Stylish Ergonomics

I’m putting on my best serious voice today.  And a different hat.  In fact, for once on this blog, I’m qualified to talk on the subject.  Sometimes, when I’m not dreaming of houses from faraway lands or trying to keep The 3 Little Pigs in order, I’m a physiotherapist.

Let’s talk about being comfortable in the home office and peruse some good looking and clever office furniture.  But first, a little reality/honesty check.  Right now, I’m reclined on the couch, feet up, laptop on my lap.  Cushions are supporting my back.  My only “office” item is a $10 padded board from Office Works that sits between the laptop and my lap to prevent us both from overheating.  Is this OK?  Yes, because I am comfortable and I’m regularly getting up to do other tasks.  Dish washing interspersed with screen time works quite well.

If you tend to sit down for 10 minutes at a time for a quick scan of emails, then chances are that you will be perfectly fine with any chair that tickles your fancy.  But if you work from home, blog for hours, write essays, or spend any greater length of time at a desk, then Eames chairs with those cute legs but concave back rests are not going to cut it.

Office chairs

Unless you happen to be Mr or Ms Average, with your every dimension matching that of the average adult, then the key to selecting a comfortable office chair is adjustability.    Ideally, look for these features:

  • adjustable height
  • adjustable lumbar support
  • tilt for seat pan and back rest
  • dense foam padding on seat

Optional extras:

  • wheels (preferably at least 5)
  • adjustable arm rests (good for those who like to hold up their tablets or phones for prolonged periods)
  • head rest  (for those who like to get lost in deep thought, while still being upright!)

Here are some chairs that have potential for both ergonomics and style:

Under $200

Err.  Wrong answer.  Sorry, stylish + ergonomic don’t exist in this price category.  Cheaper options tend to have low density seat padding and typically don’t last long.  They may be suitable in the short term for lightweight children and adolescents.

Under $500

Ergomedic chair


1.  Ergomedic.  Only just scrapes into the “stylish” category since you can specify your own fabric or leather.  Bonus points for being Australian made.

Under $1000


  1. Think.  Available in 15 fun colours and 3 different frame finishes. (1-3 are all from Steelcase).
  2. Leap.  You can customise the fabric and pair it with a “lounge” (footrest).  Head and foot rests are extra.
  3. Gesture.  Designed for multiple device use.  Available in 11 colours.
  4. Muga 2.  Available in various finishing options from Stylecraft.

Oh, whatever!

(Over $1000)

  1. Liberty by Humanscale.  (Known as “Freedom” in the U.S..) Add a headrest if you wish.  Go all out with leather, or choose a mesh back option and you’ll sneak back into the “under $1000” range.
  2. Mirra.  Made by Herman Miller, this chair is much cheaper in the U.S.  Fresh finishes.
  3. Embody.  I like the spiny structure on the back rest.  In orange, it makes me think of giraffes.
  4. Norma.  Less imposing than the average office chair.
  5. Acuity by Allsteel, looks sleek and feminine in white leather.
  6. Sabrina.  (Australian price unverified.)  Looks very cool en masse in the feature photo at the top.

NB:  Sensible readers, might say that when it comes to looking after your body, style should be set aside.  My standard recommendation for a chair that fits the adjustability criteria, is long-lasting and suits most adults is the Gregory Inca chair, which retails at $385.  It’s not pretty.


Most people can be comfortable sitting at a standard desk.  Probably you can take your pick from many of the lovely options on offer.  Shorties might need to increase the height of their chair and use a foot rest to achieve a good sitting position.  Some tall people may need a higher desk. There are plenty of height-adjustable desks on the market these days, or extra-height desks can be ordered from office furniture suppliers.

Look for:

  • Leg clearance.  (Drawers in the centre of the desk can be a problem.)
  • Enough depth to support both a laptop or PC AND a separate keyboard.

Standing tables or sit-to-stand tables have had a recent surge in popularity and work well for people on the move between desk tasks.  They can be used in conjunction with sitting, to add variety and movement to the work day.  How about this for a very cool looking height-adjustable table?

Source:  Dwell.

Laptop/PC stands

My standard trick for raising laptops and PCs, so that the top of the screen is at eye level, is to use the “Yellow Pages”.  Hmmm…  Stylish?  No.   Do they even make Yellow pages these days?  I love this wooden alternative:

PC stand.  Source: Dwell

PC stand. Source: Dwell

And for those that like to use their devices in the kitchen, living room or on the go:

1.  Ikea (U.S.)  2.  GamFratesi 3.  Plunkdesk.

Physiotherapists are great at assessing individual shapes, sizes, postures, work habits and needs.  If you are not comfortable at your work station, ask a physio to give you a personal assessment and advice.  (New business ideas forming as I type…. virtual assessments….)

P.S.  Any furniture makers reading this: Want to collaborate on an Australian-made, stylish and body-friendly office chair for under $500?

P.P.S.  For more Stylish Ergonomics take a look in my Pinterest file.




14 thoughts on “Stylish Ergonomics

  1. Urrrrrrgonomics. Ergonomic chairs don’t need to be so ugly do they? They all look suitably styled (?) for a corporate office but not a home office. Hope you find a furniture maker that wants to collaborate!

    • I know! It was a struggle to find examples. There are some prettier options that have fixed backrest-seat pan joins (less adjustability) – these may work for some people but you probably need a day in the shop to test! Some car companies (try Ferrari) make office chairs like car seats. They are sleek but don’t appeal to my aesthetic. Your male might like them.

  2. trixee says:

    I don’t understand why they need to be so ugly. I actually didn’t mind one of your Gregory Inca chairs, I thought the Black Dot and Match looked OK. I did see a burlesque-style office chair once that tickled my fancy, but probably doesn’t meet your criteria for ergonomics.

    I can relate to your yellow pages monitor stand. I maintain that the best footrest I’ve encountered so far is a stack of 2 reams of paper. It’s what I use at work. Much to their chagrin, I’ve spurned their offers to get me a “proper” one because they’re never as comfortable as my 2 reams! I have had my footrest stolen a couple of times though, when the copier has run out of paper.

    • I guess it’s hard to hide all the mechanisms for adjustment under the seat. I think the trick would be to embrace it and go for a vintage-industrial look. Definitely need to add some wood. Using paper reams is very innovative, but don’t your feet slip on them?

      • trixee says:

        I discovered them purely by chance. They do slip sometimes, but I usually take that as my queue to stand up and stretch.

  3. Miranda says:

    I’d love one of those Dwell computer stands. They’re very elegant.
    So what sort of chair will be in the House by the Water? And if you had an unlimited budget, which one would you buy?

    • Those plunkdesks are elegant! (Did you see the price? ha! ha! I think IKEA have some cheap and ugly alternatives.) You ask the questions I knew I should have answered in the blog post, but the post was taking so much time! I don’t love any of the options. We will get a good work chair for my husband who spends hours most nights on teleconference calls, emails and texts on his phone. Mostly he stands and paces for this. He doesn’t need to be upright at a desk for most of the time. I would look at the Leap Lounge ( in leather. It’s the Leap as above, with a head rest and foot rest. For looks, I like the traditional Eames lounge and ottoman ( but I need to check it out further because the replica I sat in was way too short in the back, with the head rest too low to support the head! For now my kids can get away with any chair, but when they start to rack up the homework hours, I will look at the Gregory chairs because I know they are good.

  4. Love the computer monitor stand. Gorgeous.
    And I concur with the general sentiment that office chairs are horribly ugly.
    I want to get some big old wing back upright upholstered chairs that make you want to sink in. Bad ergonomics be damned!
    My desks are being made, and I might actually have something to show soon (how soon? How long is a piece of string?)
    But the office will be getting decorated before the year is over.

  5. Perhaps your wingback chairs fit you perfectly BL? A little lumbar cushion can make all the difference. I don’t imagine that you spend too many hours in it anyway. Can’t wait to see your custom desks!

  6. I’m a real fan of standing desks and have made do with make shift ones, but now am looking at a solution where I can put my standing desk as a ‘built in’ into a nook for my office.

    For my chair I’m going not so ergonomic as I’ll be standing most of the time and only sitting when writing and scribbling or on the phone and jotting down some notes.

    • Standing desks are perfect for a nook situation. I have a waist height bench in my current kitchen that is perfect for reading recipes and doing a quick check for messages on my electronic devices.

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