment a little bit better or more efficient.