Consider This: The Design Workhorse No One Talks About (That We Happen to Love)



Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 1

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 1
image via architectural digest | design by thom felicia

Hi, everyone! Contributing writer Laurren here. Today, we’ve got a little something different for you. It’s not so much a trend discussion as much as it is an awesome-furniture-we-don’t-see-enough-people-using discussion. But before we jump in, let’s go back in time for a moment…

Every Saturday during my last year of college, my best friend and I would have brunch at this spot that served $1 mimosas. (Class!) The restaurant was attached to an antique mall, so it wasn’t uncommon for us to mosey our way over after eating. Most of the time, things ended harmlessly enough, but one day I laid eyes on a green secretary desk and, without much thought as to how I’d use it, told the dealer I’d take it. (How I managed to shove it in the back of my two-door Dodge Neon when I picked it up the next day is still a mystery to me.)  It wasn’t really something I could afford at the time—and I probably wouldn’t have purchased it without that tiny bit of liquid courage—but I never regretted it. It was the first piece of furniture I bought on my own based on want rather than need, and I felt very cool and adult about it. 

photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: the portland project living room reveal

Over the years, as I moved from apartment to apartment and city to city, that impulse buy became a lot of things—bathroom storage, a bar when I wanted a bar cart but couldn’t afford one, a makeshift jewelry cabinet, a desk-shaped junk drawer, lol, and even an actual workspace for actual work. It’s still the most versatile piece of furniture I’ve ever owned, and though I don’t regret finally getting rid of it a few years ago (my style took a more minimal turn), I’ve thought of it a lot since then.

With secret compartments and drawers that can be hidden away by a drop-down or roll-down panel, secretaries fall somewhere between a dresser, hutch, and desk. (Remember when you were young and cleaned your room by shoving everything under your bed? Adulthood is cramming your stuff into a secretary desk.) And these days, with so many styles on the market—from sleek and modern from big box stores to traditional vintage or antique pieces from places like Chairish—there’s really an option for every space. (See the roundup at the end.) All of this is to say we think it’s high time these multi-tasking workhorses (design darkhorses?) get the recognition they deserve. Here’s some inspiration for how you can work one into (almost) every room of your home. 

Entryway

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 6
image via house beautiful | design by juan carretero

Entryways are a space known for collecting clutter—let a secretary desk remedy that for you! The interior cubbies were practically made for corralling mail and other things you want to forget about.

Living Room

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 8
image via design*sponge

Thanks to its stealthy design, a secretary desk is an obvious choice for a living room that needs to double as an office. (There’s nothing relaxing about looking at a traditional desk from your couch!) If you have the space, opt for a taller piece with a hutch. Not only does it provide tons of storage, but it also draws the eyes up and brings height to the room. As with anything design related, it’s all about balance. Here, a more traditional style in a rich wood finish (remember when we said brown furniture is back?) is a refined counter to the room’s modern mushroom-y lamp and printed sofa.

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 16
image via domino | design by lynn k. leonidas

An antique secretary desk corrals a collection of books (and hats).

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 12
image via domino | design by lori paranjape

A paint job can be all you need to breathe new life into a tired piece. Here, a pinky-coral is a wild color choice made palatable by the desk’s more traditional shape. It could all be a little much in a smaller space, but it works here thanks to the room’s tall ceilings and otherwise neutral color palette.

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 13
image via manhattan nest | design by daniel kanter

Not all secretary desks are tall and stately, though! A shorty like the one pictured above is a great option for smaller spaces. 

Dining Room

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 3
image via lonny

In the dining room, a secretary desk with a glass hutch is a lovely way free up space in your kitchen and display special occasion items. (Because let’s be honest: if you can’t see it you won’t use it.) Utilize the drop-down table as extra serving space when you need it or style it up as a bar cart, as seen here.

Bathroom

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 19
image via the washingtonian | design by darryl carter

No linen closet, no problem! Here, an antique Swedish secretary adds storage in a bathroom. (Pull up a chair—and a mirror—and you’ve got yourself a vanity, too!)

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 1
image via architectural digest | design by thom felicia

A honey-colored piece warms up this, large cool-toned master bathroom and also serves as a dressing table.

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 15
image via the makerista | design by gwen hefner

A petite secretary desk, like the one seen here, can go a long way in keeping countertops clear when space and storage is limited. (They’re a great option in a bathroom with a pedestal sink if you can squeeze it in.)

Bedroom

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 5
image via lonny | design by robert passal

Plopped next to a bed, a shorter secretary desk with drawers (something larger could overwhelm a small room) is triple-threat piece, acting as a nightstand, desk and dresser in one.

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 17
image via pink peppermint design | design by tammy mitchell

In a kid’s room short on space, a small secretary desk in lieu of a traditional nightstand carves out a place to do homework.

Emily Henderson Secretary Desk Inspo Pic 2
image via anthropologie

This piece, with its cream and mint color combo, brass details and mirrored interior is a glam take on the traditional wood secretary desk.

Now that you’re thoroughly convinced to bring back the secretary desk (are you?), here’s a roundup of 39 of our favorites, including some pretty special vintage and antique finds.

Emily Henderson Secretary Desks Under $500

1. Fretwork Rattan and Seagrass Wrapped Secretary Desk | 2. IKEA Secretary Desk | 3. Fold Down Secretary | 4. Arian Secretary Desk | 5. Imported English Secretary with Leather Insert | 6. Mid-Century Mini Secretary Desk | 7. ACME Mullener Desk in Walnut | 8. Boone Secretary Desk with Veneer | 9. Drop Front Secretary Desk  | 10. Natural Rattan Rashida Secretary Desk | 11. ACME Wyanie Desk | 12. Loring Secretary Desk | 13. Mid-Century Fold Out Desk | 14. Thorton White Secretary Desk | 15. Secretary Desk

Emily Henderson Secretary Desks $500 $1,500

1. Mid-Century Hand Painted Chinoiserie Desk | 2. Arts and Crafts Mission Solid Oak Secretary Desk | 3. Gaston Floating Secretary Desk | 4. Covert Grey Secretary Desk | 5. Austin Work Station | 6. 1960’s Danish Teak Secretary Desk | 7. 1960’s Secretary Desk | 8. Eastman Secretary Desk | 9. Amish Mini Secretary Desk | 10. Nolan Secretary Desk | 11. Egon Ostergaard Teak Secretary Desk | 12. Mid-Century Secretary Bureau 

Emily Henderson Secretary Desks $1,500 & Up

1. Traditional Baker Petite Secretary Desk | 2. Exec Secretary Desk | 3. Jace Desk | 4. Cameo Indigo Right Secretary Desk | 5. Vintage Baker Mid-Century Ebonized Campaign Desk | 6. 19th Century French Walnut Secretary Desk | 7. Black & Gilt Chinoiserie Desk | 8. Grove Office Armoire | 9. Brass Key Secretary Desk | 10. Italian Secretary Desk | 11. 19th Century French Iron Desk | 12. 18th Century Swedish Secretary Desk

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