How Interior Design Changed My Life: The NORDEN Table

This series features personal stories of life-changing interior design. If you have a story and would like to be featured, please contact hi@

What’s your name, and what do you do?

My name is Bonnie Stinson, and I’m a master’s student at Ryerson University. I live in the Beaches neighborhood of Toronto with my partner and two cats. Our current home is a one-bedroom apartment in a lovely, 1930s low-rise apartment building about 10 minutes from the lakefront.

Do you have a history with interior design or other design disciplines?

Besides being a Pinterest maniac, I’m just an armchair designer who gets inspiration from pop culture! I follow Elsie Larson of A Beautiful Mess, and I’ve seen every single episode of The Great Interior Design Challenge. I will admit to going to IKEA just to look at furniture arrangements and eat cake.

What was it that changed your life? (a furniture item, a layout, a place you visited)

It may not seem revolutionary to anyone else, but my partner and I discovered that an IKEA drop leaf table (the NORDEN) works really well as a two-person desk. For us, the biggest home design challenge has been carving out separate workspaces. My partner is a costume designer and needs space for her collection, and I really need visual privacy and quiet to focus on my work. Previously, we shared a small studio apartment in Portland, Oregon, where I literally turned a small closet into my office (with the door still on its hinges!) because I need a place to get away and focus. Our current setup is much better. Firstly, we have much more room in our current space, but we also got smarter about using the furniture we drove out here with.

The table sits in our living room, lengthwise against a wall. We each have personal decorations on our own portion of the wall. It’s so easy to throw up a folding cardboard divider to separate the two spaces. We’re exploring more permanent ways to mount a swiveling divider, which would allow us each to have a private bulletin board, but also to stow away the divider when someone needs the whole table. And because we’re a bit mad, we also use this table as our dining table. That’s when the table comes away from the wall, the two desk chairs sit beside each other, and we slide over the bench to create a sort of cafe feel.

How did you discover it?

We drove out to Toronto from Oregon with whatever fit in our car. This IKEA table made the cut because it’s so multipurpose that, even though we didn’t know exactly where we’d be living, we knew this table would be find a good home somewhere in our new space. The table was our only major piece of furniture for a month or two. We had no couch, no armchairs, no benches, not even a bed frame. I was beginning graduate school, so a place to sit and work was my number one priority. So, we found some cheap office chairs on Craigslist, and the table anchored our apartment for two months while we got settled. The table itself has two drop leaves, so it naturally lends itself to a two-sided arrangement. I actually first stumbled on the divider solution when we found a free LACK side table outside our building, and I put it on top of my side to be a sort of standing desk. With my partner sitting at her portion, now partially hidden from view, I found it much easier to focus..

What did it make you realize?

My dream has always been to have my own creative studio separate from my living space. But I’ve come to realize that if I wait to be creative until the circumstances are just right, I’ll never get anything done. Learning to innovate with the furniture I have, learning to collaborate with my housemate, and being accepting of my own specific work style have all been key. It also reminded me that if I have a problem, someone else probably has it, too. And if I hop on the Internet, I can find 50 ways to solve my problem.

What effect did this experience have on your life?

Loving your workspace is transformative. Nothing makes it more difficult to complete projects than resenting your workspace. Now that I feel invited to sit down at my desk, it feels 200% easier to complete assignments. I’m no longer working against the interior design, but rather the interior design is supporting me and my goals.

Do you believe the design of interior spaces can be powerful?

Yes, I’m deeply passionate about the ways that physical spaces affect us. After all, feng shui principles come from the fairly simple insight that energy is affected by our surroundings. I believe that the future depends on bringing external environments into line with inner environments, whether that’s your bedroom or even public squares and government buildings.

If you’re feeling inspired to bring more design-informed furniture into your life, check out this fascinating article about what interior designers know (that you don’t).

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