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A Guide to Antique Bureau Styles

There are many styles of writing desks, or bureaus, as they are also  known, which is hardly surprising when you consider that furniture was designed in all corners of the world. Some of these styles have stood the test of time and if you are thinking to add some character to your study with a period bureau, here’s a brief guide of what is available in the antique market.

  • Mazarin Bureau – An early version of the “knee hole desk” that has two recesses to accommodate the knees.
    antique desk

    Pic Credit: Unsplash

    These first emerged in the mid-17th century and have two or three tiered drawers on either side, with a single drawer above the knee space. Stylish support with either 4 or 8 turned legs that are strengthened by X or H shaped stretchers gives this piece a distinct look and this Louis XIV era item is usually superbly decorated with Boulle Marquetry. A classic writing desk that has no doubt inspired many European writers over the centuries.

  • The Butler’s Desk – A short, compact desk with a drop-down front and a noticeably square look, this piece is ideal for the writer that has many items. Behind the writing surface are many small drawers and slots and there are 3 or 4 drawers underneath the writing surface, this mid-19th century item was extremely popular in England for around a century and there are many variations – a few actually have a sliding door on the lower section that reveals numerous drawers. Of all the antique bureau styles, the Butler’s Desk is quite a common piece and would look great in the right environment.
  • Cheveret – A tiny and delicate looking desk typically used by ladies in the mid-18th century, popular in England and all parts of the British Isles. Who knows how many love letters were answered while sitting at this desk? The ideal item for the career woman with style, this petite desk serves well in a room with limited space.
  • Ship Captain’s Desk – Rugged and sturdy, as one would expect from a vessel-based writing desk, the ship captain’s desk is narrow and has a sloping writing surface, ideal for writing in the captain’s log during those long and stormy voyages around the world.
    writing desk

    Pic Credit: Unsplash

    Many clever little compartments and cubby holes can be found to accommodate the many objects a seafaring captain would use. Ideal for an attic study, this robust item was also used by military commanders in the field of battle. This style was prominent in America and Europe in the late 19th century. Earlier version were quite basic and they became more ornate over the period of 80 years and were to be found in many manor study rooms across England.

  • Front Fall Desk – Very practical, this solid piece of furniture originated in Spain during the 16th century and would usually have 6 deep drawers across the lower section. The drop section was fashioned to look like another layer of drawers when closed, giving it a balanced look. There are many versions and some are exquisitely adorned, making a perfect feature in the aristocratic office. This sturdy desk was the foundation of the emerging European middle class.

There are many other styles on the market, and if you are planning to acquire one for your study, browse a few online antique dealers and you are bound to see all of the above, plus a good few other styles that might just be what you’re looking for.

Note: This is a collaborative post
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