The official term “roll top desk” is a reference to a style of desk that has a flexible sliding top constructed from parallel slats. What makes the roll top desk so unique is that in addition to its beautiful style, this particular design is a part of the American history. Originally, this style of desk was created by a Parisian cabinetmaker named Jean-Francois Oeben, introducing it sometime around 1760.
However, if you were to look underneath an original roll top desk, you would see a different name stamped – Jean-Henri Riesener. The story is that Oeben passed away in 1763. At that time, his understudy, Riesener not only inherited the artisan’s studio but also went on to marry his widow. This design was and still is different from all other desks, with a roll down top.
When the roll top desk was first created, it had a tilting and adjustable easel, which allowed the user to stand or sit while using it. In addition, on both sides of the desk were writing slides and drawers in which the inkwells were concealed. Another feature of Riesener’s design is the motifs that consist of circular laurel wreaths and symmetrical sprays of acanthus foliage. That coupled with the geometrical plants, straight edges, and soft curvature of the legs makes the roll top desk so incredible.
Then, the original roll top desk had a drawer in the center. On the same position but on the back of the desk were gilt bronze letters “LB” with intertwined ribbons. Although no one is sure what these letters stand for, most people believe it relates to Louis from the Bourbon Conde royal family. In addition to Riesener, the roll top desk was also linked to Abner Cutler, the owner of the Cutler Desk Company in New York who secured the patent in 1850.
As a part of his design, the curved tambour top was tradition, soon becoming a classic that we continue to see today. Although the roll top desk has been created in a number of variations, it still includes the famous rolling top, thus the name. Today, you will find all types of styles, which work beautifully with any décor. For instance, you will see roll top desks in contemporary, transitional, country, and every other home décor imaginable.
If you want to enjoy an authentic roll top desk, you will need to do a little bit of research and expect to pay. You can find this type of desk at salvage companies, antique stores, and even through online auctions. Keep in mind that you might be fortunate enough to find a roll top desk in good condition but many of the older ones might need restoration. In addition to authentic pieces, you might also consider buying a reproduction or modern style desk of the roll top desk.