New Dimensions in Home-Office Furniture (cont.)

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Given the rise of tablet computers, we wondered whether desks would continue to evolve (read: get smaller for smaller work devices). Donald Kunz of manufacturer DMI Office Furniture says he believes that “people going mobile” will change the future of computer desks, although he couldn’t predict when that would happen. Short of plugging in a mobile device to charge it, he notes, you don’t need furniture for tablets. Bookcases or nightstands that incorporate charging stations can perform that function, he says. Stay tuned.

TAKE A SEAT. Home-office work surfaces might be getting smaller, but desk chairs are getting larger and sturdier to accommodate larger people better, experts say. For example, a midback manager’s chair that’s rated for 400 pounds has a back that’s 25 inches high and a seat pan that’s 23 inches wide and 20-1/2 inches deep. A similar model from the same manufacturer for a desk chair that’s rated for 250 pounds—the typical top weight—has a back that’s 21 inches high and a seat pan that measures 20-1/4 inches by 19 inches.

Three years ago, six manufacturers had 16 specialty plus-size desk chairs on the market. Of those chairs, six models topped out at 500 pounds. In 2013, at least 197 plus-size models from 41 manufacturers are on the market. Most of the models are rated for 500 pounds, but Casual Male XL has two models that hold up to 1,000 pounds. An armless model starts at $350; a model that includes arms is $400.

You should expect to pay about $200 more for a desk chair that’s designed to hold a 500-pound body than you would for a standard desk chair. Manufacturers tell us that that’s because these chairs require additional materials, such as reinforced steel plates on the chair bottom and back, foam that’s thicker than that on a typical desk chair, reinforced springs, heavy-duty casters and a heavier pneumatic cylinder.

In addition to a wider variety of big desk chairs, you also will notice a vast increase in the number of foam-free mesh desk chairs that are available. Mesh models allow for air to flow naturally through the back and seat of the chair to keep you cooler while you sit in one, compared with fabric, leather or vinyl chairs that don’t allow for that level of ventilation, experts say.

Three years ago, 14 manufacturers made 36 desk chairs that had mesh suspension materials. (Meshes are made from polyester elastomeric materials.) Today, we found 30 manufacturers that make at least one mesh desk chair and a total of 170 models.

Although your choices have expanded, prices still start at about $80 for a mesh chair that will keep you cool no matter how hot the pressure is when you work at home.

Marilyn Zelinsky-Syarto has written about home-office furniture for 30 years for Interiors Magazine and Home Office Computing Magazine, among other publications. She also has written or contributed to five books on the subject.

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