I want to have an Instagrammable desk, I really do. Quirky objets d’art. Small pot plants, maybe a cactus. A steaming cup of green tea. Casually brilliant planner spreads.
The kind of space that’s perfect for a flat-lay pocket dump.
Zoom out, pan back: a city view with perfect sunlight streaming through gossamer blinds. An artisan poncho draped over the back of an uncomfortable-looking cafe chair.
And this is where the dream falls apart for me.
Alas (as I’ve shared before) mine is a working desk, covered in scratches and a little dusty, even when I keep it tidy. My well-worn black work-issue Thinkpad is no pretty Macbook. Ugly wires trail behind to an all-too-visible power strip. My IKEA desk chair has a noticeable bum-shaped depression in its cushion (and a huge stain from Iroshizuku Kiri-Same). Even in summer the light is often dulled by English rainclouds. And I drink my coffee from giant dented travel mugs that carry me through a marathon Webex session.
Without labouring the point, the idea of photographing my desk setup to show off a new desk accessory fills me with dread and a little bit of shame. It’s why I stick to close-ups of pens.
So I hope you’ll forgive me if there aren’t many beautiful wide-angle, in situ shots of the Galen Leather Desk Pad in this review. Let my words fill you in instead.
So let’s start at the beginning.
For me a desk pad is an essential item for any workspace. It gives you a cushioned place to rest your wrists and place your essentials, preventing scratches and dents both to delicate objects like pens, and to your wooden desk surface. A desk mat dampens the noise of a keyboard, and serves as a mouse mat (although I happen to use a trackball). If you have a glass or metal desk (my last one was glass), a desk mat is much nicer on the skin in the morning than cold glass!
On my desk, this mat from Galen replaces a clear plastic/rubber one from IKEA, which was functional but never beautiful. The Galen could not be a bigger contrast.
You can choose your Galen desk pad in seven standard colours, or they’ll even dye it to a custom colour, as well as adding embossed initials to personalise it. I am completely lacking in imagination so I went for classic ‘brown’, which is just the shade I hoped: darker than tan, but not a true dark brown. More of a chestnut colour, like saddle leather. See here against my Franklin-Christoph Penvelope in boot brown, the Galen has a lot more orange in it.
Unlike some of Galen’s “crazy horse” finishes, the desk mat isn’t a heavy leather, nor is it marked and scarred. The texture is very smooth, even shiny.
The finish and colouring is even and the mat is only a few mm thick. I expect that daily use and the oils from my hands will change the colours quite dramatically over the years.
This is not an executive-style desk blotter for some lawyer in a suit. There’s no stitching, the edges aren’t fully burnished, there’s no detailing.
Instead it’s natural and rustic, corners rounded like a Macbook, well-suited to sitting on a pale wood desk used by a hipster creative (although I can’t count myself in that crowd any longer).
Galen ships the mat rolled in a poster tube, but it’s thin and flexible enough that it lays flat almost immediately to its full size of 24×15 inches, which I found to be just the right size to fit my workspace without feeling cramped. I didn’t notice much of a ‘new leather’ smell, incidentally, and Galen must do something to the leather because there’s a kind of textured plastic coating on the reverse.
Despite this finish it isn’t particularly non-slip, but once you’ve got a few objects on it it won’t slide around unless you want it to.
I’ll be redoing my home office setup soon with a new desk and chair, and I’ve been inspired by the Galen desk pad to design a whole space I’m truly proud to spend ten hours a day in. Like the rug in Big Lebowski, the desk mat really ties the space together. And at £55, it’s an inexpensive way to transform your workspace.