New Furniture Designs for Working from Home

Shift Divider Screen by Kelsey Leppek and Norman Rockwell 2020

Nobody expected a global virus quarantine, but here we are, trying to adapt our living spaces for homeschooling, class sessions, office meetings, and focused work in addition to everything else that we do at home. We quickly realized that our home spaces and furniture were not designed for these new functions.
This spring, the industrial design students of Western Washington University worked on designing new furniture solutions for working at home. And they did it while working from home themselves.

The Problems
They first investigated the problems that we are experiencing during lock-down:

  • Sharing small spaces. Multiple people sharing the kitchen table to do work.
  • Lack of privacy.
  • Lack of square footage.
  • Bad acoustics for video calls and meetings. Echos, noise, distractions. Online video conferences are notorious for poor audio.
  • Bad lighting for video calls and meetings. Most people look horrible in meetings due to poor lighting.
  • Distracting backgrounds, messy rooms, back lighting.
  • Bad ergonomics of sitting for long periods.
  • Lack of good ergonomic chairs, limited standing options.

The design challenge given to these creative students was: “How can the design of furniture solve or alleviate the problems of working from home?”

User research

While working from home themselves, students conducted user interviews, and asked them to photograph their makeshift workspaces. They probed to find the problems that design could address. They also investigated the ergonomic challenges with sitting at a desk, on the bed, kitchen table, or couch. Furniture design trends were studied to understand the state of the art.

Sketches by students Wylie Jacoy and Keaton LoCicero


Armed with that research, students then went to work brainstorming different solutions. From wild concepts to variations of old standards. Working in a team of two, during lockdown quarantine, was especially challenging. But after 5 weeks of work, here were the results: 

Shift - Room Divider
By Kelsy Leppek and Norman Rockwell 

Shift is an adjustable room divider screen for separating areas of your life. It provides a visual and audible barrier for your little home office. Organizational containers help with supplies at easy reach. It also makes for a professional background during those Zoom meetings.
See more at their website:

Dwell dual purpose table by Lili Heim and Adele Houston

Coffee Table/Desk hybrid
By Lili Heim and Adele Houston 

Lili and Adele learned that finding a cue to physically end the workday can result in better work/life balance, increased health and productivity. They felt that office products should bring a sense of calm and comfort to the user, while still creating a dependable focused workspace. They also saw a trend toward a more flexible future that values portable, adjustable and multi-functional furniture. Stylish and sneaky.
See more at their websites:

Loft Desk by Keaton LoCicero and Wylie Jacoy

Loft Desk
By Wylie Jacoy and Keaton LoCicero 

Keaton and Wylie discovered that long periods of time sitting in one position was bad for ones body, back pain, shoulders and mental exhaustion. They sought to give the user some control of their environment and encourage change in position. The desk has two distinct heights, one for sitting and one for standing.
See more at their website:

Billet roll top desk open by Bri Brown and Rose Kirby

Billet Roll Top desk 

by Bri Brown and Rose Kirby

One of the biggest struggles that many have working remotely is unplugging after work. Bri and Rose found that “changing your physical context can be a powerful signal to yourself that work is over, and you can amplify its impact by creating a ‘shutdown ritual.’”
Their desk is a modern evolution of the classic rolltop writing desk that one can close up at the end of the day.
See more at their website:

Porta compact foldable desk by Bo Baird and Asaki Nelson


Portable work desk by Asaki Nelson and Bo Baird
Asaki and Bo did an extensive survey of people working from home and discovered that many don’t have a consistent place to work and most use a laptop. So they decided to design a portable laptop desk that can keep work organized and flexible.
See more at their websites:

Osom desk by Rafer Stromme and Matthew Seemann
OSOM desk
By Rafer Stromme and Matthew Seemann 

Through interviews, Rafer and Matthew found that separation from work and home life is a challenge for many when not leaving a physical space at the end of the work day. The clutter from work and home gets mixed up, especially with families with children. Their design has a lift top surface for storing away all those work things, and provides a fresh table top for home projects or school work.
See more at their website:


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