Leaning over a laptop and working on a kitchen table gets old quickly. At least it did for me last spring when the pandemic seized the United States. It’s even worse if you live with someone and you both try to work on the same couch. If your living room has not become a Planet of the Apes– style deathmatch, then congratulations. You and yours have vast reserves of patience.
The rest of us just want a workspace, even if it’s temporary, without squatting and scowling. This is what the Danish brand Stykka wants to offer with its Home Desk StayTheF ***. It’s not meant to be a permanent fixture. It is made to help you until you are back to the old office or have more permanent home office. All you get are sheets of corrugated cardboard with a few pre-punched holes and a pack of zip ties.
The $ 85 model I tested is around 30 inches tall, which is a typical desk height. You can also order taller versions if you prefer to stand, and you have a choice of regular white or beige cardboard. Unfortunately, after a few weeks, its structural flaws caused me to miss sitting at the kitchen table.
The problems start with the instructions, which are some of the worst I have ever seen. The illustrations do not exactly match the desk in front of you, and the images are so small they are almost unreadable. Just follow the more precise assembly video on the Stykka website (although it is accelerated for some inexplicable and difficult to follow reason).
The assembly consists mainly of folding the various pieces of cardboard and putting zip ties in pre-made holes to hold the pieces together. Some of the holes that the clips go through do not line up, so you will need to muscle them to line them up. Many of the holes look more like slits than circular, forcing the zippers into angles that don’t work. You’ll want to ream them with a screwdriver before. I used a pair of pliers to tighten the fasteners as well as possible.
I ended up running out of necklaces due to the wrong instructions so I had to stop halfway and buy more at a hardware store. If Stykka were just a little clearer, I wouldn’t have spent centuries wondering how to create the outlines in the edges of the desk (they happen naturally when you tighten the clips enough to create it).
A cardboard desk is a fun idea! Building it should have been playful, like a kid building a fort with discarded boxes. It’s a shame that I mostly felt frustrated.
Cardboard desks will always be temporary, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for structural design flaws. There are a few on the Stykka. First of all, the side support under the desk consists of two layers of corrugated cardboard folded over on itself lengthwise. It keeps the tops of the legs together by zip ties, but there is no such support between the bottom of the legs, so they hinge at the top and wiggle.
The zip ties alone are not strong enough to tie the legs together and prevent them from bending where they meet the desk, so it is easy and common for both legs to pull outward – away from one another. the other – like the hind legs of a dog walking the ice. There are also no zip ties to join the bottom of each leg like there are on the top. It becomes a problem. The two separate pieces of cardboard that make up each leg slide and move independently of each other near the floor. I think this is the fatal weakness of the office.
Eating on it or putting down a cup of coffee just needed a big spill. I couldn’t trust him with my laptop or monitor. I ended up using it as a surface to organize other WIRED gear I was testing – lightweight stuff that couldn’t break, like outerwear – but they still ended up flying on the ground whenever I disturbed the delicate balance of the office.
On a Zoom call with the other WIRED reviewers, I put some guitar accessories on the Stykka and demonstrated it by pushing it around. Even though the legs stayed in contact with the ground the entire time, he resisted like a mechanical bull and dumped everything.