I’ve had a few people on Twitter asking for further details on my new home-office setup. So I thought I’d give a rundown of what I’ve bought and why I chose it while it’s fresh in my mind.
Warning, there are lots of high-quality images in this post. So run away now if you're on mobile data!
Here’s the before picture.
I don’t have the full details anymore, but it was a couple of cheap £10 IKEA desks and a cheap office chair. It certainly did the trick, but wasn’t fully stable and not the most comfortable setup for long-term use.
Here are the pictures of the improved office.
Let’s put the pieces together.
Custom Karlby Desk
First up we have the desk.
This one is a bit of an IKEA hack. I wouldn’t call it a budget option, but compared to the price you’d pay for a whole walnut desk then I think it’s a major win.
The top of the desk is actually an IKEA kitchen worktop called the Karlby. In a two and a half meter length (which happened to be perfect for the wall I was placing it against, nice!) it cost a total of £150. IKEA is able to keep it this low because it’s actually half walnut and half chipboard. The underside is made of the cheaper wood substitute, leaving the topside as the more aesthetically pleasing part. It’s still really sturdy, heavy and feels like great quality.
The legs I took from my existing tables and screwed them to this one. You can, however, buy them separately from IKEA. The product type is called Adils and they cost £2.50 each. There are some nicer legs or other colors if you fancy, but I like the plain black, and I already had some to spare. I decided to place one at each corner, and an extra one in the center back for support, right near the monitor arms which is the primary point of stress. Hopefully, this extra leg will stop the table top from dipping over time but allows the front to be open and clean.
Underneath the desk I have two Signum again from IKEA, they screw in easily, and contain all of my cables and power strips for the setup, giving the appearance of no cables at all, hurray!
The monitors I had already, but they are two Dell P2415Q which are 24” 4K monitors. I personally like smaller monitors as I waste a lot of space on a 27” and up, and I need the 4K (60hz) element because if I was to try working on a 1080p I’d just end up defaulting back to the MacBook screen. I just can’t work on a screen without smooth fonts anymore.
The two screens were around £200 each when I bought them a year or so ago, which I thought was an incredible price at the time.
The monitors are mounted on some cheap monitor arms that I found on Amazon ages ago. I think it was £20 or so at the time.
Microphone & Camera
I’ve been considering trying some Twitch workshops or screencasting, that along with the fact that I’ll soon be working with a remote team meant that I was willing to pay a little more for this part of the setup.
I bought the Yeti microphone due to its reputation, it was also on a Black Friday deal with the Logitech C922 (a favored streamer webcam) for £100. I could have bought a cheaper boom arm, but decided to go for the Blue Compass, which is made especially for the Yeti and hides the cables inside the arm, giving it a cleaner appearance. This boom arm, the shock mount, and pop filter added an extra £150 to the cost of the audio setup, but I’m really pleased with the result.
These are a pair of Bose desktop speakers. There’s nothing that exciting about them really. I bought them a while ago for £100 because I use Bose earphones on my commute and have found them to be good quality.
These desktop speakers, however, are nothing to write home about. Very standard quality and won’t blow anyone away! Of course, they are rarely used to to the other audio output option which I’ll describe next.
Headphones & Amp
I’m a huge fan of music, and I listen to it heavily while working. I’ve always been curious about the ‘audiophile’ setups, so when I saw that the Sennheiser HD6XX’s were available for $200 on Massdrop then I gave in.
The 6XX’s are effectively a re-colored version of the well-respected HD650’s. These are an audiophile favorite that normally start at £400. So to get them at $200 (around £157) is an incredible offer.
Now the 6XX’s are high impedance headphones, so you’re not going to get the benefit of them when using a standard headphone output, and so a headphone amp was required to complete the setup. I also chose to add a DAC to the mix as the MacBooks own is rather limited.
After some research, I decided to go for what is lovingly called ‘The Schiit Stack’. And yes, you do say it like that. It’s an American company with a big sense of humor, but not when it comes to the quality of their products.
I’ve gone with the Magni/Modi 3 and an interpose connecting the two. This is enough to fully power the headphones, and now my music sounds incredible! I highly recommend downloading some FLAC audio (lossless, CD-like) to really feel the difference.
Keyboard & Mouse
This keyboard is my baby. If the house set on fire I’d save my pets and then come back for the keyboard. This definitely isn’t a cheap option, but it was a bit of a passion project that I invested in a while ago. Please forgive me, I’m a coder without kids and loves tech! Of course, I’m going to play with pricey gadgets!
The keyboard is a Vortex Pok3r (without LEDs) but you probably couldn’t tell from looking at it. Pretty much only the PCB and switches remain stock. The Pok3r is a 60% keyboard, that has several layers of hardware macroing built into it. Meaning you can program macros and shortcuts without needing to install any software on the device you’re using it on. They are stored in the memory of the keyboard.
A 60% keyboard doesn’t have a number pad, home/insert button area, arrow keys, or an F-key row. Instead, you use combinations to replace these. For example, instead of arrow keys I use caps lock (bound to function for me) and I, J, K, and L. It takes a little while to retrain, but it keeps your fingers closer together, and once I had gotten used to it, I found it great to use!
It’s got Cherry MX Brown (silent) switches, but that does not mean that it’s a silent keyboard. You still have the sound of the plastic keycaps hitting the board underneath, so don’t consider this keyboard if you need to work in a quiet office environment!
The keycaps are Tai-Hao Hawaii PBT. I just love the colors. Anyone who knows me will know I dress really boring. Mostly black. In fact, I wear exclusively black T-shirts, but those who know of my side projects will know that I’m certainly no stranger to colors, and I’m absolutely obsessed with the Hawaii caps!
What could make pretty caps better? A pretty case! It’s a custom walnut case and wrest from Alibaba express. 60% keyboards have lots of alternate casing options, so it’s not difficult to find one that you like. I’ve also purchased a nice orange custom braided USB cable to finish off the look.
All in all this little piece of luxury cost around £240, but it makes me smile every time I use it!
For the mouse, I wasn’t all that bothered in the choice. I have a gaming PC setup in another room and it’s mostly Corsair, so I went with Corsair’s cheapest gaming mouse. I believe it cost £25. I can’t stand the Apple mice, they cripple my hand!
Well, this is where the budget has to go up a bit. I used to be a Linux user, but around 6 years ago I moved to a Mac, and I find it hard to drift from the aesthetics.
Normally I buy a Mac every few years, and I eat up the cost for the sake of it being the key part of the setup I use to further my career as an engineer. However, I’m becoming increasingly disgusted at the prices that Apple is willing to charge their customers for minor improvements, and there’s a chance I might switch back to Linux in a few years.
Since I buy a MacBook every few years, I need it to last. So this is the late 2017 model with the highest specs and integrated graphics (to drive the 4K screens). It cost a disgusting £2700 because Apple takes a US price, and just change the symbol. They don’t seem to be aware of the existence of an exchange rate.
On a side note, I hate the Touch Bar, and I think it’s a useless gimmick. Especially when used in a desktop environment. The fingerprint reader, however, I can get on with that.
This is a Peace Lilly from IKEA that I’ve since moved to the kitchen. We’re getting a kitten next week (pictures on demand) and lilies are poisonous to cats, so I screwed up a bit there! I’ll find a safe replacement.
The number of cables and dongles coming out of the Mac thanks to its USB-C adoption was insane! I like that we’re making the move to USB-C, but it was a bit ugly for my desk. For this reason, I emptied out my rainy-day fund and spent far too much on a Caldigit TS3 Plus.
This is a little brick that has a load of outputs. It was the best dock that I could find, and I specifically wanted one that would provide power to the Mac, USB-A/C for all the devices I have, and to support several 4K monitors at 60hz. This was the king, but with the extended cable, it cost £300. Not something I was expecting to buy, but as the desk got prettier, I wanted it to be neater. RIP my rainy day fund!
The dock is tucked under my desk in the cable tidy, and a single USB-C cable runs to my Mac (resting on a Rain stand I already had) that both charges the Mac and runs the devices/audio.
It was expensive, but it works REALLY well. It’s a great product.
If I had to pick one thing annoying with it, it’s that it doesn’t always remember which of my monitors is landscape and which is portrait. If you don’t use this setup, it won’t affect you.
I’ve always wanted to try a gaming chair, and if I’m going to be working from this room then now seems like a great time to do that. I decided upon a NobleChair because I like how clean and simple they look. I don’t like “the razer effect” with the crazy edges and the glowing green or other bright colors. I saved a bit of money by going for the fake leather, but the quality is super high and I think it looks great.
This is the NobleChair Hero (great for big folks like this chunky boy!) and it retails at £350. I picked mine up from overclockers.
It’s worth noting that it’s really heavy and very wide. Might be a struggle to get upstairs!
When we moved into this place a little over a year ago this room was painted baby blue and bright yellow. I suspect it might have been a nursery before. It was absolutely disgusting, so it had to go!
I spent a week painting it a beautiful shade of Dutch Teal, and the two walls and ceiling that you can’t see are painting in a light grey-white called Rock Salt that helps lighten the room a little. I’ve always had an eye for design and a gift for pairing colors, but that doesn’t mean that painting dark against the light was an easy task! That’s a whole other story! (Many new swear-words were invented that week.)
I’ve got an HUE color changing bulb in the ceiling light, so I can change it to any color I feel like, but it’s normally a nice dimmed blue shade in the evenings which looks great on the walls.
The Monkey Island poster was a gift from my girlfriend who knows me so well, love you Em! I’ve been a fan of LucasArts adventures since I got my first computer. We framed it in a simple IKEA frame. I might get some more for the additional walls. We’ll see!
And that’s pretty much it! All in all, I think if you exclude the laptop it will have cost around £2000, spread over a length of time. It’s a lot of money, but I believe that it’s worth investing in the tools and locations that you work with/in the most. I’m very pleased with the result, and I love working in this room.