Your Backbone Will Thank You: 6 Great Standing Desk Designs

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Back Pain   Your Backbone Will Thank You: 6 Great Standing Desk DesignsSitting can kill you or at least cause serious health issues. Unfortunately, many jobs require us to sit at our desks for many hours a day. While it’s tough to change what you do for a living, it’s pretty easy to change your desk.

Being a freelance writer working from home, I struggle with this challenge more than most other professionals. Theoretically, I could work from my bed. I have to make a conscious effort not to sit for too long, get up regularly, walk around, and stretch. If you need some help on that front, try these exercise videos or these tips for using your laptop in comfort. In addition to moving around, I tried a standing desk and found that I enjoy switching between standing and sitting, depending on what I’m doing.

There are some challenges associated with switching from sitting to standing. Once you got over them, a standing desk can help you avoid some of the health issues associated with sitting. You might even burn a few additional calories. Finally, designing and building your own custom desk is a cool DIY project.

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The $40 Standup Desk

Brandon of thoroughly researched desk options and almost spent a small fortune on a GeekDesk. After a few weeks he concluded that none of the commercial products offered exactly what he wanted. So he proceeded to build his own desk and the result is a beautiful bargain.

Cheap Standup Desk   Your Backbone Will Thank You: 6 Great Standing Desk Designs

Cost: $40
almost no skills and only basic tools required

Verdict: Seriously, anyone can do this!

A Swedish Standing Desk

My colleague Dave built himself a standing desk inspired by Colin Nederkoorn, who also explains the ergonomics for the ideal standing desk. Dave’s desk is built entirely from IKEA items. By taking down the top half, you can easily convert back to a regular sitting desk.

ikea standing desk angled   Your Backbone Will Thank You: 6 Great Standing Desk Designs

Cost: $50 (not counting everything you shouldn’t buy at IKEA)
couple of hours (not counting the full day spent at IKEA)
some basic handicraft skills and tools required

Verdict: Anyone with a minimal amount of patience can do this. The biggest challenges is not getting stuck at IKEA.

Mint’s DIY Standing Desk

Ellie over at Mint built a standing desk using self-made sawhorses and an IKEA counter top. The advantage of the custom built sawhorses is that you can choose any height and width for your desk. It does, however, take a little extra time and consideration to get the right material.

Sawhorse Standing Desk   Your Backbone Will Thank You: 6 Great Standing Desk Designs

Cost: $150-200 (depending on supplies)
several hours
some handicraft skills and proper tools required

Verdict: Anyone with access to proper tools (cutting sawhorse legs) and a little bit of cash can do this.

Jeff Wain’s Massive Wood Standing Desk

Like many of us, Jeff Wain was inspired by Lifehacker to build his own standing desk. Before he dived head first into the project, he stacked books on his kitchen bar until he was sure he had figured out the right height. Very clever approach and a beautiful result.

Massive Wood Standing Desk   Your Backbone Will Thank You: 6 Great Standing Desk Designs

Cost: $185
several hours spread over several days (guessing)
handicraft skills and some basic tools required

Verdict: You can definitely do this if you’re determined and not completely broke.

Expedit Standing Desk

Apparently it’s hard to get away from IKEA for DIY furniture hacks. Maybe that’s because the ingredients are, well designed, affordable, and universal. Here is one of many standing desk projects from IKEA Hackers. Peter Marks built this model using Expedit shelving units and a Lack shelf.

Expedit Standing Desk   Your Backbone Will Thank You: 6 Great Standing Desk Designs

Cost: $250 (plus IKEA by-catch)
a couple of hours (plus IKEA visit)
basic handicraft skills and tools required

Verdict: Anyone who can mount IKEA furniture and with good credit can do this.

Custom Standing Desk

The folks from Tinkering Monkey will build you a custom standing desk based on your height and accessory preferences. The luxury edition comes with a keyboard tray and cord guide attachment.

Tinkering Monkey Custom Standing Desk   Your Backbone Will Thank You: 6 Great Standing Desk Designs

Cost: $750 (basic model)
minimal, ordered in minutes
easy peasy

Verdict: You must be able to afford it and ideally live in the US.

Find more great standing desk designs on Pinterest.


Before you decide to switch to a standing desk, try whether it is for you. The easiest method to simulate a standing desk is to put a cardboard box on top of your table. If you do switch, keep in mind that too much of any one thing is bad for you, and so is standing. Your best bet is to keep your options open and switch back and forth. And the healthiest choice is to stay active.

How do you keep your back happy at work?

Image credits: Back Pain via Shutterstock

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38 Comments - Write a Comment



How many such designs are beeing used by Make Use Of?

Tina Sieber

I don’t know for sure.

At least three other writers use standing desks. James Bruce, Dave Parrack mentioned above, and Bakari Chavanu. I linked to their articles referring to those desks.

I’m using a piece of furniture that used to be a speaker table. I don’t like it for writing, but it’s great for reading or online meetings, and also works for doing emails. That’s when I use it anyways.

Dave Parrack

I don’t use mine as much as I thought I would, but it’s nice to have the option. I find I split my time between standing, sitting at a desk on a yoga ball, and lying forward on my bed.


Chris Marcoe

At school, I do jsut the opposite. My chair is as low as I can get it and the back is WAY back.

But at home, I hit a happy medium while on the computer. I sit about 4 feet from the screen (37″ TV) and I recline in my easy chair. It lets me know when AI should shuffle off to bed, because its comfortable enough to nod off in. Of course, you have to have the right chair. Mine is comfortable and the arms are wide enough to use as a mouse pad.

Tina Sieber

Sounds like you have a setup similar to Erez. He turned his reclining chair into a workstation.

Chris Marcoe

just read that article. I used to have a chair that was suspended, in that same style. I moused and used a keypad on a low desk and used the keyboard on my lap with left hand.


Taimur Rehman

nice :)


Tic Tac

Some desk Raptor :D


Scott M

I’ve been considering switching to a stand up desk.I think I could switch over to the Swedish Standing Desk quite easily.I love its simplicity and it appears designed for for max work flow.


Dave Bakker

Love the ideas, I really need to consider this. However, I would like an option that could raise or lower the station so I can mix it up. Also one that supports dual monitors, I am now inspired to go ahead and try again

Ben Klaas

Dave, I do exactly this via a Ergotron Workfit-s dual monitor sit-stand desk attachment, and it’s awesome.

I’m a big believer in standing as a means of helping out bad backs and general body health, but I also don’t believe that anyone can do a full work day standing and be able to maintain concentration. You need both options to toggle between.

Tina Sieber

Nice desk option, but pricey.

Couldn’t agree more regarding concentration. Also, studies have shown that long standing is just as damaging to your health as long sitting. The best is to alternate between sitting, standing, walking, and do some stretching in between.

Dave Bakker

So its been a few days now. I went too fast, as my legs are protesting. I’ve read a bit more on this and the suggestion is to take the transition slowly if you are not used to being on your feet all day. My advice is to try a hour the first day then increase a bit each day till you are used to standing. I just snagged a higher chair that I can occasionally sit to rest. Now its going better.

Tina Sieber

You could use flexible monitor arms to mount your dual monitors to the wall or the main desk. Then build the Swedish Standing Desk from above, the one with the removable top. This way you could easily switch back and forth and not spend a fortune.

There are also professional desks with adjustable height; even IKEA has them. They cost a fortune and consume electricity on top of that.

Dave Bakker

Well took the plunge and have a temp set up using a few boxes :)

Tina Sieber

Great way to test whether it’s for you. Let us know! :)



It looks like Jeff Wain has been cheating at his “standing” desk


Alex Perkins

I like the idea of a standing desk and am hoping to build one myself once I move out of my current place.

Also, I’m just being picky here, but in the last line of Jeff Wain’s Massive Wood Standing Desk it says “clover” instead of “clever”.

Just thought I’d let you know. ;-)

Tina Sieber

Thanks for the catch, Alex.


Sonesh Lakhani

Found many of unique design

Thanks for sharing



Hey Tina,

I really liked your article. I apologize for the shameless plug here, but…

Just earlier this year I personally couldn’t find a nice standing desk converter that was height-adjustable, solid, and would allow me to lean on it while I was working so, of course, I designed and built my own.

I received a positive response from the office so I decided to put them online. If you have a moment please check it out: – it’s a nice alternative for those that don’t have hoards of cash for the electric/crank style, and you can set the desk topper up to YOUR exact standing elbow level, which experts recommend for proper keyboard ergonomics.

Here’s a 10% coupon code for the fellow readers: makeuseof10%off

Thanks again!


Keith Swartz

Will attempt to start this week my stand up desk… I’m sold on the idea/ideal. Good article Tina &, thanks!

Tina Sieber

Do let us know what design you go with and how it goes, Keith!


Stephan A

Thank you. Having the option is very important to lots of us.



The problem with those desks and table tops above is they look kind of cheap and nasty. Especially the last one with all those cables going everywhere – it really looks cheap and hardly ergonomic. At home – OK, but If you have to be in an office environment, where you have to share space with other people, that’s hardly the desk you want. Something like this would be a better options:

Tina Sieber

Exquisite taste, Caroline. Hope you can afford it.

Personally, I don’t think any of the desks above look cheap or nasty. Beauty lies within the eye of the beholder I guess.

Your argument with the cables, however, is mute. They just put extra effort into hiding the cables with the professional shot you shared. The same effort to hide cables can be put into any kind of desk…if you care enough.



This is great. I’m thinking of building one myself.



Thanks for this article – it’s nice to see some clever designs that employ common sense rather than a truck load of money.
I think it is something that takes getting used to but personally I would not go back to sitting again. Granted it took some time to get used to the standing desk and my feet hurt for a period of time, it sure beats the back pain I used to get!
Another unexpected bonus is that I tend to be more productive, by that I mean I spend less time surfing the web and doing time wasting activities – I think this is because I am not able to “slouch into my chair” and wile away the hours as it were.
I am sure you have seen this but I thought I would share it anyway – it’s a fun way of looking at the whole arguement of standing vs. sitting:



My take on the IKEA concept. Used 2 end tables, and adjustable shelving brackets so I can adjust the keyboard shelf height –



My friend suffered from severe lower back pain and was miserable sitting all day at work. She elevated her desk so she could spend part of the day standing. Standing at work relieved so much of her back pain that she created her own standing desk called The Stand Steady. Desk height can be easily adjusted so you can go from sitting to standing without difficulty. I’ve even seen my friend use her elliptical while at her standing desk. Check it out at


C Woodhall

I have an Anderlyn Stand Up Desk. Since using it, my back pain has gone away, and I feel stronger. The Price was right, and I didn’t have to replace my existing desk. I love my stand up desk.



These are great options! We recently started making portable podium style standing desks here in California. They’re less than $200 and made of 100% Bamboo… Crazy durable! I use mine with a cheat seat.


gaius gracchus

Standing all day can also be problematic. That is why we went with a treadmill desk. Makes all the difference in the world! We do alternate with some time sitting – it is maybe 50/50. But it feels really good to walk slowly while we work instead of just stand or sit. We forget we are walking we get so engrossed into our work on our computers.

We got a new Multitable and we LOVE IT!!! We ordered the entire table from them, not just the base — they customized it for us, too. We checked out almost every standup desk on the market before settling on this one. They have a plethora of types of desks – something for everyone.

Although they had models that fit over their own treadmills, we already had a high-end Precor treadmill at home. Note that most of the treadmills that come from the standup desk combos have no console in front to get in the way, but ours, just like a gym model, does. So we needed the table that goes up really high, plus we needed a more narrow table since we are further back on the treadmill due to the console. Plus, we just have small laptops so no need for a wider desk.

They took their table from the treadmill combo and created a customized top for us. Also they were able to adjust the width.

It fits perfectly! The inner width is 34″ between the legs, the tabletop is 36″ wide and 18″ deep. The height goes up to 54 inches!!!! Yayyyh! Finally we found one that fit our needs over our treadmill! (good luck finding one that tall, and, if you do, good luck getting the rest of these dimensions.)

It was pretty easy to assemble, and putting things together is not my forte. We ordered the “left-handed” model, which is just having the crank on the left side, since our treadmill is up to the wall on the right side. We really appreciate a manual operation, although they certainly have electric models. I don’t want another thing to have to plug in, and it takes so little effort to crank it, why bother with electric.

Their customer service is outstanding. Their prices are far, far better than any other desk of this quality, and especially compared to companies who are willing to customize for you.



I built my own standing desk adapter… Out of a pair of $20 TV stands (black) I bought at Target. My regular desk was already 29.5 inches tall. So I figured I only needed something 14.5 inches tall to add to the height. The Target TV stands are exactly 14.5″ without casters, and assembled in 15 minutes total. $40 + tax and one trip to Target and I had my standing desk! Plus, it matches my black desk almost perfectly.


Richard Ellis

I just read your article and I am experimenting by putting my laptop on one of the higher shelves of my armoire for standing. The height is just right for me. Since I’m using a laptop, it is easy for me to switch from the standing back to the sitting position. I had to improvise and use a box for the keyboard while standing though. Maybe I should take a trip to IKEA?


Peter Gilbert


Great Blog. I’ve been in the human factors industry for over 14 years and am so happy to see more and more people embracing standing and movement while they work.

That being said I would like to cover a couple quick potential issues people need to be aware of prior to beating the living heck out of their chair (BTW…I love the picture). Now if you bought the chair from Staples or Office Depot than beat away.

I’ve been standing now for two years and haven’t felt better in my life. While I stand most of the day, I do sit for short periods throughout the day. It truly not good for your lower extremities to stand all day. The other thing to think about if you are going to stand for long periods of time is to use an anti-fatigue mat.

We believe that a height adjustable desk is your best bet . There is an inexpensive desk line that is the ideal desk because it’s height and width adjustable (23″ to 49″ height range and width adjustment from 42.5″ to 74″) This desk base comes with a four position led preset that give two people the option to set their ideal seated and standing height. Te desk is called the Sit 2 Stand Desk (

When standing or sitting you want to make sure that your elbow lines up with your keyboard(this will give you a perfect ergonomic “L-shape”).

If any of the readers decide to use a standing only desk, that I strongly suggest that they use an ergonomic drafting chair or standing stool ( ).

Once again great blog, just wanted to make sure people are aware of additional options.

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