Design

Do you prefer to work at a desk or a table? (We changed our minds!)

August 12, 2021

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As plans are underway for the kitchen and the powder room and a few other rooms in our house, our team has already moved into our new home’s office space, piecing together a workspace from what we brought with us. The space above the guest house already went through some transformation since purchasing the house. We moved the closet, removed the kitchen area, laid wood floors, patched the TV hole and updated the railing:

But we have only scratched the surface in here. This week, I started dreaming up what this space could be: inspiring and creative and comfortable and classic and cool. Including Chris and I, there are 7 of us that work out of the CLJ home office and there’s about to be 8! We just hired a full time employee for Good Influencer (our Influencer education and mentoring program where Chris and I are currently mentoring over 1000 content creators ourselves!). With a solid team of 8 and currently only 6 desks, we knew it was time to quickly rethink our office setup. As you can see below, it’s a little rough around here.

We have used these sleek white desks for the last few years and they have served us well. However, for those of us with long legs, the drawers restricted how we could sit under the desk (feet flat on the floor only!) and we all agreed a little more space on either side of our computers would be nice if we were rethinking our current setup anyway.

The problem was, our office space isn’t HUGE. It’s larger than our last office, yes, but we were going to have to get creative with how it was laid out.

I almost bought four of these writing desks from Pottery Barn.  They’re 64 inches long, and that felt like enough space to easily fit two people, facing each other — but staggered so there’s room for everyone’s stuff. But it also felt like we could use just a couple more inches of width — especially for our media team and their big monitors. That’s when the idea struck — why not use small dining tables for desks?? You can easily fit two people, working across from each other at a (4-6 person) dining table! I had to get out of my head this notion that we all needed desks with drawers. There’s barely anything in any of our drawers! Maybe all we needed were a handful of pen cups. Plus, I would rather cross my legs under the table than have a drawer.

I started taping off table sizes on the floor in the office so I could see what could fit comfortably and then I went on a hunt to find something similar to the Pottery Barn desk, Googling “traditional turned leg table.” Bingo. This beauty popped up on Wayfair. At 65″ x 38″, this table was just the right size and felt roomy and charming and like the perfect anchor for our new office space. I put four of them in my cart and checked out in a flash (Psst–4 tables can be a lot more affordable than 8 desks! Win!). Before I could exchange any celebratory Stanley Cup cheers, I felt a pit in my stomach when I looked back at the writing desk I originally wanted that were a little too narrow. The darker wood tone really grabbed me and while the reviews of my quick purchase were positive and absolutely validated my purchase, I couldn’t ignore the photos at a second glance. The cell phone photos, uploaded with the glowing reviews, didn’t look like the product image. The table almost looked gray-washed in the user images. It was beautiful — but not what I was looking for. I realized in that moment that it wasn’t just the traditional turned leg table that I was looking for, but it was also the rich-wood finish. I had instant buyer’s remorse! I very quickly canceled the order (thankfully with no issue!). This might have been a record. I think the time between the giddy high to the remorseful cancellation was all of five minutes.

The hunt continued. A traditional turned-leg table… 35+ inches in width, just over 60″ in length … dark stain… Eureka! I found the Canela dining table on Wayfair! I mocked it up in the floorplan above to see how they would fit and it was looking pretty perfect. I toggled to add four to my freshly emptied cart, and (*gasp*) only one was in stock. My heart sank. The stain was perfect — it had library vibes, for goodness sake. It was a lovely, spacious 35.5 x 63 (!!!) inches. I Googled the table, crossing my fingers that it was in stock anywhere else. No cigar. And then I did something a little nutty: I called the manufacturer. I figured — when you find the table you want to give your final rose to, you stop at nothing! (A quick aside: To those of you who so effortlessly pick up the phone to advocate for what you want — you are heroes and legends. I’m more of an email/text/live chat/tell Chris gal.)

The very friendly representative on the phone told me to email my request. My heart sunk again. I had been on this day-long online shopping journey all day! I didn’t want to send an email out into the ether and hope someone would get back to me when stock was available. Still, I sent in my request and, deflated and exhausted, I quit for the day.

The next morning, I wheeled up to my desk to AN EMAIL FROM THE MANUFACTURER!!! The gentleman I spoke with made four Canela tables available for me to purchase! I snapped them up so fast, and they’re on their way to us! Hopefully I’m just as excited about them when they get here.

Sources:

Pendant Light, Paint Color: F&B Pigeon, Table, Desk Chair, Pencil Cup

 

I know we’re juggling a lot of projects right now, and I don’t share much about the back end of running Chris Loves Julia day to day, but I’m so excited for our team to feel settled here at work that is an extension of our home. I haven’t designed every inch of the space yet–but I did think painting the whole thing Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon would be the perfect ode to our first office in the small basement spare bedroom in our first home in Idaho. (Wouldn’t mind that wall paneling either ;)

What do you think?

  1. Trudy says:

    This is going to be gorgeous. I just painted a guest bath in Pigeon and the vanity in Hague Blue. Love those colors sooo much.

  2. Very impressive .. I really appreciate your work, you explained it very well.

  3. Susan MacEachern says:

    I use a small table for my home office. I love it. And it actually has thin drawers for dining utensils I assume. It’s perfect! Deep enough for monitors and even personal pictures that I would not have had room for.

  4. Kim Burdett says:

    I love the dining table over the desk! My desk is actually the Meltorp table from IKEA. I bought it for my first grown-up apartment and it took up the entire dining nook! Now it’s the perfect size for my home office, and it reminds me how far I’ve come (in homes and life!).

    • Kim Burdett says:

      OH and one more thing! Be careful putting laptops directly on the solid wood desks. I did that for a few months at the beginning of quarantine and it permanently put scorch marks on my dining table. :-| I recommend some type of laptop stand between the two surfaces.

  5. Dawn says:

    Brava! We have a lovely, bona fide home office but I long ago transitioned to our dining room table, just because I like the location. No drawers needed – and honestly the drawer on the desk in our office is not filled with anything that needs daily retrieval.

  6. Michelle Homewood says:

    I like both but, going the two together would make it easier. Lift up for table and have your drawers on the one side so when you told the table Dow it hides the drawers.
    This is how I want mine and put it on 1 5/8 in wheels or you can go bigger depending on the size of desk or table.

  7. David Marshall says:

    You sure love to hear yourself talk. So many words for a story that could have been told in a third if the time.

    Train influencers? Do you train them to go on and on and on about nothing?

    Content creating is about Communicating effectively.

    The End

  8. Stephanie says:

    I love reading about the back end and the day to day stuff CLJ does!

    Also, I thought I wanted a desk at first but I ended up going for the IKEA dining table since it’s just me and my assistant most days. I haven’t regretted that decision at all.

  9. MC says:

    In your newsletter you mentioned not knowing what many light switches are for. They well could be for the nearest power outlet, maybe the lower plug – we’ve had that in the last two of our houses – handy for lamps. And we’ve also had to go around with a voltmeter (?) to see which outlet actually was powered by the switch. We still have one that is a mystery! Good luck!

  10. Joy says:

    One little suggestion- put a spring hinge on your little bathroom and the door will always gently swing mostly closed. We have done that on pantries and powder rooms that tend to get left open but I’d rather not have to look at!

  11. Lee Harrison says:

    I prefer a desk with a pull out for keyboard. I have lots of trouble typing at a dining table. But I would love the real estate a dining table provides!

  12. Meredith says:

    No comment on the tables vs. desk, but did your team move with you too!?

  13. Sara says:

    6 years ago I started using the old apartment size dining table from our previous home as the desk in my home office and have never looked back! The extra depth has been perfect for the giant screens I use as a designer, especially working full time from home during the pandemic. And I can fully stretch out my legs :)

  14. mimi says:

    Hi. I’m older than you & probably your team- yet I wanted to share that I would work better at my own space & when it was time to collaborate go to a conference area with a hanging white board. I too am only 5’4” so I detest dangling feet and always strive for being ergonomically comfortable. I got a gray leather chair with leather arms from Office Depot. Best chair for me. I can even adjust the back to fit me. The chair name is Keera. Maybe it might work for someone on your team. Hope your daughters are adjusting well to the new home, neighborhood, school & church.

  15. Lisa Jones says:

    Love the idea of a table, but not sure I would want someone sitting across from me all day especially if people are talking on the phone. It seems as if your kitchenette area takes up quite a bit of long open wall space leaving you to have to put the tables/desks close together for such a large room. I’m not in love with the current layout plan and you don’t need my input since I don’t work there. I’ll be interested in how it all comes together as you always seem to create beautiful spaces.

  16. Jamie Marabillas says:

    Love it! Can’t wait to see the office painted and coming to shape!

  17. Cathy says:

    Beautiful! Where did you get the new closet doors? Were they relocated from somewhere else in the house? I must have mist a post or an IG story about it! gorgeous so far. I work at a long desk with no drawers.

    • Julia says:

      These doors ACTUALLY used to be between our bedroom and the music/front room! We closed up that flow (felt very invasive) and re-used the doors here

  18. Jen says:

    As someone who works in an office and has very little need for paper storage, I still think it’s important for you to provide employees with storage space that’s their own. For example, I have personal items in one of my drawers so I don’t have to have it in my purse. Having a desk with a drawer that’s “mine” helps to make me feel comfortable at work.

  19. Alex says:

    I started using an antique table as a desk with the new WFH lifestyle, and I’m never going back. I like it even better than my big corporate style desk at the actual office!

  20. Kim says:

    Love the idea of the table over a desk. Past experience has me question the depth with two people facing each other…. my coworkers sat in a benching setup with computers back to back (24-30″ D work surface) and they were both tall. They would kick each other all day long. Can’t wait to see how it all works out!

    • Sarah says:

      I was thinking the same thing. I’d be worried I would kick my tablemate all day.

      • Vicki Williams says:

        I thought somewhere Julia said…now I will suggest …offsetting workers on either side of the table. They each have all the space they need on their side of the table but sitting offset their legs aren’t in competition. What do you think?

    • LC says:

      I love it! Just putting my HR hat on here, with a stationary desk/table providing an ergonomic work space in the form of adjustable chairs, adding pull out keyboard shelves and even a convertible computer stand that allows them to raise their computer monitor and keyboard and work while standing would be great additions AND go a long way in reducing future workers comp injuries which are costly to you as the employer. But I am sure you have thought through all of that. The design is definitely on point!

  21. Teresa says:

    Just wanted to say that if you have people of varying heights working for you, you may want to mock up the table situation and make sure it’s a comfortable fit (or that it can be modified in a way that makes everyone comfortable and still fits). My work changed our desks over to a large shared table years ago and I have never liked it; however, it could be due to my height (I’m on the shorter side, just over 5 feet). In order to reach my keyboard properly, I have to boost my chair up considerably, which in turn causes my feet to dangle. When I try to put a box or foot rest under me the top of my thighs hit the board that lines the underside of the tabletop (it’s not a thick/tall board and I’m not over or underweight, I’m just average haha). The other consequence of moving my chair up so high is that my very large monitor is not at the right eye level, so I had to put that up higher as well.

    Anyway, just something to think about! :)

  22. Stefanie says:

    I was a professional writing major in college and when I needed a desk for my apartment, I purchased a small dining table from Target. I love to spread out when working and most desks are way too narrow in my opinion. I think you all will love this choice!

  23. Jenny says:

    Looking amazing as usual! As one comment already noted, I’d love to know how you deal with cables in floating table/desk situations? Currently struggling with this in a (mere 1-table) home office redo with worktop centered in the room.

    • Julia says:

      We’ll definitely have to walk you through the process as we do it. We are fortunate enough to be able to easily add plugs to the floors so that’s FOR SURE happening. Chris is passionate about cable management too and we have a lot of hooks and channels under our desks now. Sounds like it deserves a whole post.

  24. Karisa says:

    I’ve had a classic drafting desk since I started college for interior design in 05… while I used to use it for drawings, I have refused to buy a new table even though I hate the height because having a traditional desk sounds like a nightmare, it’s so small!

    Meanwhile my drafting desk is 36×48 and now that I’m working from home, (& we decided to share the office space), I bought a cheap dining room table and love it!

    Cord management does suck, if only there were ground plugs!!
    Perhaps something to work on, but taking up wood flooring is NOT FUN.

    Glad you found your tables! 🙌🏻

  25. Karen says:

    Hello! I work from home using two tables in an L configuration with a set of IKEA drawers under the table. Works perfectly for me!

  26. EP says:

    I’m team dining table all the way! I’m not as tall as you, but I too find most desks don’t offer enough leg room (I cannot work with my feet flat on the floor to save my life🙈). My favorite desk is a 60”x30” parsons table from Room and Board. Very minimal, super sturdy and works with different aesthetics.

    Just an idea but I’d love to see a camel leather desk chair to warm up the gray. Probably cost prohibitive when you need so many, though. I am loving the direction you’re taking your new home.

  27. NancyS says:

    Definitely prefer a table to a desk, though for the past 40 years I’ve had a vintage executive secretary desk at home. I think that’s what has spoiled me as far as space goes. No room for it in the new house so to FB Marketplace it goes. I personally think with all the drawer space you end up accumulating a lot of junk you don’t really use. At least that’s what my cleanout has shown me :) Can’t wait to see your new space!

  28. Keith says:

    I really prefer workbenches at standing height with drafting style tall chairs. I got used to it in architecture school and it is really how I think. Standing up at my desk, laying out ideas physically (in school we had two workbenches in an L).

  29. Amanda says:

    “I’m more of an email/text/live chat/tell Chris gal.”

    I have never felt more seen! If I can’t do it via text…my husband can call :P

  30. Anne says:

    I prefer tables! Excited to see your end product.

  31. Monica says:

    This will be so interesting to see once it is all set up! Congratulations on the new employee! I think I am speaking for many when I say that I have often wondered what it takes to “run” CLJ. Would love a post breaking down what each of your employees do!

  32. Betsy says:

    Great job!!!

  33. Judy Schmidt says:

    I pictures every movie that has a scene in a college library and I LOVE the idea! Can I also say that I could “hear” your joy as I read this post almost more than any other post ever? I’m grateful you spend the time and choose to let us ride shotgun on your designs! (As a side note, I am happy to watch things unfold as they do, I’m living in the moment, not your “what next” girl.” Thank you.

  34. Ruth says:

    I honestly prefer the first table than the one you have chosen, I tend to avoid dark wood. I am waiting to see what you do with these tables that are too classic for me. You make magic with pieces that I would never hace chosen.

  35. Colleen Czulada says:

    PERFECT idea to use a dining room table! That is EXACTLY what I did for one of my desks in my classroom! My middle school students always said that it felt so cozy in my classroom! GREAT IDEA!! I think you are going to LOVE it!

  36. Pia says:

    Just one thing. Cables… There are a lot of them for four tables, eight people with eight computers and sixteen monitors. Then phone chargers, ear pod chargers, headset chargers, you-name-it-chargers… Think about having something to collect the cables off the floor. The Signum one from IKEA is ugly but does the work in my home office. Just a thought. Love the idea of using dining tables. That’s brilliant.

    • Cyndi J says:

      You’re fortunate that the city where you live allows home-based businesses with employees. Where I live doesn’t. Home-based yes but owner only.

  37. Anne says:

    The tables are perfect – spacious and elegant. I’m looking forward to seeing how this space evolves. Would you mind explaining why you moved the position of the door to the cupboard, please? I’m trying to understand your rationale, as everything change you make is well thought out. Thank you.

    • Sophie says:

      Beautiful plans! I’m curious, how do you consider ergonimics when planning a work area? Far from classic and beautiful, but a height adjustabe desk really makes a difference to me when working at a computer all day.

      • Julia says:

        I think a really great chair is a game changer so we’re investing in better ones this time around. We move a lot on the job so when we’re sitting, it’s nice to be comfortable

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