My Desk’s Been in My Family for Four Generations — Shop the Vintage Look

published Apr 24, 2023
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collage with a photo of the author's vintage desk with a computer mouse, pencil and calendar
Credit: Photos: Blair Donovan and Shutterstock; Design: Apartment Therapy

For as long as I can remember, my parents’ garage has functioned as a large-scale junk drawer equivalent (sorry for the overshare if you’re reading this, Mom and Dad!). But when I came back home to Louisville, Kentucky, during the summer of 2020, I noticed something new stuffed between the cars, family bikes, lawn equipment, and high-piled odds and ends: a desk. And not just any desk — a vintage wood writing desk with brass drawer pulls and dramatic curved legs. 

Stunned, I asked my mom where this piece came from and how I’d never seen it, to which she nonchalantly divulged that it was her childhood desk — originally belonging to my great-grandmother — and clearly unbeknownst to me, we’ve apparently always had it. I instantly loved it, needed it, and somehow, some way, would get it to my then desk-less New York apartment.

After a bit of sibling squabbling (my brother initially claimed it for his first post-grad apartment), I eventually inherited the desk. My family visited in July 2021 and drove it, along with my bike, 750+ miles from Kentucky. Since then, it’s been my steadfast (and, naturally, stylish) WFH foundation, with a deceptively deep inner drawer, to boot. Looks-wise, the heirloom piece does show some up-close wear and tear — including small stick figures a younger version of my mom rather unceremoniously carved into it — yet, it’s hands-down my most prized furniture possession. I absolutely love how the timeless design juxtaposes with the more modern furniture and decor in my bedroom, too. 

I’m intrigued by traditional writing desk styles, in general, because they’re conducive to a decently sized workspace, but, historically, have relatively compact footprints overall. Sadly, though, they really just don’t make ‘em like they used to (I mean, those curved legs!). That’s why I took it upon myself to round up six similar vintage-inspired writing and secretary desk styles to bring home your own family heirloom lookalike. Of course, you can source true, one-of-a-kind antique styles from sites like Chairish, 1stDibs, Etsy, and more, but expect to pay upwards of $1,000. All of the below desks, starting at just $220, cater to small spaces specifically with a range of styles, dimensions, and storage options. 

1 / 6
Walmart
$449.62

This detailed writing desk most closely resembles my own, down to the leg curvature. It’s admittedly a little expensive for its modest dimensions — 35 inches wide by 20 inches deep — but you’d never guess this came from Walmart versus a high-end antique market.

2 / 6
Wayfair
$219.99
was $287.99

Legs for days! Currently on sale for $220, this two-drawer desk packs plenty of dynamic texture and shape into one compact silhouette. If this vintage-looking “espresso” finish isn’t your speed, you can also choose from seven other colors, including white, red, black, or blue.

3 / 6
West Elm
$524.99
was $749.00

West Elm’s 48-inch wood writing desk gives off major mid-century modern Danish vibes. Although it’s drawer-less, the shelves and hutch-like tabletop addition still offer practical storage spots. Act fast while this is currently on sale!

4 / 6
Home Depot
$309.99

For a darker design, The Home Depot’s Safavieh roll-top desk features a fairly sizable, laptop-friendly workspace, plus storage drawers galore.

5 / 6
World Market
$245.99
was $349.99

I love the turned legs and barely-there drawer from this World Market-exclusive design. It’s just 20 inches deep but a whopping 54 inches wide — perfect if your bedroom or home office demands something shallow yet still spacious.

6 / 6
Wayfair
$334.99
was $399.84

Tapered legs bring this acacia wood desk up to contemporary speed, with an overall mid-century-modern-meets-traditional kind of allure. Another advancement over more old-school counterparts? This also doubles as a charging station with a built-in outlet and two USB ports.