Contemporary and authentic, antique writing desks could serve a multifunctional purpose as side tables, dining tables, coffee tables, foyer tables or bathroom vanities. Let’s examine the style and function of these 12 works of art: Wooten, Cylinder, Armoire, Slant Top, Bureau a gradin, Pedestal Desk, Bureau Plat, Bureau Mazarin, Ergonomic Desk, Carrel Desk, Carlton and Cheveret desk.
1. Wooton desk: Wooton desks were probably not the costliest desks in series production, but they were possibly the ones with the most drawers, nooks and crannies imaginable. A Wooten Desk is a variation of the Fall Front Desks.
2. Cylinder desk: This desk has small stacked shelves in front of the user’s main work surface, and a revolving cylinder part that comes down to hide and locked work.
3. Armoire Desk: Often referred as a computer desk, it has a writing table built within a large cabinet closed by doors to hide any clutter and give the room a tidy appearance.
4. Slant top desk: This type of desk is practically a secretary desk, without the massive bookcase on top of it.
5. Bureau a gradin: An antique desk resembling a writing table with one or several tiers of small drawers and pigeonholes built on part of the desktop surface. It is usually placed in front of the user.
6. Pedestal desk: A large free-standing desk made of a rectangular working surface nestled on two pedestals or small stacked drawers of one or two sizes, with support around the bases.
7. Bureau plat: A series of drawers directly under the surface of the table (desk), to contain writing implements.
8. Bureau Mazarin: Many of these desks are kneehole desks that are meant to be used sideways, with one knee only beneath the work surface.
9. Ergonomic desk: related to the computer desk, it is designed to comfortably and aesthetically provide a working surface and conceal office and computer equipment and their peripherals.
10. Carrel desk: A predecessor to the cubicle desk that is small and features high sides meant to visually isolate its user from any surroundings either partially or totally.
11. Carlton House Desk: This desk is similar to a normal writing table. The small drawers above the surface form a U shape around the user instead of being set up in front.
12. Cheveret (or Sheveret) desk is very small and features a single drawer under the writing surface. In some cases small drawers and pigeonholes are built on top. It is also written with an “S”: Sheveret. Some variations of the Cheveret are much taller and meant to be used standing up.
Here are a few resource books to delve into the origins of antique writing desks:
1. Portable Writing Desks (Paperback) by David Harris
2. Desks, Tables and Chairs by The Woodsmith Collection
You can also find a wide variety of antique desks and affordable reproductions online from sites like eBay and Leonard’s Direct.
Classical desk forms we are presently familiar with evolved from the 17th and 18th centuries. Desks of this period were typically massive structures. Not all desks have the form of a table. The generic concept of a desk is the pedestal desk, which is also referred to as an executive desk. Desks were designed with slots, nooks, crannies, pigeonholes and hooks for the convenience of storing writing implements. These built in storage units were always an attractive feature to the functionality of a writing desk.