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A desk is a desk, right? Well, not really. Many different types of desks have developed over the centuries, and many of them don't resemble modern home and office desks much at all. A number of these styles have been revived over and over, and still inspire reproductions in their likeness. Some also overlap in their descriptors. These include slant-fronts like the escritoire and fall-fronts like the butler's desk, among a number of others.
This is an early type of kneehole desk, dating from the 1660s, with two or three tiers of drawers on each side, a small central drawer and a drawer in the kneehole space. It has eight (sometimes four) turned legs, which are connected with X-stretchers or H-stretchers and typically rest on toupie feet. Developed in France, and associated with Louis XIV-style furniture, it was usually quite ornate, and lavishly adorned with Boulle marquetry. The name, which literally means "Mazarin's desk" is a 19th-century term, referring to Cardinal Jules Mazarin, who ruled as Louis' regent from 1642-1661
Often referenced as a butler's chest, this is a type of drop-front desk, fairly short and compact but substantial and square in shape. The interior contains several small drawers, cubbyholes and letter slots surrounding a central door. Some models also have two exterior compartments flanking the fall front. The lower half usually has three to four drawers or occasionally shelves behind two doors.
Dating from the late 18th century, and continuing in popularity for the next 100 years, the desk usually reflects predominant furniture styles of the period in details such as the feet or ornamentation. Sometimes referenced as a butler's chest, since when closed it resembles a chest of drawers.
While fairly plain - as befitting a utilitarian piece of furniture - butler's desks often had fashionable decorative details. Those made during the second half of the 19th century, for example, might have had a spindled galley typical of the popular Eastlake style.
The Cheveret is variety of small, delicate stand or desk, of the type commonly called lady's writing desk, distinguished by the multi-drawered setback chest or bookcase on the top. This smaller piece has a handle and is usually detachable while the main surface typically has a drawer underneath and often a fold-out or pull-out shelf. The legs can be straight, saber style, or tapering, and are sometimes connected with a lower shelf as well. Though probably originating in France, cheverets further developed in England in the latter half of the 18th century, representing the vogue for light, portable furniture. They continued to be popular into the Regency period, until the 1830s
This is a type of small case desk, with a slanted and/or pull-out top and a row of drawers down one or both sides. Some have one side of working drawers and one side of faux drawers. Many also have small front drawers, cubbyholes, hidden compartments released by a knob in one of the drawers, or pop-up galleries.
The davenport dates from the 1790s, developed by a British furniture-making firm named Gillows (also known as Gillow & Co.). Its name derives from the client it was made for, a Captain Davenport. Because of this military connection, and the desk's compact size and multiple compartments, furniture historians theorize the piece was originally intended to be used on a ship, or on military campaigns. They are sometimes referenced, in fact, as a ship captain's desk.
This article is quoted from Troy Segal, Know Your Antique Desk Styles