Know Your Furniture: The Rolltop Desk
Though perhaps not as obscure as some of the other furniture pieces discussed in this series, I chose the rolltop desk for today’s Know Your Furniture segment because to me, the ingenuity of the design was never given the full appreciation or exposure it deserved. Practical, clever and way ahead of it’s time, the rolltop was the mainstay of small business offices at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.
The rolltop desk is a 19th century reworking of the pedestal desk with, in addition, a series of stacked compartments, shelves, drawers and nooks in front of the user. The compartments and the desktop surface of a roll top desk can be covered by means of a tambour consisting of linked wooden slats that roll or slide through slots in the raised sides of the desk. In that, it is a descendant in function, and partly in form, of the cylinder desk of the 18th century. It is a relative of the tambour desk whose slats retract horizontally rather than vertically.