Before the secretary desk appeared in the first part of the 18th century, the traveling desks which were placed on the top of a table were the more common method to maintain organization. However, as the needs for storage increased, the tall version of the secretary desks that featured a table divided into 2 separate sections increased in popularity. The lower part of the desk featured drawers, and the upper part featured what was known as a hutch that consisted of a drop-front which acted as the writing surface.
Historical Secretary Desks
The Secretary: The Tall Desk Or The Lady’s Desk
One of the first secretary desks was an American Federal Style secretary that featured a glazed-cabinet top along with a flip-forward surface designed for writing that rested on 2 pull-outs. The word “writer” in Latin is “secretaries” that gave way to the title known as “secretary”, which was given to the formal and beautiful piece of this writing furniture. In the first portion of the 18th century, the written material became widely circulated and published and the desks of this time increased to accommodate these needs.
The main attribute to the secretary desk was associated with the built-in storage on the top. The desk combines a slant-top, lower desk designed as a writing space along with 2 cabinet doors that are above the drawers, conceal shelving or a combination of slots or pigeon holes. This desk was able to achieve a marriage of organization along with architectural quality that was able to not just look stunning in just about any room but also served the purpose of closing up for a clutter free work space and appearance.
The Tambour Desk Or Low Secretary
Circulated in the year 1890, the desk was known as the American Mahogany Tambour Secretary. This Federal-style desk was a variation commonly known as a “low secretary” and was recognized for the tambour sliding shutters that were able to hide the upper level that featured drawers or pigeonholes. This desk was crafted with care in the way of applying thin wood slats in a vertical position to a flexible yet delicate fabric. This desk also featured lower drawers that adopted the characteristics of the Federal-style commodes that added the functionality of featuring a lot of drawers that gave way to the name the “bureau secretary.” In the era of the Victorian period, the secretary desk really blossomed along with elaborate and exclusive china cabinets on the top. However, at the same time the secretaries also assumed plain forms attributed with the philosophically driven Mission style and Arts and Crafts style. These desks were constructed out of heavy oak combined with crude joinery an austere feel combined with Medieval-style hardware. After the year 1920, the production of these desks tapered off and the more common choice became the desk with a built-in bookcase.
When looking for a rare find a name that should be known is "The Wooton desk” which a stand-out style of rare luxury. Compared to the upright-steamer trunks, this three-piece, impressive writing desk featured 2 sides which swing out positioned on casters that reveal an abundance of drawers and cubbies that resulted in a cocoon and cozy-like space.
The desk known as the secretary desk is also known as an escritoire, bureau or secretaire. Regardless of what it is called, this multipurpose and extremely charming furniture piece is still used today in various ways in numerous rooms in a home. Generally the secretaries are available in 2 heights that are commonly known as the low or the high option. Each of these choices comes with their own benefits. Below are some of the advantages to both these options.
A Guide To Choosing A Secretary Desk
The Scandinavian style of a low secretary desk works well with modern accents and also looks fantastic alongside a fancy chair that has been upholstered in leather, floral or velvet. The lower secretary desks can work well in a bedroom as these shorter styles do not overwhelm smaller spaces and can serve the purpose of a one-stop shop. The bottom drawers can be used to store clothes, while the top drawers can be used to store jewelry and knick knacks along with the shelf that can serve the purpose of a traditional writing desk.
The antique low-slung secretaries resemble or remind one of the old-school captain desks. In order to achieve a beach-house or maritime feel, one can accessorize this desk with nautical paintings, old buoys or seashells. One of the stand out benefits to the low secretary desks is that they allow for lots of wall space above so that art work can be used.
In a glamorous of luxurious bedroom, the rich-wood design of a high secretary desk along with a bed that features white and crisp linens gives off a highly attractive visual appeal. The beauty of this desk is that it can be flipped open for writing projects and then shut up to represent a clutter free appearance.
When a secretary desk has been designed with a monochromatic finish and clean lines it appears as extremely slick and chic. Today one can choose from a variety of the glass-front versions that can store favorite items while at the same time serve the purpose of a show-case. In order to avoid the bookshelf part from appearing one-note, it is advisable to flank the volumes using a couple of one’s beloved or favorite objects. When using a good mix of sizes and shapes one can create a true artistic tableau.
Other uses for a secretary desk would be to use it in a little-used corner in the home. Add in a comfortable chair and the area is instantly transformed into a reading nook or mini home-office. While the tall versions of the secretary desks take up very little room thanks to the small footprints, these desks are able to store an abundance of items such as stationery, barware, crockery and cutlery or even linen.