As we see every day here in Lancashire and Cumbria, antique desks come in all shapes and sizes. Styles like the Victorian mahogany pedestal desk are eternally popular, and widely chosen for both office and home. However, the taller style of secretaire (or secretary) desk, sometimes called a secretary bookcase, is also enjoying a comeback. No fewer than three of these elegant pieces of furniture have been entered for this year’s LAPADA Object of the Year Awards, shortly to be held in London.
A secretaire is a large and heavy piece of furniture. Unlike the antique oak partners desks you see in Preston antique shops, which can be disassembled for easy transportation, it was made in one piece, and could not be broken down into smaller units once manufactured. This, plus its height (which would block modern gadgets such as a wall-mounted TV, and make it difficult to install in many modern houses) have made it unpopular in recent years. However, the beauty and usefulness of the secretaire antique desk have won through, with Georgian marquetry pieces being particularly sought after.
Like a slant-top bureau, a secretary has a base of wide drawers, surmounted by a hinged desktop which folds down to become the writing surface. This opens to reveal a handy work-storage area comprising pigeonholes, compartments and small drawers, conveniently placed to be accessible to the user. Above this is a bookcase, with glazed or, less commonly, wooden doors.
In Lancashire, the Victorian mahogany pedestal desk is one of the most common desk forms. However, the secretaire is equally common and has been endlessly copied and reproduced over the years. Good examples can be found in Preston antique dealers.
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