One of the most popular antique desks you can buy today is the Carlton House desk. This very elegant piece of furniture was first designed by George Hepplewhite for the Prince of Wales, who later became George IV. The name for the desk came from Carlton House, which was the London abode of the Prince. The desk also reflects the refinements of the Neoclassical styling of the Regency period.
The Carlton House desk is essentially a normal writing table with small drawers placed on the top of the table, similar to a bureau à gradin, but the drawers are set in a ‘U’ shaped formation – which gives it its unmistakeable appearance. This then allows for space in the middle for writing. There are small slopes on the drawer formation at each side of the ‘U’ shape, plus other drawers set into the table itself, and the whole desk is set on four finely tapered legs.
Hepplewhite presented the desk for sale in his Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers Guide, along with other furniture from his workshop. Apart from this desk, he is also renowned for the oval, heart and shield shaped backs to his antique dining chairs which could incorporate the Prince of Wales feathers, wheatsheaves, swags and radiating leaves. These chairs, although light in appearance, are very strong.
Hepplewhite, like Chippendale and Sheraton, rarely made pieces of furniture himself so it would be difficult to find a desk or dining chair that was directly attributed to him. However, the Carlton House desk has been revived and reproduced many times.
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