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Writing Desks Buying Guide


Writing Desks for the Twenty-first Century


Hooker Furniture Telluride Writing Desk

Writing desks can really add a touch of sophistication to any home or office. As any writer will tell you, the right desk can even inspire creativity and is conducive to a productive work environment. But a writing desk isn't just for penning a novel or writing a letter. Writing desks are very versatile and can be used to work on projects or crafts. They are a great place to put your laptop or can offer a comfortable place to sit while updating your daily organizer.


Writing desks are available in all different kinds of styles, sizes and types and range from minimalist to decorative. Since they are so different from one another, there are many diverse options to choose from. To help you to decide which kind of writing desk would best suit your needs, here are few suggestions to point you in the right direction.

Before you Begin



  • Decide what the main purpose of the writing desk will be. If you will be using it specifically for paying bills and other types of correspondence, you might want to buy a writing desk that includes a letter organizer. However, if you intend to use the desk for your laptop or to work on projects at home, select one with a large, flat work surface.

  • Where will you put the desk? How much space you have to work with will determine the size and type of desk you select.

  • What kinds of features do you want your writing desk to have? Do you want the desk to resemble a table or would you like it to have drawers, a built-in organizer or cubbies?

  • Some manufacturers give you the option of purchasing a matching hutch.

  • You will probably be buying the writing desk for a room that has already been furnished. To ensure that it will blend with the existing décor, select one that complements the style of furnishings currently in the room.

  • If you will be using the desk for your computer, make sure that it includes a keyboard tray and that the desk will be near a power source. Optional features are wire management and integrated power sources.
Hooker Furniture Melange Sofia Writing Desk
Home Styles Homestead Wood Laptop Writing Desk with Hutch in Distressed Warm Oak

Types of Writing Desks



Because they are available in such a variety of types, styles and options, before shopping for one, decide what kind of writing desks will best suit your needs. If you have a limited area to work with, a compact drop-front desk or secretary desk may be the ideal space-saving solution. On the other hand, if you want to be able to spread out your papers, a writing desk with a wide, flat work surface would be a better choice.



Standard Writing Desks


Standard writing desks are functional as well as elegant. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials, finishes and styles. They generally resemble a table and usually have a smooth, generous work surface. Depending on the style and the manufacturer, they might or might not have drawers. Typically made of wood, a writing desk has an uncluttered look with an old-fashioned appeal, making it the ideal accent piece for a living room, den, home office or guest room. Adding a writing desk to a home or business office projects a distinctive look, while creating more work space.


Secretary Desks


Secretary desks, also called drop-front desks, are typically more compact than other types of writing desks, but are still available in a number of different sizes. They are usually made of wood, can include drawers and have a fold-down writing surface. By closing it up, the work area of the secretary desk can be easily hidden from view. Ones that include drawers provide ample storage while using less floor space. A secretary desk, especially one with a hutch, can be tall. If this type of desk appeals to you, make sure that it will fit in the intended space, without blocking windows or being too close to a ceiling light or fan.



Roll Top Desks


A roll top desk has the added advantage of hiding your projects and documents out of sight (but hopefully not out of mind). As the name suggests, the cover rolls down from the inside of the top of the cabinet. They come in a number of sizes, ranging from compact to standard desk size. Roll top desks have an elegant and stylish appearance. They are generally made of wood and have rich finishes. The interior chamber of a roll top desk can include features such as small drawers, shelves, paper slots or a letter caddy. Some types of roll top desks are designed to accommodate a computer and its accompanying peripherals, which makes it especially handy if you want to keep the monitor from view when not in use. Because of its vintage feel, a roll top desk is an ideal addition to a room with a traditional or country décor.


It is Made of Wood...But What Kind?



Engineered woods are made from recycled wood products. These materials are mixed together then processed by using heat and pressure to glue the wood fibers together. Medium density fiberboard or MDF is a commonly used engineered wood for furniture because of its strength and versatility. Since it is produced from recycled materials, MDF is more affordable than genuine woods, but is just as strong and durable and is less prone to warping. A writing desk made from MDF, particularly if it has a veneer finish, will have the appearance and feel of a real hardwood.


Laminates are produced by pressing layers of materials, such as wood and plastic, together. They are then sealed with a thermosetting resin. Once the sheet of laminate material has been produced, it is applied to the piece of furniture, usually made of some kind of engineered wood. A laminate is commonly used as a finish for furniture because it is durable, easy to care for and generally stain-resistant. Laminates can be a solid color, patterned or have a wood-grained appearance.


Wood veneers are created by removing cross-sections of wood from the tree in thin slices. These slices of real wood are then glued to the piece of furniture, typically made of an engineered wood, using heat and pressure. Since the veneer can be applied to any smooth, flat surface, it is an economical way to make furniture and gives it the texture and appearance of genuine solid woods.


Considered to be the most durable material for furniture, genuine wood furnishings are constructed from timber cut from the trunks of trees like pine, mahogany or oak. They are more expensive than engineered wood products. Timber can be produced from wood of hardwood or softwood trees, and refers to whether or not the tree is deciduous (sheds its leaves) or coniferous (doesn’t shed its leaves/needles). It is not an indication of the strength of the wood.

Coaster Desks Desk With Three Drawers in White
Hooker Furniture Melange Bennett X-Base Writing Desk

Writing Desk Styles



In order to avoid falling in love with a writing desk that might not blend in with the existing décor, it is good to have some idea of the style of desk you need before selecting one and making a final purchase. Look around your home. How would you describe the furniture? If it displays the charm of a bed-and-breakfast inn, your style is most likely country. If your furnishings have simple lines, then your style could be best described as casual or contemporary. On the other hand, if you like a lot of decorative detail with scrolls and other flourishes, then traditional is the style for you.


Traditional writing desks command attention with lustrous finishes and richly detailed decorative and structural elements. Reflecting the philosophies and customs of the notable historical periods of the past, traditional furnishings are usually made of wood and include elegant features like carved accents, intricate moldings, embossed patterns, cabriole legs and arrow feet. Many different traditional sub-styles include floral or scroll motifs.


Transitional writing desks have many of the same architectural decorative elements that traditional style does, but with less ornamentation. Decorative detail is pared down, while lines and forms tend to be more linear. Mixing curved and linear lines give transitional style a modern feel while maintaining a more traditional appearance. Transitional style is a transition between traditional and contemporary, demonstrating a shift away from elaborate detail to more functional fundamentals.


Contemporary writing desks have smooth, clean lines and can use geometric forms in unique ways. While the emphasis is on function rather than esthetics, contemporary style will still incorporate decorative elements, such as metal accents or glass or cloth panels that also add texture. Contemporary style furniture is typically made from lighter woods. Lines tend to be relaxed, lending the room a calm and uncluttered appearance.


While country style utilizes many traditional elements, the emphasis is on practicality and simplicity. It can have a distinctive period or regional flavor like Mission, Shaker or English Country. Country style can include decorative elements such as beaded moldings, scalloped aprons and wainscoting. The timeworn feel of a piece of country furniture is typically created by a distressed finish, a pine or natural finish or a painted finish with stenciling. A country style writing desk has charming, rustic look.

Other Helpful Hints



  • Are you a coaster person? Since part of the appeal of a writing desk is the smooth expanse of its top in a rich gleaming finish, if you are in the habit of just setting down your mug, choose writing desk with a stain resistant finish.

  • The desk you have chosen looks great. But don't forget, you will also need somewhere to sit. Choose a chair that will complement the look and feel of the writing desk, as well as being comfortable.

  • Accessorize! Once you have purchased your ideal writing desk, show it off to its best advantage with writing desk accessories. You may not go for the quill pen and ink well, but a desk set and other accessories such as matching bookends and a desk clock will showcase your writing desk, in addition to making it more functional.

  • Make the best use of any available natural light by positioning the desk in relation to the window or skylight. To avoid having to use extension cords to plug in a lamp or a computer, place the desk next to a power source.

  • If you are planning to put your computer on the writing desk, choose one that has a work surface of at least 24" in depth to accommodate the monitor.

  • When buying a roll top desk for a computer, make sure that there is an adequate wire management system.

Homelegance Britanica Black Country Style Writing Desk

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