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This article is part of our latest Design special report, about new creative pathways shaped by the pandemic.
In those faraway prepandemic times, remote work was a remote option. According to a study published in February by the Pew Research Center, 23 percent of Americans with jobs that could be done from home exercised that choice all or most of the time before the virus struck. During the pandemic the number rose to 71 percent, and now 60 percent of those who worked from home said they would like to continue the arrangement.
For people settling permanently into home offices, it might be time to rethink the makeshift furniture. Time to move from the kitchen table to a proper desk. Time to spend those working hours in a comfortable, ergonomic chair with an efficient task light that is flexible enough to reach all the corners of the work surface. Time for dedicated shelves for storage. As the furniture industry strives to meet those demands, it offers a host of well-designed products at every price range. (Note that prices and availability were confirmed as of April 19.)
Thomas and Benjamin Cherner founded the Cherner Chair Company in 1999 to revive an award-winning plywood chair designed in 1958 by their father, Norman, among other of his creations. In 2013, Benjamin Cherner designed the Studio desk as a complement. The piece is manufactured in Grand Rapids, Mich., with plywood and sustainably sourced American walnut veneer. Gently tapered legs provide a graceful silhouette. The 48-inch-wide desk includes a pencil drawer. From $2,149 from lumens.com
The Celine desk, by Nazanin Kamali for Case, has a streamlined, midcentury-modern vibe. The 43.3-inch-wide desktop accommodates a monitor, keyboard and printer. A drawer and open cubby offer storage and a pathway for cords and wires. Celine comes in walnut or oak veneer with a black-painted option. The turned hardwood legs snap into place without tools. $1,295 from dwr.com
Poppin, a 13-year-old American company, specializes in affordable office products. Its Key desk features a powder-coated metal frame, commodious drawer and angled legs. The 48-inch-wide desktop, made of medium density fiberboard, has rounded edges and a built-in covered tray that hides cords and cables. Key is available in veneered oak or walnut or in powder-coated white, gray, slate blue or brick. The desk requires assembly, but the task is tool-free. $425 from poppin.com
Simple but substantial, the New Order bookshelf by Stefan Diez for Hay, a Danish manufacturer, can be modified by adding panels, doors or drawers and is available with cabinets or credenzas. The interconnecting, powder-coated aluminum elements are offered in light gray, charcoal or red. Each shelf holds up to 66 pounds. This High Single version stands 71 inches high, 39.5 inches wide and 13.5 inches deep. Assembly is required. $1,795 from dwr.com
Hitch stands alone as a single unit or can be incorporated into a wall of shelving. The system, produced by the Minneapolis-based Blu Dot, consists of a powder-coated steel frame that must be attached to the wall, and wood shelves that come in walnut, white oak, smoke or ash veneer, or in white or black lacquer. An individual unit is 73 inches high, 28 inches wide and 11 inches deep. Assembly requires a Phillips head screw driver. $695 from bludot.com
The Container Store produces this cast iron bookshelf, which can be folded flat to stash away. The six-shelf unit stands about 69 inches high by nearly 28 inches wide by just over 11 inches deep and has a natural pewter finish. Each shelf holds up to 60 pounds. The design is also available in three- and four-shelf versions, none of which requires assembly. With the application of a protective sealer, this item even can be used outdoors. About $230 from thecontainerstore.com
Joe Doucet designed the 25-inch-wide Duet office chair expressly for small spaces. Manufactured by Bernhardt Design, the perch has polished stainless-steel arms that wrap around a bent plywood shell that provides a nest for the molded polyurethane fill. Duet is adjustable, with a standard gas pneumatic lift and swivel tilt mechanism. The base, made of polished cast aluminum, is outfitted with casters that are said to function equally well on carpet or hard surfaces. The chair’s Greenguard certification means that it meets low chemical emissions standards. A wide variety of flat or quilted leather options are available. $1,330 from hivemodern.com
The Dirk office chair sports a chrome frame and a foam-filled seat and back that are constructed as a single piece and upholstered in leatherette. The seat and arm heights are adjustable, and a tilt mechanism offers five locking positions. The chromed-steel swivel base has two-inch chrome casters. It is certified as commercial grade by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, which says the chair will easily withstand more than eight hours of use per day. About $715 from keyhomefurnishings.com
Offering many of the same features as its higher-price peers, the Kilbourne office chair has a tilt mechanism that can be locked into place and an adjustable seat with lumbar support. (The chrome-plated arms are fixed.) The seat is filled with foam and upholstered in vinyl with ribbed stitching, resembling leather. The five color options are black, brown, gray, white or orange. Kilbourne is a product of Wrought Studio, a trademark of Wayfair. About $120 from wayfair.com
DCW Editions has resurrected the Mantis lamp, conceived in 1951 by Bernard Schottlander in homage to the artist Alexander Calder. Mr. Schottlander’s design, which was originally produced in a limited edition and had been all but forgotten, involves a system of thin metal rods and counterweights that allow the steel body to rotate 360 degrees. The asymmetrical shade of painted aluminum provides the focused lighting that desktop work demands. Mantis takes an incandescent or LED bulb. $820 from lumens.com
Kelvin is an energy-efficient lamp with a double arm resembling a windshield wiper blade and a swiveling head that houses multiple LED bulbs. Stainless steel springs and steel cables make it easy to position the light wherever it is needed. Designed by Antonio Citterio with Toan Nguyen, Kelvin turns on and off with a tap on its head. In its “green” mode (activated by another head tap), it automatically adjusts the light, responding to the brightness of the work surface. Available in four finishes. $550 from flos.com
No less than its more expensive cousins, Ikea’s Forsa lamp owes its style to the classic Anglepoise lamp created in 1932 by George Carwardine, an automotive engineer. Its spring-loaded arm rotates 180 degrees and its head goes the full 360. A sturdy metal base discourages toppling. The steel lamp comes with an LED bulb. About $30 from ikea.com