Secretary Desks

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Secretary Desks

YOUR GO-TO GUIDE TO VINTAGE SECRETARY DESKS

Not so many years ago the vintage secretary desk was rendered all but obsolete. Cumbersome computers with their bulky hard drives and complex network of cords had dictated that workspaces expand, becoming more modular and infinitely more mundane in the process. But as tech devices have scaled back, so has the need for Bunyanesque workstations, and interest in the antique secretary desk has been exuberantly revived.

Secretary desks with hutches generally consist of a hutch or 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. Secretary desks came into fruition in the 18th Century as a means of accommodating administrative secretaries—generally males—who would work out of large estate owners’ homes—typically their living rooms or parlors. In order to camouflage secretary desks among existing furniture, they were designed with fashionable details that harked to the trends of the day, including Chippendale and Chinoiserie.

Today, antique secretary desks’ versatility makes them a choice fixture for work-from-homers looking to finagle a full-fledged workspace into a living room, guest room, or even a nursery. The vintage secretary’s thin profile, which has more in common with a bookshelf or etagere than an executive desk, means that one can be easily integrated just about anywhere. Vintage secretaries also come with an added benefit: height. Poll virtually any first-year designer and they’ll recommend adding at least one ceiling-skimming piece to a room to lend vim. An antique secretary fits the bill to a tee.

Opting for a vintage secretary without a hutch opens up possibilities even more. Cozied up to a bed, an antique secretary can do double-duty as a nightstand or a place to jot off a late-night email. A small secretary without a hutch can also be deployed in a guest bedroom as an all-in-one dresser and desk combo that will readily win over guests. Drop the leaf and stage a guestbook and ballpoint pen, or even just a phone charger and WiFi code placard, so that guests feel invited to bust out their business if need be.

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, in modern times, these hideaways 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. Glass front doors can require getting a bit craftier, but 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.

Refashion a Vintage Secretary As….

Bar

Bar carts are certainly schmantzy, but garner a question: 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 are ideal for housing spirits and liquors, while its extendable drop leaf is perfect for perching tonics and tools while mixing a drink from start to finish. When entertaining, an antique secretary desk with a drop-front is the ultimate DIY bar-setting. Components for a specialty drink can be assembled on the extended drop-leaf along with shakers and jiggers and a step-by-step assembling card. Those guests who prefer to mix up their own unique-to-them concoctions can make use of the reserves stored up 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.

China Cabinet

Consider a vintage secretary a 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 space-challenged rooms. The top can be used to store stacked plates and bowls (or, artfully displayed ones, if you have glass-paned doors), while the bottom can be used to squirrel away accouterments like linens, candles, barware, and silverware. When entertaining, a secretary’s 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 a 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.

Entry Hutch

Consoles 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 dropping 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 in a color scheme that complements your home, or pepper in a series of small vintage paintings or framed family photos. Styling a vintage secretary with a bench or ottoman off to the side can also provide an apt place to perch while suiting up (or down) for the elements.