The antique oak pedestal desk has been a staple of office furniture since the 18th century. Large and generally simple in design, it gets its name from the twin pedestals, or cabinets of drawers, upon which the rectangular working surface sits. The drawers extend all the way to the floor with plinths at the base. Earlier styles, such as the Bureau Mazarin, and Chinese, or scholar’s desk, had incomplete stacks of drawers supported on legs.
The antique oak pedestal desk made its first appearance in the early 18th century, reaching peak popularity in the 19th century. Sales outstripped those of writing tables and secretary desks, and the majority of antique oak pedestal desks are Victorian or Edwardian in origin. The style is uniquely English, the Europeans preferring the bureau plat and secretaire styles.
As the antique oak pedestal desk evolved, an additional drawer was often added above the user’s knees. From the mid-18th century inlaid leather and baize panels began to appear, sometimes embellished with a gold-stamped or cross-banded border. Antique oak pedestal desks which retained their wooden tops often had other features, such as a book-rest or lined writing drawer.
Early pedestal desks were of open design, but during the Victorian era modesty panels were introduced, intended to conceal the legs of the user. Such panels are missing in partners desks, which are basically two pedestal desks made in one piece, with drawers either side and large enough to accommodate two users. These developed from the massive library desks created for stately homes by designers like Gillows and Chippendale.
The student desk, sometimes called the right (or left) pedestal desk, is another variant, in which one of the cabinets is replaced by legs, creating a more compact work area. Many campaign desks take the form of antique oak pedestal desks. These are unique in that they can be broken down for travel.
We at Christian Davies have a large selection of antique oak pedestal desks in our Preston showroom.