Most people can quickly look at a desk and determine what type of professional works behind it. A large ornate desk might house a lawyer or politician. A glass drawing desk might be used by an architect or graphic designer. An oversized stone desk could be home to a young entrepreneur or power-hungry executive. There is a vast array of styles and types to choose from, and they all say something about the person sitting behind them.
How to Choose a Desk
The first thing worth considering when selecting your desk is to figure out what type of look you’re going for. Is it modern and contemporary or is it ornate and historical? What do you plan to do at the desk? How do you work and what tools will sit on it?
A desk is often the focal point of the office. It’s important to choose a desk that compliments the decor and design of the room and is a testament to your personal style. Of course, many companies don’t give their employees a choice when desks are purchased, but if you’re self-employed one of the many perks is being able to furnish your office.
Here are a few things to consider:
1. Style of Desk
Do you want something modern, vintage or perhaps unique?
2. Your Job
Will you spend most of your time handwriting notes? Typing on a computer? Drawing?
What are your storage requirements? What do you plan to keep in your desk and on it? How big of a workspace do you need?
4. Are You Messy Or Neat?
Do you pile stuff on your desk or does it always look like it’s out of a furniture catalog? Either way is fine, and just because your desk may seem messy doesn’t mean you are lazy or disorganized – different people just work differently. It’s just important to know how much space you will need.
5. Office Space
A big factor in choosing a desk is how much space you have for it in the room. You want to pick a desk that works well and blends into its environment. Having an oversized desk in a small, shared office will look ridiculous. Factor in size and select a type of desk based on where you plan to put it.
6. Interior Decor
If you work in an open and modern environment like Google you probably don’t want a large oak desk from an antique store. Consider your environment when selecting a desk and make sure it fits the room. If all your furniture is black laminate, picking a natural wood might look out of place.
7. How Many Hours Do You Sit a Day?
If you sit for more than 2 hours at your desk a day, you definitely need an ergonomic desk chair, and we covered them in depth in a recent guide here. On top of that, you might want to think about a height-adjustable desk if you sit for long periods of time because human beings were not designed to sit. An adjustable desk may not just be a better solution for your body, but it also helps you to be more productive.
Price is a big factor when it comes to buying a desk. The cost of a desk can range from under $100 to thousands. If you have a particular style in mind, it might be worth shopping around. When I bought my desk, I had difficulty finding the style I wanted for less than a few thousand dollars. Often it’s worth buying vintage, or bartering services to save money. Craigslist, e et al. have wonderful options, you simply have to do your homework, know what brands to look for and be willing to arrange transportation.
There is no point in buying a desk that you’ll have to replace in a year. A good quality desk can last decades or even centuries and investing in a high-quality piece can be well worth the extra money. On the other hand, if budget is an issue, you can easily find an inexpensive desk at stores like Ikea or even Walmart made of particle board that will serve you temporarily as you save money to get the piece you really want.
Types and Styles of Desks
A very opulent and regal desk usually reserved for aristocrats in the 17th-century, the Bureau Mazarin was a French design often used today by those who covet the style and decor of Louis XIV-style design. They are usually quite ornate and many times embellished with Boulle marquetry. It is named after Cardinal Jules Mazarin who served as King Louis’ regent in the mid-1600s.
Often called a lady’s writing desk, the cheveret is a delicate stand used for writing. It has a small writing platform that features a setback cabinet on top of it and a drawer or two underneath. They were initially developed in France but became most popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras in Britain. Today, they are ideal for the gentleman who works casually from home in their library or drawing room rather than a designated office.
The Davenport is a slight desk with either a slanted or pull-out top and a row of drawers down the side. Often one side of the desk will be faux drawers whereas the other side is useable. The first Davenport was a bespoke design for Captain Davenport by the English furniture maker Gillow & Co. Despite being well known as a ship desk, it was very popular in English country homes and today is often found in use the same way as the Cheveret.
At first glance, the Escritoire appears to be a chest or case, but when opened, the slant top turns into a small writing platform. Developed for correspondence, the desk is less popular today as most people who buy similar furniture for small spaces opt for a style capable of housing a computer. However, those who still believe in handwritten sentiments may choose to keep an Escritoire in their library to accommodate their stationary and fine writing instruments.
The first version of the popular executive desk, the kneehole desk was initially conceived in England during the dawn of the 18th-century. The desk features a flat surface that’s held up by two banks of drawers that offers a separate space between them for the user’s knees. The back of the kneehole is covered which differentiates it from the partner’s desk.
A Partner’s Desk comes in many shapes and styles but was initially designed for use in banks when two bankers would share the same desk and sit across from each other. Today, many executives use these large desks for themselves as it’s a mark of success to have a large, oversized desk. Most of these desks feature drawers on both the front and the back of the desk, and the kneehole is open on both sides with banks of drawers supporting a large, flat writing surface.
With the slanted workspace hinged, it opens allowing storage under the writing surface. While many enjoy the nostalgia and charm of these desks, they offer little real-world value as accessing the storage means having to clear everything off the working surface of it. Today, most people who do own these desks have purchased them as accent pieces for their residence and the desk is rarely used, if at all.
More of a gadget for storage than a desk, the Wooton was first popularized almost 150 years ago. It was made famous by industrialists like John D. Rockefeller and well known as a prestigious desk for the most acclaimed bankers, attorneys, and politicians in the United States. In Europe, they were reserved for ‘new money’ and those who inherited their fortunes viewed them as working class cubicles. Today, they also serve mostly as accent pieces or additional storage rather than the main desk.
At first glance, the bureau appears to be for storage, but it opens into a writing desk. Originally developed in France, it offers a slanted, fall-front top that’s supported by a chest of drawers or cupboards. Today, they are primarily used in homes with small spaces to house a family computer or store important documents. They are revered for their ability to hide a messy workspace as they can be closed up when guests are over and opened when in use.
A traditional writer’s desk, it’s more a table than a traditional desk as it usually offers little to no storage. A simple flat surface that’s supported by four legs, they were a status symbol in the past and remained that way in many parts of the world.
A very popular office desk for the everyman, these desks are still used in many labor-intensive offices and buildings. They are specifically designed to withstand wear and tear and are used primarily by educators, government workers and in industrial and factory environments.
Campaign Style Desk
A desk that can be broken down and used in many office environments, these desks were originally used during the British expansion in the 1800s when they had to be moved as military officer’s missions dictated. Today, they are primarily used in temporary office spaces such as political campaign headquarters or by offices who sometimes employ temporary staff that need a workspace.
The computer desk is a flat based writing desk with a second and sometimes third, tiered surface for a computer monitor and in some cases, a printer or other accessory. The desk is designed to be ergonomic, so the user doesn’t have to slouch to see the screen. In most cases, there will be a keyboard tray that extends under the middle of the desk rather than a drawer. Often these desks are supported by open drawer systems that are either open on both sides or have cord access from the back. They come in various shapes and sizes and can often be purchased as one part of a larger desk system.
Today, the modern executive desk is a large, flat surface that’s flanked by drawers. It usually comes in a dark and luxurious wood and is often paired with a matching credenza that sits behind it. It’s the king of desks and usually reserved for use by senior level executives or high-level management. The wood is often carved and designed to show grandeur using it’s large footprint. Often, this style of desk is used to differentiate the user from others in the office. It’s traditional, and it’s grand. It also happens to be the style of desk I use – I’m not sure if I’m proud of that or not.
In most cases, this is a slanted flat surface with minimal to no storage. Primarily used by artists and designers, it offers a prime workspace for those who draw by hand. For many graphic designers, they will feature a lit surface to make it easier to see through papers or blueprints on top.
Usually not the choice of those able to pick their own desk, the cubicle is a style of a desk designed for placement among other desks and to permit the largest number of people to work in a single space. Usually, it forms a bank of desks that are separated by a thin partition. The desk is a single unit that comprises the entire working environment of its user. These are usually reserved for telemarketing, customer service, dispatch operators and those who work on telephones. In recent years, many professional services such as law firms and accounting firms have started to assign these desks to their professionals rather than give them offices. By doing this, they can reserve more space for finely appointed meeting space. While many attorneys and accountants have argued against this practice, the shareholders of the firm have said it makes for a more professional and productive work environment.
A desk that’s combined with a cupboard-heavy credenza, these desks are usually wall-facing workspaces that are ideal for small offices.
Another convenient desk for small spaces, they can be used in private offices or paired to create large spreads. They are also very useful in larger cubicle environments and offer considerable leg room for larger individuals.
A floating desk is a work space without support that’s fastened directly to a supporting wall. It’s ideal for small spaces and comes in a variety of styles and sizes. For those working from a small apartment, these can be a great addition to rooms used for other purposes such as a bedroom or living room.
Recently, studies have shown that workers are better off standing at their desk rather than sitting. Many experts have argued the health benefits of standing desks, and they continue to trend. They come in a variety of styles, but almost all of them are height adjustable, yet intended to stand and not sit at. Unless you only work at your desk casually and spend the rest of your day away from the office or roving, we recommend only using these desks in larger offices where it can be a secondary desk, so you have the opportunity to sit when needed.
A hybrid, these napping desks offer a bed underneath that can comfortably be used to nap in. These spaces are ideal for self-employed entrepreneurs and for those who at times, may be required to sleep at the office. For the rest of you, good luck convincing your boss to get one. Click here to buy one.
Another modern trend, these desks incorporate a treadmill into them rather than an area to sit. The idea behind it is that you can exercise while you work. However, some experts have said that it decreases productivity and the ability to concentrate. We recommend using these in addition to a traditional desk. They have their merits, but should be used appropriately.
Art Deco Desk
If you are a fan of a certain design period and your space is decorated in Art Deco, it goes without saying that an Art Deco desk is a must. By the way, Art Deco is a good example because it was the last total style, meaning everything from architecture over furniture all the way to the toaster was designed in the same way. The stunning Art Deco desk below is a beautiful amalgamation of couch, desk and drawer system – simply beautiful. Today, this would have to be custom made.
The fact is that today, desks come in a wide range of materials. From inexpensive particle board to rich, beautiful woods, there is a broad range of options when it comes to furnishing your office. The best bet is to pick materials that pair well with the other furniture in your office. Many contemporary offices will use frosted glass, metal, and even stone. Laminate is a preferred choice in other offices, but wood still tends to be the most popular. Once you determine what style of desk you want, consider the materials. If you can’t find it in store, there are many furniture makers who can custom design a piece for you.
What Desk Should You Buy?
At the end of the day, it’s all up to you, of course, but it pays to seek out brands you like for their design or quality and then to look for something you want.
Of course, you can have a custom desk made at Karges for $30,000+, or you might be lucky and snatch one on eBay for $1,000. Maybe you can even find something on your local Craigslist or classifieds. In my experience, modern day furniture stores provide mostly low-quality desks for relatively high prices, and you are in fact better off to shop online or to attend old school auctions.
Just like with other items, it pays to buy a quality desk because you will enjoy it for years to come, and if you don’t like the look anymore, you can sell it on. This is particularly true if you buy antiques to begin with.
Of course having the comfort of being able to see the desk in person is a great advantage, but measurements, pictures, and videos can do so as well.
Desks are often provided by the employer, but they should, in our opinion, be very personal. If you have the ability to furnish your office, try to select a desk that matches your personality, tastes, style, and of course, necessities. What kind of desk do you have?