Botanical Workspace with a Pegboard Wall in Kelowna, Canada

Nicholas’ Botanical Workspace with a Pegboard Wall in Kelowna, Canada

“I wanted a setup that puts emphasis on the colour green, textures and lighting rather than whatever flashy pieces of technology I had purchased some time ago”

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What’s Inside

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Name: Nicholas

Location: Kelowna, Canada

Occupation: Software Developer and UI/UX designer

Room size: 24,5 m² (264 ft²)

Cost of the setup: ~$7K (including the chair, speakers, monitors, iPad, PC, etc.)

Social media: Instagram

Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself

Hi! I’m a software developer and UI/UX designer that enjoys getting into the whys and hows of user interaction with the software.

I have been working professionally in this field for a little over three years now and have been working from home for roughly two of those years.

When I was younger, I was completely convinced that I was going to grow up and become an architect.

I would draw pictures of made-up building layouts and designs, read up on famous pieces of architecture and try to understand why a certain piece made me feel satisfied just looking at them.

A nature-inspired workspace in Kelowna, Canada
A nature-inspired workspace in Kelowna, Canada

I’ve always loved creating designs and concepts from nothing and being able to look at what I was creating and pick out parts that could be done better, iterating on each prior design until I was satisfied.

Seeing something I had created and getting that satisfying feeling cemented the fact that I needed to pursue a career that involved both visual and functional designs.

Around my final year of high school, I realised I also had a passion for computers and software.

There was definitely a lot of conflict going on in my head deciding whether or not I really wanted to pursue a career in architecture at this point.

I eventually realised there was more to software development that didn’t just involve writing algorithms and APIs.

The living room in Kelowna, Canada
Nicholas started working from home in 2018 before COVID-19 hit. “It was something I knew was possible when I first started working in software development. I have always told myself I wouldn’t consider a job if it didn’t offer at least part-time from home. So far, I am two for two companies that are fine with working from home, and I couldn’t imagine working somewhere that didn’t offer this perk anymore”

For whatever reason, it took a while to see that software development includes an entire visual side to it as well, typically referred to as “Frontend Development”.

Digging into this topic further, I learned about User Experience/User Interface design (UX/UI).

It just clicked to me that this was something I could see myself doing as a career.

Take us through your setup

Item Model
Monitor LG34UM95-P, LG29UM59-P
Monitor mount Mount it! Gas Spring
Monitor light bar BenQ Screenbar
Tablet 11″ iPad Pro
Speakers Kanto Yu4
Microphone HyperX Solocast
Boom arm Blue Compass
Headphones Sennheiser HD6XX
Keyboard Skog Reboot custom keyboard
Old keyboard iQunix F96
Mouse Logitech G900
Chair Herman Miller Mirra 2
Web camera Logitech C920
Desk mat Beaver Peak Wool
DAC/AMP FiiO E10K

In many ways, I feel like my setup is a reflection of my interest in functional design.

No single piece takes a trade-off as being overly functional at the cost of aesthetics or vice versa.

Everything I need is easily at arm’s reach while I’m at my setup.

The overall design of this space just came together slowly over time.

I had somewhat of a vision of how I wanted things to look before I started purchasing anything.

The main pieces that directed the design that my setup/living room was going to take were the massive pegboard wall.

It was absolutely perfect, both functionally and visually.

A work-in-progress of creating this green workspace with a giant pegboard wall
The entire process took about 12 hours. Nicholas did everything himself

It should come as no surprise by now that I am a huge house plant nerd. I have a little over 150 plants between my fiancée and myself in our collection.

Plants all have very specific care needs. Some want more light than others, so having a way to purposefully place plants across an entire wall based on how much light they need was perfect.

The thing that sold me about the pegboard wall was how versatile it was.

I made the pegboard wall myself with three sheets of 8x4″ good two side plywood. It took roughly twelve hours to complete but was well worth it.

The green workspace featuring a giant pegboard
Nicholas is certain that the shelves are all “balanced enough to hold a fair amount of weight”

Since this entire wall was now a massive sheet of rough wood, I figured I would capitalise on this “natural texture” theme I had going on.

Most other furniture pieces in this space present a lot of natural textures; different woods, terracotta, wool, and stone.

This got me thinking about how I wanted to present the technology I had in my setup.

I didn’t care to have much focus on those pieces.

I wanted a setup that puts emphasis on the colour green, textures and lighting rather than whatever flashy pieces of technology I had purchased some time ago.

The conclusion I came to was to stick with pieces of technology that were all black. No flashy colours, no extra lighting or accenting, just simple matte black.

For the most part, I was able to achieve this. The speakers are black, mouse, keyboard, microphone, boom arm, light bar, and both monitors.

I picked a PC case that had an all-black appearance as well as a black tinted side panel; I kept all the RGB lighting off inside my PC in order to keep it stealthy.

I had the iPad Pro skinned with a matte black DBrand skin. Unfortunately, I wasn’t willing to paint the Apple Pencil, nor were there any nice black skins available that interested me.

One thought that I had was that if all the technology at my setup was to be black, then all the pieces my body rests on should be a subtle accent shade to match.

I ended up getting a Merino Wool desk mat from a Canadian company called Beaver Peak.

It very conveniently happens to be a similar shade of dark grey that my Herman Miller Mirra 2 is in.

I love this little touch.

It’s a small consistency that I think ties everything together.

One challenge I had while designing my setup was first creating a space that was adaptable to what I was doing and got my creative juices flowing.

The first solution to my adaptability problem was getting a sit-stand desk.

I tend to get up from my desk rather frequently to get water, stretch my legs or take care of some of my plants.

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Oftentimes, I’ve found I can think a little more freely while standing or moving around. During these times, I’ll just leave the desk in its standing mode and work/think away.

Generally, when I am not using my setup, I raise the desk up and tuck the chair away in order to clear up space (since my setup is in the living room).

In the past, when the desk was in standing mode, I had the issue of deciding what to do with my chair. An easy solution was to pick a chair that would be able to fit under the desk while it is in standing mode.

A nature-inspired workspace
Plants are a hobby for Nicholas, although he spends over 20 hours a week taking care of his plant collection. “I have humidifiers that I need to clean and keep topped with filtered water. Different plants need different types of fertilisers and have different application methods that also need to be measured out. Often I’ll dust off the leaves when I water and inspect for bugs which can mean making neem oil water drenches often”

I knew I wanted to get a good quality ergonomic chair when I started rebuilding my office space and was instantly sold on Herman Miller Mirra 2 when I sat in one for the first time.

It’s sold as being more of an active chair for people that move around a lot. Since I go between sitting, standing and watering plants around my house all throughout the day, it was incredibly obvious that the Mirra 2 was the perfect chair for me.

What’s your favourite item on your desk?

My speakers are probably the single favourite piece I have on my desk.

I absolutely love music.

I often listen for several hours a day, generally while working, playing games, browsing the internet or watering plants.

Nicholas’ botanical workspace with a pegboard wall in Kelowna, Canada
The standing desk that Nicholas uses is a Monoprice dual-motor sit-stand desk with a custom-made desk surface from Home Depot

You wouldn’t think this would be the case looking at my space, but I am a huge fan of different genres of metal: technical/death metal, deathcore and metalcore. The list goes on.

People often poke fun at the fact that my taste in music does not match the vibe of the room that I listen in at all. Not a lot of people have really been exposed to these genres of music before.

There is a lot going on.

Intense vocals and fast-paced drums. Several guitarists are seemingly playing the lead role. Because of this fact, I knew I wanted speakers that could keep up with how much was going on.

Nothing overly bass-heavy that could get fairly loud without introducing any distortion. I came across the Kanto YU4 speakers while doing some research online.

They seemed to be the best value for their price and happened to come in a nice matte black option.

The Kanto YU4 speakers
“They [Kanto YU4] definitely weren’t an incredibly cheap option out there; roughly $420 last time I checked”

I use them every day, they sound fantastic, and they fit in with the aesthetic of my setup incredibly well.

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

Since I do both software development and design work, the two pieces of software that I use most frequently while working would definitely be WebStorm and Adobe XD.

Adobe XD is just the most common program for doing design prototyping and mockups.

It works well enough, is intuitive and has the features I need. The integration with other Adobe products is reasonably useful.

The botanical workspace with a pegboard wall
Nicholas came across the idea of pegboard walls while looking for interior design inspiration on Pinterest

WebStorm, on the other hand, is a program that I do genuinely enjoy. Before using WebStorm, I was a pretty strong advocate for Visual Studio Code.

Lightweight and has some really nice integrated web development features. However, there just weren’t enough ‘smart’ features that an IDE like WebStorm offers.

The simplicity of refactoring, cutting out redundant code, and context-aware autocomplete were all features that I didn’t know I needed so greatly until trying WebStorm for the first time.

What books, blogs or podcasts recently caught your attention?

I honestly don’t read many blogs or listen to podcasts.

If I’m going to be consuming informative content, it’s generally in the form of ten minutes to hour-long YouTube videos.

The type of content varies greatly from week to week. One week it might be true crime documentaries and the next a shorter 10-20 minute video about hydroelectricity.

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Generally, while taking care of my plants, I’ll have one of these videos playing in the background.

In a way, I treat YouTube videos sort of like podcasts, so maybe I should give podcasting a try sometime.

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

Go on Pinterest, find general interior design styles that interest you, and then start looking around online or in-person for products that fit that aesthetic.

One thing a lot of people tend to forget is that a desk setup is just a piece of furniture.

You would never consider putting a piece of Japandi furniture in the middle of a Western Traditional themed home.

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The same sort of thinking, I believe, can turn a nice desk setup into a phenomenal setup if done right. Consider how the desk setup fits with the rest of the space first and foremost.

The other tip I have is to use some sort of software to size things out. You don’t need to add colour or any fancy 3D models.

Just some way to see if, say, for example, this sized poster would look good beside another, which are both sitting beside your PC which is on your desk.

Size things out, move them around and get an idea of scale.

What does your typical day look like?

Generally, I get up at 7:50 am on weekdays to be working before 9 am.

On the weekends, that’ll depend on whatever happened the night before.

Anywhere from 8 am to 10:30 am sometimes, I rather ritualistically wake up and instantly check my phone for notifications that may have come in while sleeping.

A nature-inspired workspace in Kelowna, Canada
There are motorised blinds in the living room so there’s no glare. Nicholas can control them with voice commands ”so it’s easy to just lower that bit of the sun coming in“

After that, I’ll scroll around on Reddit or Instagram for a bit… If I have a package coming in the mail, I’ll likely skip checking over notifications and open the “Shop” app to see if the package has moved at all.

Aside from my usual work-related tasks, I’m almost always incredibly busy with something else.

A majority of the time, I’ll be doing something related to my plants.

Watering, dusting leaves, checking the soil, cleaning my greenhouses. I’d estimate I probably spend over 20 hours each week taking care of plants and cleaning up as a result.

A living room full of plants
“Within the time I spend taking care of plants, I’ll jump between other tasks like laundry, vacuuming, and cleaning the kitchen”, says Nicholas

People often joke that “there’s no way your setup actually looks that clean other than when you’re taking photos”, or something along those lines.

I guess it’s just hard for some people to believe that it is possible to be incredibly tidy almost all of the time.

I genuinely enjoy cleaning.

As a result, my setup/home is always clean.

I do spend more time at my setup than I probably should. More so, I probably spend too much time at home than I should.

On average, I’m either sitting down or standing up at my desk for a little over ten hours a day. Some days will be less, some more.

However, I do leave my desk in standing mode when I am not actively using it, so many of those ten hours are spent standing, which I like to think makes that 10-hour figure seem not as bad.

A standing desk
Nicholas discovered that when he stands or moves around, he can "think more freely"

I’m not as much of a serious gamer as I was anymore. I still play semi-frequently, just not every day as I had done in the past.

Two games I often come back to fairly frequently are Overwatch and Paladins. Both are hero shooters that are quite enjoyable to play with friends.

I tend to not play games on my own at all, so anything else other than those two games generally ends up being some sort of FPS shooter that I can play with friends.

Your tips for working from home?

Get a sit-stand desk.

If you’re working a desk job for over 40 hours a week, then spending another however many hours after work playing games or doing some other leisure activity, then it really is something you should consider for your own health.

It’s good to stretch your legs and make use of them throughout the day.

A standing desk and some home office plants
Standing desks reduced lower back pain by 32% after several weeks of use, according to a scientific study

Of course, if you need to be at your desk while working, the only real option you have comes after you buy a sit-stand desk.

Additionally, at least for me, I find I can gather my thoughts a lot better while standing and pacing a bit rather than just sitting down and staring blankly at my computer screen.

It is definitely nice having options.

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Similarly, having a good quality chair is an investment piece that you should consider early on in your life if you spend a lot of time sitting.

I always recommend Herman Miller chairs due to their quality, ergonomics and incredible warranty.

The justification I always give for being willing to spend upwards of ~$1K on a chair comes from the fact that you won’t need to buy any replacement chairs within the 12-year warranty period they offer.

A living room full of plants
Nicholas and his fiancée together own a little over 150 plants

If you go out and buy three cheaper $350 chairs with inferior ergonomics and quality within that time period, you’re no better off than having saved up and bought one good quality chair, to begin with.

People tend to understand the importance of buying a good quality mattress to sleep on.

Most people spend six+ hours every day sleeping on it, and your quality of life drastically reduces if you do not get good quality sleep each night.

The living room with a home office setup in Kelowna, Canada
Before getting his current chair, Nicholas had gone through two cheaper office chairs. “The quality wasn’t good. They were much more uncomfortable and ultimately became garbage over time”, he says

I feel like it’s a very similar situation buying a good chair if you sit on it for over six hours a day.

To take this thought a little further, if you spend several hours at your desk being productive each day, it only makes sense to invest time, energy and whatever money you can afford towards making this space as perfect as possible.

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