Desk vs. Table: 10 Differences That Matter

Desk vs. Table

These days, the option to work or study from home has become much more commonplace, so access to technology that will help you communicate and work remotely is priceless. Most people that are new to doing business or schooling remotely are still working on their laptops and PCs from their bedrooms or couches.

Whether you are doing office work or homework, studies have shown that having a designated space in your home that is solely for work is healthier for your mind and can help you focus better. Having a good workplace can help boost your efficiency and focus, so here are 10 differences to help you decide between desks and tables. 

What is the Difference Between a Desk and a Table?

Tables and desks are not quite the same piece of furniture, though the two may share many similar qualities. Both have flat surfaces upon which one may write, draw, or do other tasks, and both can range in quality and price. It is pretty common to find either one or both of them in homes, businesses, and schools all over the world.

Although you may think that the differences between desks and tables are pretty insignificant when it comes to which one you should choose for your office or schoolroom, there are actually quite a few differences that could make or break your space. You need to take into account everything from size preference to storage needs.

Desks are typically more commonly associated with studying and doing business, but it is also likely that a tabletop could be suitable for your needs and could also save you quite a bit of time and money. Tables can be easier to find secondhand and are easier to fix up and make look brand new. Desks can cost more money but can store more.

Have additional storage space: drawers, etc.Can store things on topHave a very limited amount of storage space
Usually only have four legsCan be built very sturdy or less studyHave 1-12 legs, depending on size
Tend to be more expensiveCan range in pricesTend to have more options

The best study space for you will be the one that helps you stay focused, so if having extra pen and paper in a desk will keep you from getting up and getting distracted looking for supplies, that is a win. However, if storing books and other things in a desk will be a distraction, maybe a simple table pushed up against a wall will do the trick.

1. Access to Storage Space

One thing that is worth keeping in mind is what sort of storage space needs you might have. The more you need to store and keep close to your workspace, the more you may need to consider a desk as opposed to a table. Tables can be great to set things on, but there is obviously only so much real estate where you can store things.

Desks on the other hand often come with plenty of space for you to store everything inside and out, from textbooks to files to extra office supplies. Some desks can be extra fancy and have space enough for you to work on your computer, have your printer or fax machine just to the side, and even keep any additional supplies within reach inside:

  • Drawers 
  • Cupboards 
  • Cubby spaces

If you are easily distracted, you might consider one of two options. If you are going to store things in and on your desk that distract you, such as knick-knacks and other bric-a-brac, you might want to limit the amount of space that will store distractions and go with a table. Keep only what is needed at your work table for your study and business hours.

On the other hand, it may be more distracting to store supplies and other work necessities far away from your table. Everytime you need a new pencil or eraser, you would have to get up and be distracted by other things and chores around your house. In this case, keeping things near you on a desk might be the best option for productivity.

2. Sturdy Builds

If you own a lot of furniture, then you likely know that not all furniture is created equally. Some types of tables and desks can be created terribly, cheaply, and have to be replaced within a few years. If ever there was an appropriate time to say, “They just do not make things like they used to,” it would be in regards to furniture creation lately.

Wood can be very expensive, especially depending on the type of wood you want to use for your table or desk. Whereas your grandparents or great grandparents may have had a set of furniture that was made out of solid, hardwood, furniture today is made more inexpensively with thinner wood, which also leads to a flimsier product.

The type of workspace you desire to create can depend on how much money you have to spend and the access you have to sturdy products. If you are a student, maybe looking to go the cheaper route to stay within a budget, getting yourself a simple card table or a small study table from IKEA or Amazon will suit you just fine.

Desks can tend to be a bit more expensive as they require more wood to provide you with all that lovely storage space. Depending on the materials and the size you would like for your desk, a finer option can cost you thousands of dollars. If you are looking for a piece of furniture to pass on to your children, a really nice desk could be excellent.

3. Different Options for Different Budgets

Not all desks have to cost you an arm and a leg, and not all tables are going to be inexpensive. That being said, you can often find different options for different budgets in many places. Purchasing a desk or table secondhand is an excellent option as you can save a lot of money, fix up the piece for cheap, and then even sell it back on:

  • Facebook Marketplace
  • eBay
  • Craigslist

There are more expensive table options, just as there are more affordable desk options. One of the most affordable desk options is going to be a plain computer desk. This style will probably have only two thin drawers near the tabletop surface and will be much smaller than an heirloom desk set. You can find many options for this style for less than $200.

An heirloom piece of furniture is going to be made of much higher quality materials and will be much more expensive. You will not be able to pull into your local Walmart and find such a desk or table, you will likely have to go to a specialty furniture store or order something handmade. The lower end for these pieces will be a minimum of $1000.

There are some people that donate their nice furniture to a secondhand store where you can get an insane discount, but this does require a little hunting and knowing when these thrift stores put their new merchandise out. Bottom line, the larger the piece is and the better the materials, the more money you are going to have to shell out.

4. Easy to Reach Supplies

When considering whether a desk or a table will better suit your needs for your home and work circumstances, you must also consider what you will need from the piece. For example, if you are a comic book artist and the tools you need to do your job are paper, pencils, maybe a few markers, and your imagination, you do not need much storage.

Most likely, all you would need to work from home would be a flat surface and maybe a few things to boost your imagination. In this case, a table would most likely suit your needs better as it is easier to push the table up to a window and daydream. However, if you are a student with a heavy class load, your needs would be different as you need:

  • Quick and easy access to textbooks for various classes
  • Plenty of storage to stow pens, paper, and notebooks as your computer may take up most tabletop space
  • Drawers and even files to organize papers, syllabi, and other important documents

For those that need quick and easy access to many different supplies, like students and certain remote businessmen and businesswomen, a desk would be easier for their time management. The main difference between a desk and a table lies in how much space you realistically are going to need, and what you need to use the space for. 

There is, of course, the option to make a table more or less like a desk with the help of  some plastic storage bins stowed under the table. This, of course, does not look as neat or as organized as a desk would, but if you already have a table that you can use, you do not necessarily need to go out and buy yourself a new desk to get your work done.

5. Organization and Tidiness

Studies have shown that if your workspace or office is clean, organized, and tidy, you are going to have an easier time organizing your thoughts and planning your next moves. If your home is cluttered, there are so many things out and potential distractions available to your mind that can cause you to lose focus on what work you are doing. 

It should not really matter which piece of furniture you get for your office space, whether it be a desk or a table, as long as you keep your work materials as organized and neat as possible. Of course, having a few drawers and other designated storage areas to keep clutter out of sight certainly does not hurt as you strive for organization. 

Having a desk to help you stay organized can backfire on you if you are a messier person in general though. Having access to more cubbies and drawers does mean that there are more places you may store unnecessary items and back stock of office supplies. This can actually have the opposite effect and can clutter up the space.

If you are looking for a less expensive option, there are plenty of cheaper desks and even little folding card tables that you can set up to work at. Having a smaller table and a smaller office area in general to do your studying at might force you to keep the area more clutter-free and organized since there is less space to keep things out in the open.

6. Size Matters

Depending on the size of your home or your apartment, you might be looking at a relatively small piece of furniture. Not only will a smaller desk or table suit your needs, but it will also keep your work area from looking cluttered and overdone. Size matters when it comes to saving space in a home, especially if you do not have much to spare.

Size Mattress Desk vs Table
Table Size

There are so many research examples that prove having a designated workspace in your home as a student or for remote business will help you be more focused and have better time management skills. Even if the designated work space is a card table pushed into a corner, this helps tell your brain that it is time to work and nothing else.

Furniture OptionProsCons
Smaller DeskTakes up less space, has some small storage areasLess places to store work essentials, will not fill a room
Larger DeskFills an office nicely, more storage space to stow materialsCan be too large for what you need, more space for clutter
Smaller TableFits nicely in a small corner, less room for distractionsNo storage space, not much room to spread out materials
Larger TableMore room to spread out, can fill an office nicelyNo storage space, can take up too much room and be cluttered

It makes sense, as other studies encourage you to avoid using your phone in bed and only use that space for sleeping. These practices help you compartmentalize. It is worth noting that the whole point of having a desk is to have a larger piece of furniture that will allow you to store supplies nearby. Desks tend to take up more room than tables.

That being said, and depending on how much space you require and have to devote to your work area, you might opt for a smaller table to do your business and studying. If you have a whole office room to utilize, a large desk or even a nicer table fills the space better. Stay within your budget, but also think about how long you will use the piece.

Smaller Options

It is easier to think of the benefits of having a larger sized desk or table for your workroom or office. If you have the space to spare, it can seem that a larger desk or table would be a no-brainer over a smaller option. However, if all you need is a small space to be able to spread out your work and get business done, consider sizing down.

Smaller tables like fold-out tables and card tables are not only much less expensive options, they also take up less room and offer less opportunity to become cluttered and overwhelming. If your work area is too messy or you are constantly getting distracted by all the things nearby, you will not utilize your workspace and will end up on the couch.

Smaller desks can also be a great option. In addition to taking up less space in your home or apartment, if you struggle with staying focused on the task at hand, having a smaller area to focus on can save you a lot of time and brain power that is being dedicated to “Okay, now it is time to refocus on this project or assignment again.”

Smaller desks do mean less storage space, but if you do not need a full scale, CEO-level size of a desk, less storage space can also mean less space to keep neat and tidy. Regardless of whether you need the space or not, you will end up filling those storage drawers, and this can lead to a lot of unnecessary and distracting clutter.

7. Technological Differences

Depending on how much money you want to spend, and what your work or schooling needs are, there are quite a few creative technology options that you can look for. Some more modern desks and work tables have special plugs and ports for you to charge your phone, laptop, and other electronics.

These features are typically found on more expensive desks and conference tables, as the wiring is already done and included in the price of the piece. There is definitely something to be said for having all of he 

It is also worth mentioning that tables can be made into all different shapes and out of various materials. There are quite a few more varieties of tables you can choose from, while most desks are one style and are usually rectangular or square shaped. In addition to wood, tables are easily found made out of:

  • Glass
  • Marble 
  • All kinds of metals

This is not necessarily a deal breaker for most people, but if you have a very specific space you are trying to fit, you will probably have an easier time finding a special table to satisfy the interior designer in your heart.

8. Multipurpose Options 

While it is not necessarily recommended to do work in the same area where you eat, sleep, or entertain yourself, sometimes you do not have the option to do otherwise. If you are on a strict budget and already have access to a card table or a kitchen table, there is no need to go out and purchase a new desk, regardless of storage space.

If you live in a tiny studio apartment and you just simply can not afford to add any more furniture to the layout, working in a stool up at the bar in your kitchen or settling in to study at your kitchen table is not a bad thing. However, if you have space and money, it will likely be better for your mental focus to dedicate yourself to a desk or table.

If you are able to buy a table or desk, new or otherwise, there are ways that you can get the most out of your purchase by using the piece of furniture for multiple purposes:

  • Use the table as a way to display some of your favorite plants or other decorations
  • Organize your favorite books attractively on the desk to make it more visually appealing
  • Hang some of your favorite paintings, photographs, or motivational artwork near the work area to draw attention to that space and help motivate you while working

If you can use the table or desk as a surface to maximize your time and efficiency, the piece has already completed the measure of its creation. Anything else is a bonus.

9. Differences in Efficiency

If you live in a house with multiple people, family members or roommates, it might be nice to have a workspace that is known to all as yours only. The nice thing about having a desk to do your work at is that typically a desk will belong to just one person. There are many kinds of desks that are designated for different people at various times:

  • In grade school, you probably had your own desk that may or may not have had your name on it
  • Schoolteachers have their own desk where they sit to teach and grade papers, usually at the front of the classroom to command attention
  • CEOs and other business managers have their own desks and it seems that the more important you are, the larger your desk will be

It is also easy to pull a chair up to a desk and be able to focus and work for a long period of time without stopping. Desks are at the perfect height for an office chair and there is usually enough room for your legs and lower half to fit comfortably underneath. If you are comfortable and focused, there is little stopping you from working efficiently.

On the other hand, tables are much more accessible, and if you live with other people, there is a good chance that you already have a solid table in either the kitchen or the dining room. If you regularly sit at the table in your home for meals or other activities, consider switching up your seating chart and sit away from your regular seat to work.

It is not impossible to maintain work efficiency where you play, but it is recommended to have separate spaces within your home for different activities to help focus, especially if you suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety or attention deficit disorder. If you can avoid using the coffee table or end table in the living room where you watch TV, do.

10. Personalization Options

Another main difference between desks and tables, especially if you live with other people, is that tables do not belong to just one person. There are many types of tables that can be found in a home, all of which could potentially provide you a solid, flat surface where you can operate. Some tables are better for work than others, such as

  • A kitchen table or dining room table—just remember to not sit in the exact same seat where you take your meals. This helps your brain compartmentalize.
  • Conference tables—although these are more typically found in hotels and work offices, they will certainly do the trick for your work and study time.
  • Stacking or nesting tables—these tables come in different sizes and are easy to move so you can go wherever will be most efficient for you.

Where desks usually belong to one person, a table can be used by everyone, which can either be great or frustrating, often depending on how many people live with you. Working at a table is obviously not a problem if you work alone, as there is no one else to clutter up your workspace or want to share the table when you are busy focusing.

Whether you decide to use a desk or a table to work remotely or study for school, the important thing is to make sure you find a way to make the space your own. This will be much easier for you if you have your own desk, as people rarely want to use a desk that already has someone else’s personal belongings and supplies in and on it.

If you need to, there is nothing wrong with creating a little cubicle or screens out of construction paper or cardboard for yourself to limit visual distractions. You may also consider wearing noise-canceling headphones so you can really plug in and focus. At the end of the day, do what you need to work hard, whether it be on a table or a desk.


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