Nothing makes a statement quite like a vintage desk. Whether it’s used as a desk, a decorative table, or is converted for another purpose (such as a bathroom vanity), vintage desks are a great way to bring interest and uniqueness to your home. When looking for a vintage desk, there are definitely some points to consider and look out for. Then there is which type of vintage desk you’d like—with the myriad of styles from various eras, you should have an easy time finding a vintage desk that suits your needs, style, and home décor.
Something to know about vintage desks: not all vintage desks are antiques—an antique desk and a vintage desk can be two different things. An antique desk is considered to be an item that is over 100 years old. Therefore, items younger than 100—though they may be old—are not considered antiques, but are usually referred to as vintage. So all antiques could also be called vintage, but vintage items are not necessarily considered to be antique. (It’s the same principle as all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.)
Now that we have those mechanics out of the way, vintage desks are valuable. In some instances, vintage desks are more valuable than antique desks, based its rarity and/or its condition. It is well worth your time and your wallet to research to seek the perfect vintage desk for you in your desired condition. Make sure you know things like the desk’s origin, age, style, size, and quality—these play a huge part in determining the vintage desk’s monetary value.
There are many types of vintage desks out there. Almost too many to enumerate (…almost). The desk-on-a-frame was the first desk, and you can trace its origins back to the time when literacy was spreading around the world. A bureau desk combined a slanted front with a chest of drawers underneath for storage. The secretary desk also combines a writing space with storage; this time the storage is above, with a slanted writing top below. Then there’s the bureau plat, which is, essentially, a flat writing table with a slim drawer or row of drawers.
The kneehole desk can have a flat, block, or serpentine front, with mounts of brass, ball-and-claw feet, and molded edges. It has long been considered a leap forward in desks. A vintage desk that many people are familiar with is the roll-top desk. It features a cylindrical top with a rolling door and a flat writing area.
The tambour desk has sliding shutters that hide the upper drawers; meanwhile the ladies desk is a petite desk on thin legs and also had small drawers and sometimes a glass cabinet for displaying items. Partner’s desks are grand, as they are basically two pedestal desks combined into one, with drawers and cabinets on both sides of the desk.
The neoclassical desk or federal style desk sports straight surfaces, brass hardware, tapered legs, and upper cubby holes for displaying items. A modern, streamlined desk, the mid-century modern had thin legs, a glass top, and slender compartments. They were often described as “floating” desks. Tanker desks are exactly what you’d expect from the name—a large, useful, and very durable piece that is considered modern and minimalist in design.
The fall-front desk is a cabinet with a latch that drops down to create a surface for writing. Not to be forgotten, the campaign desk, which is portable (with its folding, X-frame legs) and luxurious at the same time. And this humble list doesn’t even examine the entirety of school desks, of which there are varied styles from through the years, each having its own place in vintage desk history. Clearly, whatever your tastes, whatever the desired purpose, a perfect-for-you vintage desk is out there waiting for you to find it.