Regardless of the available sizes, not all customers ask me for a space reserved for the “study area” or for smart working at home. Perfect demonstration that there is no prototype house, and that each must be organized according to your needs.

Personally I find it extremely necessary and I try to get it in every place I live in. If I Imagine reading documents or writing on the sofa, suspended on a snack table or sitting at the table where you eat … well, it’s not ideal.

You will read a couple of suggestions on the essential elements to define this space: the light and the desk.

The illumination

The most important factor is the light source. It is not always possible to act in complete freedom (pre-existing furniture, rented houses, not very comfortable floor plans, etc.), however, in order not to tire the eyes and work male, it is always better to try to do everything possible.

photos by:  Lisa Fotio + Hristo Sahatchiev
examples of side lighting

The best lighting is lateral, as often said – and even better if it comes from the opposite side of the dominant hand, in order to have greater visibility when writing. This disposition is the most complicated, since you are positioned orthogonally to the perimeter of the room and steal much more space: it is suggested only when the whole disposition is harmonic and not constrained.

If part of the light ends up – in certain hours of the day – in part of the desk or the digital screens, becoming blinding, it is better to have an opaque curtain / Venetian blind / brise soleil. If you are in hot areas (like southern Italy) I suggest a minimum of distance from the window.

photos by: Lisa Fotios + EVG photos
example of front lighting

Let’s talk about the direct front light. Having no screens, when the brightness is good, makes working on the computer very tiring. And this applies to any exposure, even when the window faces north, so it is essential to have an opaque screen – again: curtain, a Venetian blind, brise soleil.

The advantage of this arrangement is that on cloudy days you can free the window from curtains and enjoy the external view; when not using the computer, but reading/writing, the desk will be directly well lit. Being adherent to the perimeter wall, a desk against the window also allows you to better manage the spaces of the room.

Photos by: picjumbo + Daan Stevens
examples of lighting coming from the back

Lastly, light coming from the back, the worst in my opinion. Perhaps more effective for those who enter the room (if the window is at the end of the room), or sometimes indispensable if you have to receive someone, but it is the least comfortable for those who work. If you work on the computer, there will be a perennial reflection on the screen; if you write or draw, you will always have your own shadow.
If you really can’t do without it, you can adopt some strategies: move a minimum away from the light source, get an opaque curtain and if the space of the room is not affected, you can place bookcases or partitions that let a little pass of indirect light.

Far from a natural light source? It depends on how far it is, certainly not the ideal case. It can be useful to avoid glare, but it can be frustrating to have to use a lamp in broad daylight to make up for the lack of necessary light – which will never be as beautiful as it is natural.

Define the final use

Photo by: Ken Tomita + bongkarn thanyakij
two different daily uses

To choose the correct size, it is not enough just to analyze the available space. To be sure of a satisfactory result in terms of comfort, you need to understand which tools will be needed on the desk.

Sporadic use of an accessory (a reflex, a table scanner, a tablet, a sketchbook, a console, etc.) must not affect the definition of the workstation. What will be used daily? Two screens? A graphics tablet? Just a laptop and a notebook? The rest can also be stowed away, instead of taking up space and taking dust.

Dimensions of the desk

Calculate the minimum space needed, based on your tools: ergonomics will take care of the rest. Let’s talk about depth, often the most underrated:

Photo by: bongkarn thanyakij
desks with two different depths

– from 35 to 55 cm
More and more, large chains like Ikea offer these mini desks. And without realizing it, many people install 50 cm desks for student rooms. It is not completely wrong to choose mini-desks, if you have small spaces: it all depends on the final purpose. I personally spent many hours in a desk like this, positioned against the wall, and I will never forget the pain in my knees forced to stay bent for hours (and I was 25 years old).
Such reduced sizes are fine for a desk on vacation, for a child, for a maximum of two hours of stay with a book or a notebook.

– 60 cm
The measure which, spaces in the house permitting, is never wrong. There is a minimum of space for the laptop, or desktop computers, and enough legroom. I would say that it is the starting point to keep, to be deepened only in specific cases (see below).

– over 60 cm
It is necessary when, for example, you invite clients, who will sit on the opposite side. Any smaller desk is likely to make those in front of you uncomfortable (as the proxemics suggest), as well as giving an idea of ​​cheapness. It is necessary when two people work facing each other; when you have bulky tools (such as very large graphics tablets to put between the keyboard and the screen) or according to the choice of monitor: if it is very large, from 27 inches up, or if they are two, a 70 cm desk will surely be much more comfortable than 60 because it allows a greater visual distance.

Almost parallel – and slightly less important, in my opinion – are the lengths.

– up to 90 cm: as for the narrow depths, even a limited width is less comfortable, suitable for temporary use and for few objects. Okay for a laptop or two books, a lamp and not much more.
– from 100 to 120 cm: a small but comfortable desk. You have space for your desktop pc (or laptop), a book and a lamp. It’s not too bulky, it’s spacious enough.
– over 120 cm: greater comfort, more space for writing, the possibility of adding a closed part on the side with drawers (under 120 cm, not recommended), something on wheels etc.

Shape and materials

un piano lavoro discontinuo e un piano rotondo

While with the rectangular tables you are never wrong, you have to be careful both with the shaped tables (are you sure that the given shape is suitable for your movements and the available spaces?) and for the round ones. The latter are very beautiful and resolve spaces in the house that are not compatible with clear shapes and passages. They are perfect for those areas where you have to go around without blocking the passage (near the window and a sofa for example); they have a lighter and dynamic aesthetic result. But it is not recommended for any type of fixed and big equipment that would negate these qualities, therefore it can be used mostly with documents/books and laptops (and the cables will always be clearly visible).

As for the materials, given that you should always consider the context, there are few precautions:
discontinuous planes, such as those formed by axes, are a little uncomfortable if you draw, or even write just a little. They will always create discomfort to be eliminated with numerous sheets
raw materials such as OSB (see the Workshop Desk project) are perfect for careless use, for workshops or children who would cause stains, cuts, scratches etc. The defects “get lost” in the texture, but they are difficult to clean. These materials are recommended only in the mentioned cases.
neutral colors – for which you would not get easily tired – are preferable for the worktop. For example, I would not be able to sustain many hours of work on a dark or gray surface. I prefer warm and light colors.
metal, glass or marble tops are very beautiful, but the feeling of cold on the skin could create a feeling of discomfort in the long term. Better plastic materials, wood and derivatives.

The context

The utmost attention must always and in any case be paid on the surrounding environment, which must always be kept in mind during the above considerations.

Even if the desk is perfect, if it blocks movements or passages, it causes stress. Having to continually move the desk, because it is too large compared to the available space, it is illogical. A lack of harmony – including materials and colors – of the environment in its entirety will reflect on our mood.

Established the priorities of our working space and a scheme of the room, we can proceed by defining the details and the rest of it.

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