Antique Writing DesksAntique writing desks come in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Just as there is no one and only set model when someone is trying to talk about a "contemporary writing desk" or a "modern writing desk," there isn't in one set design for antique writing desks. This term can be used to describe simple office desks that are a hundred years old or more, or they might be referring to older designs that have more or less gone out of fashion in modern times like a writing desk with hutch, a secretary writing desk, or a roll top correspondence desk. All of these designs have their charms and their benefits, but they don't match well with the advances in modern technology which is why few of these designs are used in actual offices any more.
Because of this, it can be hard to have one definitive post on antique writing desks since that phrase can reference many different designs, shapes, or even individual companies that have since gone out of business. Still, when the term "antique writing desks" comes up, there is usually a definitive idea or mental picture.
Many pictures of Benjamin Franklin will show him hunched over, hard at work over a roll top desk with quill pen in hand hard at work with whatever thoughts or discoveries are bubbling over. These old desks often appear as roll top desks or writing hutches, and at one point this was the most common design for writing desks. Now all of these models are considered antique.
A large reason for this is the changes of history and technology. Antique desks tend to be more ornate and fancy because the idea that most people could read or write is a very recent historical trend, and because of that the original antique writing desks were often considered a status symbol that showed off wealth, education, aristocracy, and elegance. These were as much a status symbol as anything else. In addition, there were obviously no computers, or typewriters, in the 1700s. Because of this there was no need to design a larger desk that was made for practicality.
A roll top writing desk was practical back in its time. These antique writing desks were designed to write letters, to store letters, and to store scrolls. A good candle and/or lantern and individuals could even write deep into the night. At the time this made perfect sense for a writing desk, and a fold over hutch that may have even had a key and lock was one of the earliest forms of security for sensitive writing and/or correspondence.
Antique writing desks have almost returned to their place as status symbols while the modern designs of these functional pieces of office furniture have gone to a more plain and basic designs, often with a corner or l-shape to maximize the space that can be had out of an office's corners. Antique writing desks look fantastic, and still work for writing letters, writing out checks for bills, etc - but as far as functioning well with a desk top computer or a laptop, forget about it!
These desks have come full circle and are still in high demand because of their beauty and elegance. Some nations and companies take particular pride in showing their respect for older designs, as many Italian writing desks have an elegance that the American counterparts simply can't compete with. While they might once have been the epitome of common sense and class, the antique writing desks still show off an elegance that adds a special something to any room in the house, even if it's no longer commonly the office.