Adjustable Height Standing Desk Round-Up and Buying Guide

Working from home. It has become a way of life for those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to do so. And even as life begins to get back to normal in many states – or, the ‘new normal’ – it is likely that we will be continuing to work from home a lot more than we did before the coronavirus pandemic.

We have done our fair share of home offices over the years, but only a couple have incorporated a standing desk – or, more accurately, an adjustable height desk that can easily alternate between a height suited for being seated, and in a standing position. It is a trend that has been well-established in commercial workplaces, but has been slower to make its way into home offices. Not anymore! The standing desk trend in residential interiors is exploding and it’s here to stay.

Sitting on our butts all day isn’t good for us. We’ve all seen the research, so I won’t belabor the point. When I was designing my studio (which is on the upper level of our carriage barn), built-in seated desks made the most sense architecturally. I incorporated a bar-height work island so my team and I could alternate between sitting and standing. It is a life-saver for my back – not to mention a great place to collaborate, scheme, and store client project materials.

Adjustable Height Standing Desk Round-up and Buying Guide | Interiors for Families | Blog of Kelly Rogers Interiors

With so many of us rethinking our at-home workspaces, and trying to make home a healthier and more pleasant place to work, I thought it would be timely and useful to share a buying guide for sit-to-stand desks. As a bonus, I have rounded up the best adjustable height desks out there, and grouped them by three different budget levels – $1,500+, $1,000-$1,500, and under $1,000.

First – let’s look at the most important features to look for when you are buying a standing desk:

  1. Style
    • There are basically only two styles of sit-to-stand desks out there, as strange as that may sound – industrial, and modern/contemporary, with a little bit of crossover between the two. If you’re searching for a nice looking traditional or transitional standing desk, you can just stop wasting your time now. The very few options I found that attempted a more traditional look, with some framed pencil drawers and moulding trim, look cheap and sad. (I have some tips for desk traditionalists and others who want to keep their desks toward the end of the post!)
  2. Materials
    • Base
      • For the most part, adjustable height desks have metal bases. You may see different finishes – silver, natural steel, black or white powdercoat – but you’ll find that, with a few notable exceptions, the bases look pretty much the same.
    • Surface
      • The most common options you’ll see are solid wood (my favorite!), tempered glass, melamine, and veneered wood. These will affect both price and performance. For example, solid wood may have a higher weight capacity than, say, melamine, but also, generally, a higher price tag. Tempered glass is a very interesting, durable option – the matte type is resistant to scratching and fingerprint-showing, while a gloss finish provides a dry erasing surface you could even take notes on in an eco-friendly manner.
  3. Lifting Mechanism
    • There are three different mechanisms used for lifting and lowering an adjustable standing desk – an electric motorized system, a counterbalanced release system, and a good old fashioned hand-powered crank. The electric style will typically have programmable memory settings, so you can adjust with the touch of a button – but some people don’t like the noise of the motor, or the speed of adjustment. The counterbalanced release is a familiar mechanism if you’ve ever adjusted an office chair while sitting in it – it’s manual, but quick and quiet. And the hand crank – well, that is what it is. A little bit of elbow grease might not be a big deal to you if it gets you the style you want – this mechanism is now most typically seen on industrial-inspired desks.
  4. Size
    • At the risk of being obvious: Size matters. There are a myriad of size options – ranging from 24” wide up to 80” or higher. Some people will even ‘tier’ multiple standing desks, to have one higher one behind the one they are working at. Width will also range widely, 18-40” so be sure to check dimensions to make sure your gadgets, monitor(s), etc will fit well, with nothing too close to the edge. Make sure it fits your space and your needs. The end :).
  5. Shape
    • For the most part, standing desks have rectangular surfaces. There are nuances to this shape available, which include cutouts (for your body), and rounded corners, which might be desired in a home office space with heavy through traffic, or when kids are frequent visitors. A variation on the rectangle is a kidney shape, which ‘hugs’ you a little more and further rounds those edges and corners. And for those that really need to be surrounded with a multi-planar desk surface, you can even find L-shaped and U-shaped adjustable height standing desks!
  6. Accessories
    • OK – this is where it gets really interesting, and you’ll want to pay close attention to the features of the standing desk you’re considering, and note that, on many models, these features are optional and not necessarily included in the base model/price by default. Here are some of the potentially useful integrated accessories for adjustable height desks:
      • Cord management. Grommets and other tools can help wrangle the tangle of cables and cords emanating from all your gear
      • Power Strip. This allows you to plug in multiple devices, in some cases with just a USB cable, and just have a single cord plugging into the wall
      • Keyboard drawer/tray. You can free up additional space on your desk surface with a keyboard drawer. These sometimes also come with extra space for device charging, storage of desk supplies, etc.
      • Pencil drawer. Pretty self explanatory – some standing desks have the option to add a storage drawer to your desk configuration. Pay attention to finishes and compatibility when ordering these types of accessories.
      • Modesty panel. If your desk floats in the room, you may want to add a modesty panel on the front, which conceals both your lower half (especially good for women who may wear skirts or dresses). But it’s not strictly for ‘modesty’ – these panels can help provide storage space and concealment for cords and cables.
      • Computer storage. Your job might require a high-powered, bulky machine rather than a slim laptop or mobile device. Some manufacturers have storage compartments for a desktop computer that ‘hang’ off the standing desk surface, thus eliminating that additional cord coming from the floor (and/or the need to keep that bad boy on your desk surface).

And now…the desks!

Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission.

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So what do you do when you already have a desk you really love, but you want the functionality of a standing desk? My husband’s office, aka the Manbrary, has a beautiful antique Empire-style desk, and we weren’t really keen on replacing that.

One Room Challenge Fall 2015 Manbrary Reveal | Kelly Rogers Interiors | Interiors for Families
Eric Roth Photography

He was used to working at a standing desk at the office, and quickly tired of doing 10 hours of Zoom meetings planted in his desk chair (which was, of course, never the intended intensity of use for the chair, or this room in general). Enter the standing desk converter, which simply sits on top of your desk, and is adjustable to the height you prefer.

Adjustable Height Standing Desk Round-up and Buying Guide | Interiors for Families | Blog of Kelly Rogers Interiors

He has a very ‘lite’ setup with just his Surface to manage, but there are supersized and even tiered versions of this concept. He got his here.

There is also an almost comical array of external accessories you can add to your standing desk – including but not limited to, compact treadmills, stationary bicycles, rocker boards, anti-fatigue mats, monitor arms, desk lamps, acoustical panels, footrests, etc.

But this one might be my favorite…

Adjustable Height Standing Desk Round-up and Buying Guide | Interiors for Families | Blog of Kelly Rogers Interiors
The Under Desk Hammock from Uplift Desk

Because after standing at your desk all day, where else would you rather relax with a book or a nice cup of herbal tea, than directly underneath it? 😉

If you enjoyed this post and/or found it useful, please bookmark it and share with a friend who might like it, too!

Adjustable Height Standing Desk Round-Up and Buying Guide | Interiors for Families | Blog of Kelly Rogers Interiors

And if you are finding yourself stuck on home office design overall, we offer a variety of virtual services to help, ranging from a one-hour Zoom consultation, to a fully-fledged room plan through our Delivered by Design service. Contact us to learn more!

Kelly Rogers

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