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Writing Desks Buying Guide


Choose a Writing Desk Finish


The finish is the writing desk’s finishing touch. A finish doesn’t just provide protection; it also gives the desk its own unique character by adding to the design and overall functionality. As a general interior design rule, traditional style writing desks tend to have medium to dark finishes such as mahogany and cherry, while contemporary and modern styled writing desks typically have lighter wood finishes like some types of maple, pine, beech and ash. Another component of the finish to consider is its texture – distressed finishes, most commonly used for traditional style writing desks, tend to be “rough” to the touch, while satin or muted sheen finishes have a smooth feel.

Tommy Bahama Home Royal Kahala Poets Crossing Writing Desk

The color and type of finish you choose for your writing desk is going to depend on your personal tastes and the style you have decided upon. When purchasing a writing desk for an already furnished room, you have the option of going the more classic route and matching it in finish to the existing furniture in the room or making your desk really stand out by choosing one in a contrasting.

Applied finishes can be roughly divided into three main categories: stains, paints and finishes.


  • Stain: contains pigments; when applied to the surface of the piece of furniture, the pigments tint the wood.
  • Paint: containing colored pigments; they do not permeate the surface, but rather sits on top of the wood to form a protective coating.
  • Finish: refer to a clear, sealant that either sits on top of the surface or permeates the wood surface. Six common types of finish are oil, varnish, polyurethane, shellac, lacquer and water-based finishes. Any one of these can also contain color pigments.
Hooker Furniture Melange Sofia Writing Desk
Winsome 94339 Regalia Secretary Desk

Writing desks, including secretary desks and roll top desks, can have a variety of finishes in a range of colors and textures including matte or muted sheen, satin or smooth and distressed or made to look like an antique. Finishes can also have a high gloss or very polished shine.


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