Portable workstation works remotely ... from home or deep in the field
In 2019, Belgian engineer Andreas De Smedt jumped on the standing desk bandwagon with the Notadesk, a simple sit/stand laptop desk designed to mount to a window or tree. With the pandemic-accelerated work-from-anywhere trend having caught fire throughout 2020 and 2021, De Smedt now presents a go-anywhere breed of not-quite-a-desk for those who prefer sitting: the "Chair," a backpack-compatible folding director's chair with built-in flex desk that lets you work from any room in your home or any space on the globe.
Perhaps "Notachair" was taken because most of De Smedt's previous products feature the "Nota" naming, whereas his new chair is just the Chair. "Anywhere Chair" seems like it could work perfectly, but that's definitely taken. Fresh Air Chair? Even the (De) Smedt Chair would lend a little identity, but we're stuck with just Chair ... or chAIR, as it's officially written.
Despite the generic name, the Chair looks like it could be the right product at the right time. With many workers having transitioned to a more flexible part/full-time work-from-home/anywhere lifestyle, the Chair encourages them to capitalize on that flexibility, whether that be just enjoying a sunny day in the backyard or really getting off the grid for a day or few of work amidst the soothing sounds and sights of nature. It's like a light, foot-travel spin on the Nissan NV350 office pod and other digital nomad-specific vehicles.
De Smedt's Chair design isn't groundbreaking, but it is optimized for its specific purpose, essentially taking the director-style folding chair already popular for outdoor use and adding an appropriately wide, level-adjustable bamboo work surface to the arm. There are plenty of folding director's camping chairs with side tables and a few with front tables, but those other table designs are built for holding food and drink, not laptops or paperwork. The Chair worktop has an 18.7 x 13.2-in (47.5 x 33.5-cm) work surface, roughly the same as the Notadesk, and is designed to comfortably hold a laptop and smartphone. Bamboo arm inlays provide a warmer, softer touch than the cold aluminum frame.
When folded, the Chair measures 35 x 24 x 9 in (90 x 60 x 22 cm), allowing it to slide in a car trunk. By relying on powder-coated aluminum instead of steel, De Smedt keeps weight down to 13.2 lb (6 kg), comparable to some folding camp chairs without built-in bamboo desks. The Chair can be carried by hand or strapped to the available 40-L backpack.
On the downside, the Chair's weight capacity is a modest 209 lb (95 kg), with the desktop designed to support up to 44 lb (20 kg).
While the Chair looks like a functional way of working outside or in non-office indoor spaces, we do see a few improvements that could be made. The seat height of 19.3 in (49 cm) is rather high for a portable folding chair, and a lower height would decrease the packed size and weight, further improving portability. The design could also benefit from a fabric armrest organizer for holding a smartphone, water bottle, paperwork, etc, a feature already common on many folding camping chairs. That would add a little weight, but if they made it removable (or sold separately), the user could decide to carry it or not.
Beyond a portable workstation, the Chair is a handy piece of furniture that could be used as a camping/tailgating chair with personal dining table, an outdoor morning coffee nook, a TV dinner seat and more. De Smedt is currently hosting a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money needed to finalize production plans, offering the Chair at pledge levels of €239 (approx. US$287) and up, an estimated 30 percent off retail. The "Digital Nomad" package with Chair and compatible backpack starts at the €300 (US$360) pledge level.
That pricing seems awfully high to us considering existing folding director's chairs with built-in front or side tables, including the rather stout-looking Gecko Chair from Australian overland brand OzTent, can be found for US$100 or less. Those chairs aren't generally optimized for the purpose of working remotely, though, and De Smedt seems to have found his footing on Kickstarter, nearing his $9,600 goal after just a day.