The evolution of office furniture. From a crude wooden table to a modern curved office desk.

By Sam Knijff
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row of office desks and office furniture from across history

Although most interior designers will tell you that the concept of office furniture didn't really exist until the early 1800s, people always looked for a way to make their workplaces comfortable and safe.

Of course, an office desk is a core and the centrepiece of any office and workplace. In this article, we shall talk about the evolution of office furniture and particularly how crude wooden chairs have eventually turned into ergonomic modern curved desks.


The origin of office furniture

Although the written word appeared thousands of years ago as well as writers, accountants, secretaries and other related "office" jobs, people didn't really think that there was a need for particular office furniture until the Medieval period.

However, the tables that scribes used back in the day hardly had anything in common with modern office furniture, ergonomically curved desks and other today's essential pieces.

 Those were crude and simple tables that were not really different from any other simple basic furniture.

However, by the XVII century, people started using more instruments for writing, different ink, feathers and other items that can be considered stationary. Eventually, our ancestors started to look for a way to organize those various (and pretty expensive) items on the table, preserve them from spoilage and… thefts.

That is how writing tables became more sophisticated by the beginning of the XVIII century, gained shelves, storage sections and drawers, that could often be closed with a key.


The rise of office furniture

As we have already mentioned, the concept of office furniture as we know it today has appeared at the beginning of the XIX century.

The industrial revolution was the main reason why people suddenly started to design and produce so many different office desks:

  • The development of machinery and technologies made mass production of furniture easier and cheaper;
  • Growing factories and businesses required more people who could keep the record and books and organize the process of business development. In other words, the world needed more office workers, and those office workers needed their office desks.

At the same period, people started to seriously think about comfort and safety at an office workplace. Mainly the development of comfortable ergonomic office furniture was initiated by the idea that office workers should spend more time behind their desks and be more efficient for the same salary, rather than care about their health and wellbeing. However, the process was initiated and led to the fact that today we have modern office furniture that also helps us remain healthy, spending a third of our lives behind office desks.

Modern office furniture

Since the beginning of the XX century and until today, the evolution of office furniture mainly depended on technical progress.

Most of the modern office furniture pieces that we still use every day appeared as a way to incorporate and organize technical inventions and new office appliances. 

Different models of typewriters required different shapes and construction of office desks. Some of them were pretty massive and required significant physical effort while typing. Therefore office desks had to become steady and pretty durable. That is how 4 table legs transformed into solid wooden planks. They also allowed female secretaries to feel safe and less exposed while they were sitting behind their desks.

The modern curved desks appeared as a solution for the massive computed monitors everybody used in several decades age. Today, when we have switched to flat screens or even notebooks, curved office desks may seem less relevant. However, this type of office furniture has numerous benefits.

Curved desks help to use the whole available space in the office and at the same time tuck a chair or a pedestal with drawers under it, saving a lot of floor place. Curved desks are also ergonomic, provide additional support for the wrist and allow you to reach every necessary item easily and safely. Therefore, even though the original reason for the introduction of a curved desk has already disappeared from everyday office life, curved desks remain the most relevant and popular pieces of modern office furniture.


Office furniture has changed greatly throughout its history. However, the main principles will always remain the same. A good office desk will help you be organized, keep all papers, stationery and appliances in their place and cover it from a stranger's eye if needed. Moreover, a place where you spend a third of your life should be comfortable and safe, made out of quality materials and protect you from back pains, muscle strain and other notorious side effects of work in the office.


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