Desk Guide: Don’t Get the Wrong Desk

When you're looking for a desk, make sure you get a desk that fits your room, provides an ample work surface and appeals to your aesthetic senses. With many desk sizes and types of desks to choose from, consider everything from work habits to features as you determine how to buy a desk.

>> How will you use the desk?

Desk sizes and styles vary greatly, so when you're determining how to buy a desk, knowing how you'll use it will help you decide which designs and sizes are best suited to you.

General-purpose work -If you want an all-purpose type of desk, you'll probably enjoy a medium-size desk with a hutch or other kinds of built-in storage. L-shaped computer desks are great if you prefer a large surface area, while writing desks or student desks are well-suited to a small workspace.

Desktop computer work -If you need a desk for your computer, then you'll probably be happiest with a design that has enough room for your computer and peripherals. Also consider whether a design can accommodate other tasks that might not require your computer.

Laptop work -If you'll be using your desk to work on a laptop, you can probably get by with a small work surface. Computer carts and student desks typically have compact surfaces well-suited for a laptop. Portable laptop desks can also be an excellent option, with styles ranging from platforms you place on your lap to wall-mounted designs to compact workstations that tuck into a corner when not in use.

Household business use -If you want a desk to manage household business once in a while, then the most important thing to consider is what style you like and how much workspace you need. Writing desks and secretary desks are popular options for desks you use occasionally.

>> Where will you use the desk?

Once you have an idea of how you'll use it, the next step in determining how to buy a desk is the setting. This is especially pertinent if you're looking for desk sizes to fit a tight space or need a desk for a professional environment.

>> Choosing a desk for an office

For a private office or home office, you might prefer a style with storage, such as built-in filing cabinets, a desk with shelves or even a matching hutch. It's easiest to be productive when you can keep everything you need close at hand, like records, reference books and office supplies.
If you're looking for office furniture for a group workplace, then you might choose desks with large work areas. Collaboration tends to be crucial for group workplaces, so choosing desks that make it easy to communicate, such as those without hutches, might be best. Executive desks and writing desks tend to work well for open workspaces.

If you're buying a desk for a reception area, consider function and visual appeal together. Desks with upscale finishes and expansive working surfaces, such as executive and L-shaped desks, are popular for reception areas. Other popular features are built-in storage and panels. In a reception area, a desk with a panel that hides the receptionist's lower half from customers' view helps project a professional image.

>> Choosing a desk for a dorm or bedroom

Space is often a key factor to consider as you shop desks for a dorm or bedroom. Students usually need a place to work on a computer as well as space for notebooks and textbooks. Many student desk designs provide ample room for both, and they sometimes have built-in shelves and drawers. Mobile computer carts are also popular types of desks for students, because they're on wheels and offer options such as tilting or collapsible tops, multiple shelves and other space-maximizing features.

>> Choosing a desk for an open space in the home

Aesthetic appeal tends to be the most influential factor when you're choosing a desk for an open area of your home, such as a hallway or living area. If you already have a unified home decor, look for a desk that complements your furniture, and then choose a style and desk size that fits the space. If you have a variety of decors in your home or you anticipate redecorating, you might prefer a simple desk with a neutral or wood finish. For tight spaces, consider writing desks or secretary desks, which tend to have a low profile.

>> What type of look do you want?

As you determine how to buy a desk, you'll probably notice the remarkable selection of materials and finishes. It's usually best to decide on a design that suits your needs and space, and then consider the materials, because every design is available in a variety of finishes. The comparison chart below summarizes the looks, features and advantages different types of desks.

Look Desk styles Common features Advantages Professional Executive desks L-shaped desks • Panels
• Built-in storage
• High-quality construction • Large work surfaces • Room to store tools and materials • Leg panels provide privacy • Luxurious look Sleek-modern Writing desks Computer desks • Open construction • Computer shelf/hutch
• Can be made of modern materials, such as glass/metal combinations

• Low-profile
• Open construction
• Minimizes visual impact
• Versatile

Simple/low profile Writing desksStudent desks • Drawers and shelves to store essentials
• Moderately-sized

• Provides enough space to work on a computer and spread out materials, such as paperwork and textbooks

Technology center Laptop/computer cartsL-shaped desks • Space maximizing designs
• Built-in storage for your computer and peripherals

• Laptops and computer carts are perfect for small areas
• L-shaped desks are well-suited for professional environments and home offices.

Neat Secretary desksWall-mount desks Low-profile laptop carts • Fold-up desktops
• Rollover covers
• Built-in drawers and shelves

• Hide or discourage clutter.
• Portable laptop carts let you use the same space for multiple purposes.

>> Do you need to store other items?

Finally, consider which desk features you need as you compare different types of desks. If you'll be using a computer or laptop, you might need a keyboard drawer. The desk accessory keeps the keyboard off the top of the desk, which gives you more work space and is often more ergonomic.

Built-in storage such as shelves, cubbies and hutches might be perfect for you if the desk is going to be a central piece of furniture in the room. The extra storage areas make it easy to keep tools, supplies and personal mementos close at hand. Some types of desks come with matching hutches or shelves to provide a coordinated look and improve the productivity of your workspace.

Drawers and built-in filing cabinets are also handy desk features if you need to ensure privacy or security for sensitive items.

Determining how to buy a desk is as simple as knowing how much space you need to be comfortable, how much room you have for a desk, and whether you need a desk to present a professional image. Once you know, it's easy to sort through the many designs and looks available.

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