A Carlton House desk is a specific antique desk form within the more general bureau à gradin form. This specific form is supposed to have been designed in the 18th century for the Prince of Wales (who later became George IV) by George Hepplewhite. It is named after Carlton House, which was at the time the London residence of the Prince of Wales. This kind of desk is sometimes also known as a Carlton House writing table.
A richly decorated version of a Carlton house desk
The desk is like a normal writing table but the small drawers above the surface form a “U” shape around the user instead of being merely set up in front of him as is usual in a typical bureau a gradin. Unlike other types of bureau a gradin the Carlton House desk usually offers no pigeonholes. There are usually small slopes over the two desktop drawers at the left and right ends of the “U” shape.
Drawings of this type of desk were presented by Hepplewhite in his famous design book the Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers Guide and by Thomas Sheraton in his own famous book of designs, The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book, thus ensuring its popularity
The Falcini family workshops were established in the early 19th century in the small town of Campi, near Florence, by Gaetano Giuseppe Falcini (d. 1846). In the late 1820s, Luigi, the latter’s eldest son (d. 1861), opened a bottega in the via del Fosso, Florence, and was later joined by his brother Angiolo (d. 1850). The first piece to be exhibited by the Falcini brothers was a prize-winning marquetry table shown at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence in 1836, and subsequently purchased by Grand Duke Leopold II for his private collection. The firm continued to exhibit at the Academy throughout the 1840s and completed important commissions for a number of prominent patrons, among which Prince Anatole Demidoff, the Duchess of Castigliano and Countess Borghese. After the death of Angiolo Falcini in 1850, Luigi was joined by his two sons, Alessandro and Cesare, who continued the business until 1882. The Falcini brothers exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 to great acclaim.
A partners desk is an antique desk form which is basically two pedestal desks constructed from the start as one large desk joined at the front, for two users working while facing each other. The spelling of the term is irregular, with partner’s desk and partners’ desk being common variants.
This piece of furniture was first conceived in the United Kingdom to accommodate the work of banking partners. These gentlemen were usually senior bank officials who wished to work together while keeping the convenience and the prestige of a pedestal desk. It was an adaptation of the earlier and sometimes larger library desk, found in the libraries of the mansions of the gentry and the nobility.
Most partners desks made in the 19th century were built of high quality woods such as oak, mahogany or walnut and finished with tooled leather inserts on top and brass fittings all around. Many reproductions have been made in the 20th century.
Antique pedestal desks are usually free standing, with a rectangular working surface, upon two pedestals or small cabinets of drawers, supported on plinth bases. There is usually a large central drawer above the knees of the user. Sometimes in the 19th Century a “modesty panel” was put between the pedestals to hide the legs or knees of the user. Smaller and older pedestal desks with modesty panels were sometimes called knee hole desks and were usually placed against a wall.
From the mid 18th Century onwards pedestal desks had inset leather or baize writing surfaces, within a cross banded border. If the desk top were just wood, it may of had a pull out lined writing drawer.
The pedestal desk appeared in England in the 18th Century but became popular in the 19th and 20th, overtaking the variants of the secretary desk and the writing table in sheer numbers. When a pedestal desk is double in size to form a nearly square working surface, and drawers are put on both sides to accommodate two users at the same time, it becomes a partners desks. Thomas Chippendale gave designs for such tables, which were generally used in libraries.
Examples of a Victorian Mahogany pedestal desk and a Victorian ladies writing desk with a pull out writing surface
Late 18th Century writing tables were raised on slender square tapering legs or slender turned legs of simple outline. Both terminating in Castor’s. In the early 19th Century a heavier leg turned with rings became more popular, which became more robust as the Century progressed. An early 19th Century development was the writing table with end supports. Writing tables are also referred to as “bureau plat” when in the French Style such as Louis XVI style.
A Bonheur Du Jour is a type of ladies writing desk. Introduced in 1760 in Paris. These desks are light and graceful with a raised back of a cabinet, or small drawers. The back may sometimes close with a tambour, or have a fitted mirror. Early desks had slender cabriole supports but after 1775 most had straight tapering legs. Some bonheur du jours were mounted with Sevres porcelain plaques from 1766 onwards. By the mid 1770’s bonheur du jours were being made in London and named “ladies writing desks”.
Antique roll top desks are a relative of the tambour front desk. Most having a series of compartments, shelves and drawers, covered by a means of a tambour, made of linked wooden slats that roll through slots in the sides of the desk. Roll tops could be mass produced and were the mainstay of small offices at the end of the 19th Century. Roll top desks are a popular antique especially with designers who want to re-create the “ambience” of offices during the turn of the previous two centuries
Carlton House Desks were designed in the 18th Century by George Hepplewhite for the Prince Of Wales, who later became George IV, named after Carlton House which was the residence of the Prince Of Wales.
Carlton House desks or writing tables are designed with small drawers and slopes which form a “U” shape around the user, as opposed to other desks. There are drawings of this type of desk in Hepplewhite’s famous design book “The cabinet maker and upholsterers guide”