Yesterday I was dashing into Brewbaker’s to grab a quick cappuccino for the road. As I indulged in my first sip, I watched through the car windshield as a young woman organized her sidewalk desk. Consisting of a homemade cloth covered binder, a couple of well-worn paperbacks and a metal outdoor table, she was all set up with her coffee, her recycled glass water bottle, pens and notebook.
The Desk Re-Imagined
Her creativity inspired me and triggered thoughts about essential elements of“the desk”. The concept of a formal, personal work surface is still very much alive, however contemporary practice has added sociality, spontaneity and portability to the mix. For those who work alone bringing a tablet to a coffee shop may provide needed human interaction, and for those who work in office pods sometimes plugging in earphones or finding a quiet corner may be essential.
Whatever our habits may be, the sky is the limit as we consider the design of the desk. Appropriate desk height is certainly open to interpretation, varying from 25” for seated to 36” for standing work surfaces. With our flat screen computer monitors and our streamline laptops and tablets, desks can be as narrow as 15” (although I do love the wide 33” patina of my French reproduction office desk). Historical desk design still offers great flexibility today. The campaign desk, devised to be portable for generals moving from battlefield to battlefield, still influences modern desk design, as does the early American desk on chest which combines a drop down writing surface with drawers. If the desk is to dominate and set the tone for the room consider a sculptural semi-circular shape or even a desk inset inside the front end of a sports car. A lower, longer desk can fit under a double window and can be constructed of most anything. For the base- books, bricks, stacked National Geographic Magazines, old sewing machine bases, wooden crates or oversized garden urns. For the top- glass, Formica, an unfinished slab of granite., wooden moving palettes, an old door, a piece of barn board or a beautiful, exotic wood veneer.
It seems an appropriate subject for this time of year as we settle down a bit, get back to school, back to more of a routine and all too soon in New Hampshire, back inside. In thinking of the work before you think “a desk of one’s own” Wouldn’t Virginia Wolfe be proud that it could be outdoors or indoors, in any room, any shape or size and not have to be expensive. Who knew??