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I built a lay-down desk

After spending part of the last 12 months travelling in Europe I'm now settling down around Paris and I need to adapt my multi-screens setup.

You probably have seen an ads for the altwork desk a $7000 desk that let you work laying down. Spending a big part of my day in front of a computer I want to have the most comfortable position as possible, but well $7000 + $1000 for the delivery seems so expensive. There is also this company but this is still about $4000 all included. Let's be creative and build it myself.

Here is the result

complete desk

The things I have to take into account are:

  • I have three monitors

  • I have no diy tools

  • I want a laying down position

  • This should be easy to use

  • This should be light and not take too much space

  • I have only a bike to move the parts

  • I haven't found anyone who has done something similar and so don't really have examples

So instead of doing the waterfall way I decided to go the agile way and to not do any plans, I didn't know what to expect, so let's do it step by step and see how it goes

Take care of the chair

There are several options:

  1. Built a chair from scratch including the 'mattress' part

  2. Use a reclined chair

  3. Adapt a chair

The issue with the first option is that I will not be sure of the result, is it going to be comfortable ? How I'm going to wash the seat covers ? I have no idea of the things to take into account for building a comfortable chair.

Reclined chairs are great but they are very heavy (except the garden ones but not very comfortable) and expensive. So again let's be creative, I got inspired by this and this ikea hacks which use a IKEA POANG chair and transform it into a reclined chair.

Here is the result :

ikea poang adaptation

The chair is 69 euro, I had to buy three cushions to extend it

The most complex part was to do 7km with the chair on a bike. I do not recommend doing the same, particularly because I have done it on a rainy day but well a bit of challenge in my life is always welcome!

ikea bike

Great, the chair is comfortable, let's do something for the desk part.

What structure for the desk

The biggest issue you are going to have with the lay down position, is that the desk is going to be on your legs and you cant 'enter' or 'leave' the desk if you can't move the desk. So you need the 'desk' part to be dynamic from the 'chair' part.

I had two ideas for that, either the Altwork way, the structure goes above your head and can incline, or the the base is on the side and the desk can move somewhere (writing that, having the desk in front of me, I wonder if having the base where the foot are is not an even better solution ? Damn, too late). Having the base on the side seems better because it would be smaller and lighter and also you can balance the weight much better. But the structure also needs to be more rigid and I need to find a way to incline the desk, anyway I haven't found a way to do it :(, after a night of thinking I went the altwork way.

There are two parts to design:

  1. The base + the incline system

  2. The desk + the screen supports

1. Base + incline system

The base is pretty standard, you need something strong enough so that it can suppot the whole thing. At that point I still didn't know the weight of the complete platform so I didn't know how strong it should be. After a few failing choices, I ended up with a main pole of 7cm x 7cm.

Now the complex part, how to design the rotation part ? How heavy is going to be the rest of desk ? How much does the desk need to move so that I can 'enter' the desk ? So many questions I didnt have an answer for.

So let's try something and see how it goes, I bought an gaz actuator on Amazon which can support 70kg with a range of 31cm, it is built for cars and pretty cheap, 19euro. Actually 70kg is a lot. So at least I have a some freedom on the weight of the structure.

I had two issues with the actuator:

  • 70kg IS A LOT, it is so much that when I was fixing it on the wood of the base, it was breaking the wood. The best would be to have an iron piece that I can fix to the wood but I didnt have the tools for that so I used stronger woods but this is still fragile.

fixation verrin

  • The desk follows a circular trajectory when you move it up and down. As a result the barycenter of the structure changes depending on the Y position of the 'desk part' and so there is more strength applied on the actuator when it is up than when it is down. So basically the desk will not stay by itself when in the up position. I need to find a way to get the desk in the up position.

I'm not really proud of the way I've done it, but it somewhat works. I've built a piece of wood that inserts itself in the area between the two poles where the actuator is. There is a counterweight which drags the piece into the zone when in up position, and when I want to release it, I just need to pull on the rope. (I think I will replace the actuator with a real electric actuator when the current system breaks so that I can control the movement, it is about 120euro)

system block

2. Desk + screens support

I bought a chipboard plate of 80cm x 120cm, and cut some space for my body

plaque bois

This is pretty solid, so I can directly screw this plate to the pole and we have a desk surface

plaque bureau

For holding the monitors I did something pretty basic, I created a box for each screen. Then comes the position of the screen, how to know the position of each screen ? I didnt know how to know it beforehand, so I just created dynamic arms and adjusted them while in front of the screens

support monitor

Next steps

This is only a few days old so I can't really make a feedback but there are already a few things that I need to fix

  • I can't use a mouse anymore, as the mouse would fall down, I'm probably going to replace it by a trackball

  • I need to invest in an ergonomic keyboard to get really comfortable, probably going to buy the kenesis advantage 2, but this is expensive !

Here is a video of the complete desk:


When you want to build this kind of structure, I'm not sure you can plan everything beforehand, there are always things that will happen that you didn't expect, like when you code: if you want to modify the actuator when the 60kg setup is mounted how do you do ? (I have done it 6 times) When your base can't support the weight because it lacks one screw and you need to unmount everything what do you do ? ...

I'm really annoyed by the actuator part, I hope I will find something more reliable

Overall it cost me :

  • 45 euro for tools

  • 130 euro for wood pieces, screws, joins, ...

  • 110 euro for the IKEA chair + cushions

and I spent 26 hours working, excluding the transport and the time shopping for pieces

Don't forget when you do woodworking to clean afterwards :)


If you have done something similar and know a few advice, please send me an email

PS: If you wonder whether you can do that or not, everyone can do it, basic woodworking is not complex, you need to know how to cut wood, how to join wood, how to screw and a little bit of imagination, you dont even need a car to transport parts, I transported everything: pole of 2m40, big plate ... on a bike