Don’t try to lie: you probably have a Pinterest board dedicated for that perfect productive workspace. And, hey, I do too.
In fact, I’d been so obsessed with the idea of creating the perfect workspace for myself that when my concerned parents booked me a one-way flight home to bunk out with them for the rest of the year—or maybe even until the pandemic was over—I knew this was my chance to take a crack at my dream space.
Unlike my condo (where I spent nearly seven years of uninterrupted residence between university and “adulting” life), my childhood room was more spacious. It definitely allowed for even a slightly bigger desk. (And this was a luxury I did not have in a two-bedroom condo that was both living space and storage unit for a family of five.)
Out with the Old
At first, I thought that I could work with the desk I currently had. I regret to say I had no intention of putting out a blog post about the evolution of my desk. So it didn’t even cross my mind to take a photo of the old one, complete with how it looked with all my work paraphernalia then.
But for visual purposes, here’s a bad sketch of the old desk anyway. It was a two-tier thing with about a half-foot space between the main desk and top shelf.
While it was a perfectly good desk for my usual two-week visits at Christmas, I quickly realized that this was not my ideal desk for a prolonged (read: indefinite) stay. I rarely wanted to work with it. Plus, it reminded me too much of my pre-teen years where I had fewer responsibilities.
Safe to say, it wasn’t good for my general productivity.
Of course there was a problem list
So in true Mica Gonzalez fashion, I sat down and tried to identify the exact problems I had with this desk—because, after all, I’m a big believer that to solve a problem, we need to know exactly what it is first.
Here was the list of problems I had with the old desk:
- The top shelf. The space between the top shelf and the main desk was about half a foot. This seemed to make sense at first, but later proved to be the most unhelpful thing. I couldn’t make the most of the space towards the back of the main surface, so I was effectively left with limited working room.
- The age-old sticker marks and various other stains. I vaguely remember my siblings and I as kids going ham with pasting stickers all over the house, from kitchen cabinets and walls and all—this desk being no exception. The remnants of The Incredibles-themed stickers constantly distracted me, and their faded faces served only as a reminder of why I stopped using cheap stickers in the first place.
- I didn’t like its general design. Separate from the top shelf, I just didn’t like how everything looked. There was too much going on, with all these beams and things sticking out every which way. It even had these clunky built-in—I’m actually not sure what they were: book ends? separators?—on the top shelf, which, as you might guess, only added to my list of reasons to hate the top shelf.
- It was just really old. The desk was a hand-me-down from my dad. So between having a previous owner and lack of use for, say, seven years, the once-white surface was now yellowed and…ugly.
- The top shelf. I did mention the top shelf, right?
Desk Hunting is a Lot Like Dating…I Think
Armed with the knowledge of exactly what I didn’t want—a too-low top shelf, something that reminded me of my low impulse control as a child, too many arbitrary parts—I determined exactly what I did.
But shortly after I made the decision that my 24th birthday splurge would go to a brand new desk, I quickly realized my options were limited.
Most of the online shops and sellers I found online said my address was too far for shipping. Chalk it up to archipelago problems.
So I decided to take my search local. Turns out, none of the ready-to-use desks from furniture shops fit my Holy Trinity of desk shopping: practicality, design, and price. If one did fit my budget, I didn’t like the color. If one did fit my idea of practical, it was over three times my budget. (And I often didn’t 100% fall in love with the design anyway.)
When you can’t find the one, you…make the one?
To cut the long story short, I eventually got lucky when I found local makers who could build the exact desk I wanted from scratch. They had everything: the wood, the steel, the paint. So exactly one week after we (virtually) shook hands on it, the desk was at my door.
To talk you through it: I wanted a desk with a bottom shelf this time. My main workspace at my condo also had a top shelf (see Instagram photo at the beginning of this post), so I wanted to shake things up. I was also a little jaded by dark surfaces. I figured I was willing to put in the work to keep a nice white desk clean.
After all, I wasn’t a seven-year-old with the compulsion to decorate her house with Pixar-themed stickers anymore. I was now a responsible 24-year-old who discovered a love for Wipe Out.
Now that I had the most important thing for a workspace, it was time to really make the space mine.
The Life-Changing Magic of…Buying Things for Your Desk
Okay, so let’s recap. By this time, I had only the desk, which—when populated with most of my work paraphernalia—looked a little something like this:
It was around this time when I began thinking about what to add on top of the desk, as well as how to fill the blank wall that had the misfortune of being in my eye line between 4-8 hours a day.
My heart was set on keeping a faded blue book right at the corner. I like blue, I like books, and this one had that sweet old-book charm I really loved.
(For the inquisitive out there, the book on my desk is an incredibly old edition of The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh, the famous pilot. The book was handed down to me a year ago by my dad, who I daresay is the epitome of a Lindbergh fanboy. The Book Bestowing happened after a then-recent trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in D.C.—practically a tribute to Lindbergh’s legacy. Needless to say, Dad was very excited to show me the book. Alright, segue over.)
Waiting for a lightbulb moment?
The first thing I knew had to go was the Grandma Lamp. I call it the Grandma Lamp not because I thought it was already in this house since my grandma lived here but more because I feel it fit her vibe more than anyone else I know in my life.
I knew I wanted a simpler lamp, so imagine my joy when I found a pink lamp that not only looked as simple as I wanted but also had three—three!—brightness settings. Lights being too bright was a very specific problem for me, which this lamp promptly solved.
It wasn’t that I was a neat freak or anything…
At this point, all that was left was the wall. Now, normally I would have bargained with myself to leave the wall bare—maybe blank walls could inspire creativity, like blank canvasses? But in case you missed it, the wall had more than just a few dirt and tape stains that were probably there since childhood. Before you ask, yes, I had tried to remove them, but my Wipe Out didn’t stand a chance.
I mulled over what I could have done about that, but to keep things simple, here was my thought process throughout the whole thing:
- New paint job? Absolutely not. Especially not during a pandemic that makes it 1,000 times harder to have people over. Also…where would I sleep while the paint dried? Also…could I afford a new paint job?
- Wallpaper? Ew, no.
- Shelves? Possible and functional. But see: New paint job objections above.
- Picture frames? Wait, do I even have pictures I could put up? What kind of pictures? Is it vain to use my own? Wait, no, I can’t possibly be productive with my own face staring at me.
- Wall art? Oh my God, yes, wall art.
So wall art it was. Long story short, it took about an entire day to decide between options I found online. I did make the conscious effort to buy a style that was royalty-free, just to avoid complications with copyright or licensing lest they ended up on an online platform of mine (like this one).
And then we made it here
After that entire process spanning hours of planning and musing, days of waiting, I finally had it: my dream workspace.
So without further ado, here’s the final product:
Granted, it’s a tiny workspace—but that’s what I like. I know this might not work for many people. But I know what works for me, and that’s the most important thing about this whole thing anyway.