Design: The Vanishing Standing Desk

Lifehacker shares a really cool find from their photo pool: a standing desk that vanishes behind the closing doors of an armoire.

I’ve never personally been all that enamored with the idea of a standing-only desk, as most of my work sees me sitting at least a portion of the time. I much prefer something like this pneumatic desk that’s like a crazy office transformer, turning from sitting to standing with the touch of a button.

Still, if standing desks are your thing, this is definitely a classy solution. Some glass bricks space out the shelves to make sure it holds all of the computer components properly, and the addition of some IKEA cabinet lighting means there’s plenty of light to see what you’re doing. And when you’re done, it buttons up to look like any other piece of furniture.

Again, I’ve never been concerned with people seeing my messy desk (sign of creative mind, or so I tell myself), but if you’re one of those people who hate clutter, this is definitely an elegant solution.

Article: 9 Ways to Geek Your Office

Just found this over at – it’s a slideshow of some pretty impressive office gear. While it’s a little more unique than the stuff we sell, things like this still hold a special place in my heart as a gadget lover. I think the perfect office is one that blends over-the-top tech like this with a full pantry of the basics; pens, paper, toner, that kind of thing. And while the best bet for, say, picking a reliable office chair is to find something comfortable and affordable, I’ll always drool over some of this stuff, like this Motoart B-52 Ejection Chair. Check out the E-Week article for more geeky pipe dreams.

Article: The Evolution of the Office Space posted a pretty amazing roundup of office layouts throughout the ages, and it really shows an amazing progression in how we’ve come to view our communal workspaces.

While the fundamentals of desk, chair, etc. are all there, it’s pretty cool to see how workflow, communication and technological integration have shaped the way we lay out our floor designs.

Most of my office career has been spent in one variation or another of #4, the “Cube Farm”, which, according to Wired:

[is] the cubicle concept taken to the extreme. As the ranks of middle managers swelled, a new class of employee was created: too important for a mere desk but too junior for a window seat. Facilities managers accommodated them in the cheapest way possible, with modular walls. The sea of cubicles was born.

From a row of school-like desks to the current fractal hubs of modern-day networking layouts, this article has a tidbit for all of them. Definitely worth a look.

Space-saving: The Office Desk Under The Stairs

Our good friends over at Lifehacker are showcasing a pretty impressive setup with one of their user’s home offices. Lacking space, one of their readers decided to use the opening under the large metal staircase leading up to his terrace as the ideal location for a compact workspace. Looks like a simple table desk, a standard metal filing cabinet, and his computer and knick-knacks on top of the desk, and it’s ready to go. Oh, and a pretty nice-looking chair as well.

All in all, an innovative approach to the all-too-common problem of not having enough space to suit your needs. If you’ve got a similarly compact home office setup you’d like to share, by all means forward it on to me at chase@ontimesupplies.

Gadget DIY: Wall outlet charger caddy for home or office

Found via Lifehacker, this cool blog post from Zakka Life outlines a craft project to make your very own cell phone holder that hangs from the wall outlet it’s charging from. The charger itself pins the plastic caddy in place.

I always thought this was one of those “why didn’t I think of that” ideas when I saw some of the other models on the market; made from silicone or thin plastic, they couldn’t have cost more than a few cents to make and were selling for $15-20.

Apparently over at Zakka Life they had the same idea, because the caddy you see here is made from an empty lotion bottle, with a total cost of $0. That’s my kind of project!

This sort of thing would be perfect in a cubicle with a wall-mounted power strip, or anywhere you don’t want the cord trailing around while you put your cell phone or mp3 player in a safe place to charge. Right now, this design has the cord sitting in the “basket”, but you could also cut the “neck” between the pouch and the outlet a little thinner, and wrap the cord around that while charging.

You could also make it a little deeper, plug in a wall charger for your rechargeable batteries, and keep the spares in the pouch. All in all, a neat project that’s easy to put your own spin on, and a good way to save some cash.

Workspace Innovation: The Simple Corner

Lifehacker  mentions some of the headaches I’ve often encountered trying to set up a work space in a small room, or the corner of an often-used room (the curse of the apartment-dweller):

The problem with a corner desk is you’re almost always stuck with two outcomes: you either have a wide open desk with a ton of dead space behind it or you have a hutch style desk with a store built up on the desk. The problem with the former is that you send up staring into an empty corner and while the latter makes better use of the space it’s usually an eyesore and makes the room seem smaller because it walls off the corner of the room.

Josh took a different approach, combining a table desk with a series of small bookcases (2 on the side and one in the back) to provide storage and fill in the “negative space” created by putting the desk in the corner. With his laptop on the table and his monitor on the shelf behind it, switching from computer work to good ol’-fashioned writing and other desk activities is as simple as unplugging the laptop and sliding it out of the way. An innovative use of space using simple components. I dig it.

Article: Design a Home Office on a Budget

I just came across an article from the Los Angeles Times with some helpful hints for building a home office on a budget. While I plan on doing a full feature on this very topic, I thought I’d share the article now because it has some interesting tips. In the article, interior designer Lauren Rottet is shopping brick-and-mortar office supply stores and liquidators, but the fundamental principles she outlines could easily be applied to online ordering:

“Because it’s quick and easy, there’s always the temptation to buy a whole room ensemble – matching desk, chair, cabinet and hutch – but they really dominate a room, and chances are you don’t need all four pieces.”

She moves on, gravitating to the simplest desk – nearly black with unfussy hardware.

“Wood veneers and laminates look cheap,” she says. “The darker the piece, the more it tends to disappear.”

And in the lighting aisle?

“Most people probably have a lamp at home that would serve their purposes,” she says, passing on the options here. “Or they could find a cool one at a vintage furniture store.”

Rottet’s main piece of advice is to keep your home office as much a part of your home as possible. Use design choices that match your personal style, rather than making your home office feel like a workstation or cubicle. Mix-and-match pieces and look for vintage or pre-owned materials to accent your new hardware. One of the ideas I really like was using two pedestal file cabinets as pedestal ends for a desk, and laying a piece of thick glass or granite across them for a DIY feel that still has charm and elegnace.

However you end up kitting out your home office, be sure to do it with quality materials from a reputable retailer. While the temptation is there to trawl the bargain-basement offerings and your local big-box store, you’ll more than likely end up with cheap particleboard junk that falls apart before too long. You don’t need to break the bank; just buy a few quality pieces and accent them with personal touches wherever you can. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your home office, you want it to be as comfortable and natural as possible.

Universities suffering from “Paper Cuts”

In these troubled economic times, lots of universities are forced to cut spending wherever they can, and unfortunately office supplies are often first on the block. While it might seem like a few sheets of paper here or there don’t make much difference, new articles show the results of these cutbacks can be worse than originally anticipated. An article recently posted in The Central Florida Future, the University of Central Florida student paper, shows that cutbacks to office supplies are having a damaging effect on the way professors teach:

Humanities professor Debra Maukonen can no longer allow students to keep their tests as study tools because she has to collect them due to the recent cut in paper.

These changes are part of an effort to cut back on office supplies because of decreased budgets.

The lack of office supplies “makes it more difficult for instructors to do their jobs,” Maukonen said. “In the larger picture, it’s more than paper — it’s people.”

She said a smaller budget means just what students are seeing now: reduced faculty, staff and services; reduced course offerings; reduced face-to-face classes and more online classes; larger class sizes; and an higher student-teacher ratio.

“I know we are saving trees and money by going paperless, but I am seeing a difference in teaching,” Maukonen said.

The trend towards a paperless office has seen huge strides in recent years with the advancement of technology, and in certain places it works wonders for helping an office “go green” and cut back on costs. But it seems like in a university setting cutting the office supply budget is only hurting students.

At UCF, last year, office desk accessories, such as organizers and calculators, totaled around $164,500, and mailing supplies totaled about $34,000. This year, the totals dropped to about $83,800 and $11,900, respectively. Print, copy and fax supplies had the biggest budget for the two years. Last year, they cost the university about $182,800. That number was nearly cut in half for this year to about $94,600.

I think it’s important for universities to consider the impact of slashing budgets on the quality of education they can provide. Rather than unilaterally make huge sweeping cuts, institutions need to consider their options when picking an office supply retailer. Any self-respecting office supply dealer will offer bulk pricing on office supplies, as well as make special deals for educational and governmental institutions. It’s all a matter of shopping around for the best deal, and I can only hope that a university will exhaust all other options before making budget cuts that may harm students.

Office supply model-making: shouldn’t you be working?

It’s Friday, and as the work day and week draw to a close I find myself thinking about anything other than work itself. In this spirit, I found a post from Make magazine’s blog that collected all of their submissions that dealt with…ahem, non-standard uses for office supplies. I have to admit it takes me back; almost all of my office jobs have involved creating things out of office supplies at one point or another. I personally think this kind of three-dimensional doodling is essential for keeping workplace creativity and energy levels up (or at least that’s what I told my bosses), so take some of these ideas and run with them!

Office supply Mario Kart courtesy of Donald Kennedy, who hosts all kinds of impressive creations on Flickr as well as his personal page, KodyKoala. Made from binder clips, colored paper clips, and loose change. Those feet look pretty official, though. I think there’s a GI Joe amputee stumping around somewhere without his boots.

A couple of variations on the theme of the Starship Enterprise. The first one came from Instructables and has a saucer made from blank DVDs, a thick Sharpie body and binder clip arms attaching the ink pen engines. The smaller one is made from paperclips, small binder clips and a wall clip that actually detaches for extra realism! Well, not realism I guess. You know what I mean.

These sci-fi papercraft projects are pretty great, and require nothing more than some heavy paper or card stock and some white glue. It’s basically a matter of printing and following directions, and you end up with a cool, incredibly cheap cubicle decoration for the price of a printed sheet of paper. For more ideas, just run a Google search for “papercraft.” You’ll be amazed at the variety of stuff that will come up.

Last but not least, this incredible Star Wars Tie Fighter made from stray Starbucks materials. This model is completely made of paper cups, heat sleeves, coffee boxes, drink carriers and stir sticks. Pretty astounding work from Wired magazine photographer Dan Winters.

Check the Make Magazine post to see more examples of fine office supply creations, and feel free to email me your own at and I’ll be sure to feature them in later posts.

How-To: Select a new Office Chair

After writing my article on ordering a replacement caster for my office chair, I realized that when all was said and done I would have rather ordered a replacement CHAIR for my office chair. This thing came from a big-box store as a stopgap measure to replace a nice leather chair I had inherited but eventually fell apart. What was supposed to last me a few weeks has turned into a few years, and today when I leaned back and a screw fell out of the bottom of the chair, I knew it was time to go shopping.

That’s when I realized I know nothing about office chairs. I mean, sure, I know you sit in them and they keep you off the floor and they’re a handy place to hang your coat, but other than that I had no idea what went into selecting one. I tended to just walk into the store and sit on things until I found one I liked and wasn’t too expensive. I decided to educate myself on the subject a little more and I’m here to pass my findings on to you.

Three options that all came up during a search for “office chairs.”
I think I notice some differences.

I figured my first step should be to call around to some leading manufacturers of chairs and find out what they recommend. The best info I got came from Hon, one of the top names in office furniture and all around swell folks. Between a helpful customer service call and a free .PDF they sent me called “how to buy office furniture”, I’ve compiled a list of their recommendations.

Operate within your budget. As much as I hate to be a stickler for price, this is one piece of advice I can agree with. While your chair budget should be high for a personal chair (the price is worth the comfort if you’re going to be sitting in it all day, every day), you still need to set one. The sheer amount of different chairs will stagger you if you go shopping by features before setting a price point. So narrow it down to a healthy price range, and then start looking at options.

Consider your Position. After you’ve decided on a price point, consider how often the chair is going to be used, and in what context. The amount of use a chair will see should definitely determine its type, and the Hon buying guide has some tips for this scenario:

1. Employees who sit six to eight hours a day performing multiple tasks should have high-performance task chairs with ergonomic controls that let the user adjust the chair to suit his or her body size and work style. Many chairs now use passive ergonomic adjustments that maintain a comfortable configuration as the user moves. (More on ergonomics later.)

2. People who use computers should have adjustable armrests to maintain a comfortable position at the keyboard. The chair’s tilt feature should allow users to look at the computer screen at a comfortable angle no matter how much they lean forward or back.

3. Executives may not need all the performance features as they spend less time sitting down, but may require leather or more high-tech materials to project a strong, professional image.

They go on to mention that a chair should have a solid warranty on parts and fabric, and to keep in mind that something like a waiting room chair or conference room chair should be treated differently than a “work chair”, since those are meant to be sat in by many people for short amounts of time, not one person for long durations. On that note:

Think ergonomically. You’re going to be sitting in this chair for a long time, so you need to know that you can adjust it to fit your ergonomic needs. In case you didn’t know, ergonomics is the study of suiting the work environment to fit the worker, in order to maximize human potential. It is often used as a stand-in for “comfort” when talking about the workplace. I plan on doing a whole post on ergonomics at some point, so for now we’ll take it to mean adjusting your chair to maximize comfort, reduce stress, and generate a comfortable work environment.

To begin, make sure your chair has all the adjustment options you think you might need. The Hon rep told me one of the reasons to start with price is that any chair that’s worth buying is going to have enough of these options that anyone will be able to customize it to fit their needs. After seeing some of their options charts, I believe it:

Okay. Up, down, back, forward. I can dig it. That’s what chairs should do, right? Seems pretty cut-and-dry…oh, wait. What’s that?

For a more detailed explanation of all these features,
check out the Chair Buying guide at On Time Supplies.

This is science at work, people. There’s a reason why ergonomics is big business, and why it’s important to take care of yourself by using the wealth of options available to you. Bad posture and poor ergonomics can lead to repetitive stress injury, chronic back pain, eyestrain and more. By making sure your chair has even a fraction of these adjustment options, you’re well on your way to customizing your workspace in a way that fits you.

A great resource I found is Ergotron, which has an ergonomic calculator  that tells me that I’ve got my desk set up all wrong. A couple of small tweaks and I can feel it working already, though I’m nowhere near perfection. Hopefully my new chair, whatever it ends up being, will help fix all that.

In conclusion, let’s sum up by saying there are three things to consider when buying a chair: comfort, quality, and price, and they all inter-relate while you are shopping. Set a price point that’s within your budget, and look for a high-quality chair from a reliable dealer that has features that allow you to adjust it to fit your comfort. Any retailer worth their salt should offer a buying guide for the chairs they sell, and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call them (or the chair manufacturer) with any questions. We’re all here to help.