A minimalist home office setup featuring an LG UltraFine 5K monitor and a MacBook Pro M1 16″ 2021

Solopreneur’s Workspace in Berlin, Germany

“My most treasured item is probably the vintage lamp my friend smuggled for me from a flea market in Puglia, Italy”

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Name: Alexey Chernikov

Location: Berlin, Germany

Occupation: App business founder

Room size: 10 m² (108 ft²)

Cost of setup: ~$2,5K

Social media: Instagram, X

Website: Alexey

Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself

Hey! I’m Alexey, and I’m deeply interested in building software for millions of people with the smallest team possible and no external funding.

I’ve built a translator app called Mate Translate. It’s got 1M monthly active users now.

It integrates very well with web pages and operating systems like iOS and macOS.

It’s especially loved by language learners and expats (who translate a lot) because it saves a lot of time compared to Google Translate.

A close-up of a home office desk featuring a Logitech K780 keyboard, AirPods Pro 2021, a notebook with handwritten notes, a pen, and a cup of black coffee

I built it as a Chrome extension for myself around ten years ago.

Since then, I’ve hired, fired, ported it to more platforms, and experimented with different sorts of user acquisition — learned a lot, to put it shortly.

At the moment, I’m not actively working on Mate anymore.

Instead, I spend my days hacking around different projects involving generating images with AI.

Currently for example, on Rosa — a simple web app that turns you into a Halloween character from just one selfie.

I also like writing, but I’m so far too shy to publish most of the things I’ve written.

On numerous occasions, I’ve overcome shyness and posted a few things.

Maybe, it’s the right time to mention my Substack that I created, hoping to publish more of my stuff.

Take us through your setup

Item Model
Monitor LG UltraFine 5K
Laptop MacBook Pro M1 16″ 2021
Headphones AirPods Pro 2021
Keyboard Logitech K780
Mouse Apple Trackpad II
Standing desk frame Flexispot H2

I moved into this flat three days before the first COVID lockdown started. All shops shut their doors.

Thankfully, there was a click and collect option.

I had some ideas about what I wanted, but still, it wasn’t ideal to shop online without seeing and touching things first.

A minimalist home office setup in a bright room with sloped ceilings and a cosy wooden armchair with cushions

I knew I definitely wanted to try a standing desk.

I remember there weren’t plenty of reasonably priced options, and the one from IKEA — although reasonably priced — had terrible reviews.

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I ended up ordering the tabletop from IKEA and the mount off Amazon and just screwing them together myself.

The standing desk was truly life-changing for me. (The last time I used it was in 2020.)

As for the electronics, the LG UltraFine was pretty much the only monitor back then if you wanted Retina quality on a big screen.

A minimalist home office setup featuring an LG UltraFine 5K monitor displaying a macOS desktop, a MacBook Pro M1 16″ 2021, an Apple Magic Keyboard, and an Apple Trackpad II, all arranged neatly on an IKEA GERTON tabletop

So it was quite an obvious choice.

I saw my co-founder using the Logitech keyboard, and I was instantly convinced — it has a convenient little shelf where you can put your phone or iPad.

My productivity bro days are long gone now, so I shove away my phone and iPad as far as possible so I don’t see them when I want to work, instead of putting them onto that little shelf.

It’s a very nice keyboard, regardless of that.

I had to adjust myself to the round keys for a bit, but it’s very comfortable.

I tried Keychron K2 for a bit. I gave it three chances, in fact.

After each streak, I would put it back into the drawer because of terrible wrist pain and fatigue after using it even for a few hours (yes, I was using a desk shelf).

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And a few months later, I would give in and give it one more chance.

This procedure repeated a few times, and finally, I sold it on eBay last month.

Fingers on one hand would suffice to count all the calls I’ve done this year, so I do not have any advanced recording equipment.

The IKEA MARKUS is a very decent chair, in my opinion.

I’ve sat on Herman Miller chairs that were two to four times as expensive as MARKUS, and I would still choose MARKUS, frankly.

It doesn’t cut off at the shoulder level like most chairs love to do for some reason.

It has decent back support, it’s robust, it doesn’t look ugly. It’s just €200, after all.

A close-up of a home office desk featuring a vintage black desk lamp, a clear A5 memobottle water bottle, a glass of water on a coaster, part of a MacBook Pro M1 16″ 2021, and a framed map of Vienna’s Leopoldstadt district in the background

My most treasured item is probably the vintage lamp my friend smuggled for me from a flea market in Puglia, Italy.

I say smuggled, but nothing illegal took place, in reality.

She was just carrying it in her hand luggage, and that reminds me of that scene in The Wolf of Wall Street where they were flying money from New York to Switzerland taped to their bodies.

I like plants, so there are a few.

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I’ll tell you a secret — my office also serves as a wardrobe, which is at the other end of the room.

It’s the smallest room in my flat, on its northern side.

The northern side is less sunny (as if one can call Berlin sunny at all), but from April through September, one can spot very beautiful morning golden hour lights shedding on my workspace.

What apps or tools do you use to get things done?

My top three are Safari, VS Code, and Notes.

Nowadays, many apps are web-based, so Safari covers a broad range of use cases — from communication to learning to managing servers to marketing.

I came to stay away from Google’s tracking.

I stayed for simplicity, baked-in password management, and synced tabs across all my devices.

Since I’ve switched to mostly AI solopreneuring, I do everything by myself, and that involves a lot of development.

A well-organised home office desk setup featuring an LG UltraFine 5K monitor displaying a macOS desktop, MacBook Pro M1 16″ 2021, Apple Magic Keyboard, black desk lamp, A5 water bottle by memobottle, glass of water on a coaster, and a stack of books

VS Code + Copilot + ChatGPT have become irreplaceable for me.

Copilot saves me a lot of time and even more brainpower by autocompleting chunks of code.

If it’s something more sophisticated, I often give instructions to ChatGPT and ask it to write this or that method.

If one’s specific enough about formatting style and libraries to be used, the output can be copied over basically 1:1, saving me 10-15 minutes and a lot of energy.

My favourite piece of software, however, is Apple Notes.

It’s my project management software, to-do list, journaling app, sketching app, and knowledge base.

It seamlessly works on all my devices, and I’m not worried it might suddenly sunset or my data get leaked.

What books, blogs, or podcasts recently caught your attention?

Three books impressed me greatly this year.

In the order I read them, chronologically: The Chess Novella by Zweig, Sapiens by Harari, and The Reader by Schlink.

I had a break in reading fiction for around ten years after I graduated from high school.

I’m slowly coming back to it now.

When I read my first fiction book after such a long break, I was very surprised at how easy reading can be.

A close-up of a home office desk featuring a stack of books and magazines, a small potted plant, and a LEGO model of famous buildings on the windowsill, all arranged on an IKEA GERTON tabletop

After a myriad of self-help books written either in a very scholarly language one needs a PhD to decipher or self-brag reads written by Silicon Valley chads.

I have a rather negative stance on podcasts. They seem unapologetically bloated to me.

Just like many people say, “this meeting could’ve been an email,” I cannot stop thinking, “this podcast could’ve been a blog post.”

I like being a guest on a podcast more (haha) — I’ve been twice and it was fun.

Any tips for other makers who want to improve their workspaces?

Avoid having a window behind your screen or behind your back.

It strains your eyes unnecessarily.

It’s best if it’s on the left or right side of you.

What does your typical day look like?

I can flex with a very cool alarm clock — it’s a 50-metre-tall red-brick tower with an analogue supersized full-metal bell instead of speakers.

It goes off every day at 8 am.

In our world where everything tends to be brought onto a screen and connected to the internet, I like this bit of rough analogousness that my days start with.

A view of a red-roofed house in Berlin with multiple windows and a large leafy tree, set against a clear blue sky

In fact, I’m usually already awake by the time my shared alarm clock goes off anyway.

Not waking up to the soothing iPhone’s alarm clock sound and sleeping as much as my body needs to was one of the best self-care things I realised and contributes majorly to my satisfaction with life.

Morning is my favourite time of the day.

I was quite resentful that I was spending a quarter of it cooking and eating to only feel so bloated and lazy that I wanted to only go back to bed and snooze.

So I stopped having breakfast a few months ago.

Yes, I know that it depends on what you eat, but no matter what I ate, it had this effect on me.

I do not drink coffee, I do not spend time on eating.

When I want to go out and see people, I go out for a quick walk and proceed to my coworking space.

I usually start the day by sitting down and trying to clear my thoughts and then write for a bit — sometimes just journaling, sometimes an attempt to write an essay or a short story.

Then, I do some work.

When I feel too lazy to go there (even though it’s a 10-minute walk away from my home), I stay at home, read, nap, go for lunch somewhere in the neighbourhood, and start working in the afternoon.

A view of a residential area in Berlin with a white building featuring multiple windows and balconies, a large leafy tree, and a historic brick tower with crosses and a pitched roof, all set against a clear blue sky

I’m very proud I’ve managed to get rid of the work frameworks the industrial revolution had forced upon us.

I do not pay attention to what time or day it is — sometimes I work on Saturday and Sunday, sometimes I relax half the usual workweek.

I’ve learned how to work whenever I want to, and not feel resentful or guilty whenever I do not want to work.

It was much harder than it sounds.

“Naturality” has become my motto.

Listening closely to what my body says and craves, and following it — as opposed to forcing yourself into “what’s right” (because the “right” is usually defined by someone else).

I love working from an office (which is a shared space for me).

I have a membership that allows me to go eight times a month. Twice per week on average.

It’s perfect for me — sometimes I take a day off, sometimes I’m out of town, sometimes I work from home, sometimes I work at a café.

A minimalist home office setup with an LG UltraFine 5K monitor, MacBook Pro M1 16″ 2021, Apple Magic Keyboard, Apple Trackpad II, black desk lamp, clear water bottle, and a glass of water, all arranged on an IKEA GERTON tabletop with a Flexispot H2 standing desk frame, IKEA MARKUS chair, a stack of books, a small plant, and a LEGO model on the windowsill

To unwind from work, I like walking long distances around my neighbourhood and surrounding areas.

There’s a canal very close to my house — it’s one of my favourite places in town.

I love being by the water but not in the water.

Somehow, it never gets boring to walk around the same areas.

It’s one of the most bustling areas in Berlin (and probably Germany), so there’s always something happening, new places open up, old ones close down, etc.

A wooden cabinet topped with a potted spider plant, several smartwatch bands, a Marshall portable speaker, a candle holder, and framed art prints leaning against the wall

I also like climbing (hello, tech bro clichés!).

I reach my gym by foot, too, of course.

One thing I admire about Berlin a lot is that every district is like a small, independent town.

I can never leave my neighbourhood, and arrive everywhere by foot.

There’s no need to drive somewhere or even use public transportation.

Speaking about books, I really liked one called The Happy City. I read it a while ago, so I didn’t list it above, but it’s a good one, I can recommend it.

Briefly, a happy city is one where you don’t need to drive for 40 minutes to get groceries.

Your tips for better focus?

I generally can concentrate much better when I’m at my shared office.

There’s a myriad of much more interesting things you can do at home than pushing pixels on a supercharged calculator.

It must be lonely for the dishes to sit in the dishwasher for so long!

That laundry has been waiting to be folded for way too long, too!

When was the last time I dusted?

Have you even seen the hard-water stains in the bathtub?

Meditating is instrumental in getting oneself in an efficient mood — for writing code, writing a text, etc.

I sit down at my desk, put my hands on the table, close my eyes, and try to get rid of any thoughts, and watch my breath.

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Even three to five minutes like this help to calm down and become able to do something without worrying about that other thing you could’ve done instead.

Lack of breakfast and coffee help to maintain this state of no-botheredness.

We’re a reader-supported publication. This article might contain affiliate links. It means we may receive a commission if you click a link and buy a product that our maker has recommended. The interview was done independently.

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