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Writing Desk Guide

Updated on January 27, 2013

Introduction to Writing Desks

Writing desks are extremely popular pieces of office furniture that sometimes can transcend to be functional and decorative for even other rooms of the house. There are a wide variety of writing desks out there, and this type of furniture isn't in danger of going anywhere anytime soon. Whether for use at home or at an office, there is likely a style or function to suit everyone. These can be for kids or for adults, look modern or antique, be functional for hand writing letters and organizing bills, or act like a corner office desk. There are a lot of options when it comes to this very functional piece of furniture, as there are even portable versions. How's that for strange? If you would like to know more about the world of writing desks, you've come to the right place.

Oak Writing Desks

Oak writing desks are very popular because oak is a classic construction timber for furniture and many other products needing lumber. Oak is a solid hard wood that many wood workers and craftsmen appreciate because it is sturdy, can take a beating, and is still very easy to manage. It's also a relatively nice looking wood. On top of all of those positive reasons for using oak, that wood is also fairly cheap. This means that true oak writing desks can be sturdy, good looking, and last not only for years, but even generations as long as they are properly taken care of.  For the combination of functionality, appearance, and price, it's hard to beat the advantages offered by an oak wood writing desk.

Cherry Writing Desks

Cherry writing desks are very popular pieces of home office furniture that put the full dark beauty of cherry lumber on display. If you are looking for a writing desk that really shows of an air of sophistication or even aristocracy, then cherry wood is a good choice. These pieces of office furniture tend to be very well built, have a very nice color and stain to them, and when made correctly they can last for years or even generations. The dark color can go well with a wide variety of rooms and office appearances, and a cherry writing desk is a fantastic choice for someone who believes that the visual aesthetics of office furniture, as well as its ability to last through time, is just as important as good old fashioned functionality.  On the downside, these tend to be more expensive, but the extra benefits you receive often make this choice well worth it.

White Writing Desks from Amazon

White Writing Desks

White writing desks are popular pieces of furniture that also seem to cause a lot of argument and consternation among desk fans.  Some people love these as good bedroom desks for children because of the clean and pretty white color, while others argue that painting a desk white really detracts from the natural wood appearance that should come with any good writing desk.  Many fans of the traditional wood built desks won't like any type of painted desk whether it is white, black, or otherwise.  But fans of white writing desks can point out that aesthetic beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and for some people the traditional wood look just isn't all that attractive.  To each their own.  However, many children love the appearance of white writing desks, and as a dining room or downstairs décor, with light clors a white desk might just be the perfect fit.

Black Writing Desks

Black writing desks are the other type of painted desks that are popular with many people.  While not for everyone, this is often a good solution for individuals who tend to like darker colors as part of the décor, but don't want to spend the money on a true wood desk - especially more expensive ones such as rosewood or cherry wood.  These desks can be painted, or they may not be made of real timber, but might be made from synthetics that are easier to shade black in order to get that ideal appearance that is being sought.  Black desks are often very popular in the offices of small businesses and smaller companies.  The different styles and building materials can very greatly, and some version of a black office desk can be found in virtually any Office Max or furniture section of a Walmart.

Writing Desk Pics

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A nice example of a good drop lid writing desk - generally an older style.Close up of cedar wood, one of the most popular dark woods used on writing desks.Timber before it gets processed into an office writing desk.Rosewood writing desk.Another example of how many different writing desks there are.Here's a well used antique writing desk.Beautiful rosewood writing desk.A well finished modern rosewood writing desk.Stacked cedar and cherry wood prior to being used for writing desks.A traditional Asian looking writing desk.A well crafted contemporary writing desk with some older influences.
A nice example of a good drop lid writing desk - generally an older style.
A nice example of a good drop lid writing desk - generally an older style.
Close up of cedar wood, one of the most popular dark woods used on writing desks.
Close up of cedar wood, one of the most popular dark woods used on writing desks.
Timber before it gets processed into an office writing desk.
Timber before it gets processed into an office writing desk.
Rosewood writing desk.
Rosewood writing desk.
Another example of how many different writing desks there are.
Another example of how many different writing desks there are.
Here's a well used antique writing desk.
Here's a well used antique writing desk.
Beautiful rosewood writing desk.
Beautiful rosewood writing desk.
A well finished modern rosewood writing desk.
A well finished modern rosewood writing desk.
Stacked cedar and cherry wood prior to being used for writing desks.
Stacked cedar and cherry wood prior to being used for writing desks.
A traditional Asian looking writing desk.
A traditional Asian looking writing desk.
A well crafted contemporary writing desk with some older influences.
A well crafted contemporary writing desk with some older influences.

Drop Lid Writing Desks

Drop lid writing desks are desks that are also called by many other names.  They're actually quite ingenious, when you think about it.  These desks are now often called stationary desks, and have a lid that can be used to cover all your bills, personal letters, etc. when it is up (and early models could even be locked - which brought an extra measure of security), or it can be laid down and creates a writing surface where you can write letters or stories, pay the bills, or store any number of correspondence items.  The drop lid writing desk was revolutionary for its time, but now serves particularly well as a a decorative piece that can add to the décor of a study, a dining room, a home library, or even the corner of a bedroom.  There's a lot to be said for these pieces of furniture, and their decorative qualities will keep them popular for a long time to come.

Portable Writing Desks

Portable writing desks are an increasingly rare type of writing desk that is becoming less common and less useful based in large part on the increased spread and popularity of the laptop computer.  Portable writing desks were basically like movable little drop lid desks that provided a writing surface for traveling individuals, but then also allowed them a place to store their invoices, writing, or other materials once it was time to pack up and move on again.  While you still might see these from time to time, this is the one type of writing desk that is somewhat likely to disappear due to being obsolete.

Italian Writing Desks

Italian Writing Desks is a very broad and general term for desks that are often very decorative, with a lot of time spent on traditional carving and aesthetic work that reminds many individuals of the days when writing desks were meant to be an aesthetic work of art in addition to a functioning piece of furniture.  Many of these designs are from actual dark wood like rosewood, cedar, and cherry, and the designs can vary from Queen Anne to Victorian, to an entirely different and unique set of work.  These desks do tend to be more expensive, but if you're looking for a "wow" piece, quite often one can be found under the search "Italian writing desks."

Rosewood Writing Desks from Amazon

Rosewood Writing Desks

Rosewood writing desks are some of the most sought after (and also therefore expensive) natural wood writing desks that are available on the market.  Most modern rosewood comes from Brazil, Denmark (sometimes this is called Italian rosewood because the timber is harvested in Denmark but worked into writing desks in Italy), and China.  Australia has some timber that is technically considered rosewood, but is from a completely different family of trees and is not considered the same thing.  Antique rosewood came from many other places which either no longer have these trees, or they're considered protected.  Some antique Victorian rosewood writing desks in particular can be very valuable, especially when in good condition.  Rosewood is considered by many to be unparalleled for its beauty, and is up there with Mahogany as one of the most highly in demand timbers in the world for use in desks and other pieces of fine furniture.

McKenna Writing Desks

McKenna writing desks are little known writing desks produced by the Canadian McKenna company.  McKenna desks tend to be inexpensive, well built, and function as well as many more expensive models.  They are built to be more simple and functional as opposed to decorative and showy, but if you want a decent piece of furniture without having to pay a huge price tag, these aren't a bad place at all to start.

Mahogany Writing Desks

Mahogany writing desks are another type of desk that are extremely popular in both modern and antique form with many consumers.  These desks are made from mahogany, one of the darkest woods out there, and one that can take extremely dark staining easily and make dark colors absolutely shine.  Mahogany is another one of those timbers where there antique desks are very valuable because many are made from wood that is either extinct or protected, such as Madagascar Mahogany. These desks tend to be beautiful, very sturdy, and heavy.  But if you take care of these desks, they are exactly the kind of furniture you can pass down from generation to generation and be proud to keep in the family.

Pine Writing Desks

Pine writing desks are a great solution for shoppers who want a good wood desk, but don't want to spend a lot of money just because "the wood looks pretty."  Pine desks offer a lot of advantages in that the real wood pine writing desks are always going to be higher quality than the cheap Wal-Mart crap, while still remaining inexpensive for an actual wood desk.  Additionally, once properly treated, pine can hold up surprisingly well and still have a fairly attractive light wood finish.  These desks are also going to be far lighter and easier to move than desks made out of very heavy and dense timber such as oak.

Victorian Writing Desks from Amazon

Victorian Writing Desks

Basically there are 2 types of Victorian writing desks nowadays.  There are the antique desks that were made in Victorian times and can range from the very simple and functional as you might find in a school house, to the very popular and collectible antique Victorian desks which are highly sought after because of their history as well as skillful woodwork.  Most of the modern versions you find will be replicas.  Many people like the old style, but simply will not be able to afford to pay the money it would take to get an antique desk.  Most "Victorian" writing desks you see around online will be replicas, but this still gives you an affordable alternative to the real deal.

Reproduction Writing Desks from Amazon

Reproduction Writing Desks

Reproduction writing desks, often called replica writing desks, are quality pieces of home office furniture that are designed or modeled after popular antique designs that many people enjoy, but don't have the income to realistically invest or afford.  These can be actual wood desks, but more often they use wood panel or other synthetic pieces to replicate the look more cheaply.  The quality of reproduction or replica desks can vary greatly and depend heavily on the company, materials used, and many other similar factors.

Antique Writing Desks

Antique writing desks are just what they sound like.  These are desks that are often decades, if not centuries, old and can come from a variety of places, be made by a variety of companies, and be made of a variety of materials.  Collectors will often collect antique writing desks based on a favorite time period, or desks made from now extinct wood or endangered timber are also extremely popular and often valuable because what we have now is all there will ever be.  These types of desks come in as wide a variety as can be imagined, but they are favorites of collectors everywhere.

Kidney Shaped Writing Desks

Kidney shaped writing desks are a very popular design that has been around now for some decades.  The design of these desks have easy reach and comfort in mind.  By shaping a desk like a kidney, both of the far sides of the desk curve in towards the person sitting center, meaning everything on the surface of the desk is within much easier reach, while there is still tons of room left over for the legs to stretch out.  This is a very common sense design, and modern ones often have a pull out tray for a keyboard, which opens up even more room on the desk for work.

History of Writing Desks

Writing desks are pieces of furniture that have a long and interesting history.  The original desks were usually giant pieces of slabs of wood, about as basic as they get, maybe even without drawers.  But as the ability to craft furniture become more and more advanced, so did the form and function of writing desks.  For office work, the earliest models were actually portable, and were often like movable lectern which would be hollowed out to allow scribes and bookkeepers to carry around or store papers and then pull them out to work on them as needed.  Large ornately caved writing desks would follow, and were often seen as a sign of aristocracy since a writing desk actually indicated an education level that allowed for the ability to read and write - something that was not all that common during that time period.  Many of these desks would be referred to in modern terms as secretary desks with hutches or secretary desks with drop down lid.  Victorian and Queen Anne models were very popular and each had a distinctive design based on the aesthetic preferences of nobility at the time.  Many modern day hand crafted Italian writing desks continue this tradition. 

Today, the term "writing desk" is becoming a little less common and a little more diluted as changes in technology have created a different need and function. Many of these office desks are now simply referred to as computer desks instead, although many still serve the same function.

Comments on Writing Desks, Anybody?

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    • Maria Harris profile image

      Maria Harris 

      8 years ago from Houston

      Writing desks are especially fitting for smaller homes and apartments. Nice hub.

    • profile image

      Nancy's Niche 

      8 years ago

      Excellent article and picture examples…I liked the old fashioned desk, though not a thing of comfort, it takes one back in time. My choice, the L-shaped desk for computer use…

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for such a comprehensive hub. They are beautiful


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