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Know Your Antique Desk Styles

Identifying Furniture Used for Writing and Storage


A desk is a desk, right? Well, not really. Many different types of desks have developed over the centuries, and many of them don't resemble modern home and office desks much at all. A number of these styles have been revived over and over, and still inspire reproductions in their likeness. Some also overlap in their descriptors. These include slant-fronts like the escritoire and fall-fronts like the butler's desk, among a number of others.

1. Bureau Mazarin

Louis XIV bureau mazarin desk
- Mallett (www.mallettantiques.com)
This early type of French kneehole desk (read more about this style below), dates to the 1600s. These are usually very lavish in their embellishment, and their name refers to a Cardinal who ruled as Louis XIV's regent. Read more...

2. Butler's Desk

American Federal Inlaid Mahogany Butler's Desk
- www.prices4antiques.com
This style can be mistaken for a chest of drawers at first glance, but it's actually a type of drop- or fall-front desk. Popular for more than 100 years, the butler's desk was made in numerous styles with varying period details. Read more...

3. Cheveret

Cheveret Lady's Writing Desk
- Three Centuries Shop Antiques (www.fineantiquesstore.com)
Commonly called a lady's writing desk, this piece is distinguished by the chest or bookcase sitting on top. It likely originated in France, but was further developed in England in the 1700s. Read more...

4. Davenport Desk

Davenport Desk Example
- www.pricesforantiques.com
This late 1700s desk style is often referred to as a Ship Captain's Desk. Even though it was first developed for use on the high seas or during military campaigns, it became popular for home use as well in both England and the United States. Read more...

5. Escritoire

New England escritoire
- Morphy Auctions
This type of case furniture features a slanted top perfect for penning correspondence. And, accordingly, this low desk style derives its name from the French word "écrire", meaning "to write". Read more...

6. Fall-Front Desk

Fall Front Butler's Desk
- Photo Courtesy of Morphy Auctions
This popular type of desk, also known as a drop-front, originated in Spain in the 16th century as the vargueño. Since then it's been incorporated into many different desk styles, including the Butler's desk (see link above). Read more...

7. Kneehole Desk

Kneehole Desk Example
- Morphy Auctions
This type of flat-topped desk was first made in England in the early 1700s. Since it was introduced, it has been manufactured in many different styles, and it is still popular with companies producing Colonial reproductions. Read more...

8. Slant-Front Desk

Slant-Front Desk
- Photo Courtesy of Morphy Auctions
Slant-Front desks have evolved over time, with the first examples having hinges at the top. Many different types and styles have been made with slanted tops since then, including a number of those shown with this feature. Read more...

9. Wooton Desk

William S. Wooton Desk in The Queen Anne Mansion in Eureka Springs, Ark.
- Photo Courtesy of The Queen Anne Mansion
This coveted Victorian desk style was the executive's choice when it was first introduced. Today collectors relish finding these marvelous pieces as curiosities even more than for their usefulness. Read more...

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