Affordable Sit / Stand Desks

-By Dan dos Santos

People who sit down at work all day suffer a lot of health risks, including back problems, wrist problems, and increased risk of heart problems. But standing all day isn't the best either. That comes with a slew of it own problems, including back, knee and ankle problems.

If it's one thing I've learned from having locked myself in a studio for the past 15 years, it's that ANYTHING in excess is bad for you.

Art by Patterson Clark

When I paint at an easel, I'm pretty good about doing some of it while sitting, and some of it while standing. I usually let the painting itself dictate which. As a result, I tend to feel OK after a long day of painting, but after a long day at the computer... I'm an utter mess.

I have seen a lot of artists convert their computer desks to standing set-ups. I've heard wonderful things about the change, but I suspect, like all things in excess, that will pose it's own set of problems for them soon enough.

It seems to me that the wisest solution is a combination sit/stand desk. Unfortunately, most sit/stand solutions have been prohibitively expensive for the average artist. Recently though, Ikea released a very affordable desk. This led me to do some research, and I discovered a few other options as well.

A few things to keep an eye out for when purchasing a sit/stand desk...

Be aware of the full height adjustment range when purchasing a sit/stand desk. An "adjustable standing desk" is NOT the same as an "adjustable sit/stand desk". The former simply being a standing only desk with just a few inches range of adjustment. You want a desk that goes all the way up, and all the way down.

Also, take a close look at the maximum weight load capacity. Many of these desks are designed for short term laptop use, and can sometimes only hold 35 pounds or so. This is obviously not adequate for a full-time studio use.

First, the Ikea Bekant Desk:

The desk is electronically adjustable from a completely sitting position, to a completely standing position, with a range of 22" - 48"  and can hold a few hundred pounds.

The complete desk, with base and top, will set you back $500, but that's really not that bad when you consider the cost of a single doctor's visit, or a professional masseuse.

The table top is available is a variety of colors and shapes, giving it a nice clean look. All reviews I've read about the desk thus far are universally positive.

You may have to hunt this one down depending on how close your nearest Ikea is, or you can purchase it online:

For those who are a bit more budget minded (or simply prefer mechanical solutions over electronic ones, like myself), there are crank operated sit/stand desks.

The crank doesn't require a ton of effort, even with a loaded work surface, and also provides a higher fidelity in my opinion (It would be a shame to let an expensive desk go to waste only because one cheap electronic button stopped working).

Just like the Ikea version, this desk can hold about 150 pounds. Though, it does have a slightly smaller height adjustment range, from 28" - 42". However, this discrepancy is compensated for with a double tiered desktop, giving you better control of the height your wrists are at.

This desk is considerable less expensive, and can be found at various sites on the web, including Amazon, for as low as $320:

In addition to a versatile desk, I would also recommend you get yourself a heavy duty work mat. If you're the kind of person that moves around a lot while you paint, it may not be necessary. But for most people, you'll see an immediate decrease in fatigue after standing for 8 hours.

The health problems that come from such a sedentary lifestyle can be serious, and I've seen a lot of creative solutions from artists over the years, including treadmill desks, computer stands made from podiums, and so on. If you have a unique, or cost effective solution, please share it in the comments section.