work week

The Best Desk Décor, According to Stylish Professionals

The desk of T.J. Zafarana, the art director at Poppin. Photo: Poppin

A fancy desk setup isn’t necessary for keeping a job, but the right homey and visually interesting accessories can at least make your office — the place where you spend most of your daytime hours — more inviting and (who knows?) may even boost your creativity. Here, we reached out to the creative types and design experts — from clothing designers to interior designers to art directors — who would know about the best and most stylish décor for your desk-scapes.

Desktop tools and knickknacks

It’s always a good idea to keep your business cards in a prominent position, especially if you’re meeting with clients all the time. Here’s a card holder that doesn’t look quite so corporate, one designed for Brooklyn home décor store Souda, that comes recommended by Brooklyn-based furniture and interior designer Leah Ring. “It’s minimal and chic and will make a great impression on anyone who happens to walk by your desk.”

To zhuzh up your files, Ring also recommends investing in nicer paper clips. “Fancy paper clips aren’t for everyone, but if you work in a field where you hand off hard-copy deliverables to your clients or project partners, I think adding a little style via interesting paperclips, like these from Areaware, is a nice touch!”

We’d almost recommend this dog-shaped stapler if you want something kookier for your desk: it’s a very well-known design-y stapler from Italian brand Ellepi, an office-supply company based outside Milan.

And we think this pair of golden scissors from Danish brand Hay (a Strategist favorite) is very stylish, too — think of how nice it will look peeking out of a desk cup.

New York-based interior designer Kelly Behun enjoys perusing East Village store Nalata Nalat, which sells handmade goods from predominantly Japanese artists, for office supplies. In particular, “I like the character of the Futugami brass pieces. The tape dispenser is charming and has a nice heft to it.”


Stephanie Michaan, a New York-based interior designer and founder of The Interior, likes the brand Appointed for stationery, because she finds theirs minimal and functional. “I highly recommend this brand for keeping your desk organized.” Here’s a desk planner that’s no-frills, with room to jot down notes and cross out tasks.

Even more minimal are these Japanese Ito Bindery paper pads that Michaan likes for jotting down notes, sketching, or using as a notebook. “They’re clean, organized, and beautifully made, plus come in a variety of neutral tones.”

Michaan also likes this self-standing calendar from Appointed because it doesn’t take up too much room on the desktop.

Decorative items

Jac Cameron, the co-founder and creative director of AYR, looks to crystals to decorate her desk space and drum up good energy. “I have a million crystals around me. Next to the candle on my desk, there’s an amethyst crystal. I like, energetically, what it does for me. There’s also labradorite. It has an iridescence, and it’s good for the creative process. And behind me on the windowsill, there are some pieces of rose quartz.”

Cameron says she loves lighting up candles in the office because they help with her creative flow, and was especially taken with Le Labo’s Santal 26 at one point. “Now, I subscribe to a candle subscription [service] called Scent, and they send me a candle every three months.” If you’re all Le Labo-ed out, we might suggest this pretty sandalwood and amber-scented candle from Otherland (which just landed on our list of the next status candles) to add a bit more color.

For something that’s part paperweight, part desk-centerpiece, and part time-keeper, Ben Kicic — senior interior designer at GRADE architecture and interior design firm — recommends this marble table clock from AYTM: “It’s not the most practical in terms of telling time, but it has a great weight and presence.”

Because staying hydrated is always a struggle, Michaan likes this sculptural Anna Karlin glass carafe for its stackable glass (which doubles as the lid). “If you’re sitting most of the day, its nice to have a carafe of water and a glass nearby to stay hydrated,” she says, adding that it doubles as a vase for flowers, too.

Even something as simple as a houseplant can brighten up a space. The art director at Poppin, T.J. Zafarana, has one of these golden devils, which he says helps make his office space feel more homey: “Having greenery in a workplace makes it happier and more inviting.”

Because scented candles might not be welcome in your open-office-plan workplace, you could opt for an unscented one, instead. Juan Carlos Pagan, the co-founder of creative content studio Sunday Afternoon, likes these minimal white Abbott candles because he finds the candlelight more inviting than harsh overheads when he’s working at night. “Things start clicking late at night, and [a] harsh light bulb can be soul-sucking, so I’ll work by candlelight. I normally go scentless because it’s mostly for the light and mood, so I keep it basic.”

If you want to go analog and avoid the clock on your monitor or phone, Stephen Olmstead, the VP of design partnerships for the InVision App, keeps a couple of these in his office. “It’s hard to keep time zones straight when you’re working with employees all over the world, so I purchased and hung these wall clocks to easily determine what time it is in New York, London, and Israel.” The exact clocks he keeps in his office are no longer available, but this wall clock from Seiko has a similar all-black face.

Or, go even more old-school with an hourglass. Pagan keeps one of these on a shelf in his office. “A couple of years ago, I got into horology and I’m really nerdy about the idea of time, but I [think] an hourglass is a beautiful way to measure time.”

And if you’re searching for a nice-looking mousepad, Kicic recommends this one he bought to replace a years-old neoprene one. “It looks great next to my computer and it works like a dream. It’s great if you’re ever doing any kind of work that requires delicacy; it’s much nicer to slide your mouse on this [than on] a wooden surface or a rubbery fabric.”

Even some faux flowers in a nice vase, like this on-trend Metaflora bouquet, can add some welcome color. New York design editor Wendy Goodman has this potted paper geranium plant from The Green Vase on her desk.

Also from Futagami’s brass line, Behun recommends these golden pyramids for propping up books in the office.

Organizers and catchalls

For organizing all the receipts and papers that can accumulate on your desk, something like this Poppin tray can add color and a sense of organization. Jeanie Engelbach, founder of ApartmentJeanie (which helps clients create a more polished work- and home-space), uses them to hold her business cards and notes, and loves that “they come in all different amazing colors.”

In that vein, we own this Jasper Morrison catchall (which comes in a range of calming pastel hues). It’s nice for displaying small trinkets and even beauty products.

We’re a big fan of Japanese brand Hasami here at the Strategist, and if you prefer muted colors, you could use some of their pieces to offset your decor. Michaan likes this elegant planter for incorporating greenery on a desk or used as a pencil holder.

“I really like all the leather pieces by Hender Scheme — from their clipboard to their deskpad that doubles as a giant mousepad — for their color and beautiful feel. They are very tactile and just a pleasure to use,” Behun says. She likes using this leather bowl of theirs for storing paper clips.

For file organizers, Ring prefers the translucent effect of acrylics: “If I’m going to stare at it all day, it needs to have a bit of personality!” She shops for vintage styles on Etsy, but we found one here that’s nice to look at, too.

And if you prefer closed storage to conceal any unsightly things, these gray archival boxes are understated and get the job done. Engelbach uses them to store her print paper, “so it doesn’t look like I’m storing all my work supplies here.”

Kicic also owns one of these I-beam-shaped catchalls for keeping pens and pencils, in keeping with working at an architecture firm. He says it “makes for a nice tongue-in-cheek moment.”

If you don’t have much room for storage on top of your desk, you could also invest in a mini file cabinet. Zafarana keeps one of these mint-colored ones by his desk, which doubles as seating. “It’s a way to encourage impromptu meetings when someone wants to pull up a seat.”

The Anchor

You could also install a tiny hook under there (similar to this bag clip we’ve covered before) for hanging things up. Olmstead says of the Anchor he owns: “It’s a fun little accessory that sticks to the underside of your desk and allows you to hang things like headphones — I hang my Gear VR headset and MH40 headphones on it.”


Good ambience can also make a big difference in your workflow, especially if you’re working in an area with little natural lighting. Olmstead has one of these linen-shade table lamps, which casts more of an amber light, on his desk.

Pagan prefers this affordable work lamp from Ikea because he says the light is a bit softer, for sketching. “It just hovers over the bookshelf over my desk to give my area more light if I need it.”

And among architects we polled about the best desk lamp, the clear favorite was this Luxo L-1 lamp, the design that inspired the Pixar mascot.

Kicic has been eyeing this table lamp for his small home office space. “It has a small footprint so it doesn’t take up a lot of space, and the shade becomes translucent when you turn it on. It has a great twist to it, and a beautiful, classic form.”

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The Best Desk Décor, According to Stylish Professionals