Mike's Clear Task at Hand

Mike's Clear Task at Hand

Gregory Han
Jul 12, 2010

071210mike_Desk.jpgName: Mike & Sadie the cat
Location: Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia
Size: 360 square feet
Years Lived In: 1.5 years

Mike initially contacted us to thank us about our recent tip about the IKEA Melltorp dining table as a workstation, sharing a photo of his home office with the very same table as the foundation of his workspace. We were hooked upon first glance: modern, highly organized, smartly appointed with a style that belies his age (he's still a student). The rest of his apartment revealed a similar simple sophistication, a decor concoction of higher end pieces found via Craigslist mixed in with affordable accessories and furnishings from a variety of retail sources, all reflecting Mike's fantastic attention to detail. And you'll have to check out the great cat-friendly feature that graces Mike's walls...

AT Survey:

My/our style: Minimalism with vintage/mid-century/organic moments

The inspiration for my home office/home theater: The most important aspect of my home office is having space to work and think. One reason why I identify so easily with a minimalist aesthetic is because the empty space allows me to focus and think clearly on the task at hand. Additionally, I always keep a stack of note cards and a pen on my desk. I find it the easiest way to sketch and develop ideas, especially if one suddenly comes to me while I'm browsing the Internet or reading an article.

Favorite element in your space: It's hard to think of my apartment in elements as I usually assess it as a whole. If there is something I'm unhappy with across the room, I feel unhappy with the entire space. But if I have to choose it is probably the framed, pressed flower from my grandmother's garden. She passed away last year and not a day goes by without me looking at it and thinking of her.

Biggest challenge in designing my space: Money. Balancing my already thin budget between all of my interests and necessities has always been tough.

What friends say about my space: I never have many friends over and the ones that I do have been visiting for so long I don't really remember what they said originally. But when strangers from Craigslist come over they often comment on the ceiling height or just how they like the space in general. One time a gentleman came over and he made a comment along the lines of "Wow, this looks just like an IKEA catalog!" which was intended to be a complement from his perspective but it personally made me reevaluate my space and see how I could change that.

Area where there is room for improvement/future projects: Honestly, there is not much I would change or add. Within the past few months I've finally calmed down from moving things around or purchasing new items that I'm just allowing myself to enjoy the hard work. If I had the strength (and was crazy enough to do it) I would probably repaint all the walls white and if I owned the apartment I would instantly paint the floors white.

Proudest DIY (do it yourself) project: By far the proudest DIY project in the space, and there have been a lot, was the loft bed that I built with my dad which might be considered a DIWD (do it with dad). Since I've been away at school the process of designing, buying materials, building, and installing the bed with him was a great bonding experience. Also, bringing the bed off of the floor enhanced the functionality of the space enormously and makes it feel less like a studio apartment.

Biggest indulgence with respect to my space: This is easy: my Eames rocker. Literally every high priced item I own (including tech) was purchases at steep discounts or second hand otherwise there is no way I could afford what I have. The only piece I purchased for full price was the rocker. Two summers ago I filmed and edited a wedding for a family friend. With most of the money I made I instantly bought the chair. I had been studying and appreciating the Eames's work for a year without the necessary funds to afford it. When this opportunity presented itself the rocker was an obvious choice. I think it is a perfect symbol of modernity in design and I connected with it instantly. I look forward to passing this object down in my family and hopefully they will treasure and appreciate it as much I do.

Best advice about organizing or incorporating tech into the home: I find most technology and electronics to be overwhelmingly ugly or boring. Companies like Apple, however, are doing a brilliant job at proving me wrong. The iMac fits so seamlessly into my apartment's overall aesthetic that I have no problem leaving it out in the open. However, I wish I could better hide my scanner and speakers or even my TV and cable box. So I'd say try and take the form, color, and lines of your technology into consideration when you're designing your space, just like you would a chair or a lamp.

Dream source for stuff: Hands down, BDDW. I have yet to find a company that matches my values in terms of aesthetics, craftsmanship, business practices, and design. Their work flawlessly combines modern design with beautiful hints of the natural world. Neither element overwhelms the other and I think the final result is a harmonious balance of minimal & organic. I can't visit SoHo without stopping into their showroom to browse. And although their prices are astronomically high (which I believe are well worth it), I've promised myself to one day own at least something from them. Their work is really like poetry or music — not just something you sit in or use but something you contemplate and enjoy for the rest of your life. That is good design.


Home Tech Hardware:

  • iMac 24"
  • MacBook Pro (gen. before the unibody)
  • Epson 3170 scanner
  • Bose speakers
  • iPhone 4
  • Philips 37" HDTV
  • Nikon D90 camera
  • Panasonic AG-DVX100b camcorder

Appliances: Nothing important: a standard Magic Chef fridge that is always empty, some random microwave off Craigslist, and an equally dull oven.


  • Cubits shelving system [DWR — clearance]
  • Philippe Starck chair [Craigslist — photographer who only used it for a photo shoot]
  • Mid-century low storage unit [Craigslist]
  • Eames rocker (polypropylene version) [DWR]
  • Bertoia chair [Craigslist]
  • Slatted coffee table [Craigslist]
  • Mid-century daybed [Craigslist — originally from owner's grandmom]
  • IKEA Melltorp desk [IKEA]
  • Cat tree [DIY]
  • Vintage Shaw Walker filing cabinet [Craigslist]


  • Picture frames: [IKEA, Dick Blick, Target, West Elm, etc…]
  • Art [Combination of personal work, original work, posters, reproductions, magazine clippings, among others — if anyone has a question regarding a specific work I would happily address it]
  • Alberto Mantilla's HUG Salt + Pepper shakers [gift from my girlfriend, Robin]
  • Bone Vases [Pottery Barn]
  • IKEA Hovet mirror [Craigslist]
  • Handmade jars [From my grandmom's house]
  • Dishtowel curtains [DIY]
  • Sheepskin rug [from an old coworker who deals with eye4rugs.com]
  • Teak vase + amaryllis flowers [Crate & Barrel]
  • Steel dish on desk [Open House Philadelphia]
  • Magnifying glass [Pearl River SoHo]
  • Teapot [Original work from Philadelphia ceramic's artist Teresa Chang]


  • 4 IKEA Fado lamps [1 from IKEA, 2 from Craigslist, 1 from yard sale]
  • Vintage desk lamp [from my grandmom's house]

Organizing Tools/Accessories:

  • 2 IKEA Helmer storage drawers [1 from IKEA, 1 from Craigslist]
  • 1 IKEA Alex drawers [IKEA]

Photos by Mike Tyson

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