In the world of office necessities, nothing takes priority more than a quality desk. Whether you’re looking for a desk for your work office, a spare room at home that you’ve converted into an office, or a desk the whole family can use, you’re sure to find an option on our list.
We’ve gathered up a variety of types of desks to educate you on the vast options. We’re going to talk about the desk type, features, uses, locations, materials, and size. We’ll also discuss the different materials used for manufacturing desks and the different types of finishes offered.
Whether you’re shopping for a new desk, debating refinishing an old one you found at an antique store, or building one, you’re sure to find this list of the different types of desks helpful.
The Different Types of Desks
A desk typically refers to furniture with a wide flat (sometimes sloping) open surface. Some models have built-in drawers, open shelves, or tiers for easier organizing and storage. Other models may look like a standard table. Let’s look at the most common types of desks.
1. Writing Desk
A writing desk provides the perfect workspace for the home or small business offices. These desks feature a flat surface at a minimum of 36″ wide and 24″ deep.
Writing desks are the perfect placement for spreading out a laptop and a few papers. Due to most writing desks’ skinny legs, they aren’t the best option for holding heavy desktop computers.
This desk style is simplistic in design, available in a variety of styles from rustic to sleek modern. Most models do not have drawers for storage, although a few models might have small open shelving for storing papers.
Other models may have three small drawers, two narrow and long, and one wide center drawer. These drawers work great for storing pencils and paper but are not intended for security.
Due to the lack of storage, writing desks are not meant for keeping items secure and private. Anyone will be able to access what you have on or inside a writing desk.
You can find writing or leg desks in solid wood or a combination of a wooden desktop and a metal frame. These desks do not have a modesty wall or anything to block the view beneath your desk.
2. Computer Desk
Computer desks are the most practical yet utilitarian type of all desks. This type gives users plenty of room to place a computer tower and monitor while having storage for accessories, cables, and other peripherals, like printers or scanners.
All computer desks have a built-in keyboard tray that extends out when in use and stores underneath the desk when you’re done working. There’s also plenty of shelf space to stay organized.
Some models may have a built-in hutch above the computer or cabinet doors in the front that close and lock. The typical size for these desks is 24″ deep and 36″ wide or smaller.
Most people who use laptops rather than a desktop find that a giant computer desk takes up more space than they actually use.
3. Executive Desk
Nothing says “I’m in charge” more than an executive desk. This style is perfect for home or corporate offices due to multiple drawers for storage, a large surface area for working, and intricate carvings to increase the aesthetic.
This desk type usually has two floor-length pedestals with multiple drawers that lock so you can keep sensitive items secure and a flat desktop surface that can be up to 36″ deep and 72″ long. The two bottom drawers operate as file drawers.
There’s also a full-size modesty panel that extends between the two pedestals at the back of the desk to block the view.
Due to their large size, executive desks are more common in the corporate world than in the home. However, the impressive size and look are sure to make you look more professional and impressive to clients while on a video call or in-person meeting.
Executive desks are a versatile option that comes in multiple style choices, including:
- Giant desk systems
Most executive desks are made from solid wood, which makes them heavy, sturdy, and durable. But it also makes this style a more expensive option.
4. Credenza Desk
Credenza desks combine the flat workspace of a desk with the storage abilities and look of a cupboard, also referred to as credenzas.
You’ll mostly see credenza desks placed in the living room or dining room due to their stylish look, which can serve as functional and a design statement.
These desks typically have one to two storage pedestals on each side with drawers, shelves, or cabinets, with a wide flat surface to serve as the desk. Some credenzas also come with a hutch for extra storage.
Credenzas sit low to the ground due to short or no legs. Depending on the style, you may add a credenza to your existing desk to have more space.
5. Corner Desk
Corner desks have a design intended for being put in corners at homes or offices. Their compact size makes them ideal for tight spaces or rooms where you want to leave the middle open.
You can find corner desks in a wide range of styles, finishes, or sizes. You can also get corner desks with additional storage in the form of hutches, drawers, shelves, or cabinets with locks.
Most corner desks feature an L-shape. But some may be round. With these, you can sit in the middle and still access both sides of your desk without getting up or straining to reach, as is common with L-shaped desks.
6. Secretary Desk
Secretary desks have a ton of storage due to cubbies and drawers. This style of desk is perfect for working with paperwork due to the large workspace.
You can tell a secretary desk from other types due to the built-in hutch that doubles as a bookshelf that extends from the back of the desk. Traditional colors of secretary desks are cherry and mahogany, although newer models maybe oak or painted white.
However, these desks are rarely set up to hold a desktop computer or printer. Some models may have a cover that drops down over the desk, limiting the height of items you place on your desk.
Modern versions of secretary desks may have a keyboard tray or cable management system that makes them more appropriate as a computer desk. Smaller secretary desks may offer enough room for placing a laptop and mouse.
7. Floating Desk
Floating desks are mounted onto a wall, which means you retain every inch of your floor space, making them perfect for compact locations.
Many people also attach cubbies or shelving to maximize storage, which is limited with a floating desk, depending on the size.
Common sizes for floating desks range from 48″, 60″, or 72″ in width and 24″, 30″, or 36″ in-depth. Which size you choose will depend on the amount of available space, how much wall space you want to take up, and what you’ll do on it.
You can use floating desks for small offices, bedrooms, dorms, workshops, tiny homes, mobile offices, and other places where there would be limited space you wouldn’t want to take up with a desk.
8. Roll-Top Desk
If you grew up in the ’90s or before, no doubt, you knew someone who had a massive roll-top desk in their home, whether it was in an established office or pushed against the wall in the living room, den, or library.
The most notable feature of roll-top desks, which make them immediately identifiable, is the hood, which rolls down over the desk and locks in place.
This desk style is excellent for offices where you want to keep your workstation secure and private. However, you wouldn’t want to choose this style if you have a desktop computer. Most towers will not fit under the hood.
These come in three types of configurations – drawers only on the left or the right or drawers on both sides.
9. Standing Desk
Standing desks – also referred to as adjustable height desks – are a recent trend. The idea for this style of desk emerged from multiple studies which show the health hazards associated with sitting at a desk for long periods of time.
People who want to maximize their healthy habits may prefer a standing desk’s features and health benefits. You have the choice of three types:
- A full desk is adjustable for standing or sitting
- An accessory that helps you work standing up using your regular desk
- Static types stay in a stand-up position
Standing desks are great for stretching your back from sitting upright in a chair for hours at a time. However, check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about the proper use and posture before investing in a new standing desk. Using this desk wrong can backfire.
10. Pedestal Desk
Pedestal desks have a flat workspace and two pedestals, one on each side of your legs. Each pedestal holds two to three drawers, a filing cabinet, or a file drawer, allowing for easier organization.
There’s also a shallow center drawer for pencils, paperclips, and other small items. Many teachers’ desks in schools are a form of pedestal desks.
These desks usually have three-quarter or half pedestals with short legs and a half or three-quarter size modesty panel to block the view from the opposite side of your desk. However, there’s not as much of a barrier as with other desks.
Materials and design vary, allowing for a wide range of styles to meet any design aesthetic. Pedestal desks are perfect for maximum storage and efficiency coupled with a wide work area.
Pedestal desks share a lot of common features with executive desks, in that both have pedestals with drawers and a modesty panel. However, the panel on an executive desk extends all the way down for full privacy.
Types of Desks: Material
Desks can come in a variety of materials. Your choice will depend on the look you prefer, durability, use, placement, cost, and maintenance. Considering each of these factors before making your final purchase can help you pick the perfect desk.
Many people prefer to choose desks that combine various materials, such as metal and glass, wood and glass, or metal and wood. You can also find desks with a combination of all three.
Glass is another material that is occasionally used for the top of a desk. You often see glass matched with a metal frame. You can also find wood desks that have a glass inlay.
Although you’re working on top of a glass surface, you won’t have to worry about the glass breaking, as it’s tempered, which makes it thicker and harder to shatter.
The advantage of using a glass desk is that it’s the easiest to clean. But you may have to clean more often than other materials since glass shows fingerprints and smudges very easily.
Metal is a material that’s more commonly used as the framework for stability, with a different material top. However, it is possible to find desks made of solid metal, which are great for a modern or industrial aesthetic.
Metal is resistant to scuffs and stains, although they can dent with force, depending on the gauge. And metal stays cool to the touch, so your hands won’t get hot if you’re busy writing.
Most metal desks are steel, ranging in gauge (thickness). You may find these with a powder-coated finish, painted, or polished chrome.
Desks with a metal frame look amazing with a glass or wood top that serves as the work area. You can also highlight a metal frame with natural wood shelving or drawers.
Laminate is an excellent way to get the look of real wood without the price tag or heavyweight, making rearranging a room a challenge.
This material is made of particleboard and can come in a wood grain pattern or a solid color. Laminate is more resistant to scratching and denting, and it’s budget-friendly.
Choose laminate desks for high traffic areas or as a place for children to do homework and play computer games. Laminate will hold up better to hard use, sticky messes, and liquids without staining or scuffing.
Wood is the most popular choice for desks, which isn’t surprising since this material was the only option back in the old days.
A desk made of solid wood will be durable enough to last for decades. And most of them have a gorgeous wood grain that makes them a design piece and a functional object.
There are multiple types of wood used for making a desk. Some of the most common woods chosen for constructing desks include:
- African hardwoods
But wood tends to be heavier, which can make moving a solid wood desk a major challenge. Another downside of solid wood desks is that they can be costly.
The wood’s finish will have a major effect on your desk’s appearance. We discuss finishes a few sections below.
If you want the look and feel of a sturdy wooden desk without paying the price tag, consider a wood veneer.
Veneer has a base similar to laminate, usually particleboard. But a thin layer of wood makes up the top layer, giving you a real wood look.
These desks are a great option for offices who want to look expensive but can’t currently afford the real thing. However, be aware that veneer is more difficult to care for and clean than materials like laminate.
Types of Desks: Wood Finishes
When considering a wood desk, there are multiple types to consider. You can choose from different types of wood and different finishes. A finish refers to a protective coating applied to the top of the wood to prevent drying, cracking, swelling, and deterioration.
The finish will affect the final look of the wood. The four most common styles are natural, white, black, and gray.
Wood with natural tones is the most common preference for desks. Most natural finishes are a clear sealant that enhances the wood’s natural grain pattern. Occasionally, the wood may have a stain treatment, which lightens or darkens the wood.
The majority of wood desks will come already sealed but if you’re building or restoring a wood desk, consider using a clear oil finish. If you’re staining the wood before sealing it, remember to use a water-based stain and sand between coats.
Whitewood is becoming a popular trend as more people embrace the aesthetics of country, French, and beach themes. Desks made of white wood can help brighten a room and provide a more relaxed, comfortable environment.
There are two ways that wood can become white. One option is whitewashing. Whitewashing allows the natural grain of the wood to show through while brightening the surface. Pine looks the best when whitewashed.
A whitewash is when you mix water with white paint to dilute the mixture. When you apply white paint to wood, it can hide the grain. When you add whitewash, the water thins the paint out, so you get the color but not the opaqueness. The grain is still visible. A clear finish goes over the whitewash to seal the wood.
Another way to make wood white is to use a white stain. There are multiple stains available commercially that give you the white color without losing the wood’s look.
Black finishes offer a more somber, modern tone. To create the black color for wood, the builder uses black wood stain.
The advantages of black wood stains are that you can still see the wood’s natural grain, and it keeps its color, despite scratches, scuffs, or marks.
Stains come in multiple shades of black and gloss options. And it works on multiple types of wood. You can find solid wood black desks or wood and metal combined, with natural wood tones and black metal.
The final finish that’s common for desks is gray tones. Gray is more of a neutral color that goes well with a variety of color palettes.
Gray can brighten up a room without having a traditional, out-dated feel of natural or dark wood tones. You can use a gray desk for a casual, comfortable setting or a more formal feel.
You can find a range of gray stains, allowing you to go as light or dark as you desire. Regardless of the shade, you’ll still be able to see the wood’s natural grains for a striking balance of modern and natural.
Types of Desks FAQ
Now that we’ve finished telling you everything we know about the different types of desks, materials, and finishes, let’s cover a few frequently asked questions people have when shopping for desks.
What size should I buy?
When debating between the different sizes of desks, you’ll want to consider the location before purchasing. Desks can take up a lot of space, so you wouldn’t want to sacrifice space for a bulky desk if you’re limited on room.
To save you the hassle of buying a desk that’s the improper size, take time to measure the area where you’ll be placing the furniture. Doing so helps you determine how much space you have to donate. Remember to include two feet of space all the way around your desk for room to move around.
You’ll also want to measure any doorways or stairs that you’ll need to use to get your desk into the room. If your desk is too wide, it may not go through doors without damage. Consider purchasing a desk you have to assemble yourself or one that workers will assemble on-site once they’ve delivered it.
How do I determine a desk size?
To determine a desk’s size, you consider the width – how long it is, the depth – how far across it is, and the height, how high the desktop sits above the ground.
The minimum depth of a desk can be 24″ with a maximum depth of 30″ or larger. The more things you’ll be keeping on your desk, the more depth you’ll need.
Which width you need will also vary by the number of things you want to do on the surface. If you only need room for a laptop, you wouldn’t need a wide desk. But if you want to use your laptop while writing on papers spread out, you’ll need more width. Widths can range from 18″ to 30″.
When it comes to choosing a desk, there are a variety of types of desks to consider. Deciding on the location and the desired aesthetic is a great start to narrowing down your options. You also have to decide between the different materials and colors. The intended use and your budget will also play significant factors in the decision-making process.