Secretary Desks

Vintage and Antique Secretary Desks

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Secretary Desks

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Is there anything more marvelous than a vintage secretary desk? We think not!

With their towering silhouettes, antique stylings and ingenious hideaway designs, few things come close to these versatile workhorses.

If you’re shopping for an antique secretary, you’ve come to the right place. Here at Chairish, we carry hundreds of modern and vintage secretary desks!

Our extensive selection ranges from classic Chinoiserie and Art Deco to Danish Modern rolltop designs.

The expertly curated cut you’ll find here has been gathered by our stylish team of vintage experts with a keen eye for secretary desk designs. Each team member is well-versed in the traits and quality standards that top designers are looking for when they shop for antique secretary desks.

Need an Antique Secretary Desk with a Hutch? Start Here!

Secretary desks came into fruition in the 18th century as a means to accommodate administrative secretaries — generally males — who would work out of large estate owners’ homes, typically in their living rooms or parlors.

In order to camouflage secretary desks amongst their existing furniture pieces, they were designed with fashionable details that harkened to the trends of the day. Secretary desks with hutches generally consist of a hutch or a cabinet placed atop a dresser-like structure that comes equipped with a center drop-leaf. The drop-leaf can be extended to create a desktop and can be folded up to create a synchronized unit.

Part of the appeal of antique drop-front secretary desks is their cache of slots, shelves, drawers and pigeonholes. Originally utilized to stow everything from letter openers to almanacs, these hideaways now serve as storage space for life’s more analog components, including packing tape, papers, pencils and pens. If you snag a vintage secretary with solid wood hutch drawers, upper shelving can be used to warehouse bulk office items like printer paper (or even less glamorous items like paper towels or glass cleaner).

Vintage secretary desks that feature glass front doors may require you to get a little crafty with your storage. However, filling the shelves with books, pottery or china on loan from the dining room is an easy way to make your arrangement look pulled together while still touting function.

Shop a Sophisticated Collection of Ready-to-Ship Secretary Desks

Not only are secretary desks a smart way to tuck a functional workspace into a larger living room or bedroom, but they’re also multi-functional pieces that can be used as storage cabinets, bars, nightstands — even vanities.

At Chairish, we strive to make it as easy as possible for you to locate the perfect secretary desk. Use our custom filters to easily narrow down our inventory by price, style or size.

Have your heart set on something specific like a black and red secretary desk? Use our color filters to easily view only those antique secretary desks that fall within your color parameters.

Need a secretary desk in a specific style?

Use style filters to edit our inventory down in seconds flat. Apply general styles like Mid-Century Modern or go super-granular with uber-specific filters like Safari or Hollywood Regency.

3 Ideas to Refashion a Vintage Secretary

So, you’ve scored a fab antique secretary desk and you’re looking for an out-of-the-box way to use it.

We’ve got you covered. Here are some super-cool ideas to refashion a secretary desk with some unexpected uses.

A Bar: Bar carts are certainly fancy-schmantzy, but riddle me this: Where does one actually assemble a drink? If you’re among those who’ve been turned off by a bar cart’s brevity, consider refashioning a vintage secretary desk with a hutch as a bar.

A secretary desk’s surplus of shelves is ideal for housing spirits and liquors, while its extendable drop leaf is perfect for perching tonics and tools to mix your fave cocktail from start to finish.

An antique secretary desk with a drop-front is the ultimate DIY bar setting for entertaining. Components for a specialty cocktail can be assembled on the extended drop-leaf along with shakers, jiggers and a step-by-step assembling card.

Those guests who prefer to mix up their own unique concoctions can make use of the reserves stored overhead behind the secretary’s cabinet doors. Have bottles you’d rather not share? Stow them in your antique secretary’s bottom drawers under lock and key.

A China Cabinet: Consider a vintage secretary the less committal version of the dining room china cabinet. A secretary desk’s thin profile means it will go over easier than a hulking China cabinet in most scenarios — especially in space-challenged rooms.

The top of the secretary can be used to store stacked plates and bowls (or, if you have glass-paned doors, artfully displayed ones), while the bottom can be used to squirrel away accouterments like linens, candles, barware and silverware.

When entertaining, a secretary desk can be unfolded to create a makeshift buffet. While the drop leaf won’t support an entire dinner spread, it can be a lovely place to display your labored-over dessert for the duration of a meal.

Alternatively, use a secretary as a utensil or condiment station for a stately buffet. Since guest drizzling sauces and dressings tend to be the cause of most buffet-related gridlock, annexing the condiments to a separate secretary can be a winning move.

An Entry Hutch: Console Tables may dominate the bid for entryway furniture, but with its slough of drawers, it’s hard to deny the appeal of working a vintage secretary into the foyer.

Unfold the desk flap to house essentials like mail, keys (procure a pretty bowl for them to keep things looking spick and span) and wallets. When entertaining, the unfolded desk makes a hospitable surface for displaying a vase of flowers and a tray of champagne, as well.

On the day-to-day, the bottom drawers of a vintage secretary can be used as a mudroom of sorts. Draft out a few drawers to store outdoor essentials like dog leashes, umbrellas, mittens and hats. The very bottom drawer can even be designated for shoes.

If you have glass doors up top, use this opportunity to stow accents that set the tone for your home. For instance, pottery or vases can be added in a color scheme that complements your home. Or you may pepper in a series of small vintage paintings or framed family photos.

Styling a vintage secretary with a bench or an ottoman off to the side can also provide an apt place to perch while suiting up (or down) for the elements.

There’s no denying that a versatile secretary desk is a must-have décor piece in your home. And with so many vintage styles to choose from, it may be tough to choose just one.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I identify an antique secretary desk?

Look for a desk with a fold-down writing surface, pigeonholes, and small drawers above, and larger drawers or cabinets below. Antique secretary desks are often made of high-quality wood like mahogany, oak, or walnut, with intricate carvings, inlays, or brass hardware. If the desk has a maker's mark, label, or signature, it can help confirm its authenticity and age.

How do you date an old desk?

Examine the desk's style, construction techniques, and materials to estimate its age. Antique secretary desks from the 18th and early 19th centuries often feature handmade dovetail joints, while later desks may have machine-cut joints. Also, research the desk's maker, if known, to determine the period during which they were active.

What era are secretary desks from?

Secretary desks originated in Europe during the 17th century and gained popularity in America throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The most sought-after antique secretary desks are typically from the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras, spanning from the early 1700s to the early 1900s.

Are secretary desks worth it?

Secretary desks are valuable for their practicality, versatility, and historical significance. They provide ample storage space and a compact work surface, making them ideal for small homes or apartments. Additionally, antique secretary desks are often cherished as family heirlooms or collectible pieces of furniture art.

How does a secretary desk work?

A secretary desk features a hinged writing surface that folds down to create a workspace, revealing a storage area with pigeonholes, small drawers, and cubbies for organizing papers, books, and writing supplies. When the writing surface is folded up, it conceals the storage area and transforms the desk into a compact, attractive piece of furniture.

Why are secretary desks called that?

Secretary desks are named after their original purpose of providing a writing surface and storage space for secretaries, clerks, or scribes. In the past, secretaries were responsible for handling correspondence, bookkeeping, and other administrative tasks, and these desks were designed to meet their specific needs.

How much is my antique secretary desk worth?

The value of an antique secretary desk depends on factors such as its age, condition, maker, and rarity. A desk from a well-known maker, in excellent condition, and with unique features or provenance could be worth several thousand dollars. Find the perfect secretary desk on Chairish today!