Integral Desk: the Standing Desk Made by a Geek and an Artist

Written by Matteo Cassese

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Or if you would rather have the text version of this post, please read on.

Enough with the IKEA mentality

“I live frugally. I don’t need much stuff. I don’t need high quality objects because I move around so much. I know IKEA is crap, but it’s an easy fix for most of my needs.”

I’ve said those words. Probably at some point you did too. Hell, I even created a video tipping off people on how to create an 18 euro standing desk. Forgive me for my bad behavior.

Some objects shouldn’t be disposable. I’m talking about one’s bed, mattress and sofa for instance.

Where you spend your time, spend your money

The last time I moved, I invested in a solid wood bed, with no metal parts, and a natural latex mattress that contains small wood branches for added structure and horse hair to keep me warm. Yes, I fell for horse hair, but the mattress 8 years later has proven a great investment.

Last month I finally upgraded my desk. But what I gained is something really special. I would almost say that my desk is making me a happier person.

The revolution will be solid wood

Integral Desk from above wood

A desk is a surface. Does it matter if the surface is plastic, compressed pellets or real solid wood?

As a matter of fact: that’s the core difference. I’ve abandoned the cheap laminate and today I work on a natural surface that I can look at, feel with my hands and elbows. Heavens, I can even smell the natural scent of the wood.

The surface is sensitive to light – it will change color with time – and can’t be washed with aggressive home cleaning products.

A meeting of nature and tech

Ergonomy posture

The wood that I’m using is as close as possible to what it was while growing as a beautiful cedar tree in the forest.

The use of real wood to create a “perfect” tabletop has been the first breakthrough in enjoying my new desk. This enjoyment could not be possible without a bit of help from technology. I am talking about having motorized legs.

This is not the right place to discuss the benefits (or lack thereof) of a standing desk. Suffice it to say: I enjoy working in an upright position. I enjoy having a surface that follows me and my whims.

At the press of a button I can switch between my exact favorite sitting height to my super adjusted standing position.

A new friend called Jarvis

Animation Front Integral Desk

My beautiful natural material table top sits on a very technological standing desk frame called Jarvis, designed and produced by Fully. And I am happy to endorse this product.

The combination of having a surface that is as close to nature as possible, combined with the ease of having the best technology behind it (or below it) brings you the best of both worlds.

If that would be enough, I would not have written this post. A tabletop is just the beginning of this adventure.

As I set off creating this desk, a million questions started to arise around all and every detail.

These are the solutions I discovered along the way. They may help you as well.

A little help from another friend

adrian portrait horizontal

Meet Adrian. He’s a fresh diplomate of the Berlin University of the Arts. When he’s not creating stunning installations in prestigious spaces like Hamburger Bahnhof and Martin Gropius Bau, he designs and makes wooden objects.

He’s been instrumental in the design and production of the new desk.

Cables be gone

cable management

I have an obsession for cable management and the design phase of the desk focused maniacally on this aspect. To facilitate the disappearance of cables, a multi-plug is fixed at the bottom of the desk.

Three 5 cm diameter holes provide all the connectivity that is needed from above to below.

Hate cables, still need charging…

usb grommet

I do hate cables, but I still needed a neat solution for charging.

Since I know that USB charging is a temporary technology, already being supplanted by wireless charging, I wanted a solution that could be disposed of at a later time. I went for this USB charging adapter that fits perfectly one of the 3 cable management holes.

Great so now you will have lots of devices messing up your desk!

charging dock

Yes, if you provide the electricity, the devices will come. And they will clog the desk. Unless you create a small device cradle.

For this purpose we created an object that, if not beautiful, is very functional.

Grab a cup and get to work!

coasters

Not so fast! If you grab a cup of coffee or tea you will have to lay it somewhere. Not on the beautiful wood I hope. Well, sort of. Our new beautiful surface inspired us to create some equally stunning coasters. They play with the pattern of the wood and highlight the veins by being symmetrical towards the middle.

I think they are stunning and – somehow – enhance the desk even more.

Neat with those pens…

pen holderThe third important accessory that I felt an urgent need for is a pen holder. This came out of the leftover pieces of wood through this stunning curve.

It’s functional, it holds just enough pens and markers, yet is a stunning object to marvel at. The veins of the wood come to life in this form, and the smooth semi-circular shape gives this object a flow like nothing I’ve seen before.

Ergonomy first

Work Standing at Integral Desk

Standing desks are designed around the body of the human being. In the past years I’ve changed my working posture following advice of two physiotherapists. If you follow my yearly review you know that I have been struggling with shoulder mobility for the longest possible time and that I take this stuff seriously.

The ideal working position can’t be achieved with a laptop. Your eyes should be aligned with the top of your monitor. At the same time your elbows should be curved at a 90 degree angle so that your forearms lay flat on the desk surface.

Yes, this means that your keyboard can’t be at the outer edge of the desk, but rather a few centimeters inside. Your arms should be inactive, while your wrists and hands should be doing the work they need to do around the keyboard and pointing device. In all of this your shoulders should be completely relaxed. It’s not their job to “hold” your arms. Your forearms should be supported by the desk surface. Finally your neck should be soft, relaxed and in line with your spine.

You need a stand

nulaxy stand

In order for you to have the best position for your keyboard and your monitor you certainly need a stand. If you’re using a fixed monitor this could be already provided. If you – like me – work with a laptop you will need a laptop stand.

I chose a stylish small aluminum stand produced by nulaxy. It’s pretty sturdy and easy to adjust and its color works quite well with the tones of the wood on the desk.

My secret weapon

Corner Detail

My secret weapon has been collaborating with an artist to make this whole vision come to life. Every detail of the project has been thus checked through the eyes of a productivity nerd (that’s me) and an artist in order to combine function and beauty.

My major breakthroughs

wood beauty lebanese cedar

Solid wood, with good technology behind it, designed for function with an eye for beauty. A set of accessories that bring power, ergonomy and daily use functionality.

This is my new desk.

Integral Desk finale

Office furniture made by a geek and an artist

Integral Desk Team

Who wouldn’t want office furniture made by hand, designed with productivity in mind, created with a long term artistic vision? Okay I am biased. But take it from me: I optimize everything and Integral is simply the optimal-est desk in the world.

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