I recently borrowed my daughter’s husband. It was a low point.
No, I didn’t sleep with my son-in-law. (My daughter’s not even married—which is good, seeing as she’s 11.) I just needed some back support in the temporary home office known as my bed, and her husband pillow, held upright by the two arms that stick out from the side, mimicking an armchair, worked for a bit. But then I wised up, pushed the face-mask materials and sewing machine out of the way on that standing desk I won in a raffle, and set my laptop in a spot that would encourage slightly better posture. My back thanked me.
Plenty of other people in Portland and elsewhere have been making upgrades to their home-office setups this spring, too, for obvious reasons.
“When this started we were seeing the geographies of where the governors were starting to do the work-from-home or shelter-at-home orders,” says David Kahl, CEO and founder of Portland-based Fully.com. “It sort of came in waves.”
Known for its standing desks (including one it donated to a PTA raffle back in 2017—thanks!), Fully usually serves about half traditional office settings and half home customers. “Now that the workplace business has really gone away because there’s nobody in the workplace, and there’s no way to deliver it when there’s no one there to receive it, we’re really getting a big volume of orders directly from our home office customers,” Kahl says, adding that those setting up home offices are usually working in a smaller space, making them more likely to opt for a narrower desk than the usual 60-inch best seller. “The colors are a little different, as well,” says Kahl. “Our home office users are less afraid of expressing themselves, so the beautiful white frames are very popular for the homes right now, and warm, natural work surface materials, like bamboo, are very popular.”
Those natural materials are a draw, too, at Salvage Works in North Portland’s Kenton neighborhood. “Lots of people are calling us asking for material to build desks for their new home offices, and shelves for their new home offices, and we have lots of materials for both of those things,” says Rachel Browning, general manager of the architectural salvage yard and workshop that traffics in reclaimed material from deconstructed houses, century-old churches, and even local landmarks like Portland Meadows. “We have some great slab that we generally recommend for desks,” Browning says, noting it’s harder than the reclaimed Doug fir they get from a lot of home deconstructions. Their maple slab works well for shelves or joined for a desktop, she says, as well as some more expensive walnut that’s "drop-dead gorgeous.”
Fully.com, which was acquired last year by Knoll but remains Portland-based, has a showroom in the Central Eastside that’s been closed since early March. Its distribution centers, one on Swan Island and another in Baltimore, are still operating, as are all of the company’s materials suppliers, says Kahl, though there have been some delays due to demand in getting some newly popular items in stock.
Salvage Works has shrunk down its hours and is doing phone and FaceTime consultations and curbside pickup “Our shop, which builds custom furniture and things for both residential and commercial, is still working and still has work, so that’s great, and people are still ordering things,” Browning says, “but that can only be done on the phone or on email.”