I’m a happy camper. I just moved into a new office space that’s directly suited to the way I work, think, and create.

Months ago, I wrote about improving the working environment inside my desktop, and with the move I sought to extend that process to my physical workspace. The plan was to fashion a space that makes my work more active—not simply in regard to my physical well-being, but to lend substance and action to my often intangible work.

Workshops appeal to me. The tools you use aren’t lined up neatly in a dock. Bandsaws, welding stations and workbenches all have their own spaces and  environments conducive to the work at hand. The workbench, with its fairly comfortable stools and extra space, is for tinkering. It says, “Hang out here. Take your time. Do the work right and enjoy it.” The bandsaw across the room is plastered with warning labels, and the loud hum proclaims, “Hey! I’m a f#©kin’ saw, I’m dangerous as hell! Don’t get comfortable with me. Focus.”

I like the idea of defining certain spaces or postures for specific activities. The sit and click posture taxes my cognitive and creative faculties after too long. It’s hard for my brain to move from reading to writing, designing, troubleshooting, etc., when my body remains stationary. I need to move. Breaking up the workday by visiting different spaces in the office at different times not only keeps me fresh, it allows me to establish habit fields around certain types of activities. Here are some of the stations I’m working with now:

Sitting at the Desk

I’m most used to this, and it works well for tinkering tasks like coding or designing. Ideally, I’ve already got an idea in my head or a job to do so that I feel I’m gaining on something. If I start to feel a lull or a roadblock coming on, I’ll hop up and go somewhere else--usually just to a standing position.

office
Adjustable Height Desk

Standing at the Desk

I’m still getting used to my new adjustable-height desk (more on that later). When emails pile up or when I’ve got troubles to shoot, I try to be in a standing position. The same goes for when I’m in during the mornings or right after lunch. I’m trying to treat the busy-work side of my job like that bandsaw. Get in, do what you need to do, and get out.

The Thinking Chair

I’ve got a chair and an ottoman 8ft from my desk. I can see the screen from it, but I’m not close enough to touch anything. This is where I go to write and sketch. It’s also a nice spot to retreat when I’ve run out of answers. I’ve found it gets me to solutions quicker than browsing animated gifs. Not that there’s anything wrong with animated gifs. If you don’t have room for a thinking chair, you might try going for a walk or finding a park bench.

thinking chair
Thinking Chair

Music

I recently confiscated my Dad’s old record collection (Bobby Bland, Jackson Browne, Dave Bruebeck, etc.) so I put a record player across the room. I happily get most of my music from Rdio, but I enjoy the forced breaks required to flip to side B. You’d be surprised what you can get done in 20 minutes. As an added bonus, the album covers smell like the cabinets where they were kept in my childhood home. It fills the air with this lovely combination of old wood, candles, and books.

Lounging

I’ve also got this small day bed by the door. I’m in a home office, so I get to pretend it’s a necessary addition for when we have extra house guests. Really, it’s for reading and tantrums, rare as they may be.

I’m lucky to have a decent amount of space here now, but I’ve spent my share of time in cubicles too. I used to migrate to empty conference rooms or walk a lap around the office to clear my head. The trick is to work with what you have. Okay. Stations aside, here’s a quick rundown of the fun things I’ve acquired to make my workspace better.

My Computer Situation

I’ve got two machines, a 27” iMac and a 13” Macbook Air. Thanks to Dropbox, they talk to each other so I don’t have to worry about syncing files. I backup the 27” locally as well as with Backblaze, you know, in the cloud. I don’t have all the same files and apps on my Air, and I like it that way. It’s for writing and  experimental after-hours design or code sessions, not busy work. My office is above my garage and the only way to it is through an external door, so that helps me keep my work and play separate.

The Sit/Stand Desk

Last year I hurt my back. Sciatic nerve pain is the worst. Sitting upright became so painful that I had to relocate my iMac to the floor underneath my desk, and work while lying on my stomach, neck craned up so I could see the monitor, flopping from side to side as I got tired. It was a sad, pitiful existence. I realized that I need to take better care of myself at work and did some research. Turns out, bad things happen when you sit all day and a standing desk isn’t a silver bullet either. All we need is variety. To gain that I researched and found an adjustable desk I liked from Conset. What I didn’t like was the boring tabletop it came with, so I just bought the base. I found Scott Kestel from Brand Mojo Interiors while looking at some coffee tables on Etsy and asked him to build me a desktop for the adjustable base. He said yes, did a fantastic job, and is now highly recommended by me.

The Rest

  • Herman Miller Embody Chair: I’ve had this chair for over 2 years. It’s comfortable and I like it fine, but I don’t think it has magical back ailment curing properties. If you’ve got back problems from sitting for extended periods of time, stand up.
  • Pro-ject Debut Iii Turntable: I don’t know much about turntables, but this has been great. I just picked it off a list of potentials I got from Reagan Ray.
  • Mobee Magic Charger: An inductive charger for my Magic Mouse because the only thing I hate worse than cables is buying batteries.
  • Yeti: For podcastin’ and skypin’
  • Rickshaw Sleeve: To carry around my Macbook Air

This counts for my office as well as my home—my wife and I put up artwork from people we know (in real life or industry pals). It’s nice to be surrounded by your friends’ work. It makes me think of them, and we get to support their talent. Here are some recents:

So that’s the new setup. If you’ve got any tips or favorite gadgets I’ve not mentioned please do let me know.

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61 Responses

Leave a comment or contact me via Twitter @TrentWalton

  • Mark Forscher

    Great job Trent: the workspace is beautiful, the post is descriptive and inspiring, and the design of the page is fresh.

  • Grant

    Gorgeous space.

  • Ben

    Beautifully designed and insightful as always.

    I always love seeing the workspaces of talented people in the design field. It gives great insight on what works well for people with similar mindsets. One of the greatest things people with home offices can do to increase productivity is to move the computer and workspace OUT of the bedroom. Having a separate area where only work is conducted will put you in a different and necessary state of mind to get the job at hand done.

    I feel like every other article I read these days are about the benefits of standing desks...it might just be time I try one.

    Thanks, for the insight.

  • Rob Alan

    Very nice, Trent. Sounds comfortable, but functional and motivational as well. An adjustable height desk is next on my list. I just received my Capisco chair yesterday from ErgoDepot—check it out. It provides that nice balance between sitting and standing; I had been sitting way too low, now it’s more of a lean, while my back keeps its curve.

    All in all, I’m jealous. Nice space. :o)

  • Ruben

    If you’re having back issues, I don’t think anything helps more than getting your squat up. Here’s an amazing resource for a novice to get started on a strength program:

    http://startingstrength.com/

    http://aasgaardco.com/store/store.php?crn=199&rn=413&action=show_detail

  • Mike Lohrman

    That’s a pretty great setup! I’m really jealous of the space and your adjustable desk. Unfortunately at home in a small 1 bedroom condo I’m stuck with my computer in a little inset wall niche. I have almost zero desk space and use a tv tray to set notes and other papers next to me, haha. Someday I’ll have a dedicated office space...some day...

  • Marc

    Really beautiful space. I’d love to have a work space that looked that good.

  • David Horn

    that looks like the most awesomely productive space. Great job.

  • Noah Stokes

    Trent - Lovely post. Even more lovely views out those windows. Texas forever.

  • Puranjay

    That workspace looks really inviting Trent.

    For me, an ideal workspace would have well, plenty of ‘space’. High ceilings, room to walk around. No clutter. A couple of desks - a writing desk with papers, notes and clutter on it. Another with just a computer and no other distractions.

    Unfortunately, where I live, space is a luxury. I’m lucky to have a two bedroom apartment; most of my friends have to make do with one bedroom. Try stuffing in a living room, a bedroom and a study into one bedroom. Depressing.

  • Brian

    The title looks great, ground-breaking as always. I do feel like the movement could happen slightly faster though for the visual metaphor to hold up.

  • jeffsix

    What type of chair/ottoman is the Thinking Chair. It looks really comfortable...and ideal for it’s named purpose.

  • Joshua Sortino

    Your use of drop shadows on hover is nothing short of brilliant.

  • Trent

    @Ben: & Rob Alan: You could also test drive working while standing if you’ve got a bar or something along those lines at your home/office.

    @Brian: Good thought. I’ll speed things up to add a little more snappiness.

  • Matthew Irish

    Hi Trent, great write-up (and even better space). I have an adjustable desk at work and have been looking for one at home. I’ve plowed through the Conset site, but have yet to find prices on anything. Did you buy your frame from them? Or somewhere else? Trying to figure out what the damage will be. Thanks!

  • Ryan

    Trent, what are you using as an amplifier (and speakers) for the turntable? I’ve been casually hunting for an H.H. Scott but still have a orphaned turntable in my office.

  • Trent

    @Matthew Irish: Thanks! I got mine from Closet Masters.

    @Ryan: I’ve got a basic Marantz amplifier & some speakers mounted on the wall, though I can’t remember where the speakers came from. It sounds like we need to get with Reagan Ray and compare notes at the next Dribbble meetup!

  • Sheena Oosten

    Clean, uncluttered space for me = clean, uncluttered mind! Have to say I’m loving your workspace and am very jealous of that lovely view from the window........one day...... :)

  • Ric Furness

    Those views are sublime, Trent. Extremely jealous.

  • Pat Dryburgh

    This looks amazing, Trent. I’d love to see how you’re managing cables and power to your computer, if possible!

  • Trent

    @Pat Dryburgh: Sure! See this photo, and that one for a rough explanation.

  • Dave Sparks

    Great space you’ve got there Trent. I was interested reading your comments about different spaces. I work from home and since changing to work entirely off my Mac Book Pro I find I have different places around the flat to work from. Reading/writing emails on the couch with the laptop on my knee, something that requires files/paper etc being strewn around I’m normally at the coffee table with said papers all around and if I really need to get stuck into some coding or something I return to the desk. I find I really get my mind onto a task when I sit down at the desk.

  • Alex Deckard

    This is a great space - love those windows! I take it this is your primary office space and that Paravel works in a distributed environment... or do y’all also have a more traditional office for meeting with clients & such? If not, what’s Paravel’s workflow for collaborating with each other and interfacing with clients? I love taking a peek inside other designers workspaces... there’s something very telling & intimate about how/where we work.

  • Bek

    It looks so good. I’m very curious, do you do all this beautiful design with mouse? You don’t use wacom tablet?

  • Marko Russiver

    Hey!

    I recommend looking up a thing called click and grow (clickandgrow.com). It’s an automated flowerpot, that takes care of the plant itself. No hassle, and the design is awesome ;)

    just sayin, as I didnt see any greens on the pics and they add quite alot. Plus its an Estonian startup, so I’m quite proud to reccomend them :)

  • Anna L.

    I’m terribly jealous :)
    It looks as ideal workspace (at least for me)

  • Trent

    @Alex Deckard: We used to have an office space, but gave it up as our client base became less local. Also, because we’ve been collaborating via iChat since 2002, our working relationships have evolved to the point where we’re most efficient & creative from home office spaces. We get together for co-work days just about every week, and that seems to suit us best.

    @Bek: A Mouse

  • Casey

    Really inspiring Trent. Hope my cube mates don’t mind my removing their computers and personal belongings to allow for a cleaner more clutter free work environment. I am trying to make an Ottoman out of an exercise ball, trash can and file cabinet.

  • Davy Arnold

    Dang Trent, color me jealous. You don’t deal with glare on your monitor with all those windows?

  • Tommy

    Very sweet. Any way to identify that Eastwood poster? It’s awesome.

  • Simon

    Hi Trent, another great post! I would be interested to know how you go about your work. What kind of habits do you have when you approach each project? I’m constantly reviewing my approach to project management and the tools i use to design and code.

  • Trent

    @Davy Arnold: A little bit, but it’s a tradeoff I’m happy to make :)
    @Tommy: That’s from good ol’ Reagan Ray.
    @Simon: Thanks! I’ll try and work some more info on the workflow into a post soon.

  • Robert

    Trent, I really dig that space. Where did you get the chair/ottoman? I’d love to find something like it!

  • Aaron Scamihorn

    Hey Trent. Thanks so much for the shout-out on the posters! (*both are sold out as well) Honored to know they’re hanging in that gorgeous space.
    If I did a blog about my workspace at my house right now, I’d be getting calls from “Hoarders” wanting me to let them film me in my habitat! Flat-files and messy-art creation areas have dominated my basement room. This post REALLY inspires me to want to do something to make it more productive and conducive to creativity. Great stuff man. Cheers!

  • Marco

    Hello Trent,

    Feel you pain. Had the same thing. It’s one of the worse feelings. I couldn’t walk. I recommend SWIMMING. I don’t know where you are located, try though. It’s the absolute best workout.

  • jake

    Very nice work environment! I especially like the desk! I’ve made a note of that for my next upgrade. I teleski in the winter and mtb in the summer, so have low back issues from time to time. Thanks!!!

  • Brandon Durham

    Very inspiring article. I too work from home and have been really slack about making my space work for me. You lit a virtual fire under my butt!

  • Trashfunkel

    Uhmm. Maybe i will change some things around me. Good article !

  • Ashton Brown

    This inspired me to spend more time on my environment. Designers should share their spaces and rigs more often. I published a similar post on how I built my computer desk. http://ashton.me/creative/great-furniture-cheap

  • Ced Funches

    Nice space Trent. Looking to get some ideas on a new workspace. Always cool to see what others are doing.

  • Kenny

    Great work !

  • Business Cards

    You have a really cool and clean workspace. About the chair, anyone with back problems should try the Humanscale Freedom cair with headrest.

  • Christian

    Pretty awesome... Been meaning to look into adjustable desks for a while now -- thanks for the linkage.

  • Alessio Carone aka Littlemad

    I can see happily that your thinking chair it is the Barcelona chair of Mies Van der Rohe :)

  • Marcin

    Thanks for the article. About to buy a proper office chair too, really hard to find something reasonably priced for very tall people.

  • Reido

    My god it’s so beautiful. I just wanted to say kudos on the office space, and implemented work environment. But I also got to give it to you for being able to be so in motion in the game. Your one of the generations before me that actually kept with the times, and kicked so much ass doing it. The site looks great too, such an awesome concept. Keep it up!

  • Soumya

    Awesome workspace and that view behind your Thinking Chair is like a dream!!! Beautiful. I’m envious.

  • Prodyot

    I am happy for you that you got yourself relocated to a dream place- that you even got a thinking chair to sit on and think-and, yes I think you made mention of almost everything that a designer will need to earn a living-but, you see, I am just curious- should I say it? Ummm.... when do you take bath?
    Ah ha ha ha......
    Hey, thanks bud for the beautiful write-up.
    You should have been a novelist too.
    Best wishes.

  • Alex Deckard

    Definitely going to look into getting an adjustable height desk as I am noticing more and more pain in my back at the end of the day. Probably going to go with either the Geek Desk or the Conset. Have you noticed less stress on your back from sitting and standing during the day? Also, how does the Conset desk measure up in your opinion?

  • Ben @ Medical Billing

    Exceedingly jealous, firstly of your chair, and secondly that you can maintain a workspace that looks that neat.

  • Ashley

    Hi -- just ran across your site and after reading about your early childhood fun times, I clicked on this article. However, the type is so pale it is barely readable and looks as though it may be behind a white background. Great site so thought you might want to check it out. (Am using IE 8 and XP but all other sites are showing correctly so don’t think that’s the source.)

    Have a fabulous day -- and keep being awesome!

  • Laura Castle

    6 Months after fact, I Really enjoyed reading this informative article and the articles associated, Habit Fields and Sitting is Killing you. Thanks. I’ll take what applies to my work/creative space and work on my own office soon. Good info.

  • bhenz

    nice website !

  • Chris

    Great article.
    & nice painting of ‘Outlaw Josey Wales’ on your wall.

  • Momchil Georgiev

    @Trent: where can I get my hands on that Outlaw print ? Because it’s not available in his shop ? It’s a really nice setup you’ve got there, sir.

  • Trent

    @Momchil Georgiev: At the moment it’s a one of a kind from Reagan, but I’ll mention to him that there’s some demand :)

  • June Olson

    Dude, I have the Pro-ject Debut Iii Turntable in red! I got it a few years ago, and knew the moment I saw it, that I had to have it!
    I just love the clean minimal look SO much! Did you have trouble putting the little weight on it? Mine didn’t come with it and I had to go back to the store for it! (Now the floor model is missing one, sad...) Love your website, good stuff!

  • Joe

    Hi Trent,

    Nice workspace! Very nice!

    Can you remember which desk you bought from Conset? There are so may on there and its hard to get a good gauge from their site..

    Thanks,

    Joe

  • brian

    hi Trent,

    now that you’ve been in the space for a few years, what proportion of the time do you find yourself sitting vs. standing?

  • Trent

    @brian: Hi! I’ve benched the standup desk for now—recently moved things around a bit and have found that there’s no substitute for taking actual breaks. I still like the desk (may go back) but it doesn’t solve everything.

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