Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Speedy Post: How Cool is This Outdoor Furniture?

Just stumbled across this "Cambridge Collection" woven plaid furniture at Grandin Road and I had to share.  I can't believe how stylish it is for the price.  I'm trying to figure out if there's anywhere inside or outside my house I could use it, but I'm not sure.  I'll have to convince a client that it works for them! 
Cambridge Bench, $249

Cambridge Side Tables, $199 Each

Monday, April 26, 2010

Everyone's Talking About: Stand-up Desks

There's been a lot of buzz recently about the benefits of standing up while you work - I've noticed it in NY Times articles, on TV, and various other media outlets.  This article from the NY Times highlights some standing desk options on the  market now. 
And this third article from the NY Times about exercise in general and its effects on weight loss and appetite concludes with this paragraph:
In a completed but unpublished study conducted in his energy-metabolism lab, Braun and his colleagues had a group of volunteers spend an entire day sitting. If they needed to visit the bathroom or any other location, they spun over in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, in a second session, the same volunteers stood all day, “not doing anything in particular,” Braun says, “just standing.” The difference in energy expenditure was remarkable, representing “hundreds of calories,” Braun says, but with no increase among the upright in their blood levels of ghrelin or other appetite hormones. Standing, for both men and women, burned multiple calories but did not ignite hunger. One thing is going to become clear in the coming years, Braun says: if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair.”

The conclusion that standing - just standing, not even at a treadmill desk or something that otherwise causes you to continuously exercise - can help you burn hundreds more calories a day without increasing your appetite is the most convincing evidence I've seen yet for the benefits of standing up. 

Other people note that standing allows them to fidget in a productive way that gets the excess nervous energy out of their system, allowing them to more keenly focus their mind on the task at hand.  I remember another article I read last year about a school system who reported that students were able to focus better when given the option to stand or sit at adjustable height desks.

For several years, I've been interested in standing desks because my husband hates sitting at work all day and prefers standing.  He will often stand at the kitchen counter with his laptop perched atop some makeshift solution like a pile of books or a basket to raise it to at least 48" off the floor so he can comfortably see the screen and type without hunching. 

But the market is still catching up with the increased interest in this segment and all our searches for standing desks have led to very costly solutions (like this) that weren't perfect for the small spaces we've been trying to work with. 

For example, he wanted a solution that would integrate with his furniture at the office last year.  We were trying to source a podium that would sit on top of his existing desk or credenza, allowing him to stand when desired but also not eliminating the potential of sitting at his regular desk when meeting with others who would be seated at guest chairs in the office.  I couldn't find a standard one that would have the option of tilting or laying flat (accommodating reading material or a laptop) and be the right height for him. 

We looked into having one custom made, but the quotes we were getting sounded inordinately expensive and we gave up on it.  His sister ended up offering us a small standing card catalog that her school was getting rid of, and we placed that on the one available wall in his office.  He loves standing and working at it, but the card catalog drawers are virtually useless and it's stationary, not adjustable.  It's a workable solution, and was free, but not perfect. 

We recently needed to create a small workspace for him in our home.  Again, we were working with a compact area and needed filing space in addition to the elevated desk surface for laptop use and reading/writing.  The best solution I had come up with was to use a lateral file, standard at 42" high, and possibly add a top with an overhang to allow for him to stand closer.  However, a desktop would make it difficult to access files in the top drawer and he wouldn't ever be able to sit and work there because there would be no room for his legs. 

Surprisingly, we found a wonderful solution at a local used office furniture warehouse that we couldn't be more excited about.  While looking at the lateral files, we spied what appeared to be an adjustable height standing work table that had a heavy steel base on wheels and shallow top (perfect depth for a laptop) that slid up and down on a sturdy single-leg system, but it was in very poor condition and the top was sloping due to heavy use. 

Skeptically, we asked the owner if there was anything else like this piece that might be in better condition.  To our shock, he described the piece as a hospital bed table and said he had about a hundred more in the basement.  With his help, we located one in fine working order, got it cleaned up, and took it home for $25. 

I had never run across this type of piece before because in all my searching, it had never occurred to me to search for a hospital bed table, but that is exactly what we needed for our purposes.  The owner said that more and more people were buying them to use at their own beds with their laptops, or for standing desks.  They adjust easily with a side handle located where the top attaches to the leg to go from standard sitting to standing height.  

We were also able to fit a standard width filing cabinet next to it and a stool underneath, so now it can be used either sitting or standing and we met our filing needs as well.

I would be surprised if this type of table doesn't make it into mainstream catalogs and retailers within the next year, given the enthusiasm in the media for standing desks coupled with their general scarcity.