When is a desk a desk and a table a table?


A riddle: what has four legs, a top and usually comes with a chair? 


According to the OED, a desk is an ‘article of furniture for a library, study, church, school, or office, the essential feature of which is a table, board, or the like, intended to serve as a rest for a book, manuscript, writing-paper, etc., while reading or writing.’ A table has a more general purpose; it’s used ‘for working at or on which to place things for various purposes.’

If you’re still having trouble telling a desk apart from a table, desks are often equipped with shelves or drawers. Mostly, however, you can distinguish between the two by  their function. Tables are used by many for eating and playing games.

Desks are usually used by one person for working.
But in the modern office, desks aren’t necessarily only used for working nor are they used by only one person.

Trends like coworking and hot-desking have had an impact on traditional work life. We eat at our desks; we try to collaborate with others as frequently as possible; and we move around the office according to our needs. We don’t want to feel tied down to a desk. We want to treat work with as much creativity, imagination and freedom as we play games. We want our space to be as uncluttered and distraction-free as possible. It’s clear: desks are becoming like tables and tables are becoming like desks.

We’re used to multi-purpose furniture in the home. Sofas that extend into beds in your sitting room; cabinets that double as mirrors in your bathroom; or spoons that could also be forks in your kitchen drawers. So why don’t we embrace multi-functional design in the office? Especially in an environment where space is even more precious than in the home. Productivity and flexibility are qualities prized in staff so why are they not a key requirement from furniture?

Productivity and flexibility are prized in employees so why are they not a key requirement from furniture?

Why do we limit ourselves to using tables solely as tables and desks solely as desks? Perhaps it’s time to stop pigeonholing furniture by its name and time to starting thinking outside the box in terms of function.

Richard Gann