After spending a Sunday morning upgrading my PC and rewiring my home office I recently tweeted a photo of the end result and quickly had a number of questions about where I got my standing desk. As I originally got the idea by looking at a few other custom-built standing desks online I decided to document the process in case anyone else wishes to build something similar to what I did..
A few coworkers of mine who had previously converted to a standing desk, primarily Mike Stacy, had me convinced to do the same for my home office as my posture was typically poor and the ergonomics of my desk where really never quite what I wanted. There are numerous articles online touting the health benefits of standing versus sitting all day long. Most importantly I’ve found that it is not that standing is technically better than sitting for the same long periods of time but instead the standing workspace effectively untethers me from the chair and allows me to just move around more, either just pacing while on an audio conference call or leaving the office for a few minutes to take occasional breaks. Any spouts of back pain I’ve had over the last number of years are now completely gone after only a few months of using my new desk.
Moving into a new home last fall seemed like as good an excuse as any to give this a shot, but I needed to a place to start. Some online research pointed me towards a couple of popular options which ran the entire spectrum from nearly free to costing almost a thousand dollars.
The easier, but more expensive route was to opt for a purpose-build standing desk, some of which are motorized for alternating between sitting and standing. These can run from $500 (like the UpLift Desk) to over $1200 (like the Anthro Elevate) and are typically not a very large surface either. As much as I liked the idea of a purpose-built solution this was too high of a cost for a small desk that wouldn’t suit my needs without some compromise. The cheaper, but less ideal route used by many others was to simply take my current desk and raise it up on blocks of some sort. Aesthetically speaking I would not like this and I wanted something more permanent, but my old desk was a glass surfaced ‘L’ shaped workstation that didn’t lend itself well to this approach either.
A third option appeared after a little more research which was to build a custom desk, but at a manageable cost and without the need for a crate of woodworking tools and an apprenticeship in furniture building. A large number of people were putting together various IKEA products from their large catalog to design a custom desk that not only doesn’t cost a lot but is easy to assemble and looks pretty nice. An afternoon spent on the IKEA Hackers website gave me the foundation to get started on the design. I found a number of different D.I.Y. articles written by others detailing the build process on their own desks but I couldn’t find one that met my needs exactly, so I borrowed different ideas from various desks to create a hybrid solution that had everything I wanted.
The end result as shown in the photos cost only about $220 and everything was purchased from my local IKEA store. All of the parts selected were available for shipping if you don’t have a store nearby but I did take one preliminary trip to do some brainstorming and measuring before buying all of the components.
For the basic design I used this desk by Thibaut Colar as a template. The main difference is that instead of gluing two smaller square EXPEDIT bookcases together it was easier to simply purchase a single wider bookcase of basically the same overall dimensions. My desk also has a uniform width (59”) from top to bottom by matching a tabletop with the same dimension as the bookcase and the bookshelf. This allowed for the main table supports to be moved out to the corners for better stability. Other differences are that I omitted the feet for my personal height requirement and I also added a custom monitor stand.
For the monitor stand I found Eric McKiddie’s custom desk to be the best option. His design used separate bookcases turned 90 degrees which was an approach I considered but in the end I wanted the cubes facing forward for stashing some of the many IP phones I have in my office.
The overall design also provides plenty of room to hold equipment, keeping everything off the floor. The eight bookcase cubes are perfect for hiding power adapters, routers, switches, and the associated cabling. The 6” height in the space under the main desktop and above the bookcase is also great for either mounting some cable management products or, as in my case, placing a laptop. The space 8” of vertical space at the rear of the desktop and under the monitor stand is also enough room for my IP phones to fit as well as various other USB devices and even my Surface Pro.
The placement of the desktop was pretty arbitrary as it is not centered as seen from the side view of the diagram above. This was done for two reasons: to allow clearance under the desk so that I would not be kicking it with my feet and to provide fore-aft balance by placing the monitors closer to the center of the base.
The ergonomics are also very good on this design (again for me) in my normal standing position. The dual 22” monitors are located at the optimum eye-level which is roughly 2-3 inches below the top of the screen. The ideal distance is also about arms-length to the monitors so I have mine positioned closer to the front of the top shelf to achieve this. Again if you are taller you can push the monitors back a little bit to adjust the distance.
In terms of comfort a quality anti-fatigue standing mat is highly recommended, especially when first starting out after years of sitting. I opted for the Imprint Cumulus 9 gel mat from Imprint after reading a host of reviews online on various different products. Beware of some of the cheaper gel mats on the market as some do not actually contain any gel material and are just foam.
The following parts will result in a completed desk height of 39” which is just about perfect for my height (5’6”). If you are taller then you can add some adjustable feet like these to the bottom of the main bookshelf to raise the entire desk up the required amount. I’ve noticed that others have mounted large casters to the bottom of these as well which makes moving the entire desk around very easy, if mobility is a requirement. Be aware that not all of the following wood pieces are available in all of the same colors, so if you want to build one in white or one of the faux wood finishes you may have to go hunting around for alternative items. The Black-Brown finish is one of the most popular and almost every component I looked at included that finish as an option.
Update: IKEA has recently discontinued the EXPEDIT bookshelf series so the parts list has been updated to reflect the replacement KALLAX series and the related accessories. From feedback in the comments the dimensions are nearly identical and thus the desk design plan still works fine with these changes.
|EKBY AMUND||Monitor Shelf
59” x 11"
|EKBY TORE||Shelf Bracket
For back of monitor stand
For front of monitor stand
59” x 29 1/2”
|CAPITA||Bracket, angled (2-pack)
I ended up not using the cable organizer but it would fit well under the main table top if desired. I also have not purchased any of the door or drawer inserts yet but am still planning on getting a couple to hide the networking equipment and to hide some of the wiring out of sight.
|SIGNUM||Cable management, horizontal||Silver||302.002.53||$10|
|Shelving insert with door
13” x 13”
|Shelving insert with 2 drawers
13” x 13”
12 ½” x 13 ¾” x 12 ½”
As with most IKEA products the assembly was quite simple, I just had to improvise in a few places as the overall desk took shape.
Putting together the EXPEDIT bookshelf was exactly as the directions called for and there was no need to modify this piece. The supplied wall brackets were not used but could be if you wanted to secure the entire desk to the wall once completed. In the end I found my design to be plenty stable and would not tip over unless it was purposely pushed or pulled from one side.
Before drilling any holes I approximated the desk and shelf height to give it a test drive and was happy with the layout.
The next step was to drill holes for the six CAPITA angle brackets which support the main desk. I used the black spacers which came with the legs as guides for drilling holes, starting with a small pilot hole and then drilling out the proper hole. Note that the top of the bookshelf is not solid wood, it is a hollow box design.
This was the trickiest part of the build as the length of the welded bolts in the CAPITA leg is too short to clear the entire 2” width of the top of the bookshelf and also allow a nut to be threaded on the bottom to secure it. In fact the bolts are exactly 2” long so they will end up being flush with the bottom of the drilled hole. At first I was worried about this and looked at other articles and forum posts online where people had modified these brackets to accept longer bolts from a hardware store. To be completely secure you can modify the brackets like others have done to accept longer bolts, like in this build (reference photos 1 and 2).
I tested the stability without actually bolting the bottoms of the brackets down as the bolts are still snug in the hole. Once the LINNMON desktop surface was mounted onto the CAPITA legs I noticed that it was were very solid and there was no way I could pry out any of the legs by applying downward pressure on any one side or corner. I suppose if I lifted the entire table top evenly from all corners then it could separate but that is a unrealistic event. Putting pressure on any corner or side only serves to bind the legs on the opposite side, so in essence the table top is effectively ‘wedged’ into place once assembled.
I had planned to remove the brackets one at a time in the future to mount longer bolts but after nearly 6 months of use, including leaning on the table often, I do not see this as necessary. I will just make sure not to ever lift or move it by grabbing the table top, but only by handling the bookshelf base.
The next step was mounting the EKBY AMUND shelf for the monitors which started by clamping the EKBY TORE shelf brackets to the table top. There was no drilling or screws required for this first step.
For increased stability I mounted the feet of the EKBY TORE brackets over the metal flange of the CAPITA brackets instead of screwing the plastic feet directly into the table.
The spacing of the CAPITA legs worked out perfectly to do this on all three shelf brackets. This photo also shows how the space below the table to and above the bookshelf is perfect for placing my Quad Core Lenovo W520 laptop and dock. It’s hidden out of sight and is nearly silent, at least when not under heavy CPU loads.
The front supports of the monitor shelf are also unique in that although the straight CAPITA leg upper mounting brackets are screwed into the bottom of the EKBY AMUND monitor shelf these are just legs so no mounting holes are required in the surface of the LINNMON tabletop. This means that the finished result has zero holes in the table so if needed the configuration or layout can be changed without damaging the table surface.
The upper mounts were evenly spaced and screwed into the bottom of the monitor shelf.
The shelf was then mounted and screwed to the EKBY TORE brackets. The CAPITA legs were spun onto the mounting screw and then adjusted to the proper height to support the shelf at a level pitch.
And voila! Our cat seems less impressed than I with the end-result.
It didn’t take long to start filling up space, but I attempted to keep things at a minimum. A single laptop is docked to both monitors as well as a Polycom Group Series 500 video conferencing system and I can alternate between the separate HDMI inputs when needed. A single PoE switch drives the Polycom phones on the table which are registered to a few different Lync environments.
The fixed Polycom EagleEye Acoustic camera was quickly replaced with an EagleEye III 1080p 12x optical Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) camera but I didn’t have a good mounting option for it. Using the VESA bracket on the back of the monitor was not ideal as I did not want the camera to be mounted to the desk in any way. Any nudge on the desk from bumping it or typing on the keyboard could be seen on video as the camera would sway or vibrate.
Using a few more IKEA parts (EKBY HEMNES / EKBY VALTER) I mounted a simple bookshelf directly to the wall behind the monitors to hold the camera as well as place it at the optimum eye level for video conferencing. The other side of the shelf was a perfect place to put my Wireless Access Point as it is also out of sight but not obstructed in a way that might degrade the signal reach.
And here is how it looks today. Everything on the desk top is functional while the phones stored in the bookshelf below are not actively connected. I can easily swap them out with the devices on the desk when testing new features, firmware, etc.
Also worth noting is that every device on the desktop is actively used with Microsoft Lync in some fashion, from the natively registered Polycom Group 500 video system and CX & VVX IP phones, to the Plantronics, Jabra, and Logitech USB audio and video devices.
Update – Oct 2014
I recently just added some additional components to the desk by installing a pair of KALLAX cabinet doors and a pair of 2-drawer units across the top row of the base.
I cut slots out of the the cabinet door backing on the right to provide some ventilation in the rear for the network switches which are now hidden from view. I have also replaced the laptop docking setup with a dedicated workstation and have slimmed down to a single Polycom desk phone for day-to-day Lync voice calls. When testing anything in my lab a few extra phones come out from behind the cabinet doors. A sharp eye my also notice a few other changes to the gear on the desk from the previous photo.
After a lot of experimentation my current home office setup is now comprised of the following:
- HP Z420 Intel Quad Core Xeon workstation running Windows 8.1
- Dual Samsung 22” LCD monitors
- Microsoft Surface Pro running Windows 8.1 (used primarily when traveling)
- Polycom RealPresence Group Series 500 video conferencing system with Touch Control panel
- Polycom Eagle Eye IV 12x optical zoom camera
- Polycom CX5500 unified conference station
- Polycom VVX 500 desktop IP phone
- Polycom SoundStation Connect USB conference phone
- Brightline i-Series 16” LED personal video light with dimmer control module
- Klipsch Promedia 2.1 computer speakers
- Plantronics Savi 400 USB DECT wireless headset
- Logitech C930e webcam
- (2) CyberPower CP1500AVR uninterruptible power supplies
- (2) NetGear ProSafe GS110TP 8-Port Gigabit PoE Switches
Handling critical customer meetings from home is a breeze with this variety of proven solutions which can be used both with Lync or without, and even if I completely lose power to my house as long as my cable Internet connection stays online I have enough battery backup to stay in a video conference for up to an hour, and not even be in the dark.