The Charming History of the Desk: Part 2

The history of the desk makes for an intriguing read, particularly if you appreciate fine furniture, like we do. In part one of this two part series charting the history of the writing desk, we started our tour in the Louis XIV era and then onto Louis XV before crossing the pond back from France to England and taking a look at the development of the bureau during the reign of William III and Mary III before signing off with Queen Anne and the sophisticated secretaire.

Here in part two we are moving our journey on through the Chippendale and Regency periods and taking a look at the origins of the partner’s desk, as well as investigating the route desk history took as the Art Deco era dawned.

Rococo Chippendale: The Kneehole Desk

The Rococo Chippendale period was well known for its quirkiness and flights of fancy where furniture was concerned. The kneehole desk bore all the trademarks of the era’s resplendence: moulded lines, ball and claw feet, oversized brass mounts and flat, block or serpentine fronts.

The kneehole desk marked a significant turning point in desk design, allowing the writer to bring himself in closer to the desk without having to sit uncomfortably sideways on. Sometimes the area at the back of the kneehole would incorporate a lockable cabinet, otherwise it might be open, or closed in with a plain panel. This desk became very popular during Victorian times and eventually evolved into the roll-top and pedestal desk.

Regency: Partner’s Desk

In the early 19th century in England, it was very important for bankers working together to be able to communicate efficiently. This is precisely what was behind the advent of the partner’s desk. A variant of the mahogany pedestal desk, the partner’s desk was a large piece of furniture designed to accommodate a pair of workers opposite each other.

Partner’s desks would have a leather covered top for easy replacement as it wore out, and this would prevent unsightly scratches on the wood so as to maintain a stately appearance. Drawers and cupboards would be incorporated on each side so that each worker would have his own storage area.

French Neoclassical: Roll-top or Cylinder Desk

Absolute beauty in design, the French cylinder or roll-top desk came about during the Neoclassical period. It was a combination of the secretaire and the knee hole desk, and featured a clever feat of engineering in that it had a solid barrel roll or tambour shutter that would roll up into the back of the desk to reveal a writing area.

Art Deco Desks

Sleek is a good word to describe an Art Deco desk. The shapes were smooth and rounded and the finishing very shiny courtesy of lacquer, chrome and Bakelite. Art Deco always has a knack of harmonising with any modern style, and so can fit in to pretty much any home décor. Elegant, opulent and striking, the Art Deco desk would form a centrepiece for the office of the early 20th century.

So there we have it: the history of the writing desk. These days desks are designed to accommodate computers and all the latest modern communications technology. The great news is, if you are an aficionado of classical design, then you can combine elegant aesthetics with the benefits of today’s practicality. You can view our range of antique reproduction office furniture here.