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The Gear

Six Stylish Set-ups

Make the most of your work space or office with one of these iconic (and MR PORTER-approved) workstations

Yes, the modern working world is a little bit more unstable and mobile than of yore. Yes, you probably spend a lot of time working on a laptop, or writing emails on your smartphone, or, shudder, “hot-desking”. But do you really enjoy that much-too-warm feeling across your thighs as the MacBook battery drops below 20%? Or the RSI in your texting thumbs? Or the “My app is the next Angry Birds – no, seriously!” guy that you have to sit next to in your local “office hub”? No, thought not. This is why finding the perfect desk, in the perfect space, sympathetic to your mind-set and personality, is a relevant concern; not just if you’re the boss, but if you ever need to work from home. How you keep it is up to you (great minds don’t necessarily think alike: Mr Albert Einstein, contrary to popular wisdom, liked to keep his desk in a permanent state of utter chaos), but, of course, we think you could do worse than embellishing it with some of the choice objects currently on offer at MR PORTER.

The “Step into My Office”

In the ever-reliable depictions of life we see in movies and on television, the CEO, or president, or relevant higher power, tends to sit behind a large, wooden desk with a leather writing surface. It’s a trope that transcends genre and setting – naturally, you expect to see a few of these workstations in House of Cards, but somehow, homicidal, planet-destroying robots be damned, they also managed (in the 2004 remake) to smuggle one on board the Battlestar Galactica. Thankfully, in his “Fred” desk – and please pay attention, set designers of the world – Pisa-born designer Mr Roberto Lazzeroni has somewhat updated the archetype, using a single sheet of stiff leather to constitute, rather than just cover, its invitingly curved table top.

The frame underneath, in solid ash, is sturdy but light, making the whole piece easy to move when you need to. But, more importantly, this is a desk that communicates authority without stuffiness. It’s for the boss you respect but also think pre-tty cool. Which, presumably, is the kind of boss everyone wants to be, even if you are your own boss. Plus: the matching chair is called “Ginger” – as good a gag as you’re going to find in the world of high-end Italian furniture. Poltrona Frau

The “Show Me Your Colours”

Familiar with the hashtag #thingsorganisedneatly? This desk is made for that hashtag. Actually, that’s not strictly true: in 1949, they didn’t have hashtags, or even computers, which is probably why modernist super couple Mr Charles and Ms Ray Eames were able to stay focused for long enough to conceive its brilliant design in the first place. Having said that, part of what makes this desk, now an undisputed design classic, is that it will always appeal to those with a taste for precision, such as all those ####ing people on Instagram.

Its large, square, writing surface is an ideal blank canvas for spreading out favourite objects in the perfect formation, and its De Stijl-like use of colour allows you to pick out key tones with your desk accessories. For layout designers, typographers and anyone who’s always liked to colour in between the lines, it’s a great fit. Vitra (UK) Herman Miller (US)

The “Bureau”

A desk with multiple cubby holes and drawers will be a sympathetic foil to your working environment if you’re a note-taker, squirreler away of things or, alternatively, someone who likes to keep things to themselves (and not have them sprawling all over your workspace). One of the most iconic designs of this type is Mr Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Meyer” desk, designed in 1908, which features a beautiful tiered stack of pigeonholes.

Unfortunately, Mr Wright didn’t need anywhere to put his computer monitor and designed his desk accordingly, which is why, for modern usage, we recommend this more contemporary design from family-run Italian woodwork expert Riva 1920. Made entirely in solid walnut, it mixes a traditional ethos with slick modern details, such as the handle-less drawers (nigh-on invisible when closed) and a hidden hole (underneath the shelf drawers) to tidy away your computer cables. riva1920.it

The “Innovation Station”

Design superstar Mr Marc Newson was recently tapped by Apple to work on its wearable products, an appointment that was announced just before the launch of the Apple iWatch (which design insiders say bears the unmistakable marks of Mr Newson’s eye). He’s also designed space ships for Virgin Galactic, trainers for Nike, a camera for Pentax and even a jetpack (“Body Jet”, 2010).

This desk, though somewhat less technologically advanced than some of Mr Newson’s other inventions, is nonetheless testimony to his mastery of elegant, rounded forms and his characteristic aesthetic, which sits somewhere between the mid-century designs of Ercol and the Neo-futurism of Dame Zaha Hadid. It’s clear that everything this man touches turns to the next big thing, so use this desk to channel a bit of that energy and come up with some of those world-conquering ideas you’ve been meaning to have. Cappellini

The “Infinity and Beyond”

Kartell’s futuristic “Spoon” table comes in three sizes, which means it can be used for working, dining, or (we suppose) banqueting, depending on your budget and frame of mind. But it’s particularly well suited for a live/ work space, given its lightness (thanks to thermoplastic legs) and the fact that it can be folded flat for storage. If such practical concerns strike you as a little snore-worthy, then you’ll nonetheless be able to appreciate its futuristic aesthetic, which suggests that the design may have been beamed in from a somewhat more advanced civilisation than ours (especially in this HR Giger-esque black colourway). In fact, it’s made in Italy. kartell.com

The “Misunderstood Genius”

Today, the Italian company Olivetti produces a range of somewhat esoteric electronic products, such as post office terminals, wireless USB keys and contactless “validators”. Formerly, though, it was the Apple of its time, not only producing a series of beautifully designed typewriters, for which it is rightly famous, but one of the earliest desktop computers: 1965’s Programma 101.

At this point in time Olivetti paid particular attention to the visual design of its products and sought out leading talents, such as Le Corbusier and Messrs Louis Kahn and Ettore Sottsass to collaborate with. The “Arco” series of desks is the fruit of one of these partnerships – with Milanese architecture practice BBPR – and is, both as a desk and a slice of Italy in the 1960s, unique. If you’re the kind of person who spends hours of every weekend typing “industrial” into the eBay search box (read our guide on how to up your game here, by the way), then you could do worse than invest in one of these sturdy metal beauties, though they’re currently only available on antiques sites such as Pamono and 1stdibs. The benefits? Well, chiefly that no one else will have one. But there’s also the added benefit that every Italian you show it to will probably weep genuine tears of nostalgia.