Help Evan find the perfect desk

Reader Evan sent us the following question:

I’m an engineering student, with tons of books and papers, so I love having a big open desk to work on, but I won’t have the space in my new flat. I have an idea of using a folding desk so that when it’s not in use, it’s not in the way. Plus, it’ll force me to put away all my junk! The problem is, I can’t find anything that seems to fit the bill — all I see are cheap card tables! Can you help me find something functional, yet attractive? Of course, if you have any other tips, I’d be delighted to hear them!

I immediately thought of numerous possibilities for Evan … and then noticed he said “flat.” An inquiry proved that he, in fact, is in London. Not a single one of the options that came to my mind could be found in the UK.

Instead of sending him a reply of “sorry, I can’t help,” I thought I would open up the comments to our European readers to lend Evan a hand. What suggestions do those of you across the pond have for him? Evan and I are interested in seeing your responses!

32 Comments for “Help Evan find the perfect desk”

  1. posted by Brigitte on

    Ikea has a few items that might suit. See for instance Not expensive and they do the job (I’ve been using an Ikea kitchen table as a computer desk for many years; I like the large working surface on top and the absence of drawers forces me to be tidy.)

  2. posted by Andrew on

    Well, I was going to suggest a dining room table from somewhere akin to Ikea, but I see I’m a tad late for that.

    The reason the idea came to mind is the extensibility of many dining tables – drop leaves, and the like.

  3. posted by Thais on

    Hey you!!
    The first thing I imagine is something that we were used to see a lot here in Brasil, that is a folding table, but, it is in one side attached to the wall. When it is in use you get it up, and when it´s not you fold it down and have all the space you need back…
    😉 Good luck on this trace for the perfect table!

  4. posted by Harald Stürzebecher on

    To find the opposite of “cheap card tables” I suggest looking for “office furniture” and “folding table”, e.g. at Staples (
    I’m not sure if these fit your budget or the space in your flat, but they do look “functional” … 🙂

  5. posted by mike deuerling on

    Find a old door and attach the hinges to the wall, it’s big and flat and folds against the wall when not in use.

  6. posted by patty on

    what about a drafting table. One engineers and others use. You might also try to find a art student who designs and build furniture. Maybe a swap of talents? so you could afford it.

  7. posted by Melissa on

    Take the idea of a table attached to the wall one step further and use a bookcase as a place to attach the hinges. Hang the bookcase on the wall, then use the front of the lowest shelf to attach the table surface via hinges. When you’re not working, books and supplies can be stored in the bookcase with the table folded up in front of the shelves.

  8. posted by Mags on

    When I used to rent flats, we weren’t allowed to make changes to structure of the building without losing our deposit (normally a month’s rent, if not 3 months’ rent) when moving on, so attaching big things to the wall – whilst a great idea – will depend on what Evan is allowed to do to the place/can get away with!

    (Mind you, we weren’t allowed pets either and it never stopped me having a cat)

  9. posted by Meg on

    I think the idea of using a door attached to the wall is a great idead, but of course the issue relating to what is actually allowed to do under the term of his lease come into play. BUT – one idea I have is that he attaches the door (or what have you) to a premade frame and hang that. There are items that are sold to acheive that with a minimum of damage to the wall. (and who among us haven’t done this as renters, fill it with toothpaste when you leave! The frame would also have cork on it for his things. Or you could do the old door and sawhorse route. Just tuck it away when not in use. Good Luck

  10. posted by CrimsonCrow on

    I’ll tell ya…this is a post I will keep my eye on! I live in an 18’x18′ (interior) house. I am always on the lookout for furniture that is affordable (the most difficult requirement to fill, I’ve found), versatile, lovely to look at, and (multi)functional.

    I’m currently using a 1950s AllSteel office desk (my workplace was going to toss it!). While one drawback is its large footprint, it has cavernous drawers (including a file drawer, that allowed me to sort through and eventually sell my 2 drawer file cabinet) that helped me de-clutter the first day I brought it home.

    Anywho, thanks for the site and for this post. As I said, I’m gonna stay tuned…

  11. posted by Deb on

    For the last fifteen years I used a desk that was actually two low bookcases with a hollow core door stretched across the top. One bookcase sat against a side wall and I faced that inward, so I could have access to it and use it to hold the computer tower. The other bookcase faced the room and looked better from the room than the bare back of a bookcase. It was very easy to move and had tons of open space above AND below. I stored boxes under the desk in back of where my legs stretched, there was so much room! I faux finished the door to look like travertine marble, which turned out great!

    The alternative could be to stretch the door across two low file cabinets. Ikea makes some on wheels that would make a desk low enough for me, but perhaps not for a tall guy.

  12. posted by Marla on

    As Thais suggested, and where Brigitte looked, there’s this: There’d be only a few small holes to patch when it’s time to vacate – easily done!

  13. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    Gateleg tables:

    A wonderful-looking gateleg table – but probably quite pricy:

    Another more expensive gateleg table:

    Folding dining tables – but more expensive than Ikea:

  14. posted by Alison on

    If you can afford it, Herman Miller has a new furniture solution called “Sense”. Its a plug-and-play system that you can break down and store flat, pretty much anywhere. A lot of really great accessories, too.

    I just bought the worksurface/table and media cabinet myself (not sure if the media cabinet is available in the UK).

    Here is a link to the UK site >

  15. posted by Rosemary on

    I found a great folding table you can build on Instructables. If you are the least bit handy, you should be able to make it yourself. Here is the link:
    Good luck!

  16. posted by jtaby on

    I too am an Engineering student, and the GALANT desk from ikea is more than perfect!

  17. posted by wayne on

    when i was in college, i slept in a small room but also needed desk space for studying. a solution i borrowed from my grandfather’s midshipman days was to use the same low surface for both a bed and a desk. (with a sleeping mat on top when not studying, of course.)

    i went through a few iterations. my first attempt was a low plywood board atop cinder blocks, with some 2×4 boards nailed underneath for support. but i would have to sit on a mat on the floor to study.

    an added benefit was that i was forced to put everything away at night when i slept. or if i were pulling an all-niter, it reduced the gravitation towards the bed. it was also pretty easy to dismantle and move to another apartment, in search of cheaper rents, or into storage for the summer.

  18. posted by Matt Gibson on

    I’ll second the IKEA suggestion. I was looking for a very similar thing in the UK for the last year or so, and ended up with the IKEA LÅNGED drop-leaf table. It’s plain and simple, but very sturdy, has some useful built-in storage, basically turns into a tall side-table, from where you can extend one leaf to give you a decent work area, or pull the whole thing away from the wall and pull out both leaves to give you a really good desk area. And it’s only £65.

  19. posted by Ksenia in Canada on

    I am struggling to believe that any student would regularly put away a folding desk set-up ;-). I would suggest using dining table part-time as a desk, with a handy nearby shelf for books and supplies. If wall-mounting a shallow desktop is an option, that would be good too.

  20. posted by jgodsey on

    when i need a big space, i put a sheet of 1/8″ plywood on my bed. then when it’s not in use, i slide it against the wall behind a bookcase. If the bed is too uncomfortable, you can put the plywood on top of a smaller ‘card’ table to expand the surface space available.

  21. posted by The AntiChick on

    I’m wondering if it’d be possible to take a bookcase and mount a table top (or something like it) onto it, and then cut the table at the edge of the bookcase, and then put hinges & gable it from there. I’m liking the idea of the bookcase behind the gable, to hold computer equipment & the like, and that would also solve the “can’t modify the apartment” problem.

    I’ve been trying to come up with some sort of partially collapsable design for a desk for some time… we have 4 people in our house sharing an office… a total of 6 computers, and it’d be nice to be able to have more flexibility than every inch of floor being taken up by a desk. This discussion has given me some new ideas.

  22. posted by Trixi on

    It’s hard to know if this might work without seeing the flat or knowing what the rooms are like ~ and not knowing even what room the desk would be in ~ but what about instead of a foldwaway desk, you instead build a simple loft bed and have a desk permanenetly set up under the bed?

    A lot of students did this when I was in college to maximize floor/work space. They would build a very simple but sturdy platform bed and place their desk underneath the bed. (These were in room with 8′ ceilings).

    Sort of like this one at Pottery barn: only not so fancy, just very basic.

    You can check out this website too
    or I bet you can find instructions for free and just have to purchase the raw materials.

  23. posted by Tina Mammoser on

    I understand the space issue in a London flat! I had to fit a desk in an 8’x9′ bedroom along with a double bed, cross-trainer, shelves/clothing rail, and could use space in the corner behind the door (which is storage).

    I ended up converting my dresser/bureau into a desk. I bought a couple of gate-style door handles and 2×1 lengths of wood. Attached the doorhandles inside the top drawer on the top side. Attached two more doorhandles to one side of a plank of wood. The 2×1 lengths go inside the drawer through the opening holes in the drawer front, slide through the door handles attached inside. They stay there until I need more space when I pull them out and slide on the plank. Viola, extra desk space for my keyboard and I can still have books open in front of the monitor. A barstool serves as my chair because the bureau is slightly high and also it’s more compact to put in a corner at the end of the day.

    As for drawer use – the top drawer is out-of-season wear I don’t access often, the middle drawer is office supplies, and the bottom drawer is for usual clothes.

    If I could I’d ideally like to have a double desk – the top of the bureau and then another table-top like surface hinged to the side that could pull up and prop on a trestle. So double-width. Ikea sell a lot of table tops that could be used for this.

  24. posted by HippyKidz on

    Hey Evan How about taking one of those cheap we call them core doors here in the states. But you know the ones that are little more than a visual barrier between rooms,and a place to put a door knob. With a piano hinge attach it to the wall and two posts/legs with smaller versions of the same hinge and voila a foldable desk with lots of space.

  25. posted by st on

    Likely not big enough for you, but here is a fairly nifty folding desk:

  26. posted by Evan on

    Wow, thanks for all the suggestions everyone – I’ve definitely got some good ideas now! I really appreciate your help!

  27. posted by Deb on


    I worked for many years off of a core door (you can also get them without the hole for a doorknob) to which I had attached a set of folding legs (from the hardware store).

    It sits in the garage right now, taking up a tiny amount of depth behind some shelves.

    Our office room now has two corner unit GALANT desks from Ikea but I don’t think they would fit into your need for collapsible or portable. They are attached to heavy frames and the legs are quite heavy as well.

  28. posted by Mary on

    When I was an engineering student, the books never got put away. If your flat is that small, will you be doing much more in it other than eating, studying, showering and sleeping? Personally, I would rather have my books, notebooks, calculator and laptop up and accessible – I needed all the study time I could get!

    I had a table set up in the corner of my bedroom (I was a mom with 4 kids in a crowded university apartment) and it worked fine. Keeping things out encouraged me to try to keep things neat and uncluttered – the more I organized my work, the better I tended to do in my studies if that makes any sense.

  29. posted by Alexandra on

    Look to Swiss Miss:

  30. posted by Luke on

    Check out the Oneless desk by Heckler Design. it’s great I love mine!

  31. posted by Mike on

    Try This

    I know it’s small but folds away nicely and no damage to the wall 🙂


  32. posted by J on

    I love the Herman Miller desk you posted, but it’s a bit long for apartments. I’ve also been trying to find the perfect folding desk, but haven’t had much luck. I did locate this one but, but haven’t found it anywhere:

    Does anyone have any ideas where to find a similar (perhaps lest costly) surrogate? Thanks!

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