Last updated: August 6, 2021

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You work in a home office and don't have enough space for a suitable workstation? A secretary should be the solution. The piece of furniture is space-saving and quickly finds a suitable place in your home. In addition, a secretary offers you not only an optimal work surface but also enough storage space for documents of all kinds.

With our secretary guide, we want to help you find the best secretary for you. We have compared secretaries of different types and designs and compiled the respective advantages and disadvantages for you. We want to share our findings with you and help you make your decision.




Summary

  • A secretary is a narrow piece of furniture that usually consists of a chest of drawers with a hinged top.
  • Secretaries come in different shapes and colours, with or without a top, in different types of wood or other materials, and in many styles.
  • Basically, a distinction is made between two types of secretaries: standing secretaries and wall-mounted secretaries. Both types are space-saving and offer plenty of storage space.

The Best Secretary: Our Choices

Secretaries: buying and evaluation criteria

In the following, we will list criteria that should help you in your search for the right secretary. The following aspects are important when buying a secretary:

To help you find the right secretary for you, we will now explain in more detail what you should look for in the individual criteria.

Top / base

In its original form, a secretary consists of a base and a top.

The chest of drawers is the most common element of a secretary. Equipped with drawers, it offers a lot of storage space. Instead of drawers, there are models with cabinet doors.

Secretaries with a recess in the middle are suitable for moving the legs freely. Furniture with table legs usually has a drawer underneath the writing surface.

As with the base, there are also different versions of the top. Whether drawers, cupboard doors, compartments or display cabinets, a lot of storage space can be found here as well. The top is usually narrower than the base.

Hinged tops are characteristic of this piece of furniture, whether by means of a lid or roller shutter. These can usually be closed. When open, a writing surface is created.

Storage space

An important feature of a secretary is probably the large storage space on a small footprint.

Documents can be stored neatly in the compartments.

In addition to the substructure and superstructure, with its drawers, cupboard doors and compartments, there is also a storage area on the secretary for picture frames, flowers or decorative elements.

No additional mobile pedestals or shelves are needed to store writing paper, pens or letters. File folders and documents can also be stowed away. Lockable drawers make it easy to store important documents such as passports and contracts.

Material

Depending on the intended use, you should make sure that the material of a secretary is durable and robust. A few files can weigh a lot.

Solid wood is best suited for this purpose. There are many different types of secretaries, from beech, oak, walnut, pine and spruce to teak. Oiled or lacquered surfaces are particularly easy to care for.

Care instructions: You can wipe a secretary with a damp cloth. Furniture made of natural wood should be treated with wood oil from time to time.

Antique secretaries in particular are often decorated with a wide variety of carvings. This gives them their own charm.

Since the production of high-quality secretaries is often too expensive, the fronts are usually made of partial solid wood and the interiors of pressed wood.

In modern models, steel, plastic, glass or metal can be used in addition to the wooden elements. Colour lacquers offer a wide choice of furniture.

Dimensions

The right dimensions help you to get the most out of your secretary. That's why you should think about where you want to put it and what purpose it will serve before you buy it.

A narrow secretary with a width of 65 cm is perfect for small jobs and as a decorative element. A standard model has a width of 100 cm. Are you looking for an alternative to a large desk? Secretaries with a width of 110 cm or more are ideal for this.

A secretary with a depth of 50 cm does not take up too much space, but offers you enough storage space.

The heights of traditional furniture are not adjustable. In order to have an optimal sitting position and thus prevent back pain, the height of your secretary should be 70 to 75 cm. You can test this by resting your arms at right angles on the writing surface while sitting.

Work surface

As already mentioned, the work surface should be large enough, depending on its purpose. If you use your secretary as a workstation, there should be room for a notepad next to your laptop.

Some secretaries have a pull-out work surface. A top fixed to castors can be extended and retracted. The writing surface can be extended for working hours, otherwise the piece of furniture does not take up too much space.

When secretaries are used as computer desks, a keyboard can be easily stored on the extendable surface.

Style

Whether prestigious or minimalist, a secretary in the right style can be found for everyone.

  • Classic style: Lovers prefer a console-style secretary with curved legs, ornate decorations and elegant designs.
  • Country style: Secretaries have light colours, ornaments on legs or drawers and are made of warm solid wood.
  • Modern: Modern furniture pieces are often linear, clear, colourful and have high-gloss fronts.
  • Scandinavian style: The models are minimalist and restrained. There is usually no cupboard base, only table legs. Light colours are used.
  • Industrial style: Secretaries consist of a combination of metal, hutch and solid wood.

Secretaries: Frequently asked questions and answers

In the following, we would like to answer the most important questions on the topic of secretaries. They should help you in your choice of a secretary and give you the necessary background information.

What is a secretary?

A secretary is a piece of furniture that is a mixture of a desk, a chest of drawers and a cabinet.

The secretary is derived from the cabinet and originated in the 18th century. At that time, the "writing cabinet" was used exclusively for private use. The piece of furniture was particularly widespread in the Biedermeier period.

Sekretär-01

The secretary has always been used as a piece of furniture for private use. For antique lovers, antique secretaries are true treasures.
(Image source: unsplash/ Mattia Astorino)

The traditional secretary consists of a chest of drawers with three drawers and a top. The top is closed with a lid. When opened, it becomes a writing and storage surface.

Over time, the secretary evolved into a desk. The superstructure and base became less massive or were even omitted altogether.

What is a secretary suitable for?

A secretary is the ideal piece of furniture when there is a lack of space. Whether in a one-room flat, a shared flat or a small flat, it is easy to find a place for this piece of furniture.

  • With a secretary, it is easy to have your own workspace in a home office or as a freelancer. Working documents can be optimally stored in the compartments and drawers. The laptop or important documents can be locked away.
  • A secretary can also be used as a decorative element in the living room. The piece of furniture is also well suited for storing sewing machines and sewing things.
  • In the bedroom, the secretary can be used as a dressing table and jewellery chest at the same time. Make-up, jewellery and accessories can be stored in the various compartments.
  • There is no room for a large desk in the children's room? Your children will certainly be happy about a secretary with a small writing surface.

What types of secretaries are there?

There are two different types of secretaries you can choose between: Floor-standing secretary and wall-mounted secretary.
To help you find the perfect secretary, here are the main advantages and disadvantages of each type:

Type Advantages Disadvantages
Floor standing secretary Antique/traditional models, ample storage, many finishes Takes up space, too many choices
Wall secretary Underneath free space for other furniture, narrow shape, modern design No base, stress on wall, material not sustainable

Standing secretary

A standing secretary is the traditional form of secretary. The piece of furniture is placed in a free space. Due to its narrow shape, it is space-saving.

Standing secretaries come in a wide variety of versions, designs, materials and colours. Models can be found for antique lovers as well as for minimalists.

Extra storage space is provided with a base. The top can be folded open, creating an additional storage surface. Compartments and drawers help to sort documents.

Materials such as wood, metal, steel, glass and plastic are used to make the furniture pieces.

Wall secretary

Essentially, a wall-mounted secretary differs from a standing secretary only in the placement / assembly. The wall-mounted secretary is mounted on a wall. The space underneath can be used in a different way.

Wall secretaries are foldable and usually very similar to shelves. The worktop can be folded down if required. This creates the required work surface. When you have finished working, you can simply fold the worktop up again.

Such wall-mounted secretaries are particularly suitable for shared flats and student dormitories. There is already a lack of space, but you are sure to find a free spot for a wall secretary.

Because of its low overall weight, plastic is particularly suitable as a material for wall secretaries.

Before buying a wall-mounted secretary, check the condition of the wall, the electrical cables behind it and the proximity of the socket. The size of the work surface should also be determined on the basis of the purpose for which it will be used.

What does a secretary cost?

The purchase price of a secretary depends on the material, design and size. In the case of old secretaries from antique dealers or flea markets, the condition, year of origin and often the owner are decisive for the price.

While plain models can be had for as little as €90, you can get smaller secretaries with a hinged lid for as little as €180. Depending on the design, the material can be either chipboard or solid wood.

Price Type
From 90 € Table top with drawers and small top
From 180 € Smaller and lower secretaries, material mostly chipboard, simple designs, hinged lid
From 450 € Larger and higher piece of furniture, more robust, material mostly solid wood, roller shutter
From 1,000 € Designer furniture, antique secretaries with noble ornaments

Larger and more robust pieces of furniture are available on the market from 450 €. In contrast to the cheaper models, these secretaries usually have roller shutters.

However, if you are looking for a unique designer piece or an antique secretary, you should expect a price from 1,000 € upwards.

What are the alternatives to a secretary?

The secretary has its advantages and disadvantages. If you are not convinced by this piece of furniture, we have listed a few alternatives here.

Alternative Description
Corner desk You don't need a separate study for a corner desk. The L-shape offers you many possibilities for integrating the desk into your living room, for example as a room divider. Some models can be swivelled into an L-shape.
Small desk A small desk is space-saving and at the same time offers sufficient storage space. It is ideal for smaller children's and youth rooms. The models are usually height-adjustable.
Computer desk This desk offers space for computer, printer, monitor and keyboard. It is loadable due to its carrying weight. Models with castors are easy to move.
Loft bed with desk With this space-saving piece of furniture you get two pieces of furniture in one. The desk is either directly underneath or mounted on the side. There are also models that include a wardrobe.

What is the difference between a secretary and a desk?

As already mentioned, the secretary has evolved into the desk. A desk is, so to speak, a minimalist version of a secretary. The function is basically the same, but the design is completely different.

Instead of a normal tabletop, secretaries often have a hinged compartment that can be closed. Drawers and compartments of a secretary offer storage space for folders and documents.

Sekretär-02

The combination of desk, chest of drawers and cabinet make up a secretary. More ornate secretaries may have decorations, special handles and glass doors.
(Image source: unsplash / David Mitchell)

A traditional secretary resembles a chest of drawers or a cabinet in its base. A desk, on the other hand, has only table legs, but this provides more legroom when sitting.

Both pieces of furniture have their advantages and disadvantages. Due to the variety of offers, you can choose the right piece of furniture for you depending on the purpose and preference.

Conclusion

A secretary can be used in different ways. In contrast to a conventional desk, a secretary is space-saving and offers a lot of storage space. When buying a secretary, you can choose between a standing secretary and a wall secretary.

The wall secretary takes up hardly any space, but there is little storage space. The wall secretary is available in modern designs. With a standing secretary, on the other hand, you have a wide choice of different styles. Whether antique or modern, you are sure to find what you are looking for. In addition, a standing secretary with a base and top offers you more storage options.

Image source: Białasiewicz/ 123rf

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