Here at the Strategist, we know that finding the “best” product really depends on exactly who you ask — which is why we’ve devoted a new series to squeezing in as many informed, trustworthy opinions as possible. And we’ve come up with dozens of ways to do this, among them: surfacing reader reviews from across the internet, taking quick polls (among our most insane friends and fellow shopping-obsessed Strategist editors), and partaking in some advanced internet snooping.
With that, we’re rounding up the best desks, according to the people. Our recommendations range from a bamboo laptop desk beloved by the Strategist’s resident home-design writer to a direct-to-consumer standing desk with over 2,000 glowing reviews, and almost all are under $500.
Snooping: Interior designer Justina Blakeney’s desh-slash-bar
When Blakely remodeled her Los Angeles home, she installed a mid-century modern secretary desk with two drop-down shelves that create “the perfect small-space desk and bar.” Though there’s no exact replica for Blakely’s vintage piece, AllModern’s multipurpose white floating desk has two drop-down shelves and a modern look.
Ask a Cool Person: Reporter and podcast host Sylvia Obell’s writing desk
Obell told us the design of this desk suits her minimalist style, and 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.” She likes that because the drawers are open-facing, they “force me to keep them tidy.” Obell also tells us it was “easy to assemble, which I appreciate as a single woman. All I had to do was screw on the legs.”
[Editor’s Note: This desk is in stock on Amazon, but it will take 1-2 months to ship to you.]
Snooping: Philip Roth’s lectern
The novelist had two light-wood lecterns, which 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.
Ask a Cool Person: Painter Marcus Brutus’s Ikea low “desk”
The artist tells us that in place of a desk, he prefers to use this coffee table from Ikea to work on “smaller drawings.” Brutus says he leans over it from his couch and that it “isn’t so low that it strains my back.”
Snooping: Bob Boilen’s “Tiny Desk Concert” desk
Desks aren’t generally featured in concerts, except Bob Boilen’s, 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, get this L-shaped six-by-six-foot desk from Bush Business Furniture, which comes with a wide top and looks quite similar.
Expert-Approved: Best desk for kids according to child psychologists
Dr. Donna Housman says having a flip-top desk will help ensure children store their belongings properly, as it gives them “a special place that belongs just to them.” We particularly like this handsome-yet-unobtrusive wooden option.
Expert-Approved: Best desk for teachers according to a teacher
For New York City–based special-education music teacher Connay Bratton, having a desk with wheels enables her to “easily transition the classroom into a better setup for my students,” who do a lot of “hands-on project-based learning in groups.”
[Editor’s Note: This exact model is sold out, but Symple Stuff makes a couple wheeled desks, like this mobile computer desk with a keyboard tray and this desk with a hutch.]
Snooping: Alex Katz’s studio desk
A 2018 New Yorker profile of the 93-year-old artist includes 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.
Ask a Cool Person: Molly Young’s pink
The DMs to New York Magazine’s literary critic are filled with people asking Young where she got her charming little pink desk. “I instruct them to set an eBay alert for ‘pink Formica table,’ ” which is how Young found it, she says. This dining table on Pamono is quite similar to hers.
Snooping: Best small desk used by a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist
Just as most people reached the one-month mark of working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, Ashley Parker, a Pulitzer Prize–winning White House reporter for the Washington Post, took to Twitter looking for an in-stock desk. “I am losing my mind and don’t know how much longer I can work from my ‘left side of the bed’ home office,” she wrote. At just over 28-inches wide, complete with two drawers, her “gold standard” of small desks — the Dean Console by Safavieh — is sold out online, except at a couple of smaller sites. However, this desk from Mercury Row, which is available at several major retailers, is a pretty close dupe, down to the 28.3-inch width, double set of drawers, and comparable price tag.
Expert-Approved: Best standing desk according to chiropractors
If you prefer function over form when it comes to standing desks, both chiropractor Jan Lefkowitz and integrative pain expert Joe Tatta vouch for the Varidesk, because it can switch between standing and sitting height. Tatta explains that “substituting prolonged standing for prolonged sitting results in a greater feeling of discomfort,” so he likes that this three-plane desk “accommodates a variety of body types and postures.”
Strategist Pick: Best Donald Judd–esque desk
When we realized that a small group of stylish people were building their own Donald Judd–inspired furniture, we also learned that there’s some Judd-esque pieces for sale at Urban Outfitters (of all places) — like this mid-century foldout desk, that does double as a storage space. The modular, minimal, wooden look is certainly Judd-ish, with some modern touches like a cord hole in the back and some hidden storage compartments. The desk is on pr-order right now until November 11, but if you can’t wait that long for a Judd-esque workspace, consider this pale wood table.
Ask a Cool Person: Chris Black’s favorite desk
When he’s not working from bed, our resident taste-based expert Chris Black uses a simple, untreated wood desk that his friend built for him. 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 adds. Like anyone with a penchant for the modular and minimal, Black suggests the winter on maple or white-toned option.
Curbed Editors’ Choice: Best space-saving desk
According to writers and editors at Curbed, another desk solution for small spaces is this wall-mounted Elfa pick, which includes three shelves. “Transform a small nook from wasted space to functional desk with this set that uses only one piece of track mounted to the wall,” explain the writers. Plus, on the Container Store’s website, the desk gets dozens of five-star reviews (with none under four stars), including one Manhattan-based customer who calls the purchase their “best decision ever,” adding that they can now study in their studio apartment instead of going to a cafe with enough space.
People’s Choice: Best-rated desk according to Amazon reviews
Real-estate developers and mechanical engineers praise the minimalist look and sturdy construction of this Zinus Soho desk, which is the best-rated home-office desk and writing desk on Amazon. 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 desk is from Zinus’s readily available Modern Studio Collection, which also includes these well-reviewed bed frames and mattresses that have been tested (and approved) by Strategist writers and comedians, so we expect it’ll last.
[Editor’s Note: This desk is in stock, but it’ll take 2-4 weeks to ship to you.]
Quick Pick: Best desk after a Strategist writer’s hour of research
Writer Kayla Levy had been a fan of this Reader Desk from local design company Akron Street for a while (she’d been seeing it on her Instagram for months), but its $595 price tag was a tad too high. She wasn’t the only one: Enough other people have their eye on the Reader (Strategist writer Lauren Ro, included) that it’s back-ordered until the fall of 2020. So she tried to find an in-stock dupe: “Direct-to-consumer furniture brand Inside Weather makes an extremely similar-looking, now on sale desk called the Jorn, which comes complete with an open drawer and back ledge,” she says. “When it’s not on sale, though, it’s more expensive than the Reader itself. Blu Dot’s modern-looking Stash Desk is a close second, but it might take a couple of weeks to ship.”
People’s Choice: Best-rated desk according to Houzz reviewers
Most of the wares on interior-design aggregator Houzz only have a couple of reviews, which is why this computer desk from Monarch Specialties is such a standout — with nearly 100 four- and five-star reviews that praise its storage and open design. One independent business owner describes herself as “happy as a pig in mud,” thanks to the desk’s “highly functional storage space” for all of her papers. And if that’s not convincing enough, the computer desk is sold across several online sites, and it has excellent reviews on all of them. At Amazon, one customer says it’s a “super sturdy” desk with “so much top desk space.” It’s also available in a variety of finishes at Macy’s, K-Mart, and Overstock.com.
The Verge Editors’ Choice: Best standing desk
With over 2,000 reviews and an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on Fully, a direct-to-consumer furniture company, thousands of customers appreciate this sustainably built, customizable standing desk for its sleek look and expert-approved ergonomic setup. “It is beautiful, extremely sturdy, and easy to move up and down,” says one grad student, who found the desk to be better for her back pain than biweekly visits to the chiropractor. Plus, four staffers at the Verge recommend the desk for working from home, including Nick Statt, who calls the Jarvis “far and away my best work-from-home purchase in years.” At just under $500, Statt adds that the desk is “rather pricey by desk standards, but cheap by standing desk standards,” especially for one that “looks great.”
Strategist Readers’ Choice: Best (less expensive) standing desk
According to our data, this well-reviewed standing desk is the most-purchased desk by Strategist readers over the last 30 days. 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.
[Editor’s Note: This desk is sold-out in this color, but it is still available in oak or all-black.]
Quick Poll: Best desk according to my seven most design-minded friends
Among the acrylic and periwinkle-toned desks that Kayla’s friends picked out in a quick poll, a couple said that wooden, trestle desks — with sloping legs and room for underneath storage — were their favorite design. “It has a nice design, but is still super-functional with work desk vibes,” explains SEO content editor Sofie Wise. Pottery Barn Teen (of all places) carries this exact, albeit over-budget, type of desk, but there’s a cheaper version for sale at Hayneedle.
[Editor’s Note: This desk is currently out of stock.]
Ask a Cool Person: The favorite desk of a CEO (with good taste)
When we explored the workspaces of creative and productive people, Emma Mcilroy, the CEO of Portland-based feminist clothing line Wildfang, says she gets the most work done at her West Elm Jensen Desk. “It’s kind of mid-century-inspired because I’m really into that era,” she says of the desk, which has a wooden A-frame base and sleek glass surface.
People’s Choice: Best-rated corner desk at Wayfair, according to reviewers
“For anyone (everyone?) trying to shoehorn a work-from-home situation into an already-full home, a corner desk will work wonders,” says lifestyle journalist and author of The Little Book of Living Small, Laura Fenton. This triangular Andover Mills desk has over 1,500 five-star reviewers on Wayfair, who vouch for its small but functional storage spaces. “The desktop is spacious enough to accommodate my two full-size computer monitors,” says one reviewer, and another adds, “I love the little shelves underneath to tuck away our small printer and books.”
[Editor’s Note: This desk is currently out of stock, but an extremely similar looking model from Andover Mills (which has nearly 400 five-star ratings) is in stock here.]
Snooping: Vogue fashion director Virginia Smith’s desk
After combing through a recent Vogue article about five editors’ at-home desk setups, we learned that fashion director Virginia Smith lives “in fear of technology issues” while working from home, and this acacia-toned desk has enough surface space to fit her laptop, iPad, two phones, and some drawers for other tchotchkes — like Jao Refresher hand sanitizer. Although it’s on the pricier side — and is currently backordered until November — the Drommen Desk is a CB2 exclusive from German designer Jannis Ellenberger, whose work usually retails for much more.
According to Reddit: Best gaming desk
Ikea desks are popular among gamers on Reddit: In the 2.2 million-member subreddit r/buildapc, a top discussion about the best gaming desks surfaces the word “Ikea” over 200 times. One member disputes the notion that Ikea desks aren’t built to last, writing that they’ve been using the desk since 2015 and that it’s “solid” and “will last for some time.” Another member says their Fredde “has lasted five years and is still going strong,” adding that it’s “great for gaming.” When compared to Ikea’s iconic gaming desk, the Jerker, the Fredde is described as “wider,” “shallower,” and “lighter,” with “appealing features” like additional shelving for monitors and subwoofers. One pleased gamer notes that the Fredde also has “cupholders, a top shelf for a printer, and disassembles easily if you are moving.”
Strategist Pick: Our home-design writer’s favorite lap desk
When Strategist writer (and our resident home-design expert) Lauren Ro isn’t writing at her vintage desk, she works from bed or the couch with this lap desk. “I wanted something that was sturdy and also looked nice, so I opted for this bamboo one with cutouts that help keep your laptop cool,” she says, adding “it also has a ton of neat features, like adjustable legs and a tabletop that can be tilted to a range of angles.” Much like Liz Carey’s lap desk (turned Fruit Loops-in-bed tray), Ro imagines that her bamboo desk would double as a great breakfast-in-bed tray. Strategist writer Tembe Denton Hurst also stands by her slightly less-expensive laptop tray, which has a convenient mini shelf and is big enough for a 17-inch laptop. — Additional reporting by Louis Cheslaw
*A version of this article appears in the August 17, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!
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