Rolltop Desks

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Rolltop Desks

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Roll out the red carpet for rolltop desks at Chairish!

Roll top desks are a must for anyone who is looking to keep their work-from-home clutter under wraps come evenings and weekends.

These desks are ideal for both dedicated offices as well as offices that co-opt living rooms and bedrooms. A cleverly designed antique roll top desk creates a fully functional work zone out of thin air.

What are Roll Top Desks?

Born out of the well-heeled Victorian demand for bigger desks to outfit expanding homes, the rolltop desk first surfaced around 1870.

Rolltop desks instantly dwarfed dainty writing desks that had little room and minimal storage. Conversely, these types of desks offered spacious writing surfaces that were encased in a bank of small drawers, which were intended to corral writing instruments, letterhead and stationery.

To keep everything looking tidy and that clutter under wraps, the roll top’s writing surface and its accompanying drawers could be enclosed in a rolling, slatted-wood cover. Some vintage rolltop desks featured a typical kneehole, while others forewent one in favor of a writing surface that could be slid out when needed. The latter resulted in antique rolltop desks that could be easily mistaken for a dresser, if not for their uniquely domed tops.

Rethink the Roll Top Desk

Rethinking the vintage rolltop desk isn’t actually as difficult as one might initially think. With a little ingenuity and a willingness to employ one in a space other than an office, an antique rolltop desk can feel wholly 21st century.

Antique rolltop desks tend to be shorter than secretary desks, meaning that they don’t introduce quite the same dynamism to a room. In fact, most rolltop desks clock are an admittedly awkward height — taller than a credenza yet shorter than a tallboy dresser.

With that in mind, the top of a rolltop deserves some consideration — certainly don’t leave it bare! Use the uppermost surface as an opportunity to display decor that fuses your desk with its surrounding interiors.

Several striking yet functional options for decorating the top include:

Small-scale lamps

A mirror

Artwork

Eye-catching pottery and vases

Beautifully bound books

Creating a robust, layered vignette will ensure that your old rolltop desk feels like a considered part of your interior, both when the top is open as well as when it’s closed.

Antique Roll Top Desks for Sale

If you’re shopping for a vintage roll top desk for sale, don’t hesitate to kick off your search at Chairish.

We stock thousands of desks, ranging from Contemporary designs to sleek Danish Modern styles.

Whether you’re on the hunt for a molded plywood hood, a tambour hood, a teak finish or a luxe burlwood finish, chances are high that there’s something to suit your vision within our collection.

Explore chinoiserie roll top desks as well as the famous George Nelson modernist Action roll top desk.

With so many options to choose from, you’ll be rolling in no time!

Each piece is curated by our design experts that have extensive furniture knowledge, so you’ll know you’re getting something special when you order from us.

Everything You Need to Know About Designing with Vintage Roll Top Desks

Packrat tendencies aside, a vintage rolltop desk is a very chic piece. Like a pocket-bedecked fisherman’s vest rendered in furniture form, the antique rolltop offers up the sort of organizational efficiency that the minimalist Parsons desk owner can only dream about.

Here’s the question of the day: How does one actually use a vintage rolltop desk — especially a revered specimen like a Cutler rolltop desk or an Oakcrest rolltop desk? Hasn’t tech all but obliterated the need for cubbies and pockets to burrow utility bills and stash stamps?

Read on to learn about three unique ways to style that rolltop desk.

3 Modern Ways to Style a Vintage Rolltop Desk

Part of the rolltop desk’s predicament is how to modernize it. Its hulking form can make it difficult to work one into modern-day interiors where compact pieces typically rule.

To help make the integration a bit easier, we’ve assembled a rolltop rubric to making a vintage rolltop feel fabulously fresh.

Opt for a “Leggy” Model

If you’re partial to a walnut or oak rolltop desk, a leggy model’s silhouette may fit in better with other more modern pieces in your furniture décor. Its open-leg base also provides the opportunity to style it with a chair.

Hint: Rather than settling for something pedestrian, seize the opportunity to make a stunning statement and team an antique rolltop desk with a strikingly sculptural stool.

It can be a ceramic drum stool or metal tabouret — whatever the style, a shapely seat will soften an oak or walnut rolltop desk’s old-fashioned overtones. To lend cohesion in a more casual space, a funky ottoman or pouf could also be added.

Embrace the “Hoard”

Rolltop desks, with their bank of itty-bitty drawers, pockets and pigeonholes, do suggest that a certain (ahem!) hoarder mentality may be at work.

Rather than fight that notion, embrace it! Use a vintage rolltop desk to display an expansive collection of potted plants, stacked hats or colored glassware.

Used in excess, any collection will work in cohesion with a rolltop's drawers and will cue up a vignette with avant-garde appeal. True, the look may be a bit polarizing, but it’s a wonderful way to use eccentricity in your favor and usher in a feeling of unexpected cool.

If a cluttered workspace sounds like the equivalent of low-key torture, consider surrounding an antique rolltop with a gallery wall made up of small-scale paintings or photos. The paintings’ square shapes will visually tie into the rolltop’s myriad of tiny drawers.

The result? Instant cohesion and maximalist splendor!

Repurpose It

Yet another way to make an old rolltop desk feel uniquely modern is to recast it as a piece other than a desk. For instance, use a vintage rolltop desk as an entry console or as an end-of-the-hallway credenza.

You can choose a striking burled wood number — a blocky Biedermeier model would certainly wow — or something stately like a mahogany Georgian rolltop to make your set up feel designed with intention.

A central location like a hallway encourages a vintage rolltop to be used as odds-and-ends storage piece (an ultra-chic junk drawer of sorts?).

Diminutive drawers can be used to stow everyday equipage, by which we mean the nuts and bolts that everyone needs to have readily on hand (but no one wants to see).

Designate a drawer for:

Batteries

Old phone chargers

Metro cards

Flashlights

Thank-you cards

Sunglasses

Stamps

Keys

The trick is to keep drawers restricted to a singular-use — no mixing pens and pencils, for instance. To intermingle would be to defeat the organizational mastery that only an antique rolltop desk can offer.

Shop a Unique Edit of Vintage Roll Top Desks for Less

At Chairish, you can discover secondhand roll top desks from brands like Ethan Allen, Hooker Furniture and much, much more.

We think you’ll also be thrilled to shop beautiful, authentic antique desks that date back to the Victorian period and beyond.

Every desk you see on the site has been hand-vetted by our in-house team of super-savvy style experts who are well-versed in the traits and style hallmarks that make a vintage roll top worthy of placement in today’s interiors.

Don’t waste time sorting through the less-than-stellar roll top desks available at other online outlets. Our best-of-the-best selection only includes the most specimen-grade desks, so you can shop with confidence and know that every roll top desk you come across is a certified treasure.

Happy shopping!