An Elegant, Contemporary Desk
An elegant approach to design and joinery
Synopsis: This desk blends practical utility with elegant details such as its slender base with turned legs and curved side profiles. Construction is broken into two parts—top and base. The joinery for the top section is uncomplicated mortise and tenons. The two-part desktop is part solid wood and part plywood, which is covered with leather to make a blotter. The base, with its turned legs, is a straightforward frame secured by bridle joints.
I designed the first incarnation of this desk for a close friend who needed a simple, elegant station for sketching and designing in his small apartment. Over the past six years, I’ve built the desk a number of times for others and the design has evolved. Its original chunky, square base was replaced with a slender version with turned legs; and the sides, or end caps, of the desk case are now shaped to flowing curves instead of angles. What has remained the same is its light weight and airy utility—a pared-down, minimalist approach to a place to sit and think and put ideas down on paper.
Begin with the desk base
I break the building of the desk into two parts, the desk case and the base. Here I’ll begin with the base, although it’s perfectly fine to build it the other way around. The base consists of a flat frame with the legs tenoned into it. Building it is straightforward. Start with the bridle joints securing the corners of the frame. I cut them on the tablesaw with a tenoning jig.
After gluing up the frame, I drill stepped mortises through it at the corners for the leg tenons. The stepped mortises provide additional strength and a cleaner visual line. To create the correct leg rake and splay, I do…