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Office furniture

I'm setting up a home office and looking at my office furniture options.  Unfortunately, most of what I'm looking at is shown on-line or in catalogs, giving me no feel for the quality of the products.  I don't know anything about the reputations of different manufacturers and distributors, either.

I'm looking for U or L-shaped desks that are good quality, moderately attractive, and moderately priced.

What are good manufacturers in terms of quality, aesthetics, durability, ease of set-up, customer service, warranty, etc?

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Nick, most all that office stuff is very cheaply made - laminates come undone after a couple years, etc.

The only way to tell is to see. Just head down to the local office supply megamart and check out the models.

As far as makers, Steelcase is a known manufacturer with a good rep.

But you know, for the price of good affice furniture you should consider hiring a local craftsman to do a built in.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I have to second Dennis all the way.

The vast majority of office furniture sold at places like Office Depot is junk, cheap particle board with cheap laminate on top of it.

Steel Case on the other hand uses good particle board and good laminate.  I don't know what the difference in manufacturing is, but you can definately tell the difference between the two, especially after about 6 months of use.

You can probably get a local cabinet maker to custom build your desk and hutch setup for a little bit more than the Steel Case would cost, plus it'll be generally better quality and better integrated into your work environment.

I took a middle road and bought some unfinished wood furniture and modified it to meet my needs, but it took me a lot longer to get it right than it would have taken someone with real experience.  In the end it probably cost me about 10% less than what it would have cost to have it done by a pro.

Of course, YMMV.

Steve Barbour
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

In our area, the local oak furniture store usually has
good prices - about the same as the barely-above-cardboard
garbage at OfficeMax - for solid oak desks, bookcases, etc. 
These types of places seem to be fairly common, although
they aren't chains.

Chairs are a royal pain, although you can find tons of
them if you have a business supply reseller/liquidator
in your area.  This would also be the place to look for
large whiteboards and such.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Also remember that most premade stuff is premade for Uncle Bob or Fred the accountant. So if you have a 21" monitor or dual/triple heads, multiple cpus, a large tower, etc - think in terms of your equipment.

I've been working off a pair of folding tables for eight years... :)


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Personally, my home office consists of one very large
Costco folding table, with a three-drawer file cabinet at
the end that I bought at the oak store.  The table cost
about $50, doesn't look bad, and it can hold my 19" monitor
as well as having lots of surface for the speakerphone and
general sprawlage.

The PC tower is under the table, and I leave lots of room
at the back for cabling.  I also have three bookcases from
the oak store, and a chair I bought at the liquidators.  This
setup has done well through two moves, and all told cost
about $450.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

One feature to look out for is the type of desktop laminate, and the edging.

Cheaper desk will have a top made of a laminate that's somewhat impregnated into the particle board. It's the same surface that you likely have in the inside of your kitchen cabinets. This stains quite easily, and the edges generally fray.

Better quality desks will have a solid laminate, much like your kitchen counter likely has. This is very durable, and can even be replaced with a few common tools.

Watch out for the edging on the sides and top of your desk. The thin edging commonly used on kitchen cabinets doesn't take much abuse. If it does start to peel though, you just might be able to restick it using a clothes iron.

As for the construction materials, I've found that for a cheap-medium quality desk, particle board is better than solid wood, usually the cheap loose-grain pine like IKEA sells.

For drawers, don't bother with solid slides. At a minimum, you should have the slides that are built from steel rails and a couple plastic wheels. If you're using a drawer as a filing cabinet, or anything requiring some heft, make sure the slides are of the ball-bearing variety.  They generally are stiffer, but are much stronger, and usually allow the drawer to fully extend from the desk cabinet. The plastic wheel version won't, unless they use a unique three-piece system, which always feels a little flimsy anyhow.

If your desk sides are particle board, make sure they have adjustable rests installed on the bottom. This ensures that the coffee you spill on the floor doesn't get sucked into the wood. Particle board detests moisture.

For your desktop, thicker is much better. While it might be straight now, a 5/8" top over an unsupported 4' span will creep and sag over time, especially with a 21" tube sitting on it! A steel frame best.

Good luck.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I saw this stuff in Levenger. . .
(Hope you read dutch)

It's hardly cheap, but it's nice furniture, and modular so for people like me who change their computer configuration once a month or so, it would work nicely.  According to the Levenger catalog, it looks like it costs about $2500+ for a setup of the stuff.  On the plus side it looks like their stuff is designed for computer use with ergronomics in mind.  On the other hand, I use a pair of $45 tables from Ikea, and they work great.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I bought two of these when we were setting up the home office (Fruitwood finish, with the return and the hutch):

They're very nice.  They look great, they're very studry, they have plenty of space both on the desk and off, and the price is decent.

I should note that the raised monitor stand became a printer stand in my case, and the dual LCD displays sit right on the desk.  It is a very nice workstation for both programming and business activities.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I went to the local "Oak Furniture Unlimited" (I think that was the name of the place). They had a modular set with various lengths of desktop, legs or under desk file cabinets, a nice big corner desk, hutches, the whole nine yards.

I ended up getting an L-shaped desk that fits my home office perfectly. And best of all, it was plywood, NOT particle board, so it's a lot sturdier than most of the office depot crap.

Chris Tavares
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I have a desk and bookcases made by Thornwood:
I bought them many years ago, and I have been very happy with them. Their products are available at furniture stores rather than office stores and seem to be better quality and only a little more expensive than the low-end furniture sold at office stores. I have a desk similar to this one:

Thornwood's webiste is not very good - there are broken links and not all of their products seem to be listed on their web site, but you can use their "locate a dealer" option and go to a dealer and see the products and a printed catalog.

Philip Dickerson
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I'm not sure what you consider moderately priced.  I have some Herman Miller stuff from back when they did internet sales.  Pretty nice.  The Aeron chair was $700 and worth every penny.  The L-shaped desk I think was another $800.

Used office furniture stores are a good bet if you need to save money or wait for some vulture capitalist to auction off a dead start-up (if you have the patience)

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I picked up some Office Despot/Staples/etc. stuff aimed at the real office sort of environment, as opposed to an inexpensive L-shaped workstation.  It has good enough laminate to hold up reasonably well.  It has gone by names like Office Advantage and Cubix, depending on who you are talking about.

The thing is, the pre-made sets are intended as cheap home office furniture to be plunked in the corner and used only occasionally.  The stuff I've been using is more intended towards an office, so they actually bother to make things durable.

Particle board and veneers and plywood and whatnot are not to be dismissed out of hand.  It's pretty much all determined by the effort they put in to it.  Cheap particle board is as bad as cheap hardwood.

Overall, I think the best deal is to just obtain a set of tables and buy drawers to put under them.  Which is pretty much what the stuff I got is like.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I've been working on a layout for an office for a while now (no need to move ahead with it yet).  I've decided on using cabinetry along with home made desk surfaces and store bought keyboard trays.

A desktop can be made with minimal dimensional lumber (a 2x3 near the back is likely enough for most people if the span isn't too great and the weight too high).  Then take a piece of 3/4 inch MDF, glue it to a piece of 1/2 inch MDF, cover with a Formica or melamine produce and face with 1"x2" lumber.  You can get the cabintry you require fitted how you prefer (and secured to the wall which helps with heavy loads), and the working space you need shaped the way you require.  It shouldn't take more than a few weekends of effort to put the entire space together this way.  You might want to consider it if you're handy and have some time and the right tools.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I second the Office Advantage/Cubix comment above.  This is office-quality furniture as opposed to the cheap stuff targeted for the home.

The system is modular so it can be rearranged to fit a different room should I move to a different house.  It is heavy duty and in a pinch I have actually stood on it to reach something up high.  Try putting 220 lbs on your average WalMart desk and see what happens...

I browsed and touch-and-felt at the local Staples store and then went to to purchase. Look under "Modular Office Furniture".  Much better prices here than local, plus it was an interesting experience to have 750 lbs of freight shipped to my house.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Our furniture is from the Bush Corsa Dark Cherry collection, which is their business line of furniture. It's high quality solid laminate, much nicer than the typical junk in the office supply stores. We went with nice furniture since I work at home.

Here's a couple pictures (hardware is out of date, but you can see the furniture well):

It's great stuff, easily the best office furniture I've had. The next step up in price and quality would be easily 2-3x more expensive.

Brad Wilson (
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I pity the mover who has to shove around a 1 1/4" MDF desktop ;-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

"I've been working off a pair of folding tables for eight years... :)"

You and me both, brother.  My home office looks like an employee break room with computers in it.

Oak Desk = $400
Folding table = $40

Not even a choice, really.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Hollow Core door - $0
Two old filing cabinets - $30

Dumpster Diver
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

I'm envious of the folding tables.  I like _huge_ desks that I can fill with all my neatly <ahem> organized piles of paperwork.  The best desk I ever had was made of cinder block legs with a solid wood door desktop.  The thing was big enough to have its own zip code and cost me less than $25.  But, one day I got married and that all ended. :-(

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Our nearest Ikea has a bargin section where the sell off scratched / damaged /ex-display items cheap, which is always worth a look. 

I picked up a decently large L-shaped desk for £25 - although I suspect someone cocked-up the discount in my favour. 

a cynic writes...
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The IKEA business line desks are quite decent IMHO, and good value for money.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

i've always pined for a the solid-core door on file cabinets solution (ever since seeing it in a friend's house), but i've yet to find a cost-effective solid-core door provider.  any suggestions? 

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

To find a low cost solid core door, call all the lumber stores in your area and ask if they have any defect doors.  I don't know if they're common or I just got lucky, but the first place I called had one.  It was a large surface finish defect on one side, which became the underside of my desk.  Special bonus: the pre-drilled door knob hole worked great as a cup holder.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

I also went the door / filing cabinet route.  You wont find a larger desk anywhere.  Go to your local home depot or whatever and get some all in one furnature finisher (some finishing steel wool is also useful) and the surface will be a pretty pleasant place to work. A solid core door is best but I have found that as long as you are using at least a medium weight interior door you will be happy.  Do not go for the hollow core doors, you will not be able to put a keyboard tray into the door that will stay there for any lengh of time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

With a hollow core door, I bet a CRT could go straight through if you put it down too hard.

I believe most cities have stores that sell used office furniture.  After the tech bubble popped, the silicon valley one had more Aeron chairs than they had room for.  Don't know how much stocks have thinned since then.  I wonder if used-office-furniture warehouse space is a good economic indicator.

Keith Wright
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

"I also went the door / filing cabinet route.  You wont find a larger desk anywhere."

You're kidding, right? Your typical door is 6.5' x 2.5'. If you get a wide door, it's 6.5' x 3'. We have two 8' x 3' folding tables, and they were $45 each (which I'm sure is the ballpark of your door price, and at least DESIGNED to hold weight).

Just because you want cheap, doesn't mean you have to actually court the "white trash" crown. :-p

Brad Wilson (
Friday, February 20, 2004

Check ebay. I saw used Biomorph desks for sale there the other day. Also have Aeron chairs.

Monday, March 15, 2004

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