Many of you who have designed desks have done so in a studio. But as a professional organizer for nine years, I've been inside hundreds of people's homes and offices and have made this simple observation designers could benefit from: Not all end-users will have space next to their desks for file cabinets, credenzas, etc. Those customers may appreciate a desk designed to provide storage, so critical papers and tools can be kept close at hand. There are many ways to provide this storage, using traditional techniques or more unusual approaches. Here are a variety of designs for you to check out, with the scale swinging both ways on the style-vs.-utility balance, as per the designers' tastes.
Traditional: Desks with drawers
The photo above illustrates a great example of updating the style of a basic design. The standard way to provide storage is simply to have drawers—on one side, or on both. The Horace Desk from Geoffrey Keating provides this while adding a dash of retro, combining sheet-metal drawers with handsome hardwood. Also note the elegant dovetails not only on the drawer fronts, but in the surface of the desk itself, where you rarely see them. And don't forget that if you're putting drawers on both sides, you'll want to ensure there's enough leg space left so the customer doesn't feel cramped and uncomfortable. The drawers may be various sizes, and some customers will want at least one drawer which accommodates hanging file folders.
For an example on how a basic idea like drawers can get re-thought, look at the Cartesia desk from Colors—where the drawers can open to the front or to the side. This allows you to access two adjacent drawers at once—an interesting feature, though this utility can really only be taken advantage of in offices of particular and minimalist layout; since you need room to pull out those side drawers, the design effectively kills the possibility of placing more furniture adjacent to the desk. Note that the bottom three panels front one deeper drawer, and there's a small drawer at the top rear that allows stored items to use the cable feed slot.
Traditional: Desks with matching pedestals
Some end users need to shift their workspaces throughout the day—for example, they might be sitting alone at their desks in the morning, then sitting side-by-side with a co-worker to collaborate on something in the afternoon. For situations like this, where more legroom is spontaneously needed, a mobile pedestal that fits under a drawer-less desk provides flexibility in how the storage is placed, but doesn't use all the under-desk space as well as built-in drawers do. The CBox Doppio from Dieffebi, designed by Gianmarco Blini, has a nice touch: the fitted cushion that allows the pedestal to serve as seating.
Traditional: Secretary desks
A secretary desk—with its cubbies and one or more drawers—will appeal to customers whose storage needs don't include files or large items. The AK 1320 from the Naver Collection is a nice example.
Here's the Hyppolite secretary desk from Hartô, with a different configuration of cubbies and drawers.
Unusual: Desks with unique approached to storage
Inventive desk designers have found numerous other ways to meet their customers' various storage needs.
Sixay Furniture has created the Sixtematic desk, with many shallow drawers. It's not for everyone, but would be perfect for end users with particular types of workflows—for example, someone who needs to keep numerous documents and stationery items close at hand, or artists/designers who want to keep their hand tools or drawing implements neatly organized. One design quandary: This piece would be more practical with cabinet label holders, so people could readily tell what was in each drawer, but it wouldn't look as stunning if it had them; the labels would distract from the beautiful wood.
An innovative, experimental functionality can be seen in the James and Jimmy desks—same design, different sizes—designed by Piet Houtenbos in collaboration with Modernlink. Both desks have five slots or "gills" on the desktop for papers. More conventionally, they also feature one large drawer, and one smaller drawer with adjustable drawer organizers. The desktop slots could be used for work in progress or frequently used papers.
It's always nice to give customers some flexibility to configure their storage in a way that works for them, and the Organised Mess Desk by Jun Yasumoto does just that, adding a dash of simple modularity with a variety of hang-on trays and holders.
For the modernist with multiple storage needs, the Bureau by Martin Holzapfel provides a number of different storage options: a bookshelf, a small drawer, a larger drawer that could hold files, and a hidden shelf that opens to the side.
For clean-worksurface fanatics, the Tolix Flap Desk, designed by Sebastian Bergne, takes a different approach, and stores things within the desk. The only problem would be if the users needed to get to things stored inside while they were also working at the desk. But it certainly provides nice dust-free storage, making it ideal for usage in an area where physical things are being fabricated.
For customers who need books close at hand, and not much else, the Nils Holger Moorman Kant Bureau, by Patrick Frey and Markus Boge, would be just the thing. The slanted shelf allows gravity to obviate the need for bookends, while lowering them enough to preserve sightlines, for offices frequently requiring that type of interaction.
And just to see how much storage can be added to a single desk, take a look at the C-321 Rolltop Desk from Homestead Furniture. Paradoxically, it seems perfect for the craftsperson or fabricator who needs to store a variety of small parts and hand tools—though it seems too nice to scar with soldering-iron burns and tool dents!