Elizabeth Spiers.

I started upgrading my home office piece by piece a year or so ago and my desk and related equipment are really the only valuable things in my apartment. It was a good investment, though. It’s a lot easier to be productive when you have actual desk space. On the downside, my apartment is a tiny West Village studio and my “office” takes up about half of it.

The black desk is garden variety Crate and Barrel, propped up by a couple of books I knew I’d never read again. (Sorry, Rick Moody and Nassim Taleb.)  It leans against what was once a working fireplace and the mantel supports books that couldn’t be crammed into my one bookshelf and some great prints from Jen Bekman’s 20×200.  There’s also a little framed business card cartoon by Hugh MacLeod that he drew sometime in 2003. It features two characters, a man and a woman. The man says “I read Gawker.” The woman says “Great! Let’s have sex!”

I added the adjacent glass top table so I’d have space that wasn’t completely dominated by various electronic gadgets and associated technology.  When it arrived, I tried to assemble it myself, underestimating my ability to handle an 80 pound pane of glass and nearly dropped it, which sent me head-first into a wall.  I had nasty bruises for a week and eventually had to call in reinforcements. (Thank you, intern Michael.)

At the end of the table is an Olivetti Valentine typewriter I bought off of eBay. It was designed by Ettore Sottsass (pictured, left) and it’s a bit of a nostalgia object. I don’t actually use it for writing, but I loved playing with typewriters as a kid—I liked the tactile feel of the keyboard and the satisfying thwack you get when the typebar hits paper. It reminds me of that.

And I’m a Sottsass fan anyway. The office chair I use is a red Emeco Nine-0—the last thing he designed before he died.

The orchid on the table was a lovely gift from one of my mentees. Given my track record with plants, it’ll probably be dead in a couple of weeks, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

The business card holder is also a gift from a mentee who’s originally from South African. It’s a nut dish by a South African designer, but I like it better on my desk than in my kitchen.

Also scattered about: piles of notebooks and sketch pads. I’m a big notebook junkie and love finding unusual ones, but I carry a hardcover blank page notebook—usually a standard Moleskine—at all times.  I can’t remember things anymore if I don’t write them down.”

Elizabeth Spiers is a media launch consultant, entrepreneur, and writer. She was the founder of Breaking Media, where she launched Dealbreaker.com, AboveTheLaw.com, and Fashionista.com. She has also launched new media properties for other companies, including Flavorwire.com, Crushable.com, TheGloss.com, BlissTree.com, a number of blogs for mediabistro.com, and worked with Activate to launch GourmetLive for CondeNast. She was also the founding editor of Gawker.com, Gawker Media’s flagship property. She is also an advisor to several early stage companies including b5media, Halogen Networks, WallStreetCheatSheet, Counsyl, Topsicle, Cursor and LearnVest. She was named one of Fast Company’s “Most Influential Women in Technology” in 2010.

As a writer, she is the author of an upcoming novel, And They All Die in the End, to be published by Riverhead. She also teaches a new media seminar in SVA’s pioneering Design Criticism MFA program and an undergrad class on entrepreneurship at Duke University.

FROM YOUR DESKS: What’s missing in contemporary websites? How do one stay original and relevant?

ELIZABETH SPIERS: It depends on the website. I think you have to keep experimenting. The media environment changes all the time and it’s important both to adapt and to keep trying new things. Whatever works today may not work tomorrow.

FYD: What digital media do you read in the morning?  Do you have a routine or is it fairly random?

ES: I tend to read The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Gawker and The Awl Daily, plus the sites I’m working on at any given point. But it’s not a routine. I go back and forth between them all during the day.

FYD: What is the longest time you’ve gone without a computer? Are you able to easily dial out?

ES: I don’t remember the last time I was completely computer/device/etc-free. I had no cell service for a few days last week in Sonoma. That was a bit weird but I can handle no cell service better than no data.

FYD: I love that red typewriter. Ah, the days of an analog life. Do your eyes ever hurt from looking at the computer screen? Mine do sans much blinking activity. Do you wear contacts or glasses?

ES: I wear contacts and my eyesight has always been awful, so it’s hard to tell if staring at a computer all day makes it worse. But I try to break up work with getting out of the office and xercising. Otherwise, it’s not just an issue of eye strain, it’s also back pain, horrible posture and low energy from being sedentary for long periods of time. So while I’m usually connected (via smartphone, at least) I try not to sit for hours on end in front of my desktop.

FYD: Being a nostalgic, old West Villager, I must ask your favorite eats?

ES: I like Tue, which a little Thai restaurant on Greenwich that does a great steamed filet of sole with spicy lime sauce. I love super spicy Thai food and it’s hard to find Thai restaurants in New York that haven’t softened the chilies to placate Western palates. I also like Perilla, which is just down the street from me.

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