5 Pop Culture-Inspired Desks

Courtesy of Tom Spina Designs
Courtesy of Tom Spina Designs

Feeling studious, crafty, or better yet, both? If your workspace is in need of a makeover, get inspired by one of these custom-made, pop culture-themed desks.

1. A TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES-INSPIRED DESK

A "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" desk designed by Tom Spina
Tom Spina Designs

Tom Spina runs a New York-based custom design studio that creates custom-themed furniture and décor, among other items. When a “kooky (in the best possible way) client” commissioned a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-inspired desk, he decided to go all out, Spina tells Mental Floss.

“We figured, why not tell a bit of a story with it?” Spina says. “[Colleague] Richard Riley came up with the overall design, and I think the final piece is super unique, using the cutaway of the sewers to show the story of the ooze and how it flows down through the pipes, eventually getting to each baby turtle.”

"The design also gave us a chance to layer textures, which is always fun,” Spina adds. "We always love the chance to create stuff like faux cement, bricks, and rusty pipes. We love things that have a sense of age and character. What can we say, we like to play in the sewers!”

To learn more about Tom Spina Designs (or to commission your own TMNT-themed desk), visit the studio’s website.

A "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" desk designed by Tom Spina
Tom Spina Designs

A "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" desk designed by Tom Spina
Tom Spina Designs

2. A DOCTOR WHO-INSPIRED DESK

A "Doctor Who"-inspired Tardis desk, created by Natalie Buske Thomas, her husband Brent, and their son, Nicholas.
Natalie Buske Thomas

Hoping to bond with their quiet, college-bound son, Natalie Buske Thomas of Savannah, Georgia and her husband Brent teamed up with him to build a full-scale, interactive replica of a TARDIS console. "Nicholas was into Doctor Who, and that's the language he spoke,” Thomas tells Mental Floss. “We planned to get involved in the 2015 Doctor Who convention in Minneapolis to be a part of his world.”

The TARDIS console was a hit at the convention: “The convention's BBC guest Colin Baker (the 6th Doctor) saw our console and spontaneously launched into live improv,” Thomas says. “I became his companion. That was an unexpected turn of events! I earned serious Cool Mom cred for that.” Nicholas played bass guitar in front of the console with a keyboardist who played both the Doctor Who theme song and another tune from the show. (For the full story, and more pictures from the convention, visit Thomas's website.)

Today, Nicholas uses the console as a computer desk—its slanted planes are perfect for accommodating a flat-screen computer and keyboard. We’re sure the Doctor would approve.

A "Doctor Who"-inspired Tardis desk, created by Natalie Buske Thomas, her husband Brent, and their son, Nicholas.
Natalie Buske Thomas

A "Doctor Who"-inspired Tardis desk, created by Natalie Buske Thomas, her husband Brent, and their son, Nicholas.
Natalie Buske Thomas

3. A HARRY POTTER-INSPIRED DESK

A "Harry Potter"-themed desk designed by Anne Rozkydal and her partner, Larry
Anne Rozkydal

After retiring from the Air Force 10 years ago, Anne Rozkydal of Palmer, Alaska and her partner Larry began upcycling and refinishing old furniture.

“Our first hand-painted piece was a cute little antique desk done in a French theme with curly script and the Eiffel Tower,” Rozkydal tells Mental Floss. “My daughter and I have always been close, and all of my kids have introduced me to various young adult series, the overwhelming favorite being Harry Potter (all of my kids are grown and they have matching Deathly Hallows tattoos!). When Katie saw the Eiffel Tower desk, she loved it, but then suggested the next piece I do be Harry Potter-themed.”

Rozkydal took an old, beat-up desk that she had purchased from a garage sale and got to work. The desk’s wing-like drawer pulls were already characteristic of Hogwarts, so Rozkydal left the hardware alone, except to add vintage skeleton keys to the handles. She lined the drawers with papers decorated to look like Daily Prophet newspapers, and topped the desk with a bookcase (another garage sale find).

The bookcase is adorned with “potion” bottles, and contains a hidden compartment that’s covered in book spines painted to look like Hogwarts books. The luggage cart is actually a desk chair: The upper trunk’s lid opens to reveal a seat upholstered in Gryffindor colors.

You can view more of Rozkydal’s creations on Facebook, where she shares—and sells—them under the name AnneTiquesAlaska.

A "Harry Potter"-themed desk designed by Anne Rozkydal and her partner, Larry
Anne Rozkydal

A "Harry Potter"-themed desk designed by Anne Rozkydal and her partner, Larry
Anne Rozkydal

A "Harry Potter"-themed desk designed by Anne Rozkydal and her partner, Larry
Anne Rozkydal

4. AN UP-INSPIRED DESK

An "Up!"-inspired desk, created by design firm Twisted Image for Dublin-based advertising agency Boys and Girls
Liam Murphy/Boys and Girls

Dublin-based advertising agency Boys and Girls prides itself on providing creative solutions for clients, but their old office space was decidedly uninspired. “Our reception area in our old office was once described as 'small and routine' in design,” Kate Goldsmith, the company’s new business manager, tells Mental Floss. “To counter that, we designed a new reception desk in house to show off our creativity and then commissioned [design firm] Twisted Image to build our desk.”

The desk is supported by a stack of giant wooden Jenga blocks and a bunch of floating balloons that are reminiscent of the 2009 Pixar film Up. “By using a rubber composite that would never degrade, [Twisted Image was] able to fill the balloons with enough helium/hydrogen hybrid gas to float the desk indefinitely,” Design*Sponge explains. “The ribbons were reinforced with carbo-titanium, and an aerospace-grade titanium cleat was used to attach the strings to the desk.”

Since commissioning the desk, Boys and Girls has moved to a renovated former school building, which they’ve decorated with even more whimsical furniture items, including a table with a LEGO surface

5. A FANTASTIC FOUR COLLAGE DESK

A "Fantastic Four"-themed desk, created by Aimy Wombwell
Aimy Wombwell

Aimy Wombwell of East Aurora, New York loved the Fantastic Four as a kid, so she purchased vintage 1970s and ‘80s comics for her young sons. While decorating one of their bedrooms, the crafty mom—who runs an Etsy store called atomicfreckles—decoupaged these works onto a wooden desk, creating a colorful comics collage.

“It took me a while to do this by hand ... I covered every single bit of wood,” Wombwell told Mental Floss. “I also then added many layers of polyacrylic on top, and purchased a rounded, custom-made piece of glass for the top so when he writes it will be even. [For the] insides of the drawers, I hand-painted them orange for another pop of surprise color.”

Wombwell's Fantastic Four desk is listed on Etsy, but it isn’t technically for sale, as she simply wanted to show off her handiwork. That said, she’s open to commissions from customers who want their own personalized collage desk.

A "Fantastic Four"-themed desk, created by Aimy Wombwell
Aimy Wombwell

A "Fantastic Four"-themed desk, created by Aimy Wombwell
Aimy Wombwell

"A Fantastic Four"-themed desk, created by Aimy Wombwell
Aimy Wombwell

11 Boredom-Busting Classes and Activities You Can Do at Home

A good workout is just one way to pass the time while socially isolating.
A good workout is just one way to pass the time while socially isolating.
jacoblund/iStock via Getty Images

Staying home as much as possible is the best way to stop the spread of novel coronavirus, according to health experts. If you’ve already taken this step to protect yourself and your community, you may be faced with a different problem: the crushing boredom that comes with spending all your time indoors. Fortunately, there have never been more ways to keep busy on the internet. In an effort to lift spirits and stimulate minds in isolation, businesses, artists, and institutions have found new ways to keep people connected from afar. From virtual field trips to free workout classes, here are the best boredom-busting activities to check out.

1. Take a free workout class with the YMCA.

Your local gym may be closed, but that doesn’t mean you have to postpone your workout routine for the foreseeable future. The YMCA has launched a new series of free, online fitness classes for people stuck at home. The on-demand videos include barre, bootcamp, yoga, tai chi, and weightlifting. After breaking a sweat for 30 minutes, you may even forget you’re not at the gym.

2. Meditate with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jellyfish.

Taking care of your mental health is as important as maintaining your physical health while social distancing. If you want to start your day in a good head space, tune into the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s morning “MeditOceans” on YouTube. After closing to the public, the California aquarium started uploading 10- to 15-minute guided meditations set to soothing footage of marine life or scenes from nature. We recommend starting with their video of undulating jellyfish.

3. Take a virtual field trip to a National Park.

Combat claustrophobia by taking a virtual tour of some of the country’s most majestic national parks. The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks project from Google Arts & Culture offers virtual, 360-degree tours of five National Park System sites, all guided by real park rangers. The diverse destinations include the Kenai Fjords in Alaska; Hawai’i Volcanoes in Hawai’i; Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico; Bryce Canyon in Utah; and Dry Tortugas in Florida. You can view all the properties from your phone or computer, and if you have a virtual reality headset, you can transport yourself out of your home with an immersive experience.

4. Take an Improv Class from Second City.

Improv comedy is difficult to do alone. With Second City, you can take a class with other students and master instructors from the comfort of your home. Second City has helped launch the careers of such comedy heavyweights as Steve Carell, Bill Murray, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey. Even though its physical theaters in Chicago, Toronto, and Los Angeles are closed during the coronavirus crisis, comedy classes will continue online. In addition to improv, students can take virtual lessons in comedic songwriting, pitching TV shows, stand-up, sketch comedy, and more from Second City’s pro teachers. If you’re not willing to pay $195 to $295 for a four- to eight-week online course, you can take a one-time drop-in improv or stand-up class for $25.

5. Learn about Women’s History with The New-York Historical Society.

Whether you’re teaching someone home from school or looking to educate yourself in your spare time, there are plenty of remote resources online. The New-York Historical Society is sharing its expertise in the form of a free digital curriculum on women’s history in America. The online course materials cover the period from 1920 to 1948, starting with the flappers of the Jazz Age and ending with women in the postwar era. You can view the entire unit, which includes archival photos and documents, on the NYHS’s website.

6. Join the D.C. Library’s quarantine book club.

If you already plan on reading a ton of books in isolation, you can turn the solitary activity into a social one by joining a quarantine book club. The D.C. Public Library recently announced its book club D.C. Reads is going digital, and now anyone can participate from home. This month’s pick is With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. If you have a Washington, D.C. library card, you can use it to download the e-book for free. Book club discussions will take place on March 28 and April 4 at 2 p.m. through the library’s Twitter account.

7. Draw with Wendy Macnaughton.


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A post shared by wendy macnaughton (@wendymac) on

Whether you consider yourself a novice or a Picasso, you can benefit from making art with others. Every weekday at 10 a.m. PST, Wendy Macnaughton (illustrator of the cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) hosts drawing classes in her Instagram Stories. All participants need is paper and a pencil. Artists of all ages can draw along, though Macnaughton states classes are just long enough to keep kids occupied for parents “to get a little work done or take a shower and take a couple deep breathes.”

8. Tour the American Museum of Natural History.

As long as you have an internet connection, the impressive halls of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City are just a few clicks away. Every day at 2 p.m. EST, the institution is sharing tours of its exhibits and collections as Facebook Lives. Some special sneak peeks published to the AMNH Facebook page so far include a tour of the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians and a look at its trilobite collection led by curator and trilobite paleontologist Melanie Hopkins.

9. Take a cooking class with Milk Street.

Not sure what to do with your quarantine food supply? Taking a cooking class is a great place to start. Through the end of April, Milk Street (from America’s Test Kitchen co-founder Christopher Kimball) is making its online culinary lessons free to everyone. Topics include baking, cooking without a recipe, and using certain kitchen tools. After a few weeks of classes, you’ll know your way around everything from a chef’s knife to an Instant Pot.

10. Get Creative with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

While it’s closed, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is using its social media to keep followers engaged with their creative sides. Every Tuesday on Instagram, the institution will post a new challenge to its Stories. This week’s challenge is finding something to read and posting about it to Instagram to help the museum compile the ultimate reading list. Past challenges have included setting aside 30 minutes to make art and sharing photos of pets wearing wigs.

11. Learn guitar with Fender.

At the risk of driving your quarantine-mates crazy, you can use isolation as an opportunity to get in touch with your inner rockstar. Fender is giving the first 100,000 users who create a new account on Fender Play three months of free online lessons. The instructional videos led by talented musicians are high-quality, and you can access them from your phone, tablet, or computer. And if you don't have a guitar at home, the program also includes lessons for bass guitars and ukuleles.

9 Classic Board Games You Can Play Online

This man may have just sunk his opponent's biggest ship on the Battleship app.

This man may have just sunk his opponent's biggest ship on the Battleship app.

Ryan Herron/iStock via Getty Images

An energetic round of Monopoly, Catan, or another classic board game is a great way to bond with friends and family. Crowding around a coffee table, on the other hand, isn’t a great way to practice social distancing. Luckily, many of the best board games have been adapted for smartphones and other devices, so you can still indulge in all the thrills of a family game night during isolation—read on to find out about nine of our favorites.

1. Catan Universe

Catan (The Settlers of was dropped in 2015) has been giving serious board gamers a chance to show off their strategy skills for 25 years, and the Catan Universe app has the same appeal. You and two friends can play the basic version of the board game for free, but there are also several other versions—including the “Cities & Knights” and “Seafarers” expansions and a stand-alone challenge called “Rise of the Inkas”—that you can purchase within the app if you’re looking for new adventures.

Download: iOS, Android

2. Boggle With Friends

With the virtual version of Boggle, you can hone your word search skills in single-player mode until you’re sure you’ll come out on top against your friends and family. Not only will you not have to rearrange all those cubes each round, you won’t have to keep score, either—the program does it all for you.

Download: iOS, Android

3. Clue

If anybody knows how it feels to be sequestered in a house with increasingly tense and anxious housemates, it’s Miss Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, and the rest of Clue’s classic cast of characters. Wander the ominous rooms of Tudor Mansion to find the truth about Mr. Boddy’s untimely demise with the beautifully animated $4 Clue app. 

Download: iOS, Android

4. Battleship

For just $4 or $5, depending on your device, you can play the classic version of Battleship and a “Commander’s Mode,” where each commander comes with special abilities that shake up the tactical options for sinking your opponent’s ships. The app also features animated effects and nautical backdrops that really help bring your heroic maritime fantasies to life.

Download: iOS, Android

5. Monopoly

Embrace your entrepreneurial spirit and become the business mogul you were always meant to be—with absolutely no real-world stress or consequences—by investing in the $4 Monopoly app. It’s almost exactly the same as the game you know and (maybe) love, but there are a few additional features that might make your virtual game night even better, including customizable house rules and a “quick mode,” which promises a round that lasts no longer than an hour.

Download: iOS, Android

6. Scattergories

If you can text faster than you can write, you might actually prefer this free online edition of Scattergories to the original one. Fill the virtual room with friends or family and earn points for typing a city that starts with G, an element that starts with C, or any number of other category-letter match-ups. The app has autocorrect capabilities, so you don’t have to worry about losing the round over a spelling error, and you can also dispute the app if it rejects a response that your group considers acceptable.

Download: iOS, Android

7. Risk: Global Domination

The free Risk: Global Domination app offers the thrill of the original game without the necessity of sitting huddled around a tiny world map for hours (or days) at a time. Recommended for anyone whose favorite film scenes are those where generals in tight pants and three-cornered hats are plotting out ambushes with wooden figurines on a giant table.

Download: iOS, Android

8. Scrabble GO

Few things are as uniquely satisfying as landing a triple word score with quiz, quartzy, or another high-scoring Scrabble word—even if it’s no longer than two letters. The free Scrabble GO app gives you the chance to get that feeling from the comfort of your own secluded couch, no calculator necessary.

Download: iOS, Android

9. The Game of Life

It’s never too late in Life to earn an advanced degree or become a brain surgeon, and it’ll only cost you $3. The layout of the board is pretty similar to the one in the real-life game, and the app even includes animated versions of those beloved sphere-topped blue and pink player pieces.

Download: iOS, Android

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