Stand by to remove computer dust covers. The workaday world revs up again on Tuesday.
Though global moguls engage in 24-hour trading unimpeded by a vacation calendar, and politicians do 24-7 working the crowd at island fund-raisers, most people try not to take the laptop to the beach. For them, Labor Day marks the impending return to the computer -- all too often sitting on a makeshift workstation. Apple's colorful iMac revolutionized thinking about the Beige Box, but designers have yet to come to terms with the desk.
"It's a bit late for a designer to start working on computer workstations," argues Tom Dixon, the highly regarded London designer and creative director of Europe's Habitat stores. "We'll have laptops soon and be working from the sofa."
Meantime, work spaces are getting ad hoc solutions. There's the Murphy bed approach: Fold up the computer and supplies in a cupboard. There's the traditional approach: unadjustable top with CD shelves and a keyboard tray. Even cutting-edge designers haven't gotten beyond the typewriter table: witness Antonio Citterio's rolling cart designed for Kartell.
Two new designs coming to market from Europe bear witness to the struggle, if not yet the solution. One, inspired by the iMac, is intended to be affordable. The other combines unusual elegance with function.
Designer Peter Boutourline Young of Rome used Apple's fruit bowl of translucent colors and novel shape to design the MacDesk. This white fiberboard workstation, unveiled at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York this spring, has the curves of an iMac. It has panels in Apple-coordinated colors like blueberry, grape, lime and tangerine. Wheels make it easy to group with others, like petals of a flower. The Italian company Atlantis hopes to sell it for about $800.
Peripherals can ride underneath; racks to store 40 CDs are built into the legs. It will acquire movable side arms and a shelf to raise the computer off the desk shortly, according to Gabriele Cromie, U.S. marketing director for Atlantis in Cambridge, Mass.
So far, the MacDesk has made mostly artistic inroads. Twenty models are on display beneath iMacs at a design retrospective in Berlin. And in Milan, always considered ground zero for design, Apple displays an iMac on the MacDesk at company headquarters.
Meanwhile, the Amsterdam company Lourens Fisher is working to perfect a glass-topped desk with remarkable flexibility. This Smartdesk was also on display in New York.
The desk top is a kidney-shaped glass shelf, which flexes on a steel frame. The top slides into a free-standing computer stand, or out from it, to create more or less desktop on demand. The desktop also pivots from side to side. And the height adjusts.
"What's most difficult is that form comes out of the function," explained designer Theo Beunen, a professor at the Design Academy in the Hague. "Don't make it more beautiful."
The desk is expected to retail for $1,900. Beunen's six-foot frame slid easily beneath the Smartdesk, but he was still making modifications for ergonomics. It has not yet been added to the company's Web site, www.lourens-fisher.com, though it has appeared in a few Dutch embassies, the company reports.
Beunen pointed out that Dutch companies have been as interested in the design of the home office as workers. "When you send work home," Beunen explained, "you are still responsible."
IF THE OFFICE FITS ...
Some analysts believe your workspace needs can be predicted by your age group. Can you see yourself in one of these pictures?
Agree with Type A, and you were probably born before 1960. If you're Type B, you have not yet reached age 40.
So say the Career Strategies studies of Marilyn Moats Kennedy from which the data have been adapted. Mike Short, design director of Sauder Woodworking, an office furniture supplier, sent out the info to get shoppers to think about their purchases.
What it means is that boomers and their elders are more likely to pull up a chair and talk to a colleague face to face. Younger workers are happy to e-mail all day from a closet.
Behavioral psychologists are already studying the difference. Meantime, think before you make eye contact. It could date you.
* My desk and I are center stage.
* I want an unobstructed view.
* I want nice furniture spread around.
* I appreciate details like moldings.
* Give me space to display things.
* Computers are clutter.
* I can't work without a computer.
* Put me far from distractions.
* Arrange everything at my fingertips.
* My furniture should be linked.
* I need lots of storage space.
* No gewgaws. Streamline.
CAPTION: Strictly Type B: Soul-searching mousepads by Karim Rashid are $12 from Totem. To see the collection, go to www.totemdesign.com or call 1-888-519-5587.
CAPTION: The MacDesk, by Peter Boutourline Young, mimics the iMac monitor curves and colors.
CAPTION: From Amsterdam, the Smartdesk, with sliding glass desktop. A work in progress by Theo Beunen.