Modern Icons: T…

Modern Icons: The Parsons Desk

This Simple, Functional Desk Design Has Miles of Style

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The Parsons desk is one of the most versatile, stylish and much-loved pieces of furniture around. It has lines that were already classic the very day they were drawn; lines that pull us in with their pleasing proportions. It can take on virtually any finish or color and look chic. And as for functionality, it really is one of the most useful purchases you can make. It will serve you well as a console table, a small eat-in kitchen table, a dressing table, and of course, as a desk. Let’s see how they are fitting into all kinds of designed spaces.
What makes a desk a Parsons desk? The depth and width of its square legs are the same thickness of the top. According to legend, it was created by students at the Paris branch of The Parsons School of Design*, who collaborated in response to a challenge issued by Jean-Michel Frank. Thus, there are dining, console, cocktail and desk versions of the table; neither the size of the surface nor the height matter, just the proportions of the legs to the thickness of the top. This same principle applies to Parsons consoles, coffee tables, dining tables, etageres and side tables.

* If you watch Project Runway, you’re having a flashback to Catherine Malandrino and an awkward float down the Seine, aren’t you?

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Once only available to the trade at high prices, Parsons-style furniture is now manufactured at very accessible chain furniture stores. Interior designer Tara Seawright found this black Parsons desk at West Elm.

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A stately Parsons fits right into this glamorous workspace. While the desk has very modern lines, you can place it into just about any style room, as proven in this Hollywood Regency office.

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As super-chic as the Parsons desk looked in the room above, it is also a great option for a child’s room and is a productive spot for getting homework done, building a model, or spreading out a jigsaw puzzle.

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A Parsons Mini Desk works in a tighter space as a child’s desk. Note that while the area of the surface has changed, the leg width and table thickness are still equal.

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These desks are great choices for shared offices. They work well doubled up, either back-to-back like in this office …

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… or side-by-side.

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When Victoria was gracious enough to give us a tour of her old pad in San Francisco, we were taken with her bright work area. She has kept calm, carried on, and has spread the message about keeping calm and carrying on.

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Apparently Parsons desks go hand-in-hand with keeping calm and carrying on. I think this entire color palette induces a feeling of calm, and the pairing of the Eames Eiffel armchair with the desk is the icing on the cake.

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This groovy green tulip chair looks great with a Parsons desk too (so if you’re keeping count, that’s two mid-century modern iconic chairs that look smashing with this desk in a row). The desk fits right into a tight closet office space.

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This room’s design shows how unobtrusive and sleek the Parsons desk is. It doesn’t take up a lot of physical space, and it takes even less visual space. A clunky desk with lots of drawers would have made this room look much too cramped.

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For the past few years, West Elm has offered a plethora of Parsons style furniture, the two-drawer desk being my favorite. It has a laminate look, they switch out the colors (one year it’s paprika, another year, powder blue), and they are actually really easy to put together (I did it all by myself, and I am pathetically bad at that stuff). I have used and used my white West Elm Parsons Desk and it still looks fabulous.

 

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