Redistricting the Cube Farm

Steve Verbeek’s modular desk system maximizes storage space and adds comfort to the tiny workstation.

Creative solutions for cramped living quarters have cropped up recently in a variety of forms, from dining tables that double as work surfaces to closets converted into rooms. Now Canadian designer Steve Verbeek has applied that same kind of ingenuity to the quintessential tight space: the office cubicle. His District modular desk system, for Toronto-based Teknion, can pack an exceptional amount of storage into a 6-by-6-foot space. The real innovation, however, lies in judicious design touches—a keyboard palm rest covered in leather and melamine trays colored a spiffy red, for instance—that lend comfort and flair to the ordinarily lackluster workstation.

Verbeek drew inspiration from midcentury Moder­nists such as George Nelson and Florence Knoll, whose influence is clear in the low horizontal lines and floating appearance of the credenza. He also subtly incorporated aspects of the upscale residential furniture he saw at last year’s Milan Furniture Fair. “Everything seems to be very strict and rigid about the look of the desk system, even the seat cushion,” he says. “But sit on it, and it’s actually soft; touch the underside of a drawer handle, and it feels sculpted. There’s always a little bit of surprise beyond the initial impression.” Here Verbeek points out the key features of District.


In addition to a range of veneers—­natural, reconstituted, and man-made—the credenzas are available in some new finishes, including specially developed water-based pearlescent paints. (see “1” in image)

The doors open to one side so you can see inside the entire cabinet without having huge doors swing out at you. Here, I’ve got a portion where I place my nice books and things, and a section where I put my jacket. (see “2” in image)

You can have the most beautiful workstation, and then somebody throws this awful recycling bin in it. So we tidied that up with a discreet waste-­sorting system. There’s a garbage pail down below, as well as a melamine dish that receives your used paper through a little mail-type slot. (see “3” in image)

The cushion eliminates the need for another chair in your workstation while offering a certain level of comfort for a visitor—but not so much that they’re going to linger for hours. The seat can slip into the cubby when not in use. We’re going with two kinds of leather, including a reconstituted one, as a green alternative. (see “4” in image)

I like to lay out all of my work, but I don’t like to have it on the prime real estate of my desktop. I prefer to have everything off to the side. That was the whole idea behind layering work surfaces according to use and priority, which ended up driving a lot of the product’s appearance. (see “5” in image)

The drawer of the credenza houses these bright red melamine trays. It’s kind of a bento-box idea. You have a modular system of removable inserts within that tray sized for your files or pencils or iPod. It’s a nice way to be able to hide and organize your personal stuff within a drawer. (see image)

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