Home is a refuge and a place of rest. It is also a place where much work is done. Offices at home or at a place of business require tools to aid in accomplishing the necessary work. One item of furniture is specifically designed to make work more efficient, organized and less laborious–the desk. Desks of one sort or another have been in use as long as we have worked, thousands of years. On this page and the next we display just a few of the many types and styles of work surfaces that can be called desks. Not only are desks an item of utility, they can also be an item that verges on art.
This piece is an example of a desk style that remained popular for decades, an all in one desk-bookcase-organizer-bureau-thingy. The overall idea of a side by side unit evolved from style to style going from this curvaceous late victorian to very geometric stylings of the first quarter of the 20th century. We have seen many of these in the full range of styles, but this one is particularly well done.
It is very hard to precisely date pieces that we work on. We can usually give a fairly narrow range. What helped us pin this down to the year 1896 was a date stamp on the back of the mirror. The mirror's back is always covered by a wooden panel. We only discovered the date because this piece was fully dismantled and the mirror removed while we worked on it. Fun to learn that detail.
This ornate desk came from a customer with an Austrian heritage, part of a large collection of furniture that had been passed along for generations. Over time things happen, and as well cared for as this desk had been, shrinkage was an issue. Two large splits in the wooden sides resulted in a less than desirable appearance for what should be an eye stopper and conversation starter. We inserted wooden shims, carved them to blend with the surrounding pattern and ensured that the finished appearance was consistent with the original surfaces. In addition, we waxed and polished the entire desk. The desk was returned to a prominent place in the home.
Many desks like this one were manufactured during the mid twentieth century. Even though this is not a unique style, we feature it here to illustrate what can be done with more common items with straighter lines. Additionally, people often make the mistake of thinking that furniture items are beyond restoration and unable to be made useful and attractive again. Not so! We illustrate here what can be done with one piece that seemingly had little remaining value.
This is almost a parable of life. Some of us wrongly believe we have reached a point where we are too badly damaged or too unattractive to have much value or hope in this life. Not so! Even more than what can be seen in this journal of the restoration of one item of furniture, there is hope for each one of us. We are all designed for something great. Sometimes we simply need some help finding the way from our chaos into the life we were designed for.
Removing the finish didn't help this desk to look any more promising. A dark dye had been used originally and was still on the surface after stripping.
The broken leg has been repaired, all surfaces have been sanded and now it looks like there is hope that this desk can look good again.The natural color of the mahogany faces is now apparent.
Although most of the surfaces are veneered with mahogany, not all the exposed wood is mahogany. Since the owner of this piece wanted a natural look, we pre-stained the non-mahogany sections.
Lighting is challenging for amateur photographers like us. The colors of the drop front and top surface to the left did match the rest when viewed with human eyes.The stain added a slight amber tone to the mahogany yielding this beautiful soft warm tone. Without pre-staining, the legs and inside work surface would have looked washed out. Everything blends nicely now.
Little details can make a big difference. It would be easy to overlook the decal label on the inside of the top drawer. It is also easy to permanently remove it during stripping. We were able to save this label by coating it with wax before stripping.
We gave you a close up of the broken front leg as this desk came in. Here it is repaired and refinished. No one would guess.
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