Perfect desk

I fell in love with the look of the classic roll-top desk sometime in my teenage years; ever since then I’ve often fantasized about owning my own, with its locking top and proliferation of tiny drawers and shelves. There was never enough money or enough room in my house, and I already had a perfectly good desk, so the fantasy remained just that as I grew older. Just this past year I came very close to buying a roll-top desk — but in the end practicality won out and I settled for a very nice (but smaller) secretary desk with a bunch of cubby holes. Only weeks afterwards, I was wandering the halls of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, only to find what felt like room after room of roll-top bureaus and desks. I’ll admit, it felt a little like Fate was having a great laugh at my expense! Luckily, I got the joke and was able to laugh along.

Fall-front writing desk, Italian (1822)

Secret compartments, opened by a series of intricate mechanical devices, are contained within the upper and lower parts of this desk. It was made by Moschini, probably as part of the bedroom suite of the former Empress Marie-Louise of France (second wife of Napoleon and Grand Duchess of Parma from 1814) for her Villa Croara at Piacenza — Museum info card

Bureau-cabinet, England (1830)

Writing desk, Paris (1680)

Bureau-cabinet for containing a house altar, Germany (1760)

Roll-top desk, Madrid (1785)

Another version of this desk is in the Palacio Real de Madrid

Roll-top desk, Germany (1780)