1950s Office Desks

Small 1950s desk

From massive steel tanker desks to the avant garde styles of Mid Century Modern, 1950s office desks are as unique as the decade itself.

The Retro Revival

With the renewed interest in 1950s furniture, companies both on and offline are offering more of these retro pieces as homeowners, collectors and interior decorators search for the perfect pieces for their needs.

The styles of office desks from the 1950s, reflected in the diversity of their designs, range from solid, heavy metal pieces to sleek designs of elegant simplicity crafted from beautiful woods. Popular desk styles of the times include:

  • Tanker
  • Mid Century Modern
  • Danish Modern
  • Scandinavian Contemporary

1950s Office Desks: The Tanker

Known as a tanker desk, these heavy, high-gauge steel pieces were in almost every office throughout the United States and Canada in the 1950s.Their popularity was due to their virtual indestructibility. Tanker desks were fireproof and made to last. Manufactured by companies such as Steelcraft, Haskell or McDowell and Craig, tanker desks came in many styles and designs.


Perhaps the most popular style of the 1950s, found in most classrooms, police stations and public office buildings of the times, is the six-drawer tanker. Although there were many different tanker desk styles, several of the more popular ones include:

  • Three drawers on each side
  • Three drawers on both sides and a typewriter pull out shelf located on one side above the drawers
  • Three drawers on one side and a typewriter pull out shelf on the other
  • Three drawers on one side and a hanging file drawer on the other
  • Three drawers on one side and a sidewall on the other (smaller style desk)

Were to Find Tanker Desks Online

Sadly, companies destroyed many of these steel desks when styles changed and offices were remolded. However, many did survive. There are businesses that locate, restore and recondition tanker desks, offering them for sale looking as beautiful as they did when they were new. The following are examples of these businesses:

Mid Century Modern, Danish Modern and Scandinavian Contemporary

If you prefer 1950s desks that offer a less industrial style, the simple streamlined designs of most Mid Century Modern, Danish Modern and Scandinavian Contemporary desks offer a lovely blend of form and functionality.


Although most of these desk styles were mass-produced, some individual pieces were created by top designers of the times. Examples of popular designers of the era include:

  • Florence Knoll
  • Arne Jacobsen
  • Charles and Ray Eames
  • Gilbert Rohde
  • George Nelson
  • Davis Allen

Types of Wood

Many of these classic desks are made of beautiful natural woods in styles that are simple with straight lines. Generally, they do not have very much, if any, ornamentation. In many cases, the wood was left natural, only receiving a coating of wax or oil varnish as a finish.

  • Teak
  • Rosewood
  • Black walnut
  • Mahogany
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Birch
  • Elm

Locating 1950s Desks Online

The Internet provides many opportunities to find these office treasures of yesteryear. Examples of online business specializing in Mid Century Modern, Danish Modern and Scandinavian Contemporary furniture include:

1950s Desk Accessories

Once you have the perfect desk for your office, finish off the retro look with desk accessories from the 1950s. Whether you find the items online, search flea markets and thrift shops or scour garage sales, once you have the items you want they will make your desk look terrific.

When you think of the accessories you want to acquire, think of different uses for them. For example, a vintage cigarette box makes a great holder for paper clips. Other retro desk accessories to consider are:

  • Stapler
  • Clock
  • Lamp
  • Ashtray
  • Lighter

Whether you are designing a retro office for your place of business or simply want to add a touch of nostalgia to your home office, the selection and styles of 1950s office desks is certain to have one that will be the perfect choice for your needs.

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1950s Office Desks