Where have all the good computer desks gone?


— 6:27 PM on March 23, 2010

As you may or may not know, depending on whether you listened to our last podcast all the way through, I've moved to beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. A few days after landing last Monday, I signed a one-year lease on a far-too-expensive apartment, and I'm now in search of some furniture. Including a desk.

Back in France, I used to have a cheap, table-style desk with no frills and no sticky-out bits—just a no-nonsense melamine panel, about 63" wide, supported by three other such panels and some screws to hold everything together. I gave the thing away to a local charity before moving, but a picture of it has survived from one of my older blog posts:

Why didn't I take it with me? The melamine surface got a little warped over the years, and I simply thought I could find a nicer, sturdier replacement in Canada. That's turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated.

My first stop was Ikea. This L-shaped Galant desk tickled my fancy until I realized two things: one, $419.99 CAD works out to just over €300, and the exact same desk sells for €209 in France. Two, Ikea tells me shipping it over to my new place would cost more than $100. Ha ha; no thanks. (I would pick it up myself, but I don't drive, and I doubt a desk of that size would fit in a regular car to begin with.)

No matter, I thought; there must be plenty of places to get office furniture. I checked out Sears, Staples, Office Depot, BedCetera, and a few other places. For every single one of those companies, a home office desk apparently has to resemble this:

Source: Staples.

Let's see... from left to right, we have a cabinet (or coffin, as Scott puts it) for a PC enclosure to get nice and stuffy, not to mention awkward to access; a keyboard tray, which likely sits too low, offers too little mousing area, and refuses to stay put while I type; and a minuscule filing cabinet embedded into the contraption, because naturally, no home user would ever dream of having their own metallic filing cabinet with enough room to put all their papers. Those things are for important business people only.

Literally every desk I've come across seems to have at least one of the elements above, be it the useless keyboard tray, the PC coffin, or some sort of uselessly tiny embedded cabinet. Is it really so hard to design and sell a big, flat surface positioned a reasonable distance from the floor with room to put whatever the customer pleases either on or below it?  I suppose my needs are somewhat out of the ordinary, since I have both a laptop and a desktop PC with a couple of monitors, and I work from home. But I really can't be the only one who just wants a simple work surface to set up as I please. Can I?

In the end, I expect I'll either crack and give Ikea an unreasonable amount of money for a mildly shoddy but well-designed desk or simply purchase a big dining room table and use that, instead. Ugh.

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