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OUR GUIDE TO BUYING AN ANTIQUE DESK
This is our short guide to help you buy an antique desk or piece of antique office furniture. It is aimed at answering some of the most frequently asked questions asked by prospective buyers of antique writing furniture and covers key points such as basic options, practical matters, types of writing furniture, age, woods, care of antique furniture.
If you require more information on any aspect of this subject please do not hesitate to Contact Us for further assistance and advice
Antique Writing Furniture - The Basic Choices
Flat Top Desks: these are the most popular type of desk being the most versatile, particularly when a large work space is required for paperwork and/or computer equipment. Various sizes are available from the smallest 36" (91cm) width up to larger workspaces of 72" (183cm) or greater. The depth of the desk is important - the narrower the desk the closer the working material is to the user - a deeper desk allows more storage but some of it may be out of arms reach
Desks with Superstructure: very popular in Victorian times and earlier. These desks - which take many forms, Dickens desks, bankers desks, roll top desks, Carlton House Desks etc - have a raised structure at the back of the desk with drawers, small cupboards or pigeon holes for stationery. Many of these desks were designed to stand against a wall and have a relatively plain or even unfinished rear elevation. Some desks have flat writing surfaces, some have raised writing slopes with storage underneath - those with the slope are becoming popular again since the slope provides an ideal "work station" for a laptop computer
Desks for more than one person: larger desks that have significant depth can be used by two people - facing each other - see Partners' Desks below. They would likely stand in the middle of an office or study to allow access to all sides of the desk. Obviously such desks also offer a very large work space for a single user
Desks to be seen from all angles: as mentioned above some desks were always designed to stand against a wall. The original cabinet makers therefore spent less time finishing the rear elevation of the desk, sometimes even leaving it with relatively unfinished timbers. Other desks were however always designed to make an impression on anyone entering a room and facing the person sitting behind the desk. In this instance the "rear" of the desks would be highly polished, panelled and often decorated or carved. Partners' Desks also serve this purpose in offering an interesting and usable rear facade.
Desks versus Writing Tables and Library Tables: Writing and Library Tables come in much the same sizes as Desks, however the key difference being that the tables usually only have a single line of frieze drawers under the work surface. (Writing tables have drawers on one side of the table only - library tables have drawers to both sides - sometimes called Partners' tables). Tables can provide an interesting alternative to a desk if only limited storage is required. Aesthetically a table can make the room look larger since more of the floor can be seen as compared to the bulk of a desk that comes right down to the floor. For buyers with attractive floor coverings (or bare wood) a writing or library table can be a very interesting alternative to a desk. Some users also specify both Desk and Writing Table/Library Table for their office. The table can be used as an extra work space (perhaps separating paperwork from computer work - or as a meeting table. The style and wood of desk and table will need to be compatible and the leather work surfaces (where fitted) may also need to be matched.
Things to Consider when Buying your Desk
Use: Consider paperwork versus computer work? Storage needs - drawers versus cupboards? How much work area is actually needed and will you be able to reach it?
Size: Does it fit the room? Can you access the desk and other parts of the room? Is it a comfortable height (small adjustments can be made - but only small changes)? Kneehole height and width? Check the depth of the desk so that the work surface can actually be reached?
Practical Matters: Access for installation - many desks are made in three pieces (two pedestals and a top) but a one piece desk or table may require access to the room to be carefully checked prior to delivery (remember to check the stairs if it is going above the ground floor). Most professional furniture movers can manoeuvre large pieces of furniture successfully into place - but sometimes it just doesn't fit - so check prior to ordering and delivery!
Other Furniture and Decorations: will the new desk or table match the other fitting and furniture in the room and its decorations? Sometimes a beautiful antique desk or table can actually be the focal point of the room and other pieces and decorations will be bought to match
Chairs: Desk Chairs fall into three categories. Genuine antique chairs that match the desk or table (including a matching or contrasting leathers). Secondly, replica chairs with modern mechanisms and thirdly, ultra modern ergonometric chairs with fully adjustable mechanisms.
Desk and Table Combinations: As mentioned above there are circumstances where more work space (or meeting space) is required. In this instance a combination of desk and writing or library table could be appropriate (or boardroom type table). Antiquedesks.net is able to source such combinations and matching chairs if required.
Matching Colours and Styles: Since each antique desk and table is by definition unique, it is often difficult to get exact matches to existing furniture. However by sympathetically matching period, style, woods, colour and type of furniture it should certainly be possible to achieve a fully harmonious collection.
Antique Desks: Specific Types of Antique Desks, Writing Desks and Writing Tables
Antique Desks: Woods
The vast majority of English antique furniture was made in mahogany, oak or walnut. . There is a great deal of variation in the appearance of each desk, not only due to the type and cut of the wood used, but also in the patina built up on the piece over many years.
The Antiquedesks.net Antique Furniture Period Guide can be used to help identify the age of antique writing furniture.
Care of Antique Furniture
The Antiquedesks.net Care of Antique Furniture Guide gives useful advice on how to care for your antique desk or table once it arrives in your home or office.
Prices and Values
We can provide broad guidance on prices, where to locate such a desk and what to look out for. Please note that any information we provide on values and prices is provided without warranty or obligation and we always advise taking professional advice from as many sources as possible before making a purchase.