What is a secretary desk if not a compact, multifunctional and multipurpose desk, equipped with accessories, from drawers to storage compartments, capable of storing objects? The secretary desk is an antique piece of furniture that has always been the subject of revisits and experiments with materials and styles that have elevated it to real design furniture, without sacrificing its original functionality. To be used as a workstation, so as to create a corner dedicated to home working, or even just as a storage unit, the modern secretary desk plays with the shapes to propose flexible and versatile models. A mix of materials and colour accents are the most frequent features that allow contemporary secretary desks to take advantage of small spaces and to furnish, from the living area to the sleeping area, with products with a discreet aesthetic.
Desk or secretary desk? When to choose one over the other
Although it is no longer customary to write letters or documents, the secretary desk continues to be an object with its own resistance to time and fashion. In fact, especially with regard to the antique secretary desk, for its complexity and recognizability is often a trophy for fans of antiques, but it is a coveted object to be shown in a modern house and contemporary style, even if only because inherited and therefore with a unique value as a family memory. Moreover, the secretary desk withstands the passing of fashions because it is a piece of furniture that is constantly renewed and updated over time and because, even when old, it is able to offer, in a compact and functional way, a complete and comfortable corner in which to devote oneself to what has replaced the ancient functions of paper reading and manual writing: the computer, emails and web activities.
The secretary desk today: versatile and chameleonic protagonist of the study and work corner
The secretary desk is the protagonist of a domestic space used for study and work. Contemporary models are renewed, with light shapes and combinations of materials that contribute to its aesthetics, while retaining the functionality typical of this element, between discretion and transformability. Many models, in fact, are still following a formal research such as to contain, in a single minimal envelope, all the functions: from the shelf for writing and reading to the drawers and shelves for supporting objects, so that everything is in the right place but ready, with a single gesture, to be so at the right time, turning from a piece of furniture discreetly closed by doors and flaps to a small desk equipped with every function conveniently within reach. This versatility belongs to the secretary desk both when you have an entire working environment at your disposal for it, practically an office at home, and when in modern apartments of modest size it becomes strategic to place it in a corner of the house, thus adapting in a chameleonic and relaxed way to the environment in which it is placed. In addition, the distinctly functional character of the secretary desk has so far concentrated the most creative design solutions in this piece of furniture, coordinating the presence of drawers, doors and discrete compartments in minimal spaces or at least always very optimized, thus defining some models very precise and often proposed in various styles, colors and a large number of materials. There are secretary desks with drawers, the latter placed above or below the table top and with various capacities for the various accessories, or secretary desks with flaps, characterized by doors and systems to rotate the work surface according to a straight or inclined rotation, or as a sliding screen around a cylinder, secretary desks that then reveal or secretly hide when necessary contents and personal items, with a hint of mystery typical of the secretaire. The suspended secretary desks are among the most innovative models, composed of shelves that, if necessary, are transformed into tops to be used as a support for office activities. There are also secretary desks with extractable tops or secretary desks for PCs: in both cases you can see how the dimensions are designed to reveal, if necessary, a small support surface, even if only the size of a computer keyboard, with a shelf then to place even a fixed PC, or large enough to temporarily accommodate a laptop, in full coherence with the portable function of the PC. Very often the functions of this object are integrated in other more complex furnishings: so we have both walls equipped with a secretary desk, especially if you want to make it discreetly available in a living space, and, especially in children's bedrooms, bookshelves with integrated a secretary desk. All these models have the not insignificant feature of being extensible objects and therefore space-saving. Modern secretary desks are available in a variety of materials, from glass to metal, from wood to composite materials, and are characterised by all possible intermediate combinations of materials and colours: for this reason, it is not difficult to find models with a metal structure on which wooden or marble surfaces rest. In addition, in some cases the horizontal plane has preserved and even reinterpreted in a modern way the covering in leather or leather even though the ancient function of soft plane has declined to make the manual writing more comfortable. The classic wooden desk, then, is still worked from the most varied forms, from the linear style of the Scandinavian desks or 70s to the classic desks and baroque style, Venetian or French, with moldings, inlays and finishes gold leaf or silver. Finally, by placing even just a chair or a comfortable armchair next to the desk, a lamp, even a floor lamp where the worktop leaves no additional space, and finally, of course, a carpet, you can outline a private and comfortable corner really unique and special.
Design icon secretary desks, yesterday as today
As for the desk, the secretary desk also has its iconic references, in ancient times and in the history of industrial design, the latter since the Second World War. Among the most famous design desks there are certainly Home Desks designed for Vitra in 1958 by George Nelson or the SCRITTARELLO by Achille Castiglioni and the Reflex Secrétaire by Vico Magistretti both for De Padova. Visually evokes from its name the origins of this piece of furniture the cherry desk AMANUENSE by Adolfo Natalini for Mirabili. Essentializing the lines of Thonet's iconic secretary desks, Randolf Schott designed the S 1200 desk for the brand in 2014, thus updating the codes of the furnishings dedicated to writing by the brand that produced one of the first office tables in the modern movement. One icon after another, recent design experiments to translate the idea of the 'secretaire' of the past into a modern language have led to new and functional objects such as the transformable extruded aluminium shell of Michele De Lucchi's Layout secrétaire for Alias. Here, as in other examples of contemporary production, the workstation inside it opens up and reveals with a simple gesture, almost a small architectural space 'office use'; within the structural architecture of the room, with the addition of modern wheels, which allow you to move it easily from one area of the house to another. All examples and metaphors of consistency with the founding inputs of a desk image perfectly in line with the design of the future.
The desk: story of a personal object and its secret room
The scriptorium, whose name derives from the medieval Latin scriptorium and therefore, as for the desk, from the verb "to write", identified in the Middle Ages the environment in which the manuscripts were copied, that is those large spaces within the ancient monasteries where working monks dedicated themselves almost exclusively. At the same time, however, it also indicated the fixed cabinet or portable bench that served as a support surface for writing activities, often already prepared with the necessary tools. In the Renaissance period, with the invention of printing by Gutenberg, the term began to identify more and more the private study inside a building where the gentleman appeared undisturbed to devote himself to the study, reading, writing and administration of his property. It was practically the correspondent of a modern home office or space for home working if not a true ancestor of the private office. Given the activity that took place in the ancient studios, even the furniture consisted at most of a small floor for writing and small bookshelves, since most of the books were generally kept in the much larger libraries of the castle or palace. In fact, it was usually a small space, within the reach of a single person who, sitting at a table, could thus surround himself with everything necessary to read, write and above all jealously guard, far from prying eyes, the precious correspondence and sometimes the precious personal objects, which were collected in drawers of various sizes and, even more safely, locked by the folding writing surface or by doors, as if it were a piece of furniture. Hence the name of secretaire. In fact, the small folding top generally had the double function of writing support and closing door. So the secretary desk today can rightly be considered a modern secretaire. And this characteristic, at the same time, of secrecy and transformability is what, more than any other, has characterized the secretary desk as a piece of furniture and that we find, declined in different creative ideas, also at the base of modern secretary desks and in the various iconic interpretations of design secretary desks.
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