Good for the mind, the body, and how people work

When we set out to design a new height-adjustable table, there were already several options on the market. But the world’s best sit-to-stand table? That had yet to be invented. So we partnered with designer Brian Alexander to completely rethink the solution, giving every part of it the attention it deserved.

Alexander began with his favorite source of insights: observing humans at work. While watching people interact with other height-adjustable tables, he noticed that they often changed positions when they changed tasks. “When people are focused in, they tend to sit for longer periods,” he said. “When they stand up, it signals a shift in attitude, like a second wind. The various postures and frequencies are a direct reflection of the work they’re doing and what’s right for them.”

Product designer Brian Alexander at work in his studio.
An office featuring an oval Renew Sit-to-Stand Table at a seated height, black Eames Aluminum Group Chair, and two Eames Molded Plastic Armchairs.

He realized that to harmonize with this natural behavior, a height-adjustable table should flow up and down effortlessly. “When you’re paying people to do things cognitively, you don’t want something like a switch to interfere with their thought processes,” he said. That insight led to the paddle-shaped switch he designed for Renew, which moves up and down so intuitively that people can use it without thinking about it.

Another challenge was eliminating the visual chaos created by power and data cords. Alexander’s solution was to route cables invisibly through Renew’s leg and into a trough beneath the table. Modeled after a spice rack, the trough uses a shallow space and tabbed organizers to display all of the cables at once, letting people find the one they need at a glance when it’s time to unplug or update technology.

Most other tables use vertical steel blades for structure under the work surface, Alexander said, “Those can be wicked to find with your kneecaps.” Instead, he positioned Renew’s legs farther out, adding valuable swing room for your legs. He also softened every angle under the table into a smooth, planar surface that lets knees glance off harmlessly.

Designing the world’s best sit-to-stand table meant reconsidering every surface—including the bottom. “When you have a person standing next to a person sitting, the underside of the table is at eye level,” he explained. “Making it as visually tidy as the rest makes sense. It speaks to a level of fit and finish that the product deserves.”

A photograph of Brian Alexander using a machine to cut a hole on a piece of wood.
Close-up of Brian Alexander's hands examining an intuitive paddle.

“I spend a lot of time getting to know the behaviors of everything.”

More about Brian Alexander