Limber Origin Story

Limber desk team, Bart de Vries

At the beginning, Bart was working as a physiotherapist helping injured people get back to work. But he was sending people back to the environments that had injured them in the first place, understanding they would be back at his door within 18 months’ time. Bart had an image in his head of a revolving door – where people left well, came back injured, left well, came back injured… Each time in a little more pain, each time with less mobility, each time more disheartened. 

The badly designed environments people were returning to were hurting them. Seeing a growing number of people on the path to the revolving door jolted Bart into questioning, “Why are we not using the knowledge we have about health and performance in the spaces we spend our most productive time?” Clearly, something was amiss.

Our workplaces are designed for ill health.

Between patients, Bart wondered, “Why is everything set up to limit our movement? How do we design our environments to help us get the movement we need to thrive? What can we do to break the cycle of pain, ill-health and ever reducing performance and vitality?” 

Bart’s mission to get people moving began. 

One day Bart was researching the best ways to get people moving and found himself suffering back pain and headaches from long hours sitting at a desk. The irony was real. 

As a former professional hockey goalie, Bart discovered that sitting at his desk could be more hazardous than having a hockey ball rocketing his way at 200km/hr. 

The typical desk and chair set-up restricts your ability to move - if you don’t use it, you lose it. Bart needed to find a way to get moving again while working. But he couldn’t find a desk that allowed him enough movement so he set off to create one that did.

The best posture is the next posture.

One of the most powerful movements for our health is getting to and from the floor. It requires strength, balance, flexibility, blood pressure changes and more. How easily we can get to and from the floor is also a predictor of longevity. The floor also creates the most movement diverse environment for us to work from with 10+ postural variations available, boosting our metabolism and allowing us to mobilise our joints and maintain strength. What if we could do this movement throughout the day while we are working?

And so, the design challenge began.

Bart formed a team of curious minds (an industrial designer, experience designer, and an engineer) to design a desk that moved from floor to standing quickly and effortlessly. The challenge was set to solve this design problem with the principles of sustainability at the forefront. The first prototype of the Limber desk was a miniature made from cardboard, wood skewers and a roll of tape as the counterweight.

The first prototype of a counterweighted Limber desk

Over the next 5 years the Limber desk evolved.

Great care in the design led to 25 prototypes, hundreds of design tweaks, thousands of hours, and end user research with companies like Xero and TradeMe. Xero was customer number one, purchasing Limber desks for their people. From this, Limber was born.

Xero, Trade Me and Berkeley logos

Limber desks soon got the attention of a world leading experts in ergonomic design. University of California at Berkeley's Professor Galen Cranz flew to New Zealand to study the desk. She quickly recognised she was witnessing a world first – a desk that allowed full range of motion, human speed and ease of changing height, in-built ergonomics, all combined with beautiful and sustainable design. She could see the life-changing benefits and declared Limber desks ‘the world’s healthiest desks.’ Professor Cranz returned to the U.S. with a Limber desk for her team to study.

The Limber team thought they were onto something. It turns out the experts at U.C. Berkley and Limber’s customers think so too.


We spend most of our waking lives (and energy at work)

The Limber team understood that it’s our environments that shape our behaviours and it’s our behaviours that determine our health and performance. They got to thinking, “What if the desk was just the start? What if all our environments made movement easy and kept us limber?” 

From their roots in physiotherapy, the Limber team carry with them a focus on health, care and education, weaving this into every aspect of the Limber experience.

Spaces designed to heal, rejuvenate and enhance performance - where the latest science, curious minds and infinite care shape great design. This is the Limber life. 

Today, Limber’s mission is to halve back pain by 2050 by to creating a way of living and working where movement happens without conscious effort.

Imagine how you would feel and what you could achieve working in a space designed for the Limber life.

P.S. It’s not just you and your work environment Limber cares about (learn more).

View Limber desks here

About Limber

8 out of 10 people get back pain in their life and back pain is the number one cause of disability, lost workplace productivity and income poverty. At Limber we are on a mission to halve that by 2050, and building the world's healthiest desks is just one part of the solution. We need your support to make that a reality.

Become a back pain champion, share our back pain resource centre with your family and workmates. Subscribe to the Limber newsletter here to learn about floor postures and get access to special deals. 

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