Rethinking My Studio Layout: First Thoughts

My old studio desk just isn’t doing it for me anymore.

I cobbled this desk together about 10 years ago from scrap wood with the intention that it would fit my gigantic heavy 88-key keyboard at the time, while still allowing room for the speaker stands, and also minimizing the amount of acoustically reflective surface area. It served that purpose reasonably well while being cheap and quick to put together out of almost nothing. But this year I had to switch to a new keyboard after my old beast of a keyboard finally died after a failed attempt at repairing it.

As you can see from the pic, the desk doesn’t make sense in my space anymore. The keyboard tray isn’t retractable. There’s too much headroom above the new keyboard, which reduces precious legroom underneath. There’s too much empty, unused space about it in general. I use more rack-mounted gear now than 10 years ago (which you can sort of see off to the right of the photo), but this desk has no rack space. And so on…

I know that I will need to become very productive in this room very soon, and that means I will need to address the usability problems that are currently foiling my creativity. Some of my racked gear needs to be directly in front of me, not off to the right. I need to be able to retract the big keyboard, so as to minimize acoustic reflections of the desk while making critical mix decisions. Conversely, I need to pull the keyboard all the way forward to access all of its controls while composing. I don’t actually need much desk space, which gives me the luxury to prioritize minimizing reflections over maximizing real estate.

There are commercially-available desks that solve all of these issues, but commercial studio furniture tends to be both incredibly expensive and too big for my small room. I will have to put real effort into overcoming this.

As you can see, this article isn’t meant to provide answers, but to propose the right questions. What’s the right balance between surface area, rack space, and prioritizing acoustics? How small of a desk can I get away with? Should I build one or buy one? If I build it, how should I design it to make it as easy as possible to build, given that my woodworking skills aren’t exactly commercial-grade? Are my new (heavier) speakers really okay on those thin stands? Exactly how wide, deep, and high should each component be for both good ergonomics and good acoustics? How can a new desk free up space in other parts of the room and further improve the room aesthetics? (When working on creative endeavors, the aesthetics of your work area become surprisingly important.) Should I move other things around, and where should I put them?

As a big-picture thinker, this is the perfect opportunity for me to reconsider everything about my creative space.

One potential commercial desk for me is the Output Platform, which is the most promising commercial studio desk I’ve ever seen. It has everything I need, is made of real wood, and isn’t outrageously expensive. Those last two points make it unique in the marketplace. Unfortunately, it is too deep for my small room, so it would decrease floor space, which is already in short supply here. Regardless, it serves as a starting point from which I can consider custom designs. If only it were about 8-12 inches less deep, it would fit right in. I may end up building something like a smaller clone of it. But then again, I’m really not in the mood for yet more woodworking. (After building two pairs of speakers, I’ve decided that woodworking is not natural to me and I prefer to avoid it whenever practical…)

No answers yet. Only questions. But if you’d like to know a few of the answers I came up with later, check out the second part in this series.