Ask Unclutterer: If something is multifunctional is it always uncluttered?

Reader Bethany emailed this morning, and although it’s not a traditional Ask Unclutterer question I thought it made for a great discussion:

I’m a reader of the Swiss-Miss blog and like her style. In her Friday Link Pack today, she had an item for “It’s a desk. It’s a bed.” When I saw it I thought it was the opposite of a Unitasker and wanted to make sure you saw it. I think it’s a horrible idea, but wondered what you thought of it since it’s a multitasker?

Live-Work Desk images from StudioNL

Oh my word, that is depressing, Bethany! You’re right that it is multifunctional, certainly not a unitasker, but it’s also one of the saddest pieces of furniture I’ve ever seen.

I like the general concept of one piece of furniture having many functions. And, to be fair, this does appear to be a well-made piece of multifunctioning furniture. It has nice lines. But, I don’t like the idea of literally sleeping in your desk. I think there should be a clear division between sleeping and work. Maybe — and this is a really weak maybe — I could see a medical resident who is on call having a need for a desk like this since he or she has to stay at the hospital for ridiculous hours on a regular basis. But for the rest of us normal folks, this feels dismal.

I believe that people should be productive when at work not so they can transform themselves into robotic corporate drones, but so they can really relax when they’re not at work. Work happens between set hours and work stays at work. When not at work, one’s mind should be free to dwell on things other than to-do items and projects that need to be completed at the office. You get more done at the office to enjoy non-work time more fully. This desk doesn’t provide for that at all — it promotes an end to non-work time. We’re humans, not worker bees.

What do the rest of you think about this Live-Work Desk? Are Bethany and I off base thinking it’s a dreary addition to an office? Share your reactions in the comments. And, thank you, Bethany, for inadvertently submitting your question to our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

34 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: If something is multifunctional is it always uncluttered?”

  1. posted by kalieris on

    My dream home is a Tumbleweed (typically <100 sq feet), so this would be kind of awesome, actually, from the standpoint of making good use of space. I have balance issues, so the whole "climb a ladder to the loft to sleep, and then figure out how to get down at 3 am to pee, without falling" adventure isn't something I'm excited about. My only reservation about using the desk in that way is whether the side braces are sturdy enough to deal with cats jumping on them in the middle of the night. I wouldn't like to be sleeping in there and have the side suddenly slam into my head or leg.

  2. posted by Dorothy on

    If it’s something you don’t need/want, it’s clutter. Period.

  3. posted by Kerrie on

    My first thought is that you lose all the storage space under the desk, because if you stored stuff in the desk/on the bed, what are you gonna do with everything when it’s time you sleep. You could just as easily grab a sleeping bag and pillow and sleep under your kitchen table…doesn’t really make sense to me.

    And second thought was what Dorothy said.

  4. posted by Lisa on

    I could maybe kind of see it for an office space in which you’d want to very occasionally have room for an overnight guest, but even that’s a stretch and I’d find it depressing as a guest, too.

  5. posted by DC Mom on

    George Costanza would like it!

  6. posted by Alix on

    It looks very uncomfortable.

  7. posted by Jeannette on

    I agree with what everybody else said. Depressing. Uncomfortable. Because it’s on the floor, it’s really vulnerable to drafts. The designer says that it’s a solution for people who need to pull all-nighters, but — because it’s a planned solution rather than an impromptu one — it speaks of a sadly limited life.
    And with my arthritic knees, once I got down on the floor, I’d have trouble getting up again. Middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom might become middle-of-the-night crawls.
    The worst idea I’ve seen in a long time.

  8. posted by susan on

    It could be an awesome dog bed!

  9. posted by Jules on

    I agree that this could work for certain situations but it does send a pretty sad message.

  10. posted by Rae on

    Weather once forced me to sleep at work under my desk; this would have been better than the scratchy disgusting carpet with a drop cloth over it!

    I also think that something like this with bigger dimensions (so you could at least lie flat!) and some breathable side panels would be great for an office where you’re allowed to take a nap during your breaks.

  11. posted by Leslie on

    It looks depressing and uncomfortable to me, too. I suppose it could be a good space saver for a small house, I suppose, but I think I prefer the bunk-bed with built in desk underneath model that you see in a lot of dorm rooms.

  12. posted by Julia on

    I see your point. I certainly wouldn’t choose this setup if I had as much space as the room in the picture.
    But I like having plenty of table space. If I had a really small place – so that I had to choose between having table top or having a bed – I would definitely consider this as an option.

  13. posted by aaaaaaah! on

    “It’s a desk. It’s a bed. It’s a coffin.”

  14. posted by Ana L. on

    I think it’s interesting as an option for power napping at work. It also looks like, if it were near a nice sunny window, it would be pretty comfy to recline under there like it was a chaise, and do paperwork or offline reading. (I have a couch in my office for this reason, but had to sacrifice half my work surface to squeeze it in.)

    I’ve worked in places where they had couches around for impromptu socializing and occasionally for overnight crash space, but using them to take a short nap or just to get out of your chair didn’t feel right because of the lack of privacy/worries that it would send a bad message if your boss saw you there in the middle of the day.

    I don’t find it’s mere existence depressing at all. I think if they were purchased for a company to encourage people to stay all night, that is depressing. Purchased by a company to encourage people to get out of their office chair, take a nap or just relax a little, that would be very positive.

  15. posted by G. on

    from one of the links –
    “The main concept was to comment the fact that our lives are shrinking in order to fit into the confined space of our office. Eventually I realised that each civilisation may have a very different perception of things depending on its social context. For example this desk could be used for a siesta or for a few hours of sleeping at night between deadlines.”

    It sounds to me like she designed this as a comment on how much work life is spilling over into the rest of the day, not so much as a real product. But then realized for temporary occasional use, it could really be useful.

    My take on multi-use items –
    1. if it takes more time and work to switch between tasks than keeping separate items, it’s not decluttering.
    2. if the multi-task item doesn’t do any of the tasks at least as good (well?) as single task items, it’s not decluttering.

  16. posted by Anon on


    I found your comment: “Work happens between set hours and work stays at work. When not at work, one’s mind should be free to dwell on things other than to-do items and projects that need to be completed at the office.” to be interesting. Perhaps I’m remembering wrong, but wasn’t it you that had a monthly resolution (during your one resolution a month series) where you tried to go (was it 24 full hours?) not working, and (when forced into it by some technical glitch) discovered you really ENJOY having your work and personal life ebb and flow together?

    I would think that this is no less depressing than someone having a loft bed in their office if the perspective is “why sleep at work/get a life” but its entirely possible someone does have a life of the work they do.

    This would be a good solution for other situations:

    A businessperson who has a long commute and stays at the office on a semi-regular basis during the week, but goes home for the weekends and doesn’t want to burden his/her family with the additional expenses of renting an apartment.

    A homeless person who works (probably the best example I can give of this is the main character in the movie Pursuit of Happyness, which was based on a true story. It happens).

    A person who works from home in a limited space.

    A person who sees SLEEP as separate and apart from their life’s enjoyments (there’s a reason sleep experts recommend not having things like T.V. etc. in the bedroom – bedrooms should be unitaskers – only for sleeping – so merging a bedroom (unitasker) and an office (unitasker – only for working) into a multitasker seems brilliant, especially if you use the space you would otherwise use for a bedroom as a room for something you love, perhaps crafts or woodworking. (Obviously, this would only apply for someone that worked from home and was single).

    Those are some of my thoughts. 🙂

  17. posted by Janet W on

    I think sleeping in a box would be great–if you’re a cat.

    Personally, I’ve spent very little time in a single bed, and I don’t plan on starting.

    You have to sleep in a straight line in this bed.

    The mattress looks hella uncomfortable.


  18. posted by Leslie on

    I see awesome fort for little ones or a very comfy dog bed. Also a spare bed, in a pinch, but most of my friends would look at me and say, “uh, that’s ok, you sleep there, I’ll take your bed.” 😉

  19. posted by Marie on

    The amusement of the “unitasker” posts aside, there are plenty of single-function items that are fine just the way they are. Fire extinguishers are a perfect example. If something has a perfectly legitimate purpose, you don’t need to turn it into something else to justify its existence. Doing so is reminiscent of those stupid stocking stuffers and “boss” gifts you see crop up in department stores for Christmas. It reminds me of Joey on Friends: it’s a pen that’s also a clock!

  20. posted by Yvette on

    That’s the kind of desk that would not be out of place in Japanese office buildings where it seems they work non-stop!
    If workers miss the last train home in the far suburbs, their cheapest option is a bunker in a so-called Capsule-hotel, exactly the size this bed and top, TV included and a curtain for privacy… in rows that look like coin-lockers…

  21. posted by Elizabeth on

    At first glance, I liked it. My only concern was that I’m tall and could not lie flat to sleep.

    Second thoughts include the loss of storage under the desk, which would be huge for me, and the uncomfortable, cold feel to the bed.

    Keep the desk and get a futon! Roll the futon in a corner and you’re set!

  22. posted by Jack on

    I can see this being useful in a startup situation where workers practically (or actually) live at the office for a few weeks/months (less than one year). I can think of at least one better form for the desk with much less wasted space (side wall folds down–under-storage must be easily moved).

    For longer term situations, though, I agree this is depressing and certainly beyond the pale for what a company expects an employee to do.

    If there will be short-term situations (one to two nights) where it’s inconvenient to leave, futons might (multi-)serve better. Heck, providing air mattresses might serve better (more comfortable, less space consumed when not in use) in these temporary situations.

  23. posted by ARE on

    Is this an office space or a studio apartment? most of the people posting here seem to think that everyone lives in a house. They don’t. Millions of city-dwellers live in one-room apartments (at $2000 a month). If work at home and live in such an apartment, this is not a bad solution, particularly for people in their 20s who don’t mind sleeping on the floor! You don’t just have a desk here; you have a dining table.

  24. posted by purpleBee on

    I like the idea of convertable furniture but I’m not sure that this would work well as a bed for everyday use 365 days a year. I can imagine it in a studio apartment with the desk as desk/table/bedding storage and coupled with a small sofa/futon to use as a bed.

    Perhaps parents could buy one of these for their daughters on campus to keep their boyfriends well away. 2 people are not fitting into that bed

  25. posted by joelle larroche on

    Hi All,
    I love to work and I love to sleep so I love this peace of furniture!

  26. posted by Rosanna on

    Looks like it would be useful in one of the new micro apartments like those recently approved in San Francisco.

    Here is part of an article about it:
    San Francisco approves tiny 220-square-foot apartments
    San Francisco could soon be home to some of the tiniest apartments in the country: studios for up to two people that include a bathroom, kitchen and a minimalist living area measuring 10 feet by 15 feet.

    Read more:

  27. posted by Linda on

    Where you sleep should be a special place not a part of something/somewhere else. I may be mistaken, but I think it’s bad feng shui. 😉

  28. posted by Gabrielle on

    Very interesting post. Does not sound very comfortable, but maybe you could do some improvements… make it slightly more cluttered and a lot more comfortable.

  29. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    I can imagine it would be good for a child’s bedroom that is often small but then has to be able to accommodate bed, desk, wardrobe, laundry basket etc. Just make sure the floor is clean and make those chains holding the opening end long enough to allow it to lie flat so the sleeper doesn’t end up with a crick in the neck from that horrid angle.

  30. posted by Beth on

    I think this would be great for a college dorm room! Never enough space in those rooms. Multi function pieces for there are great!

  31. posted by jessica on

    Although it looks pretty neat, I think this is an example of things that should not be mixed, sleep and work. The mattress looks thinner than a Japanese futon, I don’t know what to think about the part with the pillow on it, and I see no place for a computer tower to go (I still use one for my graphics computer).

    I suppose this would be better as a desk for a little kid and a play area under it.

  32. posted by Anne Stockwell on

    I can think of situations in which this could be useful. I knew a librarian in a mountain town who occasionally camped out overnight at the library, if a serious storm was expected. And I work at a school; I could see a few of these coming in handy in an emergency such as an extended lockdown or natural disaster. But, I think other forms of multi-use furniture might be better.

  33. posted by catywang on

    I think it is very interesting , it should be useful for the people who also work all the night and can rest sometime .

  34. posted by Courtney on

    My boss would love this. I agree that it’s kind of depressing, but he has serious back problems and often just lies on the floor during his lunch hour. Would be perfect for someone like him!

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