hot air balloon desk (aka the coolest desk ever)

by Grace Bonney

Ok. Let’s take a collective deep breath. Because I’m about to write about a desk that involves PERMANENT HOT AIR BALLOONS as a structural component. I know. I’ll pause for us all to take in that insane degree of awesomeness.

This incredible desk was created by the Dublin ad agency Boys and Girls for their own entryway reception area. After a magazine described their office’s reception area as “small and routine,” Boys and Girls decided to design something a little more fitting for their creative agency, hence the idea for a balloon desk was born. After doing some serious scientific research, the agency teamed up with Twisted Image to start production this past February. Twisted Image created permanent hot air balloons (!!!) that would be strong enough to carry the weight of the desk. By using a rubber composite that would never degrade, they were able to fill the balloons with enough helium/hydrogen hybrid gas to float the desk indefinitely. The ribbons were reinforced with carbo-titanium, and an aerospace-grade titanium cleat was used to attach the strings to the desk. As if that half of the desk wasn’t cool enough, Boys and Girls constructed giant Jenga blocks to act as the other side of the desk. I’m pretty much ready to pack up and become their receptionist, but if you’d like to fight me for the job — or learn why you should — you can read more about the project here. Thanks to Bairbre for the tip! xo, grace

Photographs by Liam Murphy

*They also built a Lego Boardroom Table. Don’t worry, I’m already asking if they’re hiring.

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    • grammar

      i’m pretty sure this is a completely safe and functional desk- this company isn’t a gimmick, they really researched the piece. it’s not for show ;)


  • This is the coolest fusion of ideas I have ever seen! I also like that they kept the top a simple white so there isn’t too much going on. Genius!

  • Wow! What a whimsical and inventive way to welcome someone! I guess they’ll never be called routine again! Nice work…

  • I would be very surprised if the “baloons” primary function isn’t to hide a support cable connecting to the ceiling.

  • No way. I need one. That is absolutely brilliant! What an image to walk into.
    We just spent $8k on what now seems the most ordinary reception desk! LOL Maybe I’ll tie on some Balloons and pretend. (sigh).

  • Well. These aren’t hot air balloons (because they don’t use hot air). Also, the only way I can imagine they prevented any sort of tipping when applying force (weight) on to the table, would be to firmly affix (probably with some heavy duty bolts) the jenga blocks to the top surface. Balloons only counterweight an exact amount of force, so any change in the table weight requires another mechanism to handle those variances.

  • What a statement piece. This is positively awesome! I wonder how I can get a hold of some of those rubber composite balloons as I don’t think traditional balloons would make the cut for a DIY version!

  • This desk is amazing! I know some “Up” fans that would snatch it up in a heartbeat – so great for a kid’s room or playroom.

  • This is cute, but I had to laugh when I read the quote on the wall. If this isn’t a case of “making the simple complicated,” I don’t know what is. :-)

  • this is why i love the design world– just when you think you’ve thought of everything, someone comes up with this! great monday morning inspiration!

  • You’re right. That is the coolest desk ever. Yeah, just 100% awesomeness. I can’t believe the hot air balloons are permanent. What else can we do with these balloons? I hope to see more things with them. Teeeheeeheeee!

  • Brilliant! I would love to have a chair held up by those balloons….like a swing in my living room.

  • Grace,

    Huge fan of your site- but we’re gonna have to agree to disagree on this one. I fear that the agency is playing a little fast and loose with the “science” here for PR. But I want to believe!

  • Grace, I adore your site and your taste and I’ve been following religiously since the blogspot days. But I’m gonna have to agree with rainy and Mikey. And *then* I’m gonna bring it full circle!

    This is so adorb. But i also am really annoyed by lousy science claims and a lack of public scrutiny For lousy science. So i sent this to my brother with enthusiasm for the design and to ask if it were possible…he worked on a team that made the Up flying chair guy take flight at the Oshkosh air show a couple of years back and he also designs things that fly (planes, spaceships, etc) for his job, so he seemed like the right member of my cabinet to ask about the mechanics of it all. His feedback? Most of the materials they mention don’t actually exist. If they did, that much hydrogen would only support a few pounds anyway, not a whole desk! Really it’s probably cantilevered by the jenga blocks (which are freaking awesome btw).

    So why be all weird science about the space-grade turbotitamium composites and whatnot? Because they are an Ad Agency, of course. People are talking about it. My space nerd bro spent time analyzing it. Im writing about it. It catches your brain everywhere it can…it’s a gorgeous design, it’s interesting, it makes you wonder, and now that I’m past being stuck on what i think are fake specs I appreciate it on a whole new level. I think – I hope- that it’s an example of an ad agency selling itself by showing people that it understands how to make an impression on all types of consumers. Again, one of my pet peeves is face science in media, but this desk is just so gosh darn cute I forgive this agency for their lies, and it all seems tongue-in-cheek to me now.

    In summation, I love it and want one whatever its made of, and I also want to work here for both the cute desk and to push for some ethical responsibility in scientific advert claims.

    • science lady

      ok, i’m gonna email for more details. i generally don’t doubt people who’ve got a good track record of producing great work and standing behind it, but if people who work in science say these materials don’t exist, i’ll ask them for more info.


  • As a visual piece of art, I love it, but I have to agree with Science Lady and Rainy that the science is fake.

    I just showed this to my friend who is a physicist, and he told me that even if they filled the balloons with pure hydrogen (which is only four times lighter than helium) you would need a lot more balloons than that to hold the weight of the desk. Helium and Hydrogen molecules are so small they are hard to contain – most things that are inflatable have pores larger than the molecules so they eventually escape.

    I wish this were real, I thought it would be great to have balloons that would stay afloat forever! As much as I love balloons and all the whimsical great design from them (Love, love the Geronimo balloons!) – we are facing a rather severe helium shortage in the near future. So if given the choice between fun party decorations or conservation for important use in medical tools to save lives, I’d have to go with the latter.

  • The only way I see hot air playing into this design is with the claims of how it was constructed. Really whimsical and sweet aesthetic , though! I look forward to hearing about your investigation, Grace :)

  • Guys, as awesome as it looks, the desk is clearly nailed to the ceiling! But that’s a great and fun design anyway, well done Boys & Girls!

  • Agree with Science Lady. Even if the ballons can support a lightweight desk, I would be super unstable to work.

    I guess that inside the jenga blocks there is a big iron supporting the whole desk.

  • This reminds me of a wonderful kitchen art piece by Susan Jones, the Seattle architect. She had a stack of round cookie tins balanced one on top of the other so that the top tin stuck out well beyond the tipping point. Some hardware inside the tins provided the magic that defied gravity.

    I’m betting that there are some BIG bolts in the Jenga end of the table supporting the cantilever. But I appreciate the visual joke very much. It’s like those nice people in San Francisco who paint their Victorian houses in many colors and give a “gift to the street”, or like the people in VW bugs who put a flower in the vase to brighten our day.

    By the way, if you want to see Susan’s work, she is at http://www.atelierjones.com/

  • There’s either a hidden cable in the balloon strands, or the thing is sturdy enough cantelievered out from the mass of (permanently stacked) Jenga blocks. The turbotitanium talk is amusing and all, but … this is just a cool concept and an illusion.

  • Am I the only one who knows that even if those balloons really could support the weight, the piddly little curling ribbons could not. Did I miss something here? Is it April Fools?

  • i like to believe that the balloons are holding up the table… and with that, just because they commissioned this wicked idea for a table, i would really love to work at Boys and Girls.

    i’ll be happy just fetching the coffee!! pretty please!

  • I don’t care how it’s made it is making me happy! They should have banks and doctors surgeries with these desks :-)

  • Very cool and original idea. I do have to agree with those that pointed out that it is not REALLY held up with balloons. In fact, I can safely say that there are no balloons on the desk at all. Noticing the one red “balloon” is touching the ceiling, my guess is that is where the cable attaches that runs through the hard plastic balloons. I think where the illusion really falls apart is that inflated balloons are always a bit transparent, and would have looked better if they were blown plastic so some light could pass through them. Still, it does not take away from the creativity, and if they can manage to convince even a few people that balloons are holding the desk up, they have done a great job. The Jenga blocks are even better than the balloons !(IMHO)

    One more note: When Mythbusters filled enough helium balloons to float one wee little girl, it took enough balloons to fill an average sized bedroom and then some. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but it was around 3500 balloons to lift that small child, so you would need a pretty big office to float a desk!