Office Desk Buyer’s Guide | Why & How

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Why Should I Buy An Office Desk?

…is kind of a silly question, unless you’re exploring options for rented workspace. We’ll be honest, there’s not a lot of sense in explaining why the world needs office desks – even in an office desk buyer’s guide. Since before inventing the printing press, mankind has needed a place to read and write. That puts the age of the office desk at least over 700 years, with examples as far back as the Ming dynasty. While a transition to more open offices may have shifted commercial design’s emphasis to systems furniture, the office desk is still a ubiquitous figure in any work environment.


How Should I Buy My Office Desk?

First, we explore different styles of office desks. Then, we’ll examine the components of an office desk: the worksurface, supports and accessories. Finally, we’ll look at basic budgetary guidelines for those components and the accompanying installation.

Office Desk Styles

Traditional Office Desks typically emphasize an impressive presence and intricate details, reminiscent of Victorian-era furniture. Most often wood or veneer, traditional office desks typically come in deeply stained wood finishes and meticulously-crafted inlay patterns.

Transitional Office Desks are probably the most common on the market, and are an easily-standardized middle ground. Simple lines and fundamental shapes paired with traditional or contemporary finishes, often laminate, achieve a comfortable balance of budget and aesthetic.

Modern Office Desks prioritize clean, minimalistic lines and visual accessibility. They most often feature polished surfaces and sharp angles. Metal, glass and acrylic are typically what comes to mind (or an image search), but many contemporary laminate and wood options are also available.

Office Desk Shape

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Rectangular Office Desks are exactly what they sound like – tried and true.

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Bow-Front Office Desks feature a slight arc on the front of the work surface to provide extra workspace and accommodate visitors with the extension.

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Bullet Office Desks generally have one edge of the work surface that’s rounded and supported by a post-leg.

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Peninsula Office Desks (or “P-top”) have an enlarged “peninsula” on one end of the work surface to facilitate small meeting scenarios.

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Porkchop Office Desks have a slight perpendicular extension to mellow the corner on l-shaped and u-group desks.

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Custom Office Desks abound with many higher end manufacturers, and can be an impressive statement piece. However, custom office desk shapes can be hard to standardize.

Office Desk Configuration

L Shaped Desks are characterized by a “return” that extends perpendicular to the main work surface, forming the “L”.

U Group Desks are usually characterized by parallel work surfaces connected by a perpendicular “bridge”, forming a “U”.

Modular and Benching Desks are generally characterized by shared or connected work surfaces, but we’ve already written guides for buying cubicles here and benching systems here.

Reception Desks are most distinctly characterized by a “transaction-top” counter, and we’ve also written a guide for buying reception desks here!

Office Desk Size

While freestanding office desks range in size, common dimensions from most manufacturers include 48″, 60 and 72″ widths and 24″, 30″ and 36″ depths.

The standard desk height is 29″-30″. Counter height ranges from 34″-39″, and bar height is 42″. Most sit-to-stand (or adjustable height) desks max out between 44″-50″ high.

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Office Desk Bases

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Slab-Base Office Desks are some of the most common, and are exactly what they sound like. Rectangular uprights support the office desk on either side, which generally extend to the edge. Slab-base office desks often variable options for the “modesty panel” which is the front-facing support.

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Post-Leg Office Desks have supports near corners and connections – often columns, traditional table legs or more modern conference table bases. While “table” legs may conjure images of an old dining room set, many modern office desks are making use of post-legs because of the visual accessibility they offer.

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Some configurations, such as Bullet Office Desks, have a combination of supports. As many furniture manufacturers follow workplace trends, the use of modular connections and storage components for support is becoming more common.

Office Desk Accessories

Access to power and data can be configured both above and below the work surface. Most often, grommeted holes in the work surface either a conceal power strip or a pass-through for wires.

Task lighting can help correct an uneven distribution of light from ceiling fixtures. LED fixtures mounted on the work surface or under overhead storage provide optimal lighting conditions.

Storage components commonly include pedestal or mobile file cabinets of varying sizes, overhead hutches, and matching casegoods (i.e. wardrobe, lateral file). Determining what storage implements to select depends on the flow and management of paper materials.

Ergonomic features often include wrist rests, keyboard trays, monitor arms and adjustable desk options.

Tips for Budgeting Office Desks

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Tips for Positioning Office Desks

Before buying a desk, measure the size of your work area. Allow 3-4′ of space behind the desk so you have room to move, and between the desk and credenza, if using one. Allow 3 feet for door swings and 3 feet to at least one side of your desk, allowing you to walk to your desk chair comfortably. When using guest chairs, allow for 3 feet from the front of the desk to the back of the chairs.

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Office Desk Installation

Now, if you’re having it delivered, it’s time to create an installation plan with your furniture installers. The first thing to note is that office furniture should only be installed in  a space that’s “substantially complete” (floor covering, wall covering, wall base, HVAC, sprinklers and ceiling grid installed and closed). Once your space is ready to go, furniture installers should survey it. This includes identifying elevators, stairs, loading docks, dumpsters, width and accessibility of doors, how far the push will be and who will be the point of contact. The scope of work includes when the installation will take place (nights/weekends or daytime), how many hands the installation requires and what is physically required of them.


Thanks for Reading!

We hope this resource proves helpful to making a more informed decision about buying an office desk. Want to dive a little deeper? We’ve also put together a selection of idea starters, segmented by style and price point. You can see it here or by clicking the button below.

See Idea Starters!

And, remember, we’re here at any point to help make your workspace work as hard as you do. If you’re in the market, we can procure a variety of new and used office desks. If you’ve found what you’re looking for, our team has the capacity to deliver, install, reconfigure your desk and more. Up against it, or want to get ahead of the curve? Tell us about your project!

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