Like Apple Watches, home offices are “personal” — the look and furniture that work well for one person might not seem “right” to another. But the unified metal and glass aesthetic of Apple products works really well with modern office furniture, and there are also some iconic decor items Apple lovers can incorporate into a home office.
I spend a lot of time working from my home office, and have considered it a work in progress ever since I started building it around an aluminum PowerBook many years ago. Below, you’ll find a collection of items that will help you build a beautiful, practical home office that really spotlights your Apple gear, based on a mix of affordable and small investment-worthy choices…
When I hear the words “Apple-styled office,” I think of two different desk options: something akin to Apple Store tables, or affordable Mac-matching glass. Apple uses naturally light-colored maple wood tables from an architectural woodwork company named Fetzer — they’re large, heavy, and not sold to the general public. A far more affordable alternative that gives you the same squared-off look with a little accent metal is the South Shore Interface Desk ($120, above left) in “Natural Maple” color. As the low price suggests, it’s not genuine maple, but it’s practical, and the satin nickel-finished leg is a nice touch that will look good with any silver Apple gear. The Bush BBF 300 Series Shell Desk Kit ($250, above right) is an all-wood alternative without metal, preserving the same natural maple look.
My personal tastes lean more towards glass than wood, so the first choice for my office was a clear glass and silver metal table akin to the Walker Edison Solo Glass Metal Desk ($73, left) or Techni Mobili Glass Top Computer Desk ($127, right). The lines and curves are the compromises you make for the affordable prices.
If you don’t mind spending more for visually striking designs, the amazing Zuo Caravan Desk ($698, left) does away with metal altogether in favor of roughly 100 pounds of clear glass. And ZM’s Modern Glass Executive Desk with Stainless Steel Legs ($630, right) uses a more conventional metal support system but with very clean lines.
Over time, I personally decided to switch to a minimalist black glass alternative closer to the Lumisource Pia ($128, left). If you want to stick with the same theme but have more workspace, options such as the Walker Edison L-Shaped Glass Desk ($126, center) or Innovex Orbit ($303, right) use distinctive shapes that you may prefer. Based on personal experience, my advice would be to get a nice desk, but absolutely, positively make your chair an investment…
The most expensive piece of furniture in my office is my chair — the product of a very, very important lesson. I spent years trying to save money on office chairs, and they always had the same life cycle: last for a couple of years, fall apart, get replaced. This cycle seemed inevitable until I started to develop back problems from sitting in these cheap office chairs. I was advised to buy an ergonomic chair, price be damned, and consider it an investment in my long-term health.
After a lot of shopping around — and realizing that there was no way to save money on the widely recommended, super-popular Herman Miller Aeron Chair I’d decided to buy — I reluctantly bought one from a reputable store called Office Designs. It turned out to be the single best office-related purchase I’ve ever made, staying in my office longer than any Mac, desk, or other major item I’ve owned. Years later, it’s still in like-new condition, and my back is in much better shape despite spending hours in the chair every day. You’ll see a lot of options on Office Designs’ site; I recommend buying the one that you actually want (rather than cutting features and going cheaper), because after you get and love a more basic model, you’ll wish you’d spent the extra money on a nicer one. I bought an adjustable model with PostureFit (left), but still covet the chromed Executive version (right).
Trash Can and Pencil Holder
This one used to be a gimme for Apple fans: Rubbermaid makes a large silver Mesh Wastebasket ($16, left) that resembles the classic Mac OS X trash can, and Design Ideas has a small one for $19. My personal one is similar to the Design Ideas version, and note that you will really want a fine mesh like these, because things tend to fall/leak out of coarse mesh cans. But these days, the OS X trash can looks like a clear frosted shot glass. I’ve hunted for even better options, but the closest I’ve found is the InterDesign Franklin Waste Can ($13, right).
For consistency, I chose a desktop pencil holder that matches my trash can; Design Ideas sells a Mesh Pencil Cup for $9. If you want something similar to the clear frost-style trash can, OfficeMax has a Plastic Pencil Cup for $8 shipped.
Posters and Picture Frames
There are a lot of great Apple-related posters available online right now, particularly through Etsy sellers. The original Mac patent diagram ($7-$35), Steve Jobs Stanford quote ($14), and iPhone patent diagram ($25) are just a few of the many Apple-related posters available. eBay also has some classic Apple posters, including the Think Different series. If you want the (highly NSFW, not shown here) poster Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive reportedly has in his office, it can be yours for $35.
There are many nice poster and photo frame solutions out there. A personal favorite is Jorgen Moller’s classic Posterhanger ($15-$80, left), minimalist aluminum tubes that suspend a poster within a nearly frameless wall mount. (Displays2go sells a similar alternative with a different suspension system.) For a clear acrylic frame in your choice of sizes, Canetti sells the Original Magnet Frame ($14-$70) in up to 8″x10″ versions suitable for sitting on a desktop. Fans of the blond wood look may prefer FrameUSA’s American Maple Corporate Frame ($23), available in a wall-ready 11″x14″ size.
There are so many different office lights to choose from that it’s hard to just recommend one, but I have a few suggestions. Satechi sells a handsome metal Flexible LED Desk Lamp ($60, left) with a thin bar of bright LED lights and a USB port in the base for iPhone or iPod charging, as well as a more powerful Smart LED Desk Lamp ($80, center) that actually lets you adjust the white balance of the light, though its rear USB port is underpowered. Home Inspira’s LED Desk Lamp ($55, right) looks a little cheaper than the others, but has additional angle adjustability and slightly higher power to its built-in USB port. All three have excellent (4.5/5-Star or greater) Amazon reviews.
Mac Stands and Speakers
I’ve previously rounded up the best desktop stands for Macs in an earlier How-To guide, so I won’t rehash all of the details here. Just Mobile’s Drawer (center left, $80) and Twelve South’s HiRise for MacBook (center right, $70) remain among my top picks for Mac office accessories. If you prefer to listen to your Mac quietly, the just-released blueLounge Posto ($20, far left) is an attractive yet inexpensive new headphone stand (reviewed here), while Bowers & Wilkins’ MM-1 Speakers (far right; $500/$400 refurb) remain my favorite “turn it up!” office Mac listening solution thanks to their great sound and Mac-matching design.
Apple Device Docks
In addition to Mac stands, I’ve also written up the best iPad docks (which also work with iPhones and iPods), and the best Apple Watch docks. Some of my top picks are Twelve South’s HiRise Deluxe for iPhone + iPad ($57-60), and either Mophie’s elegant $60 Watch Dock or Spigen’s budget $19 S330 Apple Watch Stand. Alternately, SchuttenWorks makes a wood option called Wave ($75) in a curly maple version that’s as close as you’ll come to blond maple, as well as a black version.
Surge Protectors, Cable Managers + USB Power Sources
Organizing all of your under-the-office-desk cables isn’t easy, but it helps to have a good surge protector or power cord manager. Amazon’s best-selling option is this affordable $20 Belkin 12-Outlet Home/Office Surge Protector (far left), which has an 10-foot cord and a lifetime warranty — including $300,000 connected equipment warranty. I recently reviewed a smaller option, blueLounge’s Portiko ($25, center left, available in white or blue), which has two AC adapters and two USB power ports built-in for less demanding offices. The same review mentions three blueLounge cable management solutions, Pixi ($10, center right), CableDrop ($10, far right), and CableDrop Mini ($10), each of which can really help you reduce office cable clutter.
While surge protectors are handy, tightly-packed collections of high-powered outlets, USB ports are rapidly reducing users’ dependence on traditional wall power supplies. The iMac-matching metal $70 Moshi iLynx 3.0 is a USB 3 hub for Macs (reviewed here), capable of providing up to 2.1-Amp power on one dedicated port, while all four ports have high-speed transfer capabilities to a connected Mac. If you don’t need wired connectivity to your computer, Anker’s 60W 6-Port Desktop USB Charger ($36) offers unparalleled charging power and value, as discussed in my review.
Bookshelves and File Cabinets
Depending on whether you’re going for the “Apple Store wood” or glass and metal look, there are different bookshelves you might want to consider. The natural maple-colored South Shore Axess Bookshelf ($54-$69) matches the Interface Desk discussed above, coming in three different sizes, while Convenience Concepts’ Go-Accsense 3-Shelf Bookcases ($56-$58) come in clear or black glass versions matching the other desks.
There are file cabinets to match the bookshelves and desks. South Shore’s Interface 2-Drawer Cabinet ($78) in natural maple is from the same family as the Interface desk, while Techni Mobili makes a Deluxe Rolling Glass Top File Cabinet ($122) in graphite to match black glass desks. The Realspace Zentra Storage File Cart ($150) provides a clear glass top and boxy gray body with integrated shelving and file storage.
Multifunction Printer/Scanner/Copier/Fax Machine
Last but not least, a great multifunction printer is still an office necessity, despite predictions that the business world would be paperless by now. I have been using Brother multifunction laser printers for years (and they’re still working); the recent trend has been towards completely wireless printers with Wi-Fi support for Macs and AirPrint support for iOS devices. So it’s no surprise that Amazon’s top-selling laser printer is Brother’s MFCL-2700DW ($150), which combines a fast 27ppm laser printer with a built-in scanner and FAX machine. Between the USB and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi support, it can handle whatever your wired or wireless needs may be for printing and scanning, as well as operating as a copying machine if needed. Step up to the MFC-9340CDW ($400) if you want color laser printing and are willing to pay the higher price to get it.
More From This Author
Check out more of my How-To guides and reviews for 9to5Mac here! I’ve covered a lot of different topics of interest to Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch users. Don’t forget to click on Older Posts at the bottom of the page to see everything!