Executive Desk Vs. Secretary Desk: What's The Difference?

If you're shopping for a desk that offers plenty of storage capacity, you've likely come across quite a few executive desks and secretary desks in your search for the perfect desk for your space. However, due to their similarities, it might be tricky to differentiate the two types of desks at first glance.

According to American Furniture Warehouse, executive desks are a cousin of the pedestal desk that offer plenty of storage capacity by virtue of their full-sized pedestals. They also offer large workspaces, as well as modesty panels to obscure your legs from onlookers. On the other hand, secretary desks have a smaller workspace that can be hidden thanks to their unique foldable design. American Furniture Warehouse explains that despite the fact that they tend to be more compact than the average executive desk, secretary desks also boast an array of storage options via built-in cabinets, compact cubbies, or a full chest of drawers.

Size differences

According to Salt Creek Office Furniture, one factor that can limit your options when shopping for an executive desk is the size of the room you plan on using it in. These desks are known to have large, spacious desktops and usually offer plenty of storage space in their pedestals for documents, knick-knacks, and office accessories. However, their large, bulky designs can lead to them being a less than stellar option for smaller spaces, assuming the desk even fits through the door.

Secretary desks offer a more space-saving design that can be utilized in large or small rooms without a hitch. In short, if your space has enough wall space for a chest of drawers, it can probably fit a fashionable secretary desk. On the flip side, the compact design of the secretary desk will limit the amount of things you can place on the fold-out desktop at any given time.

Differences in storage capabilities

Whether you opt for an executive desk or secretary desk, chances are that you will be adding quite a bit of storage space to your work area. Executive desks make up for their added bulk by including large, roomy pedestals where you can store everything you'll need throughout your workday. According to Luxe Decor, the average executive desk sports a storage capacity that far exceeds most computer desks, although they usually lack the vertical storage capacity of a secretary desk.

While secretary desks are known for their storage, the design of the desk will ultimately determine how it can be put to use. Per House Beautiful, modern secretary desks are generally far more compact than the antique secretary desks that you'll find at your favorite antique furniture shop. As such, they probably won't offer the wealth of storage space as the antique secretary desk in your great aunt's living room.

Differences in work area

The size and nature of the desktops that executive desks and secretary desks offer is one of the biggest factors that set the two types of desks apart. An executive desk (per Amish Outlet Store) has a large, sturdy work area that sports enough room for work documents and your computer while probably also leaving you with enough space for personal touches like framed family photos and your prized autographed baseball. You likely won't want to store the weights from your home gym on your executive desk, but they are unlikely to send the whole thing crashing down.

On the other hand, the fold-out workspace of a secretary desk is limited by the size and weight of the things you can store there. While most secretary desks won't falter under the weight of a laptop or some books, they are far more delicate than executive desks. Naturally, secretary desks are also limited in terms of surface area, making them more suitable for occasional work as opposed to the everyday grind of office life.

How the styles differ

Style is another factor that differentiates executive desks from secretary desks. While it should be noted that both desks come in a variety of styles, executive desks are known to draw more attention and become a focal point of the room they're used in, per Amish Outlet Store. Also, unlike secretary desks, they are often designed to be used away from a room's walls, which naturally draws more attention than an inconspicuous secretary desk situated on a room's perimeter.

Although executive desks may be the more eye-catching option, they fall well short of secretary desks in terms of versatility. In fact, secretary desks can be used in nearly any room in your house and make a great temporary workstation for guest rooms or rented spaces. They also come in a wide array of styles spanning from minimalistic and modern to traditional solid wood antiques. Due to their versatile nature, many people choose to employ secretary desks simply for stylistic reasons and leave the desktop folded out to display keepsakes and heirlooms.