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Even a cheap desk can look nice when well-decorated.

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What’s on your desk, Makena Kelly?

Working while color-coordinated

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Makena Kelly has covered politics since the onset of the Trump administration when she was living in Washington, DC; she added tech policy when she began working for The Verge in 2018. The staff here caught a glimpse of her workspace recently during a Slack discussion, and after everyone admired how attractive it was, we knew we had to feature Makena on our next “What’s on your desk?”

What do you cover here at The Verge?

I still do a lot of tech policy work, but my focus has shifted over the last few years. Since the last presidential election, I’ve been more interested in how politicians, their staffs, and political groups use social media to reach voters.

A hanging rack creates a separate work area.
A hanging rack creates a separate work area.

Tell me about your desk. Where did you get it, and how did you decide where to put it?

This is going to be a running theme for this interview, but it’s a cheap desk from Wayfair. It’s out of stock now, but I bought it purely because it was relatively inexpensive and simple. When I was working out of the office before the pandemic, I didn’t need a desk at home. But I caved and bought one a few months into working from home. The rental market in NYC is wild, and I never know where I’ll be living any given year, so I’m going to hold onto this desk until I find an apartment where I’ll be staying for a while.

This desk has lived everywhere in this apartment at this point. When I first moved in, I had it against the wall where my bed is, but then the glare from the windows was awful, so I moved it into the living room. It was way too big to keep in the living room and made it impossible to host people, so I moved it back into the bedroom against the window. But then I was verbally dragged by a teenager, so I moved it to where it is now (children can’t see me here).

Tell me about your chair.

Again, it’s cheap, and I hate it. It’s from Amazon, and I do not recommend it. It squeaks loudly, and I have to sit incredibly still if I’m recording a podcast or TV hit. The chair is way better than the kitchen stool I used to sit on, so I can’t complain too much.

I love the way you’ve used a hanging rack to separate your spaces.

Thanks! This is a new addition. There’s only one small closet in the apartment, so I keep my heavy coats, jackets, and long dresses on the clothing rack. Since I don’t have a dedicated office space, the rack serves as a wall dividing my sleeping area from my working area. It’s worked well so far!

Light bars on the back of the monitor offer diffused bias lighting.
Light bars on the back of the monitor offer diffused bias lighting.

Tell us about the tech that you’re using. You must have one of the best organized desks I’ve seen.

I use a 16-inch Macbook Pro from 2019 that I’ve conveniently hidden underneath my desk on its own shelf. From there, I connect it to my Anker USB-C docking station (which is velcroed to the bottom of my desk); this has a bunch of ports so I can attach my 1TB Seagate external hard drive, Logitech C920S HD Pro Webcam, Logitech G305 mouse, and all kinds of other things. I use an iPad Pro as a dedicated Slack monitor by using Sidecar, and it’s been a game-changer.

I try to keep unnecessary things off my desk to stay organized, so this under-the-desk solution has been so helpful. Since I only have one window in my first-floor apartment that faces a bus stop, I don’t get much natural light. To remedy that, I bought these Govee Smart RGB Light Bars that I’ve hooked up to the back of my monitor. I’m lame, so I don’t use them as rainbow gamer lights, but I can control the white temperature, and since they go behind the monitor, I don’t need a lamp on my desk. The lights came with little attachments that just stick to the back of the monitor. They rock! I love them and highly recommend them!

But my favorite part of the desk is my monitor. I bought the Acer K272HL monitor because it was a decent price for a 27-inch screen a couple of years back. A few weeks ago, I wrapped it up with white washi tape so it would match my keyboard and mouse. I bought a white VIVO monitor stand to complete the setup. It’s not the best solution, but it was frugal and pulls the whole thing together!

Finally, I have my Nintendo Switch hooked up to the TV where my boyfriend and I have been playing way too much Pokemon: Legends of Arceus lately.

I love the basket you have underneath for the cables.

Thanks, it’s mostly there to hide all of the cables running down from my desk because I can’t be bothered to do any real cable management. I keep all of my other microphones, notebooks, and random cables in there, too.

A basket for cables...
A basket for cables...
...and a gift box for cosmetics and a recorder.
...and a gift box for cosmetics and a recorder.

And I see you have another basket for a remote and your cosmetics.

This ceramic gift box is one of my favorite things that I own. During the spring and summer, I make all kinds of excuses to visit the Brooklyn flea. The box is from a pair of vintage sellers who go by @KathyHatesSurprises on Instagram.

Since I work from home most of the time now, I keep a couple of lip products and Mejuri earrings in there to throw on before Zoom interviews and meetings. I also store my trusty Sony ICD-UX560 voice recorder in there (that I still use! Sorry, iPhone recorder reporters!) and my Airpod Pros.

That’s great wallpaper. And I understand you color-coordinated your desk set (included the candle!).

If I have to sit at this space for so many hours a week, my desk needs to be pleasant to look at and spark some form of joy. Right now, I’m using an electric-type Pokemon wallpaper that matches my iPad wallpaper and my desk mat. I like warm tones because they make my tech feel a lot more cozy. I have totally customized everything possible on my Macbook. The highlight color is green instead of blue, and I use fun desktop icon designs by an artist whose Patreon I subscribe to named “pikaole.” They also create cute animal wallpapers that I frequently swap out for!

I also try to keep fresh flowers on my desk, too, solely because they make me happy.

Fresh flowers and Pokemon wallpaper
Fresh flowers and Pokemon wallpaper

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