How to redesign your desk - a desk redesign guide

Published: 2023-07-01


Some of you may have heard of “environmental design” or read about it somewhere. I first came across it in Atomic Habits by James Clear. The basic concept is that your environment will influence your habits and the decisions you take. It will also impact your general ability to focus and work without distractions. I have been working from home a lot since COVID, and am now working for a company where I am fully remote. Thus I felt that my desk and the space in which I work needs to be as awesome as possible. Good design that inspires me, clean, no distractions. Only in that way can I have an environment in which I can give everything and do work that satisfies my expectations. When I looked at the desk in the state that it was in, it was pretty much the opposite. Cables hanging down everywhere, the desk cluttered with unneccessary things, and no real structure to anything. That had to change, and as with every project I went down a rabbit hole of researching my possibilities.

In the next few paragraphs, I am going to take you with me on the journey. Hopefully you can use this as a blueprint and save some time in the process.

Desk Situation before redesign

As mentioned, my desk was in a very cluttered state before I started this process. I hadn’t really thought about any of the design parts of my workspace - I just put a desk there and the things I needed.

What I already had and wanted to continue to use were the following things:

  • IKEA Standing Desk, L Shaped
  • Curved Monitor 34”
  • 27” Monitor
  • Monitor Arms
  • Mic + Mic Stand clamped to table
  • Desktop PC
  • MacBook
  • NAS System
  • Router
  • Switch
  • Lego Yoda (shout out to the person who gave this to me, you know who you are)

The missing things were definitely in the decoration and organizational department, for example plants and shelves or a headphone stand. To get a general idea of what is available, I started my research. Like most people, I started on Google, but quickly came to the realization that YouTube might have the better content for my goals.

Desk and workspace redesign research process

YouTube quickly showed me that I could go in a few different directions - either the “gamer” one with lots of RGB and gaming related decorations, or the more productive and clean way, focused on usability and with less flashy decorations. My final decision was to go with mainly productive/clean elements, with some parts out of the gamer-realm.

The items which I wanted to add were the following:

  • A simple (image-less) desk mat, probably in black
  • A desk shelf for storing notes and other small things that need to be put away tidily
  • A headphone stand
  • At least a plant, potentially more - given the positive effects plants have on people
  • Some kind of magnetic cable holder for chargers
  • A “techy” decoration piece for the wall, potentially two
  • Some RGB wall lights
  • A vertical laptop stand to have more space on the desk

This was a pretty extensive shopping list. I did not acquire all of this at once, but bought it over time, some of it pre-used - for example the RGB wall lights.

But before I could even get into buying these things, I first had to conquer the monster of cable management.

Cable Management

I set up my desk some time in October of 2021, and did not pay any attention to cable management. I just wanted to get everything wired up and ready to go. That lead to lots of cables hanging around and a complete mess behind my desk. I launched into research again - and funnily enough landed on YouTube for a second time. There were some very good results on google as well, but this video like the best solution for me. I did not want to add a cable channel that gets screwed to the desk, because I wanted to stay more flexible than that to remove or add things at will. This is why I went with the velcro and screws solution. So I bought some small wood screws, unplugged all the cables, and replugged them one by one, carefully checking if they had the appropriate length. When that was done, I added some velcro and screw cable holders wherever needed. With that, the cable management part was handled.

The shopping list for the cable management wasn’t too extensive:

  • A new power strip (go as fancy as you like, I went with one with separate on/off switches per plug)
  • Pack of Velcro cable ties (whatever you find on Amazon or anywhere else)
  • Double-sided adhesive tape to attach the power strip to the desk (3M works well)

What seemed unnecessary

I found a few things that a lot of people were using on their desks, but did not fit my style or just weren’t useful to me. For the sake of completeness, here is a quick list:

  • Monitor backlights
  • RGB (Desk-)lamps
  • Small “collect all” containers
  • Light bars for putting on top of your monitor

Final product

So after completing all of the steps mentioned before and buying things over time, here’s how my setup looks at the moment:

Image of my desk setup

I will try to take better pictures soon, as you can see the space is pretty small.

I can definitely say that this whole project was worth it. I enjoy sitting at my desk much more, and the removed clutter is definitely helping my concentration. It was also a lot of fun to research, plan and execute this little project - it was actually so much fun that I will be doing this quite regularly, trying to optimize the setup.

A few things I want to point out:

  • A desk mat is great to make everything look tidy. Same goes for the desk shelf.
  • I use the small tray to hide away any work-related notes during the weekend, which helps with getting my mind off work.
  • Lastly, I have learned that decoration is actually quite important to set the mood, even when talking about a workspace.

I also integrated the light bulb in the desk lamp, the LED strip behind the desk as well as the Wall lights into Home Assistant. Now I can turn all of them on or off with one click of a button on my Tradfri Remote, which is super comfortable.

Overall, this was a very fun project. I hope that it may have given you some inspiration for your own desk redesign. If you find anything cool for my desk that I may have missed, let me know!

© 2022-present Philip Scheidl.