Ideas + Advice


7 Common Types of Desks, Defined

Find your perfect desk match in three easy steps.

1. Learn the Desk Types

Get familiar with the basic types of desks and their structures.
What it is: A desk with overhead shelves or cabinets.
Best for: Those who wish to accessorize around their desks, or keep their office essentials compartmentalized.
The design: A desk + hutch is composed of two main parts: the desk and the hutch. Each part is separate from the other, but can often be conjoined together (if desired) by drilling. Some units will also feature peg-and-hole configurations for securing hutch to desk.
Why we love it: These designs are grand – and truly take the workspace to the next level for style.
What it is: A bit larger than the average desk. Often comes in L-shaped or pedestal designs.
Best for: Those who need ample surface space and ample storage space.
The design: By design, an executive desk creates an air of professionalism – and status. It’s larger size gives a feeling of importance, emphasized by the expansive built-in storage.
Why we love it: It’s an easy way to make anyone feel like a boss – even when you’re working from home in your PJs.

Metal Desk

What it is: A desk with a framework or framework part made of metal.
Best for: Those who are after a sleeker office look. (Desks with metal legs or other frame parts offer a modern look and feel that an all-wood desk simply just can’t beat.)
The design: 100% metal desks are rare and often used in industrial environments (like wood workshops). In domestic settings, a metal desk will almost always feature wood components.
Why we love it: A metal framework = an industrial-chic edge.

Writing Desk

What it is: The simplest form of a desk (surface + four legs).
Best for: Those who just want a space for writing or studying (without storage).
The design: Basically, a table (but smaller; a table for one person).
Why we love it: Would the world even have A Farewell to Arms or The Great Gatsby if a writing desk was never invented? We think not.

Hallway Desk

What it is: A minimalist desk that is sleek enough in size to fit in a hallway. These types are often placed at the end of hallways, where there’s often more space.
Best for: A hallway desk is best for those who don’t necessarily use their desks all that much, but need a desk nonetheless. Also makes a great way to create a ‘hallway vignette’ or add decorative interest to an otherwise boring space.
The design: Petite, often with minimal storage, the hallway desk focuses on aesthetic more than anything else and is used more as a table than a desk. Because of their slimness, hallway desks often resemble the slender designs of French antique accent tables.
Why we love it: The hallway desk is a tour de force when it comes to hallway vibes.

Corner Desk (Corner Workstation Desk)

What it is: An L-shaped desk, or a desk with two sides that meet at an angle.
Best for: Those who want a two-in-one design. (Corner desks usually provide double the writing surface space compared to a traditional desk design.)
The design: Like all big furniture pieces, a corner desk will most of the time not come in one giant piece. Instead, it will be shipped in two or three pieces, requiring assembly to secure each corner. Due to its size, you’ll almost never see a corner desk without storage; there’s simply too much real estate there to not incorporate a convenient side drawer (or two)!
Why we love it: Once it’s set up and arranged in a home office setting, the corner desk is well worth the assembly it requires. Literally formed in a ‘V’ or ‘L,’ it catches the eye with its unique shape. Plus, it’s space-saving – place it in any corner and align it with your walls. By giving you the option to forgo ‘floating’ the desk (i.e., placing it in the center of the room), you’ll have that much more freedom to spin across the room in your ‘spinny’ office chair – or place a loveseat, or decorate all the resulting extra space you’ll end up with however else you wish!

Pedestal Desk

What it is: A desk in which columns of drawers or shelves act as the desk’s legs.
Best for: Those who need to store large amounts of files or papers.
The design: A three-piecer: two columns and one surface. 
Why we love it: The legs serve as storage and the storage serves as legs!


(Bonus Desk Type): The Double Workstation Desk

The double workstation desk is one you don't see too often (which is why we're including it here as a bonus). In essence, it's a desk for two people. Common variations will feature an extra-long design so that two chairs can fit side-by-side.

2. Consider How You’ll Spend Your Time

Before buying, consider the following questions.
Where do I plan on placing the desk?
  • In the living room? Bedroom corner? Study? Think about the space you have allotted for your desk, and check the measurements of the design to make sure it will fit.
How do I plan on using the desk?
  • If strictly for reading, consider a simple writing desk design. If for researching or projects, you may need one with more attached storage.
How high is my chair?
  • Most chairs are adjustable in height, but if yours isn’t, you’ll want to make sure it fits comfortably in with the desk’s chair space.

Measure the distance from the floor to the top of the chair’s seat, and compare this with the desk’s “underside” measurements (the distance from the floor to the bottom of the desk’s writing surface). This will help give you a general idea of how much space you have to sit at the desk – a pretty important detail, considering your new desk won’t mean much if you can’t sit at it!

3. Consider Your Storage Needs

Finally, ask yourself what kinds of things you’ll need to store.
Someone who works with nothing more than pencils and notepads won’t require the same desk type as someone who works with files, books and electronics!

What Is the Best Way to Measure a Desk?

Follow these tips before you buy to make sure you’re getting your perfect desk match.

  • Measure the drawer depth, width, height. Also, make sure to open every drawer of the desk. (Sometimes, drawers will look identical on the outside, but on the inside their storage dimensions will vary greatly.)
  • Measure the area beneath the desk. Compare the dimension to your office chair to make sure it will fit!

What Are the Common Desk Drawer Types?

You will notice three variations in desk drawer types, as follows:

  • Side Metal Glides: Side metal glides are drawers that operate by metal mounts. They are also built with a stopping mechanism to prevent he drawer from sliding out all the way.
  • Wooden Slides: Wooden slides are all-wooden drawers (no metal fixtures). All-wood drawer types are rare (most desks will feature side metal glides).
  • Keyboard Slides: A keyboard slide in a desk is a small pullout designed just for the keyboard. Pull it out when you’re using your computer, and push it back in when you’re done – it’s as simple as that!

Where Is the Best Place to Place a Desk?

      1. In a hallway.

        This is an ideal spot if you plan on using your desk more as an accent piece than an actual tool for studying and reading. Placing a desk against the wall of a spacious hallway – especially one with a window – is a great way to ‘break up’ and add some interest to a long, empty, boring hallway.

      2. In a bedroom.

        A desk in a bedroom is an easy and practical way to incorporate a home work space when you don’t necessarily have the luxury of owning a separate room for a ‘home office.’ Plus, keeping a desk in the bedroom makes it easier to access – making it that much more likely that you’ll actually do the work!

      3. In its own room.

        Picture this: a young couple is about to move into a home. One of the biggest selling points of the home is its ‘home office’ – a buzzword the realtor loves repeating any chance he can get. The couple then moves in, and it doesn’t take long for them to realize that the ‘home office’ is really actually just a ‘spare room.’ Fast forward a couple years, and said space is no longer fit for even a term like ‘spare room;’ now, it’s a sad, junk-collecting ‘pit,’ slowly amassing loads of cardboard boxes and files and virtually every other ‘thing’ that the couple doesn’t know where else to put.

        Sound familiar? No shame. It’s a common problem, but here’s the thing: that ‘spare room’ actually is a home office, or can be, at least. All it takes is the right office desk + chair + bookcase combo, a little bit (or a lot, depending on your situation) of cleaning, and some strategic furniture arranging and placement. Here’s how to do it:

          1. Get rid of everything you don’t need: here are some tips to get you there.
          2. Think about what kind of work you’ll be doing. Here are a few common reasons people choose to incorporate a desk into their home – and the recommended desk type for each:

            • Desk/Computer Work: You’ll need a tabletop space that’s large enough for a computer + keyboard, or at least one that comes with a keyboard tray.
            • Pleasure writing or crafts: A simple place to write or work for fun – no need for extra storage or fancy features.
            • Studying: You’ll need a desk that allows storage for books, notebooks, and other study supplies. Look for desks with drawers built into the legs of the desk. (And if that’s not enough, try a desk + hutch).
          3. Choose complementing furniture + decor pieces (bookshelf, wall art, etc.), and arrange in a way that makes the most sense for your space and work habits. Here are a couple of options to consider:kes the most sense for your space and work habits. Here are a couple options to consider:

            • Floating the desk in the middle of the room, facing the door. Place the rest of the furniture pushed up against the walls. This is a great way to create a focused, ‘home study’ type of feel.
            • Placing the desk against the wall, overlooking a window. Place the bookcase against the wall, and a small loveseat or a couple of poufs in the middle of the room to add a relaxed ambiance. This arrangement is best for createive-type workers who do well with 'daydreaming' or taking visual inspiration from outdoor scenery.

The History of the Desk

The desk: it’s where you go to read, study and learn about subjects like the history of nations, literature, and mathematics. But what about desks themselves? They’ve done so much to support the study and learning of other subjects – it’s time the spotlight focuses on them! Here’s everything you never knew about these most scholastic of furniture pieces:

  • The first desk appeared in the 1600s as the ‘sloping desk,’ a desk which had a writing surface that one could open and close.
  • In the 1700s, desks were popular in England as practical writing tables with a flat rectangular surface, designed for home use.
  • The 1800s saw the rise of the pedestal desk, a nine-drawer configuration composed of three pieces (two pedestal sides and a flat top surface).

Desks in Pop Culture

Here are all the instances desks have tickled our fancy in pop culture.

  • The ‘Mad Men’ Desk: Don Draper’s mid-century modern staple stole the show every time. (With such an all-star cast, that’s saying a lot!)
  • The ‘Tonight Show’ Desk: From Steve Allen to Jimmy Fallon, every host of America’s favorite late-night talk show spent the majority of the episode behind a large brown industrial-grade desk (with a solid front panel – notice, you never see Jimmy’s legs under the desk, just his floating head and torso above it)!
  • Pam’s Secretary Desk from ‘The Office:’ Before moving on to the ‘sales’ desk, Pam worked behind a receptionist’s desk in the show’s earliest stages. It was a large, rounded computer desk that was solid in front and served more as a small ‘barrier’ than anything else. 
  • Don Corleone’s Desk from The Godfather: The opening scene from what is considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time takes place at a walnut-finished desk – one that holds an air of history, and an almost sacred elegance. (Seriously – search for images of ‘Don Corleone’s desk,’ and you’ll see what we mean.) 
  • The Radio Station Desk from ‘Frasier:’ If anyone knows a thing or two about class (and loves telling people he knows a thing or two about class), it’s Frasier Crane. And the rounded corner desk featuring a glossy cherry wood finish which he inhabited for much of his radio-hosting career was nothing short of classy (as one would expect). 
  • George’s Desk from ‘Seinfeld:’ George Costanza’s so-called ‘sleeper desk’ is as infamous as the show itself. Of course, its fame has less to do with its looks (a dark brown executive-type desk with lots of drawers) and more to do with the fact that it served as George’s favorite place to take nap – but we’ll focus on its handsome walnut finish for the sake of this list.
  • Roz’s Desk from Monsters, Inc.: Roz, a.k.a. the ever-cranky slug lady that tells Mike he ‘didn’t file his paperwork’ every chance she can get, is another famous person (er, slug) who rose to fame from sitting behind a desk. As for the round receptionist’s desk itself, we couldn’t be more impressed by the technical animation; placed side by side with a real life secretary’s desk, we almost wouldn’t be able to tell the difference!

— More Great Articles —

More Desk Types

Read the Latest

Editorial Disclaimer: Articles featuring tips and advice are intended for educational purposes and only as general recommendations. Always practice personal discretion when using and caring for furniture, decor and related items.