Tubular steel office furniture is very much a 20th and 21st century concept and lends itself to modern minimalist design. However we forget that antique cabinets, desks, cupboards and shelves, some made over three hundred years ago, were originally pieces of commercial furniture themselves. Before places of business became established elsewhere, much trading was discussed around these pieces in the library or drawing rooms over brandy and cigars after dinner.
Towards the end of the 19th century, it became commonplace for business to be conducted within designated offices away from home and there was a wealth of quality hard wood pieces of furniture constructed and designed, particularly for commercial purposes. Often offices were fitted with desks and shelves interspersed with pigeonhole openings and drawers, and leather covered swivel chairs incorporating the latest in Victorian technology were littered around, all designed to keep the wheels of the expanding family business turning. Mahogany, oak, elm and other strong durable woods were all used in great quantities at this time.
Although wooden office furniture went out of fashion from the 1930s onwards when steels and eventually plastics took over, many of these earlier commercial examples still provide an attractive, comfortable and generous work surface for modern day commerce. Large antique mahogany library tables for example can often be found adorning the office of the Board of Directors, or barristers’ chambers, and add a hint of authenticity and create a link back to our commercial past.
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