What is a Secretary?

A secretary is a type of writing desk with a hinged desktop surface.


In the realm of interior design, a secretary (often referred to as a secretary desk) is a highly functional piece of furniture that combines the features of a desk and storage space. It is notable for its distinctive design which typically involves a fold-down writing surface attached to hinges. When not in use, this surface can be flipped up to save space and conceal its contents, making it an ideal choice for small living spaces or as an aesthetically pleasing storage solution in larger rooms.

Secretaries can range from simple and minimalist to highly ornate, featuring intricate designs, various compartments, drawers, and sometimes additional elements such as shelves or cabinets built into their structure. This versatility makes them adaptable to a wide range of design styles, whether you’re looking for a piece to complement a modern, traditional, or eclectic decor theme.

Historically, secretaries emerged during a time when correspondence was hand-written, and managing one's letters and documents was a significant part of daily life. Their design reflects the practical needs of their era for organized storage and a dedicated writing surface. Today, they serve both as functional furniture pieces and as objects of beauty, often being used as laptop desks, mail sorting stations, or decorative pieces that add character to a room.


A secretary is often placed in living rooms, home offices, or bedrooms where it serves multiple purposes: as a decorative piece, a workstation for writing or using a laptop, and a storage unit for documents, mail, and other small items. In commercial settings, such as boutique hotels or traditional offices, secretaries may be used to add a touch of elegance or to provide guests and employees with a convenient spot for writing or reading.


  • Can a secretary desk fit into a modern interior design theme?

    Absolutely! While secretaries have a rich historical background, modern interpretations of the design can fit seamlessly into contemporary spaces. Designers often play with materials, colors, and forms to create secretary desks that complement modern decor.

  • Is it difficult to maintain a secretary desk?

    Maintenance largely depends on the material and finish of the secretary. Generally, regular dusting and the occasional polish are sufficient to keep a wooden secretary in good condition. For secretaries with a metal or glass component, using appropriate cleaners will ensure they remain pristine.

  • Are secretary desks only suitable for small spaces?

    No, while secretaries are an excellent choice for optimizing space in smaller areas due to their compact design and storage capabilities, they can also be a stylish and functional addition to larger rooms, providing a discrete work area and extra storage.

Practical Application

When incorporating a secretary into your home or office, consider its placement and functionality. Its compact, versatile nature makes it ideal for creating a mini home office in a living room corner or using it as a unique storage solution in a bedroom. For those who love DIY projects, restoring an antique secretary or customizing a modern one to fit your personal style can be a rewarding endeavor. Additionally, pairing it with the right chair—keeping both comfort and aesthetics in mind—will enhance its functionality and the overall look of your space.