It was mid-March and the mood at Flying Elephant was mopey. As a Dublin-based events production company, their business was one of the first to be hit by Covid-19 and 60-odd commissions had been cancelled on them overnight. All of their employees had been sent home to cool their heels until the management could reach a decision. The options weren't looking great. "Look lads," said Michael Keelan, one of the company's directors. "Is there anything we can do?"
The management team stared gloomily around the room. Two bales of birch ply, purchased to build a stand for a (now cancelled) exhibition, were stacked against the wall. "That birch ply is after costing us a fortune," Keelan complained. Then, someone had a brainwave. "Maybe we could use it? A friend of mine is looking for a desk..."
Flying Elephant's designer, Edwin Jebb, set to work. A handful of prototypes were made up and sent out on trial. The feedback was positive, the employees were summoned back to the workshop, and the Work from Home desk went into production. As more and more people were instructed to work from home, demand for the desk soared. "It helped that we already had a CNC machine," Keelan explains. "Because we of that, we were able to keep our prices reasonable. We're at the right place, at the right time, and at the right price point." CNC machining is a manufacturing process in which pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of factory tools and machinery. It's an expensive process to outsource, so manufacturers who have their own equipment are at an advantage. The Work from Home desk is available from Flying Elephant's online shop for €149. Contactless next-day delivery in Dublin is free; delivery outside Dublin costs €30.
As a piece of furniture, the Work from Home desk has a couple of things going for it. Despite the simplicity of the design and the basic nature of the materials, it's attractive to look at. And you can take it apart. For people living in apartments, this is a godsend. The standard desk is 115cm wide x 58cm deep by 75cm tall and, when the working day is over, it can be dismantled and stored under the bed or behind the cupboard.
Thanks to the Work from Home desk and its sibling products - the Standing Desk (€195); the Kids' Desk (€99); and the Lappy (€29.99) - Flying Elephant remains in business.
Working from home takes a bit of getting used to. I've been doing it for years but I still remember the struggle to carve out an office space in a small house (I have a dedicated room, but I share it with the fridge and the dog). Proper equipment helps a lot. After much trial-and-error I invested in a Bekant sit-stand desk (€575) and a Markus office chair (€150), both from Ikea. At the time of writing, Ikea is still accepting orders for some of their less bulky items but desks are in high demand. Simple office desks can also be ordered online from Jysk, where office desks start at €55.
"Designating space is the real challenge," says Alannah Monks of The Abode Stylist. "A dedicated office space is a huge advantage. You can close the door on it at the end of the working day." That's best case scenario. If you have to improvise, Monks recommends that you avoid letting the entire home morph into a workspace.
Rhona and Rebecca Roe, the mother-daughter duo behind Hedgeroe Home, have put together a set of guidelines for working from home. "Pay attention to the wall behind you if you do a lot of conference calls," they write. "Keep personal family photos or very personalised artwork out of view of your webcam and keep the door out of view as children may enter unexpectedly during a conference call."
Formal dining rooms convert well into office spaces. So do dressing rooms, especially when the dressing table can serve as a desk. The team from Hedgeroe like their own Paris chair (€956) upholstered in Fermoie linen. It combines good back support with formal elegance but it's a buy-for-life piece of furniture rather than a stopgap solution.
flyingelephant.ie, hedgeroe.com, ikea.com/ie, jysk.ie, hedgeroe.com, @alannahmonks
Ring the changes
Sometimes a really nice cushion is all you need to revitalise a sad and saggy sofa. Plus, you can cuddle it in times of need. The Terra Square (46 x 46cm) in coral brings embroidered texture and swirling colour into the mix. It costs €78 from hedgeroe.com
Observe the silent passage of time with the Stursk wall clock (26cm). It's fitted with a quartz movement, claiming accuracy, but is also silent so it won't drive you mental by ticking. The minimal design is by Hanna Crondahl and it costs €20 from ikea.com/ie.
Made in Ireland
Let's give a big shout out to Irish makers who are keeping the show on the road. This Trees vase (€40) from Brookwood Pottery is available for free delivery, along with lots of other lovely handmade stuff, from brookwoodpottery.com.
Bit of bling
The Enchanted range from DFS has slim, shiny gold legs - nice looking but you will have to hoover underneath - and trendy seam detailing. The range isn't massively pricey. This one's the Accent chair in cinnamon and it costs €379 from dfs.ie.
You'll find end tables in powder-coated steel in many places but the Randerup (€14.99 from jysk.ie) is particularly good value. It's 51cm high and doesn't look as cheap as it is, but it's a bit of a lightweight. Don't bump into it or your wineglass will go flying!