What’s the difference between a desk, and the desk?
A desk is a piece of furniture you couldn’t care less about.
In contrast, the desk is your desk– an immaculate piece of furniture, picked out from among the masses to meet your specific desires and needs.
Your desk isn’t merely a space-filler; it becomes the spot where you meet your best thoughts or gather unfolded clothes!
The various types of desks, their materials, and their finishings change the usage and suitability of each of them.
Not only can the right desk fulfill your purpose, but also amplify your interior design and surroundings.
The right decision aligns with knowing all your options– which we’ll explore in this Comprehensive Guide on all the Different Types of Desks below!
The Main Types of Desks
So, what are the different types of desks? In this section, we’ve detailed 22 of the most common and distinctive desks that you’ll find!
1. Computer Desk
One of the most common office desks found in the modern world today is the humble computer desk.
These quite obviously are made to carry computers! Essentially, these desks have large areas which allow the computers and monitors to be placed.
These desks also cater for the additional wiring spaces, hardware equipment, processors, and other related items.
Basic computer desks typically only accommodate the specifics of computer functionality; however, different varieties will also provide storage spaces or other additional features as well.
2. Roll-Top Desk
A roll-top desk has a unique design. It has a surface for writing purposes, as well as the standard design of filing cabinets and drawers to assemble into a storage space.
Yet, the element which makes this desk differ from others is the ‘roll-up’.
The ‘roll-up’ structure, known as a tambour, is a series of thin wooden slats connected to form a round cover.
This tambour shelters the surface of the writing area, providing safety and the ability to lock documents.
The wooden slats are attached to a fabric, allowing flexibility in the structural roll-up of the wood. The tambour typically follows a curved, ‘s-shape’ path– making the cover customizable and purposeful!
3. Carrel Desk
Carrel desks have a standard surface area for writing (or any usage, really).
The unique element of these desks is the focus of the design around privacy. Usually found in study areas, these desks are designed to disconnect you from your surroundings!
The private space uses partitions around the edges of the desk to disconnect you from either the neighboring desk or the surrounding environment.
Carrel desks may also have shelves and spaces to work with appliances, as well as providing light.
4. Lap Desk
Lap desks are the most informal types of desks, as they aren’t a static piece of furniture.
These ‘desks’ are typically like trays, which can be moved, packed, unpacked, and transported!
They unfold to be used in any seating space, elevating a ‘desk’ from your lap. Not only can they be used for work, but for snacks, puzzles, or anything else that you may want to do in your chosen space.
These are especially handy when it comes to disabilities, allowing a multi-functional use.
5. Telephone Desk
A telephone desk is one of the smallest desks you’ll find, relatively speaking! It’s also very specific in its function to provide space for a telephone.
Telephone desks are usually designed to have an antique appearance, as it was obviously more prevalent in the past.
They also have a limited surface area where the user can write notes, though this is usually constrained and fixed in its positioning. Due to the desk’s small size, there usually isn’t any space to place a chair with it!
6. Floating Desk
Floating desks are an interior addition which can be mounted on a wall. These are flexible in nature, as they can be pulled down or pushed to blend into the wall again.
Their distinct design allows them to be fixed in one spot, while some may also be completely portable due to the use of suction cups.
Floating desks tend to be small, possessing only the use of a limited surface area. However, their multi-functional attributes allow them to be useful, as well as efficient in space management!
7. Standing/Stand Desk
Also known as a stand-up desk or a sit-stand desk, a standing desk is basically configured to allow you to stand while using it! This is to accommodate for standing comfort while working.
Obviously, everyone’s standing height is different, which is why these tables have adjustable capabilities.
They can be configured to transform into a seating desk too, which makes these desks suitable for a variety of spaces.
8. Writing Desk
A writing desk is a much more generic desk.
They wouldn’t be classified as ‘unique’ or ‘distinct’ but rather very standard– which actually makes them quite flexible!
They are a classic desk through-and-through, which makes them very common and usually the first thing to come to mind when one thinks of ‘a desk’. Writing desks also typically have a small surface area, with drawers and cabinets to store stationery.
9. Trestle Desk
Trestle desks are multi-functional desks, which can be used for more than just a workspace.
Unlike the usual desk, trestle desks have two stands. These two stands/legs are folded, which makes these tables portable and easy to maneuver in space.
The support of the flat surface is created with a sawhorse (supports which are shaped similar to an upside-down ‘A’), adding an aesthetic appeal to the design of this table.
Aside from these factors, trestle desks are also designed to unfold shelves beneath the surface.
10. Corner Desk
A corner desk–as its name would suggest– is designed for corners.
These adjust into the corners of a room, allowing an efficient use of space. The flat-surfaced spaces tend to have a smaller area of use, effective for singular tasks.
Another type of a corner desk is an L-shaped desk. These also fit into the corner of a room, but rather than just one surface these have two surfaces connected at a right-angle.
These provide more space, as well as more opportunity to use the desk for different purposes. Both types of corner desks allow for effective use of space, especially in small rooms.
11. Secretary Desk
This desk is the chameleon of interiors. The secretary desk camouflages effortlessly, with the piece of furniture shaped as a whole cabinet!
The upper part of this cabinet is composed of shelves, while the lower area has drawers and compartments.
This aesthetic cupboard molds itself as a space-saving, vertical piece of furniture; however, there is a hinged panel that opens up within this to create a usable desk area.
This unique functionality is both multi-purpose and space-efficient, with the ability to change the ‘vibe’ of a space.
12. Butler’s Desk
A butler’s desk is not a standard work desk.
Rather, it also serves as a storage space. The shape of this desk is designed similarly to a cabinet with drawers.
The multi-storage unit has the top shelf which is able to fold down, essentially creating a flexible element with a small surface on which you can write.
However, this is not ergonomically useful for a long duration, but more for smaller time-periods or quick jobs. As such, this desk is more suitable for administrative purposes.
13. Workstation Desk
A workstation desk is a desk which is suitable for open spaces.
Usually used for offices and larger spatial arrangements, these desks have the ability to stand alone, as well as be placed with another desk as an extension.
They can have dividers for privacy, and can also be extensions to desks– allowing greater space and optimal usage.
14. Treadmill Desk
This one is for the fitness freaks!
The treadmill desk is an ideal combination of fitness and work. The desk of a workstation is placed on top of a treadmill to combine work tasks with exercise.
Within the various types of treadmill desks, there are three main options:
- The Integrated Treadmill Desk is a permanent fixture. There are no detachments or changes that can be made to this machine/desk.
- The Treadmill Desk Attachment is a treadmill which can be attached to a pre-existing standing desk.
- The Treadmill Desktop Attachment is an attachment of a standing desk to be connected to a pre-owned treadmill.
15. Credenza Desk
A credenza is typically an extension of storage space. This can be known as a console or a sideboard, which is usually low in height. As such, it can be considered more as a piece of furniture!
It tends to be a space to gather paperwork; however, it can also be used for other purposes if it is not being used as a desk.
Credenza desks consist of a flat, long surface with the cabinets of storage below. Anything above the flat surface used as storage space is then called a ‘hutch’.
16. Armoire Desk
An armoire desk is another edgy design, similar to the secretary desk.
This desk is essentially a large cabinet, enclosed by two to four doors. These doors are full height, somewhat camouflaging this desk as a cupboard.
The doors protect the interiors of the cupboard, as well as the work contained inside. The desk itself is a writing table, assembled in the typically two meter-high cupboard.
17. Executive Desk
An executive desk is designed for–well– executives. They are usually rather large, and are intended to function with open space around it.
They come in a wide variety of shapes, such as U-shaped desks and I-shaped desks, which are most suitable to be placed in the center of a room. These desks allow for a lot of storage space with drawers and space for filing.
18. Dual-Sided Desk
Dual, means two; as such, a dual-sided desk is a two-sided desk!
The desks are attached on opposite sides, and the connection of a flat surface provides an efficient collaborative working space.
The desk can also be joined through the legs. Depending on the style, there may be drawers and storage spaces as well.
19. Lectern Desk
A lectern desk is a standing desk, which is more suitable for temporary purposes.
It is a supporting piece of furniture which can provide a small surface area for reading, keeping documents and papers in place while using the desk.
It is typically used in speeches or lectures. The surface is angled, which provides an ideal support for reading while standing.
20. Wave Desk
A wave desk is waaaaavey. The design of this desk is equipped to be ergonomic and to provide an artistic, modernized style.
The ‘wave’ follows a dip in the shape, where the higher end of the desk is for placing your laptop or computer, and the lower end is for placing your mouse.
These are more suitable for desktops and computer spaces, while also being useful for whichever hand is dominant for you. These desks have a distinctly contemporary aesthetic, while being ergonomic.
21. Bench System Desk
This isn’t actually a bench, but the bench system desk is inspired by the design of benches. It promotes collaboration and shared space to interact and work.
As such, this desk comprises a very long surface which usually would have been two or more singular desks.
They are stabilized on shared legs, which also divide the table in a way that everyone has their own space but still also have the ability to connect and collaborate in the same atmosphere. These desks can be used for monitors, writing and other work purposes.
22. Drawing Board/ Architectural Desk
A drawing board or architectural desk appears to be a plain flat surface at first glance.
However, the rectangular flat desk contains unique components which allow it to be suitable for architectural and technical drawings.
The desk is multipurpose, so it can be used for writing, computers, and other tasks. However, there are also specific additions such as clips on the desk which are designed to hold paper in place.
There is also a dented addition on the table’s edge which allows rulers to be attached, for perfection and precision. The table can also be uplifted to an angle for optimal working comfort.
Finally, the edges of the desk can be placed alongside one another, allowing the choice of a collaborative or an individual workspace.
Types of Desk Materials
There are a huge variety of types of wooden desks in the market, which is unsurprising– there are a lot of benefits to using them!
Wood is a relatively durable material, which allows these desks to last for a long time. Being a natural material, it’s sustainable too; the smaller your carbon footprint, the better the use of a product.
Glass desks are undeniably appealing and elegant, carrying simplicity and poise in their materiality.
However, their durability is questionable. The more expensive glass desks tend to have a higher durability with shatter-proof construction, while cheaper ones can be expected to break quite quickly.
Cleaning glass desks is easy, and their transparent aesthetic doesn’t overload a space- resulting in rooms that appear very spacious.
Most metal desks are made of high-quality steel. They do tend to give off a cold aesthetic, however their durability and strength make them a beneficial long-term investment!
This material has a universal usage, where it can be used for drawing, writing, using computers, and even for standing desks and storing supplies.
Laminate desks are created by compressing multiple layers of heavy-duty paper, resulting in a thin layer of resin at the top.
This durable and affordable material creates a protective layer on top of the desk, which allows the look of the desk to be customizable.
Usually, these laminates are placed on top of a fiberboard or particle board. These are flame-resistant and easy-cleaning desks.
Cocobolo desks are made of Cocobolo wood, a rare type of wood found in Central America.
The unique and colorfully streaked grain gives a distinct, luxurious appearance. The tree of this wood grows extremely slowly, making this material all the more expensive!
Cocobolo is also difficult to glue and assemble due to the oils produced and the constant fragrance it emits.
Additionally, it is very difficult to cut- further increasing its value. Overall, the material is uncommon and beautiful, making it a classic and desirable element.
Walnut is a variant of the wooden materials. This material is known to be very stable, strong, and resilient. The shock-resistant material is also relatively lightweight.
Walnut encompasses a rich, heavy look with its dark tones and colors, and this high-end material is more expensive when compared to other woods.
Powder Coating MDF Desks
Powder coating MDF desks are all about combining multiple materials to produce an effective, durable, and well-finished piece of furniture.
MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) originally is a combined wooden product, consisting of wood fibers mixed with resin at a high temperature.
It is then powder coated, which is considered to be better than liquid paint as it results in a more resistant and durable product. The final result is a thicker coat which doesn’t require any solvents.
High-Pressure Laminate Desks
High-pressure laminate desks, also known as HPL, are assembled using greater pressure (1,000-1,500 pounds) with higher heat to keep everything in place.
These desks are high performing in their durability, as they are waterproof as well as flame-resistant.
HPL have relatively lower maintenance needs and can be cleaned easily, allowing them to perform better in rougher conditions.
3D Laminate Computer Desks
3D lamination of film is different to regular laminating as it only requires one film which can be applied around the desk.
Additionally, this process allows the ‘contouring’ of desks to fit the purpose of the user. The end result is a durable product which is more effective than HPL, as the seamless finish possesses increased scratch-resistance.
3D laminate desks can also be given a decorative, customisable finish.
Reclaimed Wood Desks
Reclaimed wood desks are basically recycled wood, reused in a new form.
Although the wood quality of some materials can be questionable, usually these desks tend to be stronger as old-growth wood is used and reused under specific processes.
This unique-looking wood is also eco-friendly as it is made from recycled resources, decreasing your carbon footprint! They only require simple chemicals for cleaning, and do not shrink or dry up in the long term.
Rustic Computer Desks
Rather than being a specific material, rustic is a condition rather than a type of wood.
Basically, it attempts to achieve the aesthetic of reclaimed wood using artificial schemes! It is distressed or weathered to make the wood look old and aged.
Types of Desk Finishes
The types of desk finishes that we’ll elaborate on this section are wood-based.
Natural Wood Desk
A natural wood desk finish is a finish that allows the most organic and natural final product, resembling the original aesthetics as much as possible.
These do not use stains or dyes to change or manipulate the color– rather, it involves sealing the wood with a protective coat. Enhanced or unique features of the wood are brought out using oils or products such as shellac.
White Wood Desk
To achieve a white wood desk, the process that is employed is something called ‘whitewashing’.
Whitewashing differs according to the type of wood, where opaque paint can completely cover the grain, while staining contains the grain and brightens the wood. Overall, the process creates a brighter final product for desks.
Black Wood Desk
Black wood desks obviously have a black finish. These again vary between black paint and black stain.
Black paint on wood dissolves the grain of the wood, especially with black being a color that absorbs light. However, if glossy, can be reflective and manipulate the desk to look plastic or artificial.
On the other hand, black stain absorbs into the wood– making the final product darker yet still endorsing the grain of wood. These stains then need to be sealed into the wood.
Gray Wood Desk
The color gray comes in a variety of shades, with each different one providing a different impact.
As such, the presence of a gray wood desk finish will differ in spaces according to its finish and its density.
Again, paint and stain will provide a different outcome, where paint conceals the grain while staining (and sealing the stain) contains it while providing a gray tint.
A Murphy desk is similar to a floating desk, being a desk that you can unhinge or pull-down from the wall to use– pushing it back up when it is unused.
It is a space-efficient addition which allows an effective capacity for work use, and a decent amount of space as well!
The unique feature of Murphy desks is the variety of designs and finishes that are available. It can be folded up in a range of ways to mold itself into your interiors and walls, and the styles offered can be industrial, minimalistic, traditional, or glamourous:
With the ability to combine shelves in the walls, industrial designs focus a lot on the materiality of the Murphy desk.
Industrial aesthetics combine metals and woods to give a raw, natural finishing.
A minimalistic design for these folding desks would lend towards a hutch desk. Black and white are the most optimal colors for minimalism, yet a set of a solid color tends to mold nicely into the minimalist aesthetic as well.
These desks may be a bit simple in design, decreasing storage capabilities such as shelves and storage spaces.
Traditional Murphy desks are typically a simple writing desk. These can fold and unfold, and can also be used as a console table.
They are usually wooden, integrated with authentic cupboard styles and natural finishes of wood.
They create a classic impact using authentic aesthetics of wood, while the folding function provides a touch of contemporality.
A glamorously-finished Murphy desk typically has a brighter look. There tends to be an incorporation of gloss and shimmer– somewhat reflective elements.
Ideally, solid colors with a touch of gold hardware will truly bring the ‘glamor’ out of these desks!
After reading through this guide, hopefully you’ve realized that you really can’t just pick up a random desk next door to fit into your room!
Each and every element of your desk makes a difference to how you behave,feel, work, and move.
It’s the smallest things such as style, material, or finishes that can make the biggest differences, and maybe the difference between making or missing your next breakthrough is the impact of the perfect desk on you!
What are large desks called?
Large desks are often referred to as executives desks.
What is an office desk called?
An office desk is simply called a “desk”.