Project Desk / Project Office

PC corner of the desk

Project Desk

Backstory

To provide some backstory, through various incarnations of what’s come to be known as just the Command Center I’ve always used two purpose built saw horses my dad made almost 15 years ago along with a hollow core door as my desk.

They were utilitarian. Preforming the task and up until a year ago worked for what they needed. When I moved into a larger place and had a dedicated office space again an idea started to scratch at my brain that I needed something befitting an adult.

Problem 1:
It couldn’t hold much. Hollow core doors are light and called hollow core for a reason. There’s not much on the inside. Mounting monitors was never an option.

Problem 2:
It was a crappy unfinished plywood door. Meaning I’d buy various IKEA Desk pads they don’t even make anymore to provide an edge that wouldnt splinter into my arms.

Problem 3:
Space. There just wasn’t a bunch of it. It worked. I had a bunch of monitors. Too many in fact. There I said it. But it was a bit of redneck engineering to fly monitors off the wall to do what I wanted.

Problem 4:
It wasn’t going to support the new PC. It was neither tall enough to be underneath or strong enough to sit on top.

This and I was starting to want a new computer and wanted to take advantage of the space I had.

Project Desk was born. I’d long missed the L shaped desk I had in college to the flat uninspiring hollow core door that sat on the saw horses.

Blueprint process

I researched the crap out of desks, IKEA hacks and the like. As I do. I leave no stone upturned for inspiration. The L shape turned into a U shape and then a question of how to support the desk surface.

Initial sketches of the desk space, with the idea of using some sort of steel tubing industrial look.

I started looking at various google image searches for desks and at ‘IKEA hacker’ desks… http://www.ikeahackers.net/2015/07/ikea-linnmon-mega-corner-desk.html

Various ideas were considered, but we quickly landed on the idea of using 2 IKEA Bekant desk frames and a custom desk surface. I used Omnigraffle in combo with IKEA manuals to provide a pretty accurate scale model blueprint.

Initial mock up and dimensions using extracted frames from the IKEA PDF manual and matching scale based on known dimensions.

Landing on the 2 IKEA desk frames meant a weekend trip and personalized delivery to my father’s wood shop garage where we laid out scrap plywood to figure out the real dimensions. (Because IKEA wanted to charge $99,999 for delivery… a story for another time about how closed infrastructure and logistics systems lead to stupid system design.)

We ended up tweaking some of the dimensions but still landed on the idea of 2 corner workstations and the ability to showcase the new PC in the center of the desk. Based on delivery and easy of assembly, and the size of plywood sheets we broke the desk up into 3 sections to aid in transport.

Setup process

Setup took some patience, and yes the chair is holding up part of the desk, we’re professionals.

It took a solid Saturday afternoon to setup the IKEA frames and bolt on the desktops and bolt the whole thing together. Surprisingly very little swearing and it fit in the room like a dream, measure twice, cut once.

A closer look at the desk gear

IKEA Bekant desk frames, metal bronzed grommet covers, and surge adapter that fits into a grommet hole as well.

IKEA Bekant desk frames
IKEA
$129.00 (2)

Birch Veneer 3/4" Plywood
Your local home center, place that sells wood things
$150.00

Mahogany trim and supplies
Your local wood place or hardware store
$42.25

Stain, sandpaper and supplies
Local hardware store
$42.80

Nuts and bolts / Threadlocker
Local hardware store
$28.38

Red bronze desk grommets (currently unavailable)
Amazon
$6.99 each (3)

Large black matte finish desk grommets
Amazon
$12.99 each (2)

Legrand desk power adapter
Amazon
$30–50.00

Patience
Drugs and/or prayer


Project Office

With the desk in place the larger plan for Project Office started to take shape. We’d already mounted the crazy LED triangle thing and the poster frame, put in the bases for the monitor mounts. We’re done right? Nope.

Lighting

The basics
“Basic” lighting is provided by a Phillips Hue bulb and a Hue Bloom. Overall I’m happy with the brightness of the bulb but I must say the lumen output of the Bloom has left something to be desired, its just not quite as I want it. Keeping in mind that the rest of the lights in this setup are running at around 50% or lower in these pictures, where the Bloom is at full blast.

Phillips Hue Starter Kit 3rd Gen
Amazon
$199.99

Phillips Hue Bloom
Amazon
$59.99

The thing with all the triangles
Ok I’ve buried the lead long enough. What’s the triangle thing? It’s something called Aurora by Nanoleaf. I found them at Best Buy for $50 cheaper than Amazon. A first in my retail experience.

They’re nothing short of awesome. I got queued into them on a random tech blog post before I realized that the creative office scene was abuzz with them as well. The assemble easily, the app and the setup is pretty slick, operationally they’re flawless. The one gripe if I had to have one is how they mount. As has been said in numerous reviews around this product they use 3M either Command or regular double stick tape.

While the videos, including their own tend to provide instructions for Command strips which would have been preferred (and had I actually looked at what was provided I could have purchased some but time was short) the regular 3M tape actually mounted fine on my lightly textured walls and they seem pretty firmly in place. When I move, that will be a challenge we’ll tackle when we ever get there.

Nanoleaf Aurora in action

The app allows for multiple configurations and does an awesome job of animating between each panel, something I wish the Hue could handle esp with the light strips. Animated lighting is where it’s at. For a guy that doesn’t particularly like to paint his walls because he gets bored easily, this thing is amazing.

Nanoleaf Aurora starter pack (9 panels and control unit)
Best Buy
$199.99

Amazon
$249.99

Under desk lighting
As a late edition I decided to add a little fun and pick up a Hue Lightstrip, the thing is very cool but having gotten addicted to the possibilities that the Aurora provides across multiple connected LEDs I have to say where I once thought a single color was cool, I now know there’s more out there, and that more is slick and better. Hopefully competition will kick Phillips farther. They’ve already got some Labs plugins that slowly change the individual color of bulbs, but the integration is clunky and not anywhere near as feature rich as Nanoleaf’s implementation. Still a nice look though.

All the possibilities

Phillips Hue Lightstrip Plus 2nd Gen
Amazon
$89.99

Monitor arms

Ergotech tall pole, allowing for higher default heights.

Mounts for tall people
After and exhaustive amount of research through various blogs I found that AmazonBasics and Ergotech (that by all accounts make the AmazonBasics mounts also) were the best bang for your buck.

I didn’t go with fancy standing desk options and options for large 32" 4K monitors that way around 25lbs start to limit your options. I was advised through various reviews that if you’re tall, as I am, to go with the ‘tall pole’ option.

Ergotech monitor arm, tall pole
Amazon
$159.99

Mounts for things really high up…
I wanted to continue to run the TV / Xbox feed into the office, and do it in a more professional looking way. Thankfully the TV I was using in the kitchen has VESA mounts so I swapped some things around and now have a TV hanging above my main display for things like TV / Movies / Youtube videos and everything in between.

Vivo monitor arm
Amazon
$49.99

Mounts for multiple monitors
I was previously running the Mac with triple 27"s and I’ve learned over the last few years that its just too much horizontal real estate, it become impractical and largely went underutilized. Opting for a single monitor on the PC for now, and a dual display setup on the Mac, which seems to be working just fine for me so far.

AmazonBasics dual monitor arms

AmazonBasics dual monitor arms
Amazon
$189.99

Cable management

Cable management is always something I like to do, but time sometimes gets in the way. This time around I wanted to take it more seriously. More devices, means more cables so it made sense to try to clean this up as it would only make the office look nicer.

While not completely finished, I’ll say that my first attempt the day after the desk was setup wasn’t as successful as I liked. After a trip to Staples along with looking online, I liked the idea of re-purposing some hard plastic stuff as the soft split tubing I used first didn’t really look great on long straight runs.

I also didn’t like the idea of black colored tubing vs something that hid itself better against my carpet and walls. What I found was also paintable which in the future could be an extra bonus.

The hard plastic makes for clean lines under the desk.

Legrand / Wiremold CordMate II Kit
Amazon
$19.99

Legrand / Wire flat screen cord cover kit
Amazon
$12.95

I really like the stuff from UT Wire. The cable wrap rather than being thin plastic seems to be more like foam rubber. It has the same function as the other split tubing, but the lighter color allows it to disappear. Still a nice clean look. I also will say that doing it all over again I’d probably just go with the Cordline which is a softer foam rubber but still has a nice look compared to the hard plastic.

UT Wire Flexi Cable Wrap
Amazon
$12.99

UT Wire Cordline
Amazon
$17.75

I’m mentioning this stuff just because it sounded like a good idea at the time, but in practice I really didn’t like the look. Considering what I landed on, save the $20 and put it into the UT Wire stuff.

3/4" split tubing
Amazon
$10.95 (not recommended)

3/8" split tubing
Amazon
$9.95 (not recommended)

Computers and extras

A couple other things that make up the infrastructure of the office deserved honorable mention I thought. I bought a new larger Back-UPS unit and prefer the tall thin style as it fits against the wall and takes up less space than the more traditional style.

APC Back-UPS Pro 1500VA
Amazon
$166.42

I also needed a larger gigabit switch.

Netgear switch
Amazon
$124.90

A new monitor for the new PC…

This thing is AMAZING.

ASUS PA329Q 32" 4K IPS ProArt Monitor
Amazon
$1,085.00

A way to mount the Cinema Display onto the monitor mount, for a monitor they don’t make anymore that has a non-traditional (read Apple) stand that requires yet more parts to do what you want…

Apple Cinema Display VESA mount
Amazon
$19.99

I also wanted to showcase some art, but I didn’t want to keep taking the frame off the wall, so instead I found a snap frame on Amazon for giant movie posters and other artwork.

36x48in snap frame
Amazon
$99.99

Oh and a new computer. I refuse to put in writing it’s full configuration, or cost, but I will tell you it’s made by Origin and it’s quite nice.

It’s very very fast. I refuse to comment further.

Conclusion

In conclusion I couldn’t be happier with the setup. It’s been a blast from start to finish. There’s still a few things to set back up like my HDHomeRun Primes, my Plex Server, putting in the other Back-UPS unit for the Mac now that I remember that I bought it months ago, and where I put it.

I hope this serves to help others in undertaking this kind of project and wanted to share because I found the lack of specific references and details in other such topics the hardest part of this process. I’d find something I liked but then would spend a ton of time figuring out how they did it, and what they used.

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