Office Desks of the Rich and Famous: Churchill’s World War II Desks.

As Winston Churchill might have said, never was so much done by one man at two office desks. In the depths of World War II, the Prime Minister of Great Britain spent the long hard slog at an office desk set at the heart of the Cabinet War Rooms ten feet below the ground in Central London. After the war years, Churchill reflected on his long life in the service of the Empire, and wrote a number of books at his office desk in Chartwell, his principal home.

The Cabinet War Rooms are located under a government office building off Parliament Square in London. As war loomed, the building’s basement storage space was converted into Britain’s central war command, a bomb-proof and secure location from which the Allied effort could be fought and won.

Churchill’s office desk in the War Rooms can be found in Churchill’s Room, a suite made available for the Prime Minister and his family. Radio microphones remain standing on the desk, a reminder of the days when he would make wartime speeches from this location. Near the office desk is a closet-like space where the hotline to the White House was placed. (Read more…)

Office Desks of the Rich and Famous: the Resolute Desk.

[Image is a work of the US Government - public domain.]









[Image is a work of the US Government – public domain.]

Do you find office desks boring? Try looking at them from a different perspective – you could be famous someday, and your most humdrum of office desks could be enshrined in a museum, with gawkers wondering how such a humble piece of furniture allowed you to come up with such glorious ideas.

Or you could find yourself in a powerful office where the desk is almost as famous and popular as its user. Office desks like the White House Resolute Desk fit in this category: few office desks have powerful stories behind them, or have served as a turning point in international diplomacy.

The Resolute office desk is one of the most famous symbols of the American Presidency, a desk gifted by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 and used almost continuously to the present day.

The name ought to tell you that this most famous of office desks was built from the timbers of the HMS Resolute, a British ship that had become ice-bound, abandoned, and re-discovered by American whalers. Returned by the U.S. to Britain, the Resolute served in the Royal Navy for over twenty years. At its decommissioning, Queen Victoria requested that some of the ship’s timbers be recycled into a desk, which she then sent as a gift to the United States.

While all the Presidents since Hayes have used the Resolute desk at one time or another, it played second fiddle to other office desks. The recipient of the Resolute desk, Rutherford Hayes, had other Oval Office desks at his disposal, and kept the generous gift in other parts of the White House. Hayes’ successors did much the same. (read more)

Office Desks On Steroids.

[Image © MotoArt.]









[Image © MotoArt.]

Executives in the top echelons of business love to spend on office desks – the type of office desks that telegraph accomplishment, prestige, and money to burn.

They’ve reached the pinnacle of accomplishment, or so the thinking goes – therefore these top-flight executives need office desks that show off their newfound rank and privileges to whomever might drop by their office.

Office Desks That Make a Strong Impression. Take the C-119 Flap Desk by MotoArt pictured above – one of a series of office desks crafted from wing flaps salvaged from the Fairchild C-119 “Flying Boxcar” airplane that saw action in the Korean  and the Vietnam Wars. Now what does that kind of office desk tell you about the guy who sits behind it for a living?

MotoArt goes to extreme lengths to give the Flap Desk an intimidating impression, spending thousands of man-hours of labor cutting, polishing, and burnishing these impressive office desks, and topping them off with a 3/8″ glass top that conforms to the flap’s shape–

Customized to match the contours of the flap, it exposes the rivet detail and handsome intricacies of its construction. The legs are made of 4” x 8” architectural aluminum I beams. The legs are lightened by cutting radial holes at the top and bottom and are then powder coated for a rugged black wrinkle finish.

The Flap Desk is a limited edition office desk – after all, how many C-119s are around to provide their wing flaps, anyway? – which makes these office desks a rare but attractive proposition for executives on the rise.

More office desks on steroids after the jump. (Read more)

The History of Office Desks, Past and Present.

Office desks have undergone plenty of changes over time, their evolution reflecting the growing status of white-collar workers and their ever-evolving tasks and tools.

“Office Desks” in the Medieval Era

In the beginning, desks were the sole province of scribes, writers and record-keepers in the days before the printing press. Scribes were essential worker ants in government, who copied texts and updated records for authorities. A medieval image of St. Jerome paints a picture of the scribe’s “office desk” in the old days –

The chair and writing desk might be overly architectural, but the desk is on a slope. He holds his quill pen in the right hand and his special knife in the left. Arranged along the top of his writing desk are his ink horn and an assortment of other tools, which could be scrapers, buffers or spare pens. He appears to be writing on unbound sheets.

Scribes were the forerunners of our present-day accountants, typists, and civil service officials. Most of the desks in those days were plain and rough-hewn, but higher-status officials had more ornately-carved desks created by master woodworkers.

Class Distinctions Between Desks

These desks evolved into the “bureau”, which was the name that was attached to writing furniture from 1700 onward.  Bureaux were sloping desks with space for drawers below – their association with civil servants and scribes made a different design necessary for the nobility and upper class who were increasingly doing figures and writing letters on their own.

For the nobility, their need for a more refined desk was answered by the secretary desk – a tall item of furniture with a hutch whose cover could be lowered into a writing desk when needed. The hutch stored books, inkpots, stationery, and other essential items.

Evolving professions needed their own desks, too. Architects called for larger, angled surfaces for their work, a need which generated the modern drafting table. Office desks also became more ornate, with pigeonholes and drawers for essential items like inkpots and blotting sand.

Office Desks Enter the Modern Age

The design of office desks began to move into its modern era by the 1800s. The pedestal desk, which was introduced in the 18th century but gained currency in the 19th, became de rigueur in the burgeoning British empire, and passed onto the U.S. as well.

These were the preferred office desks of worker drones and Presidents alike. The most famous example is the Resolute desk, which was carved from the timbers of the HMS Resolute and gifted by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford Hayes in 1880.

These desks were initially hand-crafted and hand-tooled by master craftsmen, but new production techniques by the early 20th Century allowed desks to be mass-produced for the first time, as demand for office desks climbed after the Industrial Age.

New technology also forced designers of office desks to innovate: typewriters, telephones, and the late advent of computers and the Internet have guided the design of office desks. The introduction of the office cubicle has changed office desks like nothing before, as desks have become solidly integrated into the office cubicle design.

Whither office desks? Unless a new technology or new profession comes over the horizon, it’s difficult to say – but it’s safe to assume that office desks will be with us for a long, long time yet.