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How to Choose the Best Desk: A Guide to Buying a Cool Desk

The vaccine is rolling out across the country. Americans are shedding their work from home Zoom friendly shirts they've been stylishly pairing with their favorite pajama bottoms for the past year, dusting off their business casual attire and preparing to head back to the office. Some companies have adapted to the "new normal", and work from home remains an option.

Whether you work from home or a commercial office, selecting a desk can be a daunting task. With so many options, features, design styles, types of desks and price points, it's hard to know where to start. The challenge is how to choose the best desk, the one that works for you. Whether you need a home office desk, a statement desk for a busy executive's office or home office, a reception desk, a functional L desk, or a straight forward writing desk, there is the perfect desk out there for you once you know what you need.

The pandemic changed the way Americans work, and offices and work styles across the country are evolving. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American worker spends approximately 260 days a year working. That's a lot of hours behind a desk. This article covers helpful things to think about when choosing a desk to help you can decide what style and features best suit your needs. Knowing these thing in advance will help you maximize the time you spend sitting behind that desk, and make your shopping experience easier when you know what you need.

Before publishing this article, we surfed the internet to see what manufacturers were saying about buying a desk. There was one glaring thing in common. They expect you to adapt your work style to their product. They have completely removed YOU, the user, out of the equation. They push their bells and whistles, their price, their free shipping, but they don't put you first.

We wrote this article based on our seven years experience in building handmade custom desks for both commercial offices and home offices. It wasn't until we had completed the article that we decided to compare what we wrote to what others were saying, to check on what value we were adding to our readers. While there is some overlap, much of the view presented by the manufacturer was narrowed to their own standard product line. It was surprising to find that manufacturers don't want you to think about how you work, and instead ask you to focus on their talking points. They spend a lot of time telling you how you would be able to make their desk work for you, without knowing what your needs are. At Invictus Steelworks, we help you make your desk work for you with custom configurations, dimensions, finishes and unique and original styles paired with features that you need to make your desk and working space perfect for you. We hope you find this guide to finding an awesome desk helpful in untangling all the information out there about this necessary piece of office furniture.

Things to Consider when Buying a Desk

A little knowledge will go a long way helping you decide what desk to buy. Our list provides you with a brief overview, and more detailed information can be found below. Narrowing down your search before you start will make finding the perfect desk for you easier and less time consuming because you know exactly what you are looking for.

  1. What is your work style? A desk should complement your work style, not the other way around. Adapting your work style to your desk isn't the best option. Knowing how you work, or understanding how you work best is one of the most important things to know before you start shopping. As workers, we spend more time doing than we do thinking about how we do it. Start by thinking about how you do it. Little details like where you keep things, things you reach for without any thought, they are important to know.

  2. Measure your space. Know how much space you have to dedicate to a desk. When determining the size of a desk the your space can accommodate, don't forget to include ample room for a chair or other furniture in the room

  3. Desk size. There is no magic gold standard regarding desk size. They, being manufacturers of desk in standard sizes, tell you there is. Guess what? There isn't. The truth is, the best desk size is the one that best fits your space properly. A better way to put it is that companies offer standard sizes, but there is no actual designation of size that makes a desk a desk. At Invictus Steelworks, our standard size executive desk is 6'x3' and our large executive desks are 7x4, but we can adjust the dimensions to suit your needs. L desks vary widely in length of main desk and return. Writing desks and computer desks are available in many sizes. With regard to depth, anything less than 24' deep is going to be a very small workspace. Height varies, from 28"-34", and height plays a role in what features are possible, as does length. You probably don't want a sliding keyboard tray with a 28" high desk. Your knees will hate you every time the bump into it. A double pedestal desk with file size drawers down both sides has to be wide enough to accommodate the filing drawers with room left over for you to sit comfortably between them. Leg room is important when you spend so much time sitting behind a desk. You probably don't want to compromise the space you have to sit and stretch your legs. Ergonomically designed desks make a big difference!

  4. Features. There are many features available for desks, and depending on your budget and the quality of the desk, the sky's the limit as far as bells and whistles are concerned. Here is a list of common desk features:

  5. Sliding keyboard trays

  6. Under desk top shelf

  7. Side drawers, pencil drawers and filing drawers

  8. Sliding or stationary shelves or cubbies.

  9. Wire management systems

  10. Power grommets and built in phone chargers, electric, USB, and other options can all be built into your desktop.

  11. PC cabinets or shelves/cubbies

  12. Matching credenzas, hutches, filing cabinets, office lockers for coats and storage, side tables etc. to round out the rest of the office furniture.

  13. Budget: You can spend as much or as little as you want on a desk. Decide what you want to spend or can afford. Shop around. See what's out there. You may be surprised to learn that custom desks are often better quality than off the shelf manufactured desks, and comparable in price. With a desk, you will get what you pay when it comes to quality, and the range in pricing is as varied as the options and styles.

  14. Other office furniture: Consider other furniture you will have in your office space. Can you find other pieces to match or complement your desk? Credenzas, hutches, book cases, filing cabinets, office lockers/storage side tables and other pieces of office furniture may come into play in deciding what desk will work best for you. Buying a desk that doesn't go with anything else in your office is a only a good idea if you like a more eclectic style.

  15. Style/Genre: Desks and office furniture in general come in every design genre imaginable. Here are some popular choices:

  1. Industrial: Modern industrial, industrial, or rustic industrial, all variations of vintage industrial style. You can even toss in Victorian to this category. Think patinated metal for an aged look, metal and wood combinations, or all metal, even the desk top. Rivets, banding and other metal accents define this style.

  2. Modern or Art Deco: Sleek and classic, always stylish. Think a metal base with glass or stone desktop and nice clean lines.

  3. Traditional: These are the old fashioned all wood desks, in varying degrees of quality. Not as popular as they once were, but they have their place in the right room.

  4. Transitional: A transitional style desk is somewhere between Traditional and Contemporary. Transitional style is not exactly defined by one piece of furniture, but more of a mix of traditional and modern in one room, giving both a bold new look.

  5. Mid Century Modern or MCM: This is a retro post WWII style from the mid twentieth century. Simple flared legs, geometric shapes and bold colors often, but not always, define this signature style. Understated, organic and minimalist are traits of MCM furniture.

  6. Minimalist: Minimalist design is, in a word, simple. Functional without bells and whistles.

  7. Contemporary: Popularized in the latter part of the twentieth century, this style has gentle curves, rounded edges or sides, and is in stark contrast to the straight lines you'll find in modern furniture, or the flared legs of MCM.

  8. Sculptural: We are adding this to the list because it's near and dear to our heart. Used mainly for turning a writing desk into a work of art or a statement desk, there is nothing quite like using an original steel sculpture as a base for desk with a glass table top.

Office Storage, Office Furniture, Office Locker with coat rack, Welded Office Cabinet
Office Locker or storage cabinet with coat rack

Buying a desk starts with you and your needs.

Plan answering email on your laptop and paying a few bills? Your requirements are going to very different from someone who will be using multiple monitors and spreading out with files and paperwork. Do you need filing, or does a shelves or a cubby work for you to tuck away some random papers and keep your desktop organized? Are you looking for a gaming desk or a computer desk for a student? Desks are task oriented, and every type of desk suits a purpose. Knowing how you will use your desk will help you choose a the type of desk you need.

Know your work style:

  • Do you like to have a place for everything and everything in its place? If you prefer everything in its place at all times, consider a desk with at a storage shelf or drawers and wire management.

  • Where do you like your keyboard? Do you use a sliding keyboard tray? If you are like me and you prefer your keyboard on your desktop, choose a desk that has enough depth to accommodate the keyboard, monitor, mouse or other accessories you like on top of your desk surface.

  • Do you use a laptop, or do you use a PC with a tower and monitor, or multiple monitors? Again, how you utilize your desktop space will be important in choosing the best desk for you. 3-4' deep is what we recommend for executive desks. L desk offer more flexibility.

  • Use a PC with a tower? Consider where the tower will be placed. Some desks come with stationary or sliding shelves for keeping a PC tower off the floor, while others have open back cabinets for discreet storage that allow for air flow.

  • Wire management is necessary if you work with a lot of things that require being plugged in. At least one or two grommets should be included to keep your cords fro becoming an unsightly, tangled mess. Another option is to have a power module built right into your desktop. Desktop phone charges, electric, USB ports and more are available, usually on a custom basis.

  • What about paperwork? Whether you are using your desk for personal business or work related activities, you have to put your paperwork somewhere. Do you need filing drawers built into your desk or do you have a filing cabinet, or other storage?

You'll thank yourself for considering all of these things in advance.

Five Popular Types of Desks

Now that you have a better understanding of how you work and how you intend to use your desk, its time to think about what type of desk will be most complementary to your needs. Below are some examples of types of desks. Which type best suits you?

  1. Computer Desk: A computer desk is often used in a home. Available in varying sizes, these desks are often situated against a wall in a bedroom, living room or family room, perhaps a space that isn't necessarily a dedicated home office. Computer desks come in varying sizes, from compact desks, or junior desks that work best with laptops, to larger designs suitable for monitors and PC's. Features are usually minimal. They almost always at least one grommet for wire management for a laptop or PC, maybe a few shelves or a slot for a PC tower.

  2. Writing Desk: The days of the antique writing desk where people sat and composed their correspondence have pretty much passed, especially with the advent of email. Unless vintage is your style, today's writing desk is minimalist, with a sleek and modern design. The base is open and spacious, with no modesty screen across the front. It often looks like a table, and doesn't look out of place in any room. Modern writing desks may or may not have a small drawer or two, but today's writing desk doesn't come with all the bells and whistles of their older cousins. They are typically are best used with a lap top because they don't include wire management and are often used in a room that isn't a dedicated office.

3. Executive Desk: The largest, most impressive of all desks is the executive desk. Usually placed in a large dedicated office, this is the Cadillac of work desks. Available in various shapes and sizes, the executive desk is the pinnacle of all desks. Whether it's a modern desk or industrial style desk, an Art Deco desk or something more traditional, it is intended to be a statement desk. Often designed to reflect the personality of the person wielding the power behind it, these desk can be designed to be luxurious or more simple. Features almost always include filing drawers, storage drawers, perhaps a pencil drawer or a sliding keyboard tray, a large working surface, wire management, and a modesty panel across the front. There is little doubt that this is a luxury desk for a professional, designed to make a lasting impression. These desks also be L shaped, or U shaped, and often have matching accompanying furniture to round out the office design. Executive desks may also be called pedestal desks due to the use of drawers down both sides. These luxury desks are used by C-level officers of businesses, and are often found in larger home offices for the work at home professionals.

4. Corner Desks: As the name implies, a corner desk is tucked in a corner, with the front of the desk facing the wall. Size and shape varies. Corner desks are often used in the same manner as computer desks.

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Industrial L Desk with drawers, shelf and PC Cabinet

5. L Shaped Desks and U-Shaped Desks: L shape and U shaped desks are used in both home offices and commercial offices. The L Desk can be used as a corner desk or an executive desk depending on the configuration. They can be extremely basic, or they can come with all the bells and whistles.

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L Shaped Computer Desk with Shelf

What size Desk do I need?

Desk size is important, but you have to be realistic. The size of your desk has to fit comfortably in your space. It doesn't matter whether its a home office desk or a commercial office, the size of your desk has to be relative to the available space and leave room for any other furniture you will be using, plus your chair. You can always adjust your wishlist of features to accommodate size. A custom desk is often the best way to get a desk that includes all the features on your wish list in the size you need. Try not to buy a desk so large that it overwhelms the room, or one that is too small for your space. Find a nice balance, and when you measure, don't forget to account for any other furniture that will be in the room.

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Modern Industrial Executive Desk with Victorian Styling

Now that you know how you intend to use your desk and what type of desk you need you've narrowed down your search. You've measured, and you know exactly how much space you can dedicate to your desk, so you know what size you need to look for. Shopping for a desk will be much less stressful because you know what you are looking for. Happy shopping.

About Invictus Steelworks Custom Desks: Handmade to last a lifetime

At Invictus Steelworks, we offer a robust line of custom metal desks of all kinds. Our designs can be personalized to suit your needs and style, are made to order and built to suit. Choose your dimensions and finish, and your features. From all metal desks, including metal desktops, to metal and wood desks, we can customize any of our existing designs including finish and dimensions. Glass tops, live edge desk tops, and other desks are available. We can work with you to design the most amazing desk to suit your needs and your budget. To see more, visit our WORKSPACE collection or schedule a free phone consultation. We ship nationwide and to select International locations.

Matching side tables, filing cabinets, and credenzas and other office furniture are available by custom order..

Contact us for more information about a custom desk today.

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