By Jeffrey the Barak.
There was an old physical joke when I was younger. There would be a group of us lounging around in an altered state in someone’s living room. One person would leave to go to the bathroom and the rest of us would very quickly rearrange all the furniture and then sit as if nothing had happened. This would freak out the person returning from the bathroom.
I am reminded of this craziness this week as I rearrange my office furniture at least eight times. Actually this is a good thing because only by disconnecting the computer and all of its peripherals are you able to remove all dust and clean every surface. And knowing that every little thing is clean helps to clear the mind for better creativity.
This marathon of disconnection and rearranging is something that happens from time to time in my workspace. While any change of orientation is refreshing, I do strive to find a perfect layout. But the same dilemma appears every time.
On the one hand , I prefer to face out into the room, away from the wall, with the window to one side and the door ahead and to the other side. “Aha”, you say, that is Feng Shui. Well yes it it classical Feng Shui, but I do not subscribe to Feng Shui because rooms that break some or all of the rules of Feng Shui often feel better to me.
On the other hand, I sometimes prefer to orient the desk up against the wall and face away from the center of the room. The reason is cables. When a computer desk faces a wall it is easy to hide the cables and easy to never see the backs of screens and speakers etc. You can hide the spaghetti under and behind the objects.
But this could also be an argument for Feng Shui, its proponents might say the negative aspect of the exposed cables and the backs of the screen and speakers outweighs the orientation. I take no issue with this modification to their principals.
So the dilemma is, towards the wall and tidy, versus towards the room and messy.
When we search the Internet for images of tidy and organized offices, home computer stations and home recording studio setups, we find mainly setups facing walls. The wall is a great tool for decluttering. If we are alert during our image search, we see home offices that face away from the wall, but in many cases all cables, power adapters, plugs, power strips and cords have been removed so that the photo looks nice. This is of course silly cheating because nothing works without the cables.
I have a 27” iMac, which is technically all-in-one, and the keyboard and trackpad are wireless, but that does not mean I can work without a huge tangle of cables. I have a cable modem, a wireless router, studio monitor reference speakers, an uninterruptible power supply which is as big as a PC and has of course all the power cables sticking into its back, and numerous little things that occasionally need access to the USB ports behind the computer as well as to the power supply. Then on recording days, I have an audio interface and cables going out to an electronic drum set which is a whole other visual mess.
But I like to face the room, and when I do at least some of the cables are on show. Then sometimes I turn it all around and face the wall and sacrifice my orientation for the neat feeling of having the cables out of sight.
One way to hide everything and yet not be sitting facing a wall is to have a standing desk. I tried this last week. No I did not spend $800 and buy one, I just rigged something up to try it out first. And I am glad I did not buy the desk first, because despite having the screen, the speakers, the keyboard and trackpad at the perfect heights, I was exhausted and in considerable pain. I just cannot work standing up for an extended time. Its not for me.
So is it better to face away from the wall with your cables in view, or is is better to hide your gear and face the wall? What do you think? Comments are welcome.