written by:
October 26, 2012

"Not ANOTHER George Nelson inspired desk??!!" went designer Ben Klebba's note to us. Though the Portland, Oregon-based woodworker and craftsman, who works under the name Phloem Studio, has his tongue firmly in cheek, his senses of scale, proportion, and beauty are right on point. We dug a little deeper into the process and inspiration for the lovely Laura desk and Klebba was so eloquent and excited that we've decided to let him describe it in his own words. Click through the slideshow to see one of the lovlier writing stations you'll stumble across and to learn how it came to be.

Laura Desk by Phloem Studio

"My girlfriend, Laura, and I both draw by hand. She sketches and then those drawings end up becoming wooden sculpture. I have a rather larger drafting table that my dad made. We live in a one-bedroom apartment with a healthy collection of books, magazines, and vinyl, among other things. At first I wanted to design her a drawing table, but with the clutter in our apartment and its small size, I realized a writing desk was more in order—a desk that had some storage for organization and a place to put a laptop or to sketch at, but nothing with as large of a footprint as a drafting table."

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Laura Desk by Phloem Studio

"I remembered the classic George Nelson Swag desk. It was playful and fun like so many of Nelson’s designs. And at less than 30 inches by 40 inches, it was small in scale. Its size is actually perfect for today’s laptop world. There have been so many desks that have followed in that design’s tiny footprints, and have played off of its cantilevered wedge-shaped writing surface."

2 / 9
Laura Desk by Phloem Studio

"But…I’m a woodworker, and the Swag desk is made from plastic, laminate, steel, and veneered particleboard or plywood. Those are not my materials of choice. The Swag desk references many Shaker writing desks with their small footprints and its use of cubbies in the back of the desk to organize paper, books, and writing supplies." 

3 / 9
Laura Desk by Phloem Studio

"The cantilevered wedge shaped form of the Laura Desk takes a cue from the Swag desk. I wanted to push the legs further back to line up with the angle I created from the front of the cubbies. It was essential that the cantilever be more dramatic, but the profile as simple as possible. Originally, the drawers hung out and were exposed below the tapered line on the underside of the writing surface. This didn’t work for me. I had to find a way to keep the visual weight of the profile entirely in that tight cluster in the back where the legs, writing surface, and cubbies all collide. That profile was perfect. So I made the drawers actual wedges that follow that profile line on the underside of the writing surface. That was tricky. There was a ton of trial and error, but what it led to was a fully functioning pair of drawers with strange “drawer fronts.” Each front edge was wedge shaped and thick, creating a perfect scenario to route trays into. This is where I got be a little playful, making the shapes a little more unique than a collection of rectangles. There are rectangles (two of which can house most smart phones), a circle, and a triangle."  

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Laura Desk by Phloem Studio

"The desk’s sides, legs, stretcher, and drawers are made from solid wood. With the design of the desk, the top could not be made of solid wood otherwise there would be problems with wood movement over time. Each Laura Desk has a top made of plywood with 1/16"-thick, hand-cut solid veneer on its writing surface. Standard veneer, even on premium plywood is less than 1/32" thick, and this wouldn’t last over time. With the thicker veneer, we’re creating an heirloom desk that will last for generations."  

5 / 9
Laura Desk by Phloem Studio

"Each desk is made to order, handcrafted with the finest domestic hardwoods and veneers available, marked 'Phloem Studio,' and numbered. A Laura Desk will be ready for delivery within 8 to 10 weeks.  A consumer can contact me directly at ben@phloemstudio.com for pricing or questions or you can get in contact with the shop Beam & Anchor."

6 / 9
Laura Desk by Phloem Studio

"While the desk has a hint of Shaker design to it, this is the 21st-century and cord ports are essential. But they’re also ugly, so they’re hidden in the shadows in the back corners of the cubbies. Any cords will hang down through those ports, behind the drawers. I also wanted this desk to be easy to ship, so the legs are attached to the back stretcher and then to the desktop with eight Allen head bolts for easy assembly."

7 / 9
Laura Desk by Phloem Studio

"I see the Laura Desk in a study, a bedroom, or a den—small spaces to calm your mind at a simple workstation. I also see it in a front entryway, a loft, or in an open floorplan, where its form can be admired. I see it being used by people who desire something designed with intention and crafted with care. I see the Laura Desk being used and appreciated by a person who understands that the little things really do matter."

8 / 9
Laura Desk by Phloem Studio

"The Shakers inspire me with their simplicity. I think too many things designed and built are not made with the same level of intention that the Shakers gave to their furniture. There is something calming about Shaker furniture.  Some of the best contemporary designs are aiming at that same simplicity. I wouldn’t say that I’m 'Shaker Influenced'; however, I admire and strive for that honesty in my furniture designs."

9 / 9
Laura Desk by Phloem Studio

"My girlfriend, Laura, and I both draw by hand. She sketches and then those drawings end up becoming wooden sculpture. I have a rather larger drafting table that my dad made. We live in a one-bedroom apartment with a healthy collection of books, magazines, and vinyl, among other things. At first I wanted to design her a drawing table, but with the clutter in our apartment and its small size, I realized a writing desk was more in order—a desk that had some storage for organization and a place to put a laptop or to sketch at, but nothing with as large of a footprint as a drafting table."

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