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  • Writer's pictureCarole Conn

A Good Old Desk -for Writing and Dreaming

If you're like me, you spend far more time writing on the computer than with a pen. It is so much faster and more efficient to get a quick note out to somebody than to sit at a desk and write a letter. But there's something wonderful about writing a letter. You can pick pretty paper, a pen that feels nice in your hand, and you can dream. Sit and relax and dream as you write. I do that fairly frequently. The words seem to come more eloquently when I'm at my antique desk than when I'm at my efficient desk with my Mac.

I found this desk at an antiques show in Guilford CT about 20 years ago. It was bright orange. I mean, really ORANGE! A VERY bad refinishing job by someone,- sort of that 1950s knotty pine color. But it was really cheap. Cheap, that is, for a 1780- 1800 American Queen Anne desk with hidden compartments. I think I paid about $300 for it. Needless to say, I had it refinished. It would be much more valuable if it had its original surface, but then I couldn't have afforded it.

I put it in a sunny, quiet room with a great view. I've owned the black painted Queen Anne chair forever, and it's comfortable to sit in, so I paired it with the desk. The secret compartments are great!

See the columns? They pull out to form document drawers. This is the side view:

This drawer has some chalk writing on it - possibly by the maker. Wish I could decypher it. I love the fancy top edge. Very cool.

Mostly, the desk is filled with practical writing stuff. But as an antiques collector, of course, I had to put appropriate old things on it and in it.

This is a little painted sander or pounce pot. It was used to sprinkle sand on wet ink to help dry it. Then the sand was returned to the pot - thus the dish shaped top. The holes in the top are in the shape of a star. This one is turned wood dating from the 1820s-40s. You can find them for $75 and up. Behind it are 3 little books in a book rack. They are actually little boxes. One says "stamps", one "pins, clips" and one "rubber bands". They are obviously 20th century, but they have an old look. I don't put stamps clips or rubber bands in them - they are too fragile. I think I paid $20 for them at a flea market.

I put my English tea caddy in the middle. It has 2 compartments inside. I like it because it is simple and it looks nice on the desk. I bought it in England a long time ago. To the left is a soapstone book. It doesn't open - it's a solid piece of soapstone in the shape of a book. Soapstone is soft and easy to carve, so people made things out of it. Why a book I'm not sure. I've seen them at antique shows and I found this one in New Hampshire. It's a curiosity.

I like the look of old books. You can find them easily and if you're just interested in the look, and not what's inside, they can be had for $25 or so, sometimes less.

I found this tiny portrait of a gentleman with a book in his had many years ago at a show in Massachusetts. I paid $150 for him - original frame, New England, ca 1835. The inkwell is from New Hampshire. It's made of wood, and you can just see the original stencil decoration around the top. The cork stopper is attached with a string which goes through the top surface, so it's original. I think this is early - say 1820 or so.

More old books, another inkwell, this one of basalt, some old spectacles and a candle snuffer. They don't take much room, so I leave them there when I write. You can find the wick snippers/snuffer easily online or at shows. They are inexpensive, $50-60. So are old glasses - $20-$30.

I have a nice Queen Anne brass candlestick on the desk too - it's probably English, and a tin snuffer with its original toleware paint decoration on it. The styles don't exactly go together but I don't care. I like to look at them. One more little portrait sits on the top of the desk - of a rather severe looking lady in a bonnet. I don' t remember where I got her or how much I paid for her.

I have a very dear friend who lives in London. We email, of course, and have the occasional Facetime chat, but it's the letters that go back and forth between us that mean the most to me. I have saved most of the letters that she's written to me over 35 years. I re-read one yesterday that was written after I got back from a trip to visit her in 1985, (we were VERY young!). We had gone to Wimbledon to watch. They sell champagne with strawberries there - or at least they did - and we decided to drink instead of watch an unknown, unseeded 17 year old German player. It was Boris Becker - the year he won the singles. We missed the whole thing. We laugh about it now. And I laughed when I re-read her letter. We did enjoy that champagne, though.

That's what I mean about writing and dreaming. Letters bring back memories which might otherwise have been lost. I always write my letters at my desk in that quiet sunny room. Where do you write your letters? What are you favorite desk antiques? I'd love to hear about them.


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