A Simple Machine furniture collection byHeijltjesAkkaya

Exposed mechanics encourage movement in sit-stand desks by HeijltjesAkkaya

Dezeen Showroom: Dutch design studio HeijltjesAkkaya has created a collection of adjustable office furniture called A Simple Machine, which has to be manually raised and lowered in order to invite physical activity.

Designed for furniture brand Prooff and shortlisted in the workplace design category of the Dezeen Awards 2022, the collection features two sit-stand desks that rely on simple mechanical systems to move the height of their tabletop.

Photo of the Counterweight Table in green with a blue counterweight, red rope and wooden tabletop
The Counterweight Table features a pulley system to move the height of the desk

One table uses a pulley system with a cylindrical, customisable counterweight and the other a lever with a gas spring. Both of these systems are clearly visible to users and optionally colour-coded in distinct hues.

HeijltjesAkkaya founders Maarten Heijltjes and Simon Akkaya created the pieces as an alternative to "nondescript" electrical sit-stand desks, which the duo argues contradict the active behaviour they try to stimulate because their design is inherently passive.

Photo of the side of the Counterweight Table showing the frame made of folded green coated aluminium
The Centre Pompidou was a reference for the table's design

"Thoughtlessly pushing a button, with a slow and tedious movement as a result, doesn't fit the value of more a conscious attitude to how we work," Heijltjes told Dezeen.

"In showing how it works, [A Simple Machine] asks the user to understand the mechanics. It reflects, in that sense, the necessary consciousness for staying healthy and active."

Photo of a hand grabbing Prooff's "Kettlebell" that holds extra green weights on a magazine
Extra weights for its counterweight are kept on the Kettle Bell accessory

To encourage this more mindful approach, the studio created an "inside-out design" informed by the Centre Pompidou – a high-tech landmark by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano that wears its colour-coded service elements on the exterior.

"Our aim was twofold: we wanted to design an object that lasts and we wanted to design an object that inspires a consciousness, or maybe an attitude," Heijltjes explained.

"Objects that fit our values in appearance and interaction will be used longer and with more care."

The Counterweight Table features a cylindrical counterweight affixed to a pulley system that is integrated into the frame.

To change the height of the tabletop, users need to unlock the system with a half-turn of the handles on each side of the table, then give the top a slight push up or down.

To keep the counterweight approximately equal to the weight of the tabletop, there is an accompanying Kettle Bell accessory holding extra weights that can be added to the table as needed.

Photo of the Gas Spring Table with motion blur showing the tabletop moving
The Gas Spring table works using a lever and a gas spring

The Gas Spring Table uses a gas spring and a lever with a skateboard wheel attached to one end that rolls along the underside of the aluminium tabletop, allowing users to simply push their work surface up or down.

The collection is completed by the Hour Stool, which promotes active sitting and can be wound up or down to adjust its height.

All the furniture frames are made of folded steel and standard industrial parts. They come in either neutral finishes such as black and white or a distinctive green, chosen by HeijltjesAkkaya to enhance the studio's colour-coding approach.

Photo of the Hour Stool with a hand twisting the seat
The collection also includes the Hour Stool, which is wound to adjust the height

Akkaya and Heijltjes have worked together since 2010, originally under the moniker Waarmakers but more recently as HeijltjesAkkaya to mark "a pivot to a more personal and experimental approach".

Their previous work includes the R16 light, a ceiling light that is assembled from its own cardboard tube packaging.

Collection: A Simple Machine
Designer: HeijltjesAkkaya

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More images

Photo of the underside of the Gas Spring Table showing a skateboard wheel attached to a lever pressing against the tabletop
A skateboard wheel is pushed along the underside of the Gas Spring Table to adjust the height of the top