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The Victorian writing desk, or bureau, is an item of furniture that modern buyers have really made their own. Used as an elegant hallway storage space, a sideboard in the dining room, a display area in the lounge, or even for their original purpose, these pieces work fantastically in a well-styled home. The era was long, stretching into some seven decades, and the sheer range of Victorian writing desks designed and made is impressive. To get a feel for the scope available the market right now and decide which would work best in your home, take a look at Vinterior.
Why choose Victorian writing desks?During the centuries before Victoria came to the throne in 1837, the writing desk began its life as a French-style bureau. With sloping lids than opened to a storage space below, these were really variations on a chest of drawers and those using them would stand and lean to work. In the early 1700s, a design more like that we would recognise today became popular. ‘Kneehole writing tables’ were designed to be sat at, rather than leant against. They featured two sets of drawers, one to the left and one to the right of the knees, and a flat writing surface.
Still, they were a relatively unusual piece of furniture and it was only when the Industrial Revolution began that ever greater numbers of people began to buy them. This period saw a huge rise in the number of entrepreneurs and the business classes were getting rich. Writing desks for the home and the workshop, office or factory were suddenly in high demand. Old-fashioned sloped bureaus, expansive ‘partners’ desks’, ostentatious desks for country manors and more modest desks for middle-class clerks were rolled out to capitalise on the growing market. This means that, today, a pleasing diversity of Victorian writing desks survives. The quality of these pieces is often very high and the variation in design allows everyone to identify the perfect desk for their specific space.
The writing desks crafted in the mid-19th century are sometimes influenced by Gillows, a prominent and respected furnituremaker of the time. The style features finely-turned spindle legs, decorative edging, and a deep mahogany patina. Most have leather tops for a superior writing experience, although most often this will be replacement leather rather than original. Desks produced towards the end of the Victorian era, in the early 1900s, are often very simple and satisfyingly sturdy in design. With brass handles, three drawers on twin pedestals, plus a further two beneath the non-decorative surface itself, some desks of this type can be split into three pieces making transporting them much easier.