Relevant categories: Desks
(Above photo - Georgian Pedestal Desk Mahogany Writing Table Office )
The history of antique desks stretches back to the 17th century when they were called bureaus. Bureaus were built so that one could open and close the writing surface. As such, the first desks were modifications of chests of drawers which were accomplished by adding a writing slope. In the 18th century, the number of bureaus produced grew exponentially.
However, in the first two decades of the 18th century (1702 – 1714) people began to make knee-hole writing tables instead of bureaus. That’s the period that’s commonly referred to as the Queen Anne era. The wiring tables had a kneehole in the middle with drawers on either side. Mostly, there would be a central cupboard in the kneehole. They were either made from solid oak or featured walnut veneer.
(Above photo - Chippendale Mahogany Partners Desk Nostell Priory Desks )
In the 1750s, the partners and pedestal desks sprang up. That was the beginning of a desk style that would remain popular until today. By then, Britain had established colonies in the Caribbean, from which they sourced mahogany. Because of its rarity, mahogany was considered luxurious. That was the preferred wood for making antique desks at that time. Thomas Chippendale was one of the first furniture designers to make antique desks using mahogany. Most of his clients were wealthy patrons seeking to furnish their country house libraries. The good thing is that most of the desks made at that time still survive today. They are usually large, ornate desks with carved decorations. Since they are rare collector’s items, they often attract high prices.
(Above photo - Antique pedestal Desk )
During the late 18th century and early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution created an entrepreneurial or business class that made wealth from the industries they established. In line with the prevailing trends, this new class of wealthy individuals required desks for practical use at home and in the workplace. The sizes of the desks they ordered differed from one person to another. As such, furniture makers produced small kneehole desks, large partner’s desks, as well as, library tables that could be used in business and at home.
The Library Table
(Above photo - Victorian Library Table Desk Mahogany )
An example of an antique desk designed and made in the late 18th century is the library table. In most cases, it had up to three drawers on one side. Complete with a writing surface made from polished wood, the desks were meant for use in the home library. As the English middle class grew, the desk began to feature a writing surface made from leather.
As a result of increasing industrialization, the number of offices requiring desks increased exponentially. Also, many businesses came up with administrative roles, whose holders needed desks. Where two people sat in the same office, it wasn’t uncommon to find partners desks. Essentially, it was made from mahogany and had a leather writing surface with blind tooling or gilt decorations.
The beginning of the 19th century ushered in the Regency Period when the library table featured supports instead of legs. Of course, there was a clear distinction between antique desks for office or home use. From that period, we find pedestal desks and partner’s desks as the predominant forms.
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