Accessibility Statement
Link to main content
Join our Trade Program

Secretary Desks are not just for Secretaries

Coaster Desks Traditional Secretary Desk in Cherry

Secretary desks first appeared in the late 1600s, as a bureau or set of drawers with a slant top resembling a small modern-day drafting table. These slant top desks were popular with the aristocracy. Still bearing the appearance of a chest of drawers, during the early 1700s the secretary desk, with its hinged lid that dropped down to be used as a writing surface began to emerge. Throughout the following century as they slowly began to be adapted for use more by merchants than by lords and ladies, a number of features were added such as smaller drawers, hidden or false compartments, small shelves and letter slots or cubbies. Today, the wood secretary desk possesses many of the same features, and while they still can have a somewhat traditional or formal appearance, you can still find secretary desks with a contemporary flair.

Characteristics of the Secretary Desk

Like the Coastal Living secretary desk, secretary desks are typically made of wood and has a commonly has a base of drawers or a cabinet with shelving.

They are also known as drop-front desks because of their distinctive design feature: the writing desk surface is actually a hinged “lid” that folds up when not in use.

Secretary desks have a compact design that is conducive to living spaces like condos, apartments and even awkwardly-shaped rooms.

Some types of secretary desks are simply drop front desks, without a base of drawers and will not include additional storage.

South Shore Secretary Desk in Solid Black Finish
Hooker Furniture Seven Seas Handpainted Secretary Desk

Popular Features of the Secretary Desk

Of course the most outstanding feature of the secretary is the drop front, which typically folds down on hinges to form the desk’s writing surface. Depending on the style or type of secretary desk or drop front desk, the drop front can be vertical or slanted.

The base of a secretary desk is usually a cabinet of some kind, either a set of drawers or a cabinet with one or two doors that opens to a shelf or shelves. Decide if you would get more use out of a secretary desk with drawers or a drop front desk with a cabinet. Take into account how many supplies you would like on hand and how much you would like your writing desk to hold.

Don’t let the traditional or more formal appearance of the classic secretary desk fool you. In addition to the “old-fashioned” letter organizer, small shelves and cubbies, secretary desks can include “modern” features like file drawers, holes for wire management and a power port.