James’ DIY Floating Plywood Desk Setup With a Scaffolding Board Riser in Bushey, UK

DIY Floating Plywood Desk Setup With a Scaffolding Board Riser in Bushey, UK

“My schedule is a revolving door as I have three kids”

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Name: James

Location: Bushey, UK

Occupation: Project Information Coordinator

Cost of the setup: ~£4,1K ($4,7K)

Social media: Twitter

Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m James, a 32-year-old father of three from Watford, UK.

I’ve had many different jobs in my life.

I actually started out trying to make it in a punk band from 17 to 22. I managed to do a national release and press campaign, all while doing admin for a construction company.

But shortly after all that, my girlfriend (now wife) and I found out we were expecting our first child.

So I joined the real world.

I started out as a document controller for a mechanical/electrical contractor.

From there, I moved to do assistant work for the design director on a project for Google’s headquarters in London.

Then I did odd freelance work for companies like Reed Smith Law and Fidelity Finance.

A DIY floating plywood desk setup with three screens

Randomly out of the blue, I got a phone call from a recruiter that asked me if I would be interested in working on a project for Goldman Sachs.

I didn’t think much of it.

I had a few interviews and didn’t hear anything back for a very long time.

Then once again, out of the blue, I got a call telling me they wanted me to join to work on the project.

So I was employed by Xerox to be a contractor doing project coordination for Goldman Sachs on their headquarters, Brexit relocation projects and a few other bits.

While working there, I spent time between their head offices and a WeWork.

It was around this time COVID-19 hit.

At the time, I was working in what’s called a BCP office for them.

This stands for Business Continuity Plan, which means the very second rumbles of COVID-19 started, I was told to work from home.

During this time, we had just started construction on an extension for our house.

As part of these plans, I added a home office, as my current desk setup wasn’t ideal (see the photo below).

James’ previous desk setup

Once completed, I started building my home office made up of furniture that I managed to get off the Facebook Marketplace since most places were still closed at this point.

I then got another call from a recruiter for a team working on retrieval robotics.

A tough decision to move on to, but I have always wanted to work in the tech industry.

So I made the decision to move — it is also a hybrid role, which is perfect for me with my kids.

They were very kind with the equipment they provided me with, and as a result, I decided to actually put the effort into building the desk setup I currently have.

Take us through your setup

Item Model
Monitor AOC 32″ Q3278VWF 75hz, Dell 24″ P2422H
Monitor mount Humanscale M8.1
Laptop MacBook Pro 2019, Razer Blade 15 2021, Surface Go
Speakers Razer Nommo X
Headphones Sony WH-1000X4
Keyboard Logitech Craft
Mouse Logitech MX Master
Desk mat Nordik by Design
Chair Ergohuman Elite V2
Desk shelf Homemade
Laptop stand Nulaxy Laptop Stand
Web camera AUKEY Webcam
Docking station i-Tec Thunderbolt 3 Dock
Microphone Blue Snowball iCE
Gaming controllers Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, Sony DS4 Controller, 8bitdo Controller
Coffee maker Russel Hobbs Coffee Machine

The idea around my workspace was literally the word “space”.

I had very little space on my previous desk setups and had to move stuff around constantly.

It never really felt comfortable to me.

I’m 6′3, which while not huge, is big enough to get a backache if I’m working on a normal desk.

I toyed for a while with getting a height-adjustable desk, but I couldn’t find a desk that fit an aesthetic that I actually liked (while being both cost-effective and having the amount of space I was after).

So I decided to build my own desk.

James’ DIY floating plywood desk setup with an Ergohuman Elite V2 chair

The other main premise was based on the idea that, as long as the device has Thunderbolt, this can be anyone’s workstation.

As a father of three, I’m aware of the annoyances I had as a kid when someone else was using the “computer” when I needed/wanted to use it.

So I’ve centred this around the idea that, eventually, my kids will have their own laptops to work from.

This can serve as a central hub if needed, with everything plugged in with a single cable without the need for configuration each time.

The original plan was to build it out of scaffolding boards.

But then I realised by doing this with my limited carpentry skills that there was a good chance it wouldn’t be as flat as I would need it.

So I decided to use the scaffolding boards later and made the desk out of plywood and timber.

I started by getting the supplies cut at my local B&Q to size for the room.

Then with the help of my father-in-law (he did all of this part), we built a frame for the desk to sit on from the two adjacent walls with three supports in between.

A three-monitor DIY workstation made out of plywood and scaffolding boards

He cut holes for the wiring to go through, and we then fitted the top.

Once fitted, it was treated with Briwax. I recommend it for people who are confident they won’t be getting the wood wet, as it does stain pretty easily.

The scaffolding boards were from skip diving and didn’t cost anything.

I used one as the top shelf and the other as a riser for my monitors.

All the supplies cost roughly £60-80.

As far as lighting goes, I’ve tried my best with the limitations of the room. This room is shared with coat hangers, a washing machine and a dryer which isn’t ideal.

As a result, my actual workstation gets very limited natural lighting which I’ve tried my best to compensate for with lamps that give a warm glow.

A DIY home office lit up at night

I plan to add a light strip to the back of the riser to give off a bit more light and potentially some hue light bars, but I haven’t decided on that yet.

There’s also a chance I’ll have height adjustability to it, but I’m not desperate right now.

What’s your favourite item on your desk?

I have a Lenovo smart clock that I love the look of.

Since all the lights in this room are Philips Hue, I needed a way to control them without having to get my phone out each and every time.

I also don’t really like the look of any of the Google Home devices, and the others in my house are hidden away well enough they don’t intrude.

So this clock is the perfect solution for remaining minimalist enough that you don’t realise it’s a smart device while maintaining the functionality of one.

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I’m also a big 90s hip-hop fan.

I got a load of artwork off the internet, printed it, and stuck it to an old IKEA frame I had.

I really like it as the centrepiece.

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

Most of my work is on the Google ecosystem, which I actually don’t mind.

But the app I return to over and over is Todoist.

Todoist App

I need to keep my life on track, using it constantly.

I want to make sure I’m booking in blocks of time on my calendar, so invites don’t come in, taking away the time needed to complete the tasks I’m assigned to do.

What books, blogs or podcasts recently caught your attention?

I’ve recently been reading The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.

I love him as a writer. I love the candid nature he writes in.

I go in and out of podcasts; I was a huge fan of S-Town.

A screenshot from the website about S-Town — a podcast from Serial and This American Life, hosted by Brian Reed, about a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it.

I’ll listen to WTF with Marc Maron, if he has good guests, or Grounded with Louis Theroux.

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

Just start small.

Most of the stuff I have is accumulated over years, not days, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot for it to work.

I get a lot of my furniture from Facebook Marketplace, eBay or Gumtree.

My personal aesthetic preference always hedges towards the used look, things that have developed character.

What does your typical day look like?

My schedule is a revolving door.

I have three kids: two in school and one under two years.

We keep a very tight routine to the best of our abilities.

7 am wake up, sort the kids out with their school uniforms, brush teeth, have breakfast, and get out of the door by 8:30 am; walk them to school at 8:50 am, and get home at 9 am, where I hop onto my first call of the day.

A coffee corner with a Russell Hobbs coffee machine

This winds up around 10 am.

I then get myself ready for the day, get breakfast sorted, properly dressed, etc. for 10:30 am.

Then I open Todoist and go through the priorities of my day.

I work out what needs to be completed that day and in what order, then go through them one by one.

The system I work off of is:

Daily (work that is done every day);
Next Actions (unique work that needs completion ASAP);
Delegate (work I can offload to the relevant people);
Waiting For (work that needs completion but requires external interaction prior to me being able to complete);
Someday (this is the work I don’t have an ETA for, so it fills the time when I have quiet periods — I’m yet to visit anything in here).

I follow this system religiously to get work done.

Without a system, I often feel a bit overwhelmed while working from home.

Like I have too much to do and no method of completing it.

Plants on the shelf

Every other day I’ll either do a 5K on my lunch or go to the gym.

Then after my afternoon meetings work, I pick the kids up at 3:15 pm and log back in till 5 pm if I can.

If not, I finish up in the evening when the kids are in bed.

Bedtime is 7 pm. Then my wife and I spend a good 30-45 minutes cleaning the house and making it look straight.

We eat dinner, and then she’ll listen to a true crime podcast about a horrific murder or something while I’ll either pop on the PS5 or gaming laptop and play some video games.

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.

Desk ToursSmall Space SetupGaming SetupCable ManagementDIY SetupMulti-Monitor Setup