What are writing tables/desks?

That seems rather obvious, doesn't it? Or maybe not, in today's modern office. Traditionally, a writing desk was used for writing. It could be a simple student's small wood writing desk for school use. Or it could be a sumptuous feast for the eyes used by aristocrats to write their letters - the antique version of what we might now recognize as executive writing desks. It could even be a battlefield writing desk/table. One can easily imagine the old general dictating orders to his troops while his staff officers sat at their desks copying those orders down. But today you and your colleagues are just as likely to sit at your laptop writing desks with built-in power points as well as holes and channels for various cables.

What types of writing desks are there?

There are many different styles of writing desks today. As may be expected, this diversity is largely driven by the desires of managers (and sometimes the tastes of the wives of the ridiculously wealthy). Executive writing desks come in many forms. While there was a brief period when solid steel showed the gravitas and authority of the Chief Executive Officer, it did not take long for solid wood writing desks to return to favor.

Among the better tables you can find in the home or the office are oak writing desks. Oak is a strong, hard and dense wood with very attractive grain markings, so it was only natural that furniture craftsmen would use them to make writing desks. Oak also contains a lot of tannin, which helps to resist attacks from insects and fungus. This means an old oak writing desk made a century ago could still be faithfully serving the family of its original owner.

If you thought that oak writing desks are expensive, then you will likely faint at the price of mahogany writing desks ... at least those made of real mahogany. The original mahogany woods are now protected species, so any writing tables made from them are expensive antiques. Mahogany writing desks today are made from other species of hardwood with straight grains and reddish-brown colors. Mahogany trees are very large trees, which makes wide boards available for crafting durable large writing desks and other high-end furniture.

The cherry wood writing desk is also popular for executive use. While cherry wood is not as expensive as mahogany, it is still highly regarded for its pleasant aroma. However, this aroma fades over time, so while mahogany writing desks become more highly desirable the older (and darker) they become, cherry wood writing desks are preferred in new and pristine condition.

Now obviously, low-level non-managerial staff like ourselves only rate cheap writing desks. These are almost never made from solid wood. If we are lucky, our bosses may value us enough to give us writing tables made from plywood. If not, it's likely to be fiberboard or cheap plastic with some metal reinforcement to take the weight of our desktop PCs.

How should you choose your writing tables/desks?

Assuming you are setting up your personal home office or study, how should you go about choosing your writing tables or desks? Be patient look for discount writing desks at furniture fairs and clearance sales. Choose only those made from solid wood. If you can find oak writing desks or mahogany writing desks for a good deal, buy them even if they are scratched or scuffed up. As long as they are not rotten and remain structurally sound, you can look for a competent carpenter to fix them up later.

The first step of buying a writing desk for yourself is to decide what you want to do with it. Will you put a PC on it? Or will you put a laptop on it? Will you be in front of your computer most of the time or will you actually do some real writing at your table? Will you use it for reading (and maybe note-taking) as well? How many of these different tasks you expect to perform at your writing desk will determine its ideal size for you. For example, contemporary laptop writing desks are rather small. They are designed so that employers can squeeze more workers into smaller and more expensive office real estate. They are smaller than normal office desks because more companies are moving to use notebooks rather than desktop computers, and these notebook computers take up much less room. In addition, modern workers almost never do any real writing, so they are not given any real space for this. If they need to do any note-taking by hand, they are expected to just fold up their laptops/notebooks and put them away first.

In any case, now that you have decided the ideal size of your writing table or desk, you need to look at where you want to put it. At this time, you may need to make some compromises or find a different place to put your writing desk.

Now you can go shopping. Go look at different writing desks that are the right size for you and meet your budget. Then sit down at those desks and try writing or (pretend) to type something on them. Simulate all those tasks that you want to do at your writing table and make sure it is comfortable. No matter how good that particular writing table/desk looks, if it does not feel comfortable for you, do not buy it.