Finding the “best” desk really depends on whom you ask. So we talked to writers, artists, designers, and people who work from home, surfaced reader reviews from across the internet, took quick polls (among our most nit-picky friends and Strategist editors), and partook in some advanced internet snooping.
Below, we rounded up the best desks according to everyday people and experts. Our recommendations range from a laptop stand that allows one author to work from their couch to a Reddit-favorite gaming desk — at all different price points, from $40 to over $1,000, if you feel like splurging.
Best desks for small spaces
Susan Dominus, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, owns two of these simple and compact desks from Ikea. After buying one for her then-10-year-old son, she got a second when she realized how well it fit in a cozy corner of her bedroom. “The desk seems strangely big, wide, and deep for its size, and the drawer is surprisingly capacious, just big enough for everything you’d need,” Dominus says. Plus she likes how the white finish feels clean, bright, efficient, and friendly.
For a more modern look, this mango-wood desk from West Elm is just two inches wider than the Safavieh, but it has metal legs and no drawer pulls. In a previous version of this story, Christopher Stevens, interior designer and founder of Tipper Studio, said its “petite dimensions and a pleasing wood finish combined with ‘go with anything’ black metal accents make this one a great choice for a variety of more laid back décors.” If space isn’t an issue, Stevens pointed out this desk comes in a few other sizes that might better suit your space.
This triangular Careyann desk has more than 2,200 five-star reviews on Wayfair, with many fans praising its small size but functional storage spaces. One reviewer says “the desktop is spacious enough to accommodate my two full-size computer monitors,” and another adds, “I love the little shelves underneath to tuck away our small printer and books.”
Or try a floating desk for flexible placement, like the one that interior designer Justina Blakeney has in her Los Angeles home. With two drop-down shelves, it’s “the perfect small-space desk and bar,” Blakeney said in a previous version of this story. Though there’s no exact replica for Blakely’s vintage piece, Wayfair’s clean-lined floating desk has two drop-down shelves and comes in six shades.
While a traditional desk may not work in a small space, a narrow console table is an easier fit. Interior designer Pramiti Bhargava of BlueGrape Staging recommends replacing a bedroom nightstand with a piece like this two-shelf, solid oak console from Article, who also makes some of our favorite affordable dining chairs. The bottom shelf can be used for storage while keeping the top clear, and a stool nearby means it can be converted into a desk.
Another space-saving option is this glass-topped Ikea laptop stand that’s under $50. Author and podcaster Jennifer Keishen Armstrong and her partner each use one on their preferred ends of the sofa, where Armstrong says that the tables’ open C-shape “allow you to sit up properly and have a hard surface for your computer.” And if she’d rather use her computer on her lap, Armstrong says she uses the table for holding drinks, pens, and books as she works.
And if you’re really tight on space, you might need a desk that can completely disappear at the end of the work day. Khalea Underwood, the global editorial manager for M.A.C Cosmetics, typically works from her couch and recommends this folding table. She says it works as a desk, table, and workstation and can be easily flattened and tucked under the couch.
Best L-shaped desks
In a previous version of this story, we snooped on Bob Boilen’s desk, which is used in NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concert” videos. His L-shaped eight-by-six-foot desk sits in the network’s D.C. office and comes from Herman Miller’s Canvas Office line. Since those are only available in bulk, we found this L-shaped six-by-six-foot desk from Bush Business Furniture, which comes with a wide top and looks quite similar.
While looking for more L-shaped desks in a previous version of this story, we also found this gem: an L-shaped desk for well under $100 on Amazon. Similar wraparound designs can easily cost over $1,000, so this one, with plenty of space for storage underneath, and surface area sufficient for two monitors, is a steal.
Best glass-top desks
After JaKissa Taylor-Semple, known as DJ Kiss, posted an enviable desk setup, we set out to find the model in a previous version of this story. The glass top gave our writers a clear view of her fabulous shoe collection — rows and rows of beautiful heels — in the background. While we couldn’t find the exact desk she uses, this glass-top writing desk with chrome legs is a pretty spot-on dupe for hers for less than $300.
When we explored the workspaces of creative and productive people, Emma Mcilroy, the CEO of Portland-based feminist clothing line Wildfang, said she spends a lot of time at her West Elm Jensen Desk and gets the most work done there. With a wooden A-frame base and sleek glass surface, this choice is “a really cool, modern take on a mid-century design,” Mcilroy says.
Best minimalist desks
Reporter and podcast host Sylvia Obell said the design of this writing desk suits her minimalist style in a previous version of this story. She likes how the white marble desktop serves as a canvas for her to add “pops of color from desk accents like a stack of books, a cute tray shaped as red lips.” The drawers are open-facing, which Obells says forces her to keep them tidy. Plus, Obell says it was “easy to assemble, which I appreciate as a single woman. All I had to do was screw on the legs.”
We named this minimalist Zinus Soho desk the best-rated home-office desk and writing desk on Amazon in a previous version of this story. The rectangular desk is two feet deep and ranges from 47 to 63 inches long, providing what one reviewer describes as a “huge work space so I can spread everything out, and my desk-chair arms fit underneath without getting stuck so I can roll around freely.” The under-$200, flat-pack design is from Zinus’s readily available Modern Studio Collection, which also includes these Strategist-reviewed bed frames and mattresses.
Strategist columnist Chris Black told us he uses a simple, untreated wood desk that his friend built for him when we asked him what desk he uses for a previous version of this story. However, if he were to buy something, Black recommends this (also extremely Judd-ish) desk from Steelcase, calling it “clean, simple, and well priced. You can fit storage underneath which is a bonus,” he says. Like anyone with a penchant for the modular and minimal, Black suggests the “winter on maple” or white options.
This simple West Elm desk is a favorite of Timothy Brown, founder of an eponymous NYC-based design studio, who says the size is perfect, the design is ageless, the construction is solid, and it’s very easy to use in any room — he’s used it for countless clients. Vogue contributing editor Sarah Brown is also a fan, saying “the Parsons just looks like a white table so it’s not necessarily too office-looking.”
Best mid-century desk
After combing through a Vogue article about five editors’ at-home desk setups for a previous version of this story, we learned that fashion director Virginia Smith lives “in fear of technology issues” while working from home. With two side drawers and a compartment for cord management, this warm-toned, acacia wood desk has enough space to keep Smith’s laptop, iPad, and two phones at the ready, plus flowers and her son’s self-portrait. Although it’s on the pricier side, the Drommen Desk is a CB2 exclusive from German designer Jannis Ellenberger, whose work usually retails for much more.
When we looked for novelist Philip Roth’s desk in a previous version of this story, we found he had two light-wood lecterns that he used as standing desks — one in his Upper West Side work studio, the other in his home in Connecticut. He stood while he wrote instead of sitting because he had a bad back and was said to have walked half a mile for every page he wrote. While Roth’s were custom-made, these from Classroom Essentials Online will create a similar-looking setup.
Best lap desks
Even if you have a plush office setup at home, Brown says, a lap desk can come in handy when you feel like working in bed or on the couch. This memory-foam cushioned lap desk is her latest favorite, as it comes with a slot for holding a phone or iPad, as well as a separate pull-out mousepad.
Architectural designer and blogger Sade Akinsanya says a version of this wooden Rossie bed tray “has been well used” — for eating, working in bed, and watching Netflix — ever since she got a similar one years ago. It also has foldable legs and a slot to hold your phone or tablet for hands-free viewing.
Best low desk
Painter Marcus Brutus told us in a previous version of this story that he prefers to use this lightweight coffee table from Ikea to work on smaller drawings in lieu of a desk. Brutus said he leans over it from his couch and that it “isn’t so low that it strains my back.” A bottom shelf means you organize materials below and keep the top clear.
Best desk for storage
In a previous version of this story, we found that most of the products on interior-design aggregator Houzz have below a thousand reviews, which is why this computer desk from Monarch Specialties is such a standout with an average rating of 4.4 stars and more than 1,700 reviews. Buyers of the desk praise its storage (two large drawers and another for files) and open layout. One independent business owner even describes herself as “happy as a pig in mud,” thanks to the desk’s “highly functional storage space” for all her papers, and another says she likes that the contemporary-looking desk neatly hides work materials at the end of the day.
We snooped on a 2018 New Yorker profile on artist Alex Katz and saw a picture of one of the offices in his West Broadway studio. Underneath piles of photographs of his family is his desk, made out of two industrial gray metal filing cabinets (covered in Post-it notes) and a slab of glass. Similar cabinets are available at Staples; the glass can be procured at Home Depot.
Best standing desks
If you prefer function over form when it comes to standing desks, both chiropractor Jan Lefkowitz and integrative pain expert Joe Tatta vouched for the VariDesk in a previous version of this story. Tatta says that “substituting prolonged standing for prolonged sitting results in a greater feeling of discomfort,” so he liked that this three-plane desk “accommodates a variety of body types and postures.” Similarly, Lefkowitz noted that the 11 different height settings allow for a variety of working positions.
The Fully Jarvis desk is praised by multiple staffers at our sister site the Verge. Deputy editor Dan Seifert has owned the larger sizes for about four years now and calls it comfortable, stable, and spacious with “more versatility than typical desk options.” News editor Nick Statt, meanwhile, calls the Jarvis “far and away my best work-from-home purchase in years.” At just over $900, the desk might seem pricey by desk standards, but Statt says it’s affordable for a standing option — especially for one that looks this good.
This standing desk is highly rated on Amazon — and a Strategist-reader favorite. Similar to the Jarvis, it has a sleek wood-and-white design and an electric lift system, which one five-star Amazon reviewer says rises and lifts quickly and according to your height. “Never knew I needed an electric height adjustable desk until I got this one,” they add. Plus, buyers say it’s fast and easy to set up, with at least 20 mentions of how straightforward it is to assemble.
For a customizable option, Strategist writer Lauren Ro tells us about her husband’s work-from-home setup, which includes this Uplift standing desk. She says he likes that it’s highly customizable, with about two dozen desktop materials available, five sizes (note that not every size is available in every material), and options for up and down buttons. You can add everything from desk drawers to magnetic cable-organizing channels and power grommets that let you plug in a phone or laptop right on the desktop.
Former Strategist tech writer Jordan Bowman says many standing desks don’t have built-in storage because their moving bases and variable heights make it difficult to incorporate drawers or shelves. But this desk — which has small drawers that don’t get in the way of adjusting the height — is highly popular among Amazon reviewers. It has motorized controls and comes in three desktop sizes and two colorways.
For a movable standing desk, this manually adjustable option on wheels is popular among Amazon reviewers for its simplicity and convenience. They note its lightness and versatility, and how it’s deceivingly roomy — though on the smaller side, the desk is able to comfortably fit one reviewer’s 15-inch laptop, two big external drives, mouse and mouse pad, notepad, and TV remote. Assembly is quick, and it has four wheels, two of which are lockable to ensure it stays in place.
Best gaming desk
Ikea desks are big among the members of the multimillion-member subreddit r/buildapc. One Redditor wrote that they’ve been using this desk for six years, while another says their Fredde is also still going strong after five years, adding that it’s great for gaming. When compared to Ikea’s iconic gaming desk, the Jerker, members say they prefer Fredde’s additional shelving for monitors and subwoofers. One pleased gamer notes that the Fredde also has cupholders, a top shelf for a printer, and it disassembles easily if you are moving.
*A version of this article appears in the August 17, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!
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