A Popular Design Classic: The Versatile Parsons Desk

A Popular Design Classic: The Versatile Parsons Desk

Catrin Morris
Nov 17, 2011

Sure, it is ubiquitous. Sure it is basic. But I think it's beautiful, versatile, adaptable and often very affordable! Its the Parsons desk. It is just the right height (even for the very tall) and shallow enough to suit smaller spaces. And the desk's simple lines make it perfect for any kind of decor, from modern to traditional.

The Parsons table was designed by French designer Jean-Michel Frank in the 1930s while he was teaching a course at Parsons Paris School of Art and Design, then known as the Paris Atelier. The New York Times explains that, Frank challenged students to design a table so basic that it would retain its integrity whether sheathed in gold leaf, mica, parchment, split straw or painted burlap, or even left robustly unvarnished. What grew out of Frank's sketches and the students' participation was initially called the T-square table…

The key is that the table or desk's four flush square legs have a thickness identical to the thickness of the top.

Knock-offs of the original Parsons table are everywhere these days. The desk version is particularly popular. Mine is from West Elm, selling for $199 and up, but it is available elsewhere at an even cheaper price tag. There are versions sold at Overstock, Target and Walmart, though I cannot attest to their quality.

1. Zsa Zsa Bellagio. I love this double-duty home office with two parsons desks in shiny white separated by streamlined storage. On the right: Coco Kelley. This image has made the rounds many times but I can't resist. I love the mix of old and new and the yellow Parsons.
2. Identify This Multi-Functional Desk. The Parsons functions as an excellent sofa table if you have the space.
3. Casa Sugar.
4. Houzz. Double the fun with two desks lined up against the wall.
5. Houzz.

6. Cozy at the Computer: Using Arm Chairs as Desk Chairs. Who says the desk can't be in the bedroom
7. 6th Street Design School. I'm not a huge fan of the curtains but I love everything else about this room. The chandelier, the shelving and the kelly green. What a refreshing, upbeat setting for a home office.
8. Metropolitan Home via Anh Minh I'm not male. Nor am I young. But I still love this fabulous room designed for a young boy.
9. Made By Girl.
10. Lola Lina. It's a tiny little dining set -- too small for amazons like me--but it sure looks good.

11. Mimi and Meg. A nice reminder that you really can put furniture in front of a fireplace...and in front of a window. Cozy, warm and light.
12. Laura's Mid-Century Melrose Place House Tour. Not sure about the goth chandelier but the Parsons desk is perfect in this otherwise understated room.
13. Apartment Therapy.
14. Design Sponge.
15. Everything LEB.

Do you own a Parsons desk? Which room is it in? What do you use it for? Where did you get it and how is the quality?

Images: As credited above.

Apartment Therapy supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.
moving--truck moving--dates moving--dolly moving--house moving--cal Created with Sketch. moving--apt