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Think a Temporary Cardboard Desk Is a Good Idea? Think Again

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Hunching over a laptop and working on a kitchen table gets old fast. At least it did for me last spring, when the pandemic took hold of the US. It’s even worse if you live with someone and are both trying to work off the same couch. If your living room hasn’t devolved into a Planet of the Apes–style death match, then congratulations. You and yours have vast reserves of patience.

The rest of us just want a workspace, even if it’s temporary, without the crouching and scowling. That’s what the Danish brand Stykka aims to provide with its StayTheF***Home Desk. It’s not meant to be a permanent fixture. It’s made to tide you over until you’re back at the old office or get a more permanent home office. All you get are some sheets of corrugated cardboard with a few prepunched 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 get your choice of white or regular tan cardboard. Sadly, after a couple of weeks, its structural flaws made me miss sitting at the kitchen table.

Cardboard Construction

The problems start with the instructions, which are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. The illustrations don’t exactly match the desk in front of you, and the pictures are so tiny they’re almost illegible. Just follow the more accurate assembly video on Stykka’s website (although it’s sped up for some inexplicable reason and also hard to follow). 

Assembly mostly involves folding up the various pieces of cardboard and putting zip ties into pre-made holes to hold pieces together. Some of the holes the zip ties go through don’t line up, so you’ll have to muscle them into alignment. Many holes are more slot-like than circular, forcing the zip ties into angles that don’t work. You’ll want to ream them out with a screwdriver before. I used a pair of pliers to cinch down the zip ties as tight as I could.

I ended up running out of zip ties due to the poor instructions, so I had to stop halfway through and get more at a hardware store. If Stykka was just a bit more clear, I wouldn’t have spent ages wondering how to get the contours built into the desktop’s edges (they naturally happen when you tighten the zip ties enough to create it into shape). 

A cardboard desk is a fun idea! Building it should’ve felt playful, like a kid constructing a fort out of discarded boxes. It’s a shame I mostly felt frustrated.  

Wobbly Legs

Photograph: Stykka

Cardboard desks are always going to be temporary, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to have structural design flaws. There are a few on the Stykka. First, the lateral support under the desktop is made up of two layers of corrugated cardboard folded over itself running lengthwise. It keeps the tops of the legs joined together by zip ties, but there’s no such support between the bottoms of the legs, so they hinge at the top and wiggle around. 

Zip ties alone aren’t strong enough to fasten the legs together and keep them from bending where they meet the desktop, so it’s easy and common for both legs to splay outward—away from each other—like the hind legs of a dog walking over ice. There are also no zip ties to join together the bottom of each leg as there are on top. That becomes a problem. The two separate cardboard pieces that comprise each leg slip out and move around independently of each other near the floor. I think this is the desk’s fatal weakness.

Eating lunch on it or putting down a cup of coffee was just asking for a big spill. I couldn’t trust it with my laptop or monitor. I ended up using it as a surface for organizing other WIRED gear I was testing—lightweight stuff that couldn’t break, like outdoor clothes—but they still ended up flying onto the floor whenever I disturbed the desk’s delicate balance.

On a Zoom call with the other WIRED reviewers, I put a few guitar accessories on the Stykka and demonstrated jostling it. Even though the legs remained in contact with the ground the whole time, it bucked like a mechanical bull and dumped everything off. 

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