What’s the Difference Between a Desk and a Table?

The words “desk” and “table” are often used interchangeably and there are various types of each one. There is a difference, though, in the functionality, purpose, and other criteria. Knowing the differences can help you choose the best one for your needs. 

To properly identify the primary differences between a desk and a table, it is a good idea to outline the features of each one. 

What's The Difference Between A Table And A Desk

What is a Table?

A table is a piece of furniture that uses legs to support it and depending on the type of table, it can have various other features.

For example, picnic tables have connected seats, dining room tables have decorative designs, office tables often fold up for storage, and other work tables are designed for durability and a spacious tabletop surface and work area. 

Since a table is a broad category, it is difficult to have a specific definition other than a flat surface supported by legs.

Even the number of legs can change because there are 1 legged, 2 legged, 3 legged, 4 legged, and more for different types of styles of tables. The size and height can vary tremendously as well. 

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What is a Desk?

A desk is a table of sorts, but with different qualities. In general, a desk is related to work or school and it still has a flat surface, but many of them also have additional storage like shelves or drawers.

Many also have a keyboard tray and some are even height adjustable for ergonomic comfort. 

Usually, desks are not shared between multiple people either.

There are also many different sizes, but unlike tables, the height will never be as low as a coffee table or side table because a desk has to accommodate a person standing or sitting in an office chair. 

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What are the Differences Between a Desk and a Table?

There are plenty of differences between a desk and a table, but the line can also get blurred fairly easily. Let’s look at what some of the typical differences are between the two. 

First, as already mentioned, a desk will rarely, if ever, be used for more than one person. A table, on the other hand, can often accommodate several people when eating, working, or conversing. 

Second, storage is unlikely and uncommon on a table, but desks will often have drawers, shelves, and other storage cubbies and locations. 

This coincides with another difference, which is purpose. Desks are designed for work, but a table is a broader category containing a multitude of types. 

The standard height for sitting tables and desks is identical landing between 28 inches and 30 inches tall. In addition, they can also be taller than that if they are designed for taller stools or chairs or for standing.

However, desks will not be lower than someone can sit comfortably, but tables can be lower depending on the use (coffee tables for example). 

What's The Difference Between A Table And A Desk

What are the Pros and Cons of Desks and Tables?

Desks and tables offer both advantages and disadvantages and determining which option is right for you requires you to examine these pros and cons.

Some of the benefits of a desk or table are found in the differences above, but others speak only of certain types. Under each pro/con, you can find a comparison of a table’s and desk’s use with that certain feature 


As mentioned earlier, a desk is much more likely to have ample storage for work materials or other items.

This allows you to store a computer, paperwork, supplies, and anything else you may need. This can keep you organized during work, which may help you avoid distractions because you won’t have to stand up to grab work materials. 

It is important to note that a table has an advantage with storage as well, depending on the situation.

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A table often has more space underneath the tabletop where you can store things. This area beneath the desk is often utilized for CPUs, printers, file cabinets, and work materials. 


A desk can create a defined work area whereas a table may be shared and less personal. The distinct area that desks provide may help you stay focused and productive. The personal space also allows you to decorate it with family photos, gifts, and other objects that make it uniquely yours. 

On the other hand, if you are wanting to share work or play with another person, a table may be a good option. It depends on your reason for looking for a desk or table in the first place. You can also fit more chairs and people around a table for arts and crafts, birthday parties, family meals, and more. 


The purpose of the table or desk can make a big difference in the pros and cons that each one offers.

If you are planning on using an office chair, then a desk will automatically be the right size, but some tables can work as well. If you need a lot of space without storage, a table may be a better fit. 

Also, a table is often larger without anything getting in the way and can allow you to spread out information, paperwork, and other work materials.

Additionally, if you want to use the table for multiple purposes, then it can be easily adjusted to use for seating guests, eating, displaying items, and more.

A desk does not offer that compatibility in the same way because the style is more directed for a specific use. 

When deciding on one or the other, just think about the way that you would use each one.

You may find that one suits your needs much better than the other. Furthermore, the one that initially sounds like the best choice may not be the best for your usage needs. 


While both desks and tables can come in numerous designs and styles, keeping this into consideration may help you determine the best for you.

Since tables are used for a wider number of reasons, they may have more unique designs available, but are less likely to have an executive or office style as a desk will.

Tables are also commonly used outdoors, but most desks are not designed to face the elements of nature. 

The size is another important factor. Even if they are the same size, different features like cable management grommets, multi-tier design, and weight limits for adjustability can play a role in the design of an office desk. 

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A desk can be comfortable for work but is usually not made for relaxing. Some tables are more likely to promote comfort by providing a height that is not designed for work but instead designed for relaxation. 

However, a standing desk can be quite comfortable and the adjustable options can give you various heights to work with. This can allow you to stay ergonomic when using the desk at any time. 

Is a Desk a Table?

Technically a desk is a table because it meets all the components of the definition. It has a flat surface held up and supported by legs.

This is because “table” is a very broad category of furniture. However, a table is not always a desk because a desk is made for a purpose that many tables do not fit into. 

A lot of people use the terms interchangeably and you can even use the actual furniture for the same purpose.

Some desks make good tables for certain reasons and some tables can make a great desk as well. A table can go along with other office furniture as well. 

How to Use a Table as a Desk?

Using a table as a desk is common everywhere, but especially for people who work from home. This is because you may have just decided to use a table you already owned as your desk and work area.

Additionally, if you do not have a lot of space then you can use a table as a desk during the day and then use it as a dinner table or other uses when you are not working. 

When choosing a table to use as a desk, you do need to keep some things in mind.

Some tables will work great as a desk, but others will not and there are several things to take into consideration: 

A dining room table can work well as a desk if you have the space. They are usually quite large, but also have space underneath them for putting work materials, chairs, smaller furniture like shelves or filing cabinets, and more. 

However, a coffee table will never work as a desk because it is too short.

A one-legged table is unlikely to make a good sitting desk, but a tall one can sometimes be used as a mobile standing desk if you add wheels. 

There are also rather specific tables like a massage table or examination table that would not work as a desk. 

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Another aspect to consider is how well the table will hold the materials you use during the workday. 

A table may have a weight limit that cannot support heavy computers, loads of paperwork, and other heavy items. They may also get scratched more easily or even crack and break under the pressure. 


When looking for a new table and desk, you may wonder how to tell the difference and be confused about the purpose of each one.

We hope our article helped you to discover which type is best for your unique needs and that you buy the best option available that will work for years to come. 

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Darryl Higgins

Darryl Higgins

Hi, I'm Darryl. I made this site to help share information & reviews about ergonomic desks, chairs & accessories to help others who want to work more comfortably. Learn more about my journey by reading my bio here. Enjoy!
Darryl Higgins

Darryl Higgins

Hi, I'm Darryl. I made this site to help share information & reviews about ergonomic desks, chairs & accessories to help others who want to work more comfortably. Learn more about my journey by reading my bio here. Enjoy!

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