5 Easy Tips for Styling a Desk

Principles of No-Fail Desk Styling

Hello all! Welcome to a grand 2-day blog hop/EVENT that will give you plenty o’ tips for styling any table you come across. Kicking off day one is yours truly, and I’m here to talk to you about DESKS.

Most of us have at least a couple pieces of furniture in our homes that are mostly just aesthetic–a console table or book case that is only used to display favorite objects. But a desk isn’t usually one of those pieces. A desk really has to serve the dual-duty of looking good and providing functional workspace.

Today I’m going to share with you my 5 principles for putting together a desk space that is easy on the eyes and helps create a pleasant space for taking on sometimes unpleasant work (mmm, paying bills, anyone?).

All you have to do is think SMALL:

S – Storage

M – Movement

A – Art / Accessories

L – Layering

L – Lighting

A desk is just a horizontal space, so in many ways, styling a desk is no different than styling a shelf, console, or table top. Because of this, M for movement and L for layering are just applying basic shelf styling tips to your desk area. Let’s talk about what each of these letters means.

  • Storage – Storage is part of what makes your desk a functional space and can take many forms. A glass jar or small vase can store pens and pencils. A decorative canister can hide supplies or organize small tools. A tray can corral bills and paperwork you may not want to put out-of-sight in a drawer.
  • Movement – You can create movement through styling in a lot of different ways. Incorporating objects of different heights and varying colors, patterns, and shapes are just a couple examples of how you can keep the eye moving through all the elements in your vignette.
  • Art and/or Accessories – Art and accessories look nice for styling, but they also give you something to look at and enjoy while you’re working. There’s a reason why desks in front of windows seem so logical and office cubes seem so deadening. Humans crave visual stimulation! Art and other accessories can also do a lot of heavy lifting in the movement/layering aspects of the styling equation, and smartly chosen accessories double as storage as well..
  • Layering – Layering objects in any vignette creates interest. It provides depth within a horizontal surface and adds interesting tension between what is concealed and revealed. You can layer objects literally on top of one another (like leaning one piece of art on another) or simply by arranging objects at different depths front-to-back so that they appear layered.
  • Lighting – You need to see when you’re working, right? A light is functional necessity for a desk, but it can also help add height and bring in color, texture, or a sculptural element, depending on the type of lamp you choose.

Here are three different examples that show these principles in action.

Desk Setup 1


You guys may remember this vignette from the New Year, New Room reveal. I’m going to let you in on the secret that this is probably my favorite of today’s three examples. I just love everything in it, especially the paint-by-numbers and the vintage tin (+ storage!). This has clearly got all 5 principles going on, but my best tip here is that some items can double to cover more than  one category. For example, I used a vintage brass canister as a pencil-holder. I couldn’t fit the lid on it, but it was interesting enough that I was able to use it as an accessory in its own right.

Desk Setup 2


Setup 2 uses a big piece of art that fills the space and unifies the other, smaller accessories. A bulletin board would also serve this purpose well (and could be used for storage/organization). In lieu of art, you could also do a wallpapered or stenciled wall (or canvas, for less commitment) to provide visual interest. It’s not always possible (or preferable) to keep your papers away and out-of-sight, but here’s a tip if using a tray for random stacks of paper–use a small (and preferably heavier) art object on top to distract from your mess. Vintage ashtrays are cheap and plentiful in flea markets, and they make great paperweights. Sometimes they can function as coasters, too!

Desk Setup 3


Clearly I am a fan of mirrors in this (or really any) styling equation. At a desk you can look up and recite positive affirmations while talking yourself out of sending a really nasty email. 😉 Mirrors are a great alternative to art, though, and are often more cost effective for their size. Another tip — don’t forget to include some greenery in any good desk setup. Sanseveria and ZZ plants are super easy-care plants that will grow nearly anywhere (the plant in the yellow pot in pic 2 is a Sanseveria), but fake plants can work well if you want to avoid the hassle. For fresh plants, flowers are lovely on occasion, but simple branches off of small trees or shrubs will last longer and dry out less conspicuously.

Think you would try out any of these tips for your desk situation? Let me know in the comments!

Now, hop on over to Up to Date Interiors and visit Kathy for some sofa table styling tips! And PS, come back tomorrow for even more goodies!

Day One Bloggers

Britt Kingery – Desk Styling

Up To Date Interiors – Sofa Table Styling

Pretty Practical Home – Console Table Styling

Domicile 37 – Bar Cart Styling

Casa Watkins – Coffee Table Styling

Day Two Bloggers:

Monica Wants It – End Table Styling

Shabby Grace Blog – Buffet Table Styling

Vintage Romance Style – Round Coffee Table Styling

This Is Our Bliss – Mantel Top Styling



  1. Love these tips Britt!! Love how you broke down the essentials for great desk style and the acronym is super fun. Pinning and sharing!

  2. Britt these are awesom tips and I the S.M.A.L.L technique that you use to explain your no fail way to style a desk. I can see this technique used on a lot of things. Also, I am digging the new site and I have been reading some of your other post and you are a great story teller.

    1. Thank you so so much, Jess, your comment really means a lot to me! Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m being interesting or a total snoozer, so I appreciate the kind words. I’m also glad you are liking the site! I’m liking it a lot so far, too.

    1. Thanks so much, Rachel! I saw that yellow mirror in a vintage shop and my husband went back and bought it for me for Christmas. I think I forgot to get him anything that year, lol. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Sharon! Mirrors are one of those things I feel like you can’t have too many of. Except that you can unless you want your place to look like a house of mirrors. I guess you could just look into any one of them and say, “I do not live in a carnival attraction. I do not live in a carnival attraction.” Lol! I love the print in #2 also. It’s from Ikea, huge, and I think was like $30. You really can’t go wrong on that one.

    1. Thank so much for your comment! #1 is how I actually have this desk in real life, and I do find it very practical. I work there on my computer and there’s plenty of space, but it’s also very cozy. Win-win!

  3. Britt, this is an excellent post! All the different ideas are equally beautiful. I’m not kidding, when you posted your room reveal, I couldn’t stop looking at how you styled your desk! You are one talented girl!

  4. You asked if would I use any of these tips for my desk. No. In fact, I’m utterly confused. This desk must just be for decoration? My desk has my computer, a keyboard, mouse, mouse pad, an external hard drive, a laptop, laser printer, a functional lamp, a three-level paper sorter, container of pens and pencils, my tablet for illustration, a glass of water, a box of kleenex, and my phone. I work at this desk every day. It’s neat right now but it often isn’t. I can’t imagine piling up art, vases, books, bookends, mirrors, plants, and photos on it, I’d have no room to work whatsoever. In most of your examples, the work space left is very small. The only one that looks even half way functional features a teeny tiny notebook… what does one do with such a teeny tiny notebook? I imagine, nothing.

    I guess I just don’t get styling everything for the sake of styling. I’m not trying to be a hater — in fact I’m a new subscriber and your desk vignettes are lovely — I just can’t see how anyone could work at one for more than a few seconds to write out a utility bill or something…. and so if they are just for decoration, why have them? Why not have a night stand or something that’s more functional for the space if you don’t need to actually work at the desk?

    1. Hi there, Jane! You make an excellent point–it does matter a great deal how you use your desk and what you have to accommodate. It sounds like your desk is a real work horse! I will say, though, that I actually do use this desk for work styled as it is styled in the first picture. I work for a software company, and everything I do is pretty much on my laptop. So, I have enough space for that laptop and I use the small pad for notes when I’m in conference calls. I only work from home part time and pack up my laptop and charger at the end of every day. If your desk is your legitimate full-time home office, maybe this is not practical for you. At my company office I still have some tchotckes, photos, and other stuff on my desk. I’m incorrigible when it comes to tchotchkes, I guess. 🙂 Thanks for the comment and glad to have you aboard.

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