These roll-top desk ideas and inspiration will blow you away, and you don’t need to be standing on a WW1 minefield. What seems like an antique tradition can spruce up modern homes or offices in various styles, adding that touch of sophistication to your workspace. The old becomes a new idea again.
I consider myself a connoisseur of style and contemporary office designs. I take ideas others shy away from and turn them into something amazing. Roll-top desks might come in all shapes and forms today, but the up-and-coming trend started hundreds of years ago. The designs change, but many have never grown old.
If you aren’t into the machine style of modern offices with steel glaring to blind you as you work, or you want to step back into the age of elegant offices spaces, there’s a roll-top desk idea for you to achieve the desired results. I’m known to have an eccentric sense of style, and I leave nothing unexperimented.
The ideas I chose are based on what fits into modern spaces because, let’s face it, we all love antique designs and vintage flairs. Still, we want them twisted into contemporary inspirations while maintaining the comfort of the space we need our creativity to explode.
We want to be surrounded by office furniture that makes us feel at home. We also want our desks to last because we spend most of our lives behind the keyboards where the magic happens. The ideas and inspiration below can bring comfort, creativity, productivity, and pure magic to their peak stages.
- The Story of Roll-Top Desks
- Various Types of Roll-Top Desks
- Best Roll-Top Desk Ideas and Inspiration
- 1. Amish Customs
- 2. Dainty Pleasures
- 3. Deluxe Executive
- 4. Modern Singles
- 5. Mid-Century Modern
- 6. Rolling Castles
- 7. Mission Accomplished
- 8. Go Big or Go Home!
- Customization Tips for Roll-Top Desks
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Roll-Top Desk Ideas and Inspiration: Final Thoughts
The Story of Roll-Top Desks
Roll-top desks have a long history, starting with King Louis XV, who requested that his cabinetmaker, Francois Oeben, design a desk that could conceal his clutter and be ornamental enough to transcend the room. Oeben worked on the design for three years before his successor, Jean Henri Reisner, took over.
What would become the first roll-top desk was called the Bureau du Roi and was completed in 1769. It was a masterpiece with giltwood trimmings and Mother of Pearl inlay. It had a marquetry medallion on the roll-top while displaying a gorgeously intricate clock above it.
The roll-top desk only came to America in the 19th Century, which was perfect because of the main mode of communication; letter writing. The desks were designed with pigeon holes, small drawers, and shelves to house ink wells, paper, envelopes, stamps, and other writing utensils.
Abner Cutler of the Abner Desk Company from New York patented the design in 1850, where the roll-top desk would be modified and perfected by the trusted cabinetmakers. Cutler created the perfect tambour to roll easily when the desk was no longer in use.
In the early days, the roll-top desk was combined with designs for the pedestal desk, a rectangular-shaped desk with stacked drawers, similar to what we know roll-tops to look like today. It was also combined with the Carleton House desk style, a perfect little desk for small spaces, and became popular for women.
Jacob Alles reinvented the roll-top desk in 1879, and it became the main style of desk for small to medium offices throughout the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Some of the older roll-tops look bulky, but the compartments and organization of the desks are what make them space-savers.
If you ever thought roll-top desks belong in corner offices with ample space only, you thought wrong.
Various Types of Roll-Top Desks
Your office space also determines which roll-top desk works. Additionally, some roll-top desks have a feminine or masculine aura. These are the main types of roll-top desks:
The Tambour Desk
A tambour desk is inspired by the roll-top desk, except the slats move from the sides to the middle. This is the easiest gliding roll-top option. It looks like an antique dressing table when it’s closed. However, the sideway slats open to pigeon holes and small drawers to store your office supplies.
Pedestal Roll-Top Desk
The pedestal roll-top option comes in single and double designs for smaller or larger offices. It’s the most popular roll-top desk used in modern and executive offices. The tambour or slats roll down from the top toward the office chair to cover the pigeon holes, shelves, and inside drawers.
The Cylinder Desk
The cylinder roll-top desk comes in two styles; modern and ornamental. The ornamental cylinder desk often rests on dainty but beautifully designed legs, making it a wonderful option for a woman’s office. Some options have exceptional legs designed in Victorian, Edwardian, or Louis XV style.
On the other hand, the modern design of cylinder desks is great for men and women. The difference with cylinder desks is that the roll-top is solid wood. It’s not slatted like the pedestal desk. At first, it will roll easily, but if the desk is exposed to humid conditions, the tambour may warp over time, making it harder to close.
The Carlton House Desk
The Carlton House desk originated in Wales, but the style is similar to roll-top desks. It has numerous pigeon holes, drawers, and shelves surrounding a rectangular workspace. The legs are also dainty, and some desks can be ornamental. The simpler designs work for men and the ornamental ones for women.
Modern Roll-Top Desks
The style never went anywhere. Everyone just modernized the roll-top desk with new materials and colors. Roll-top desks were originally produced with fine and rich wood like mahogany, satinwood, yellow wood, walnut, cherry, and oak, but they’re also made of various metals and painted now.
The desk style you choose will depend on what your office space looks like, the size, and whether you want an executive or ornamental feel. It will also depend on your budget. Antique roll-top desks can range in thousands of dollars. Modern versions or reproductions are cheaper.
Best Roll-Top Desk Ideas and Inspiration
The first place you start is to measure your space for a roll-top desk; then, you browse the options available for your office. From brass trimmings to highly decorative designs, everyone can find the perfect fit. Executive personalities can still maintain their sense of sophistication as many of these desks fit most offices.
1. Amish Customs
Dutch Crafters are Amish designers in America, and they manufacture the most beautiful roll-top desks. Moreover, you can customize the desks by wood type, drawer layout, and whether you want locks on the drawers or not. The Amish Mission Roll-Top Desk is a customizable option for big budgets.
It will set you back $3218, but you get to choose the wood type between brown maple, oak, hickory, elm, and cherry. You can then select the color and tones of the handles, wood finish, and trimmings. You’ll also have an option to add a hidden compartment, which slides out when you need it.
The extras will cost more, but the desk is a wonderful homemade option if your budget allows it. The craftsmanship is gorgeous, and the desk is made from solid wood, meaning it will last for many years.
- Solid wooden desk
- Customizable features
- Traditional pedestal style
- 30″ writing surface
- Cord hole with a covering grommet for laptop cables
- 26″ D x 56″ W x 49″ H (overall size)
- 22.75″ W x 24″ H (legroom)
- Shipping costs $249
- Production time is 8 to 10 weeks
2. Dainty Pleasures
The Lonie Mini Roll-Top Desk is a beautiful option for a small office space or women. It will set you back $1279, but it’s a refined piece you can even whitewash with chalk paint in any color you choose. Should you wish to keep it natural, it comes in two types of wood; burnished walnut or harvest oak.
The desk has a rustic sense, allowing you to add it to corner workspaces in your home as well. It’s perfect for a workspace under a bay window. It has a single drawer excluded from the roll-top, but five pigeon holes and four drawers give you enough space to hide your work clutter when you don’t want to see it.
- Solid wooden desk
- Resembles a writing bureau
- 32″ workspace
- 24″ W x 32″ D x 44.5″ H
- Free shipping!
- Price matches the quality
- Shipping takes between 6 and 11 weeks
- Assembly required
- May have knotted deformities in the wood (expected with natural wood)
3. Deluxe Executive
The Marlin Deluxe Roll-Top Desk is a slightly cheaper option than the first desk for another big-budget spend. It costs $2391 and comes with free shipping in the U.S. The desk comes in either harvest oak or burnished walnut, and it offers an elegant design from the pedestal range again.
The desk offers a huge range of drawers, pigeon holes, shelves, and vertical compartments for envelopes. Additionally, it has a shelf in the legroom area, which may be convenient or awkward. It has a traditional slatted roll-down and would suit an executive-style office with a larger space.
- Solid wooden desk
- Traditional pedestal style
- Large workspace
- Cord hole for laptop cables
- 28.5″ W x 54″ D x 49″ H
- Elegant design
- Too big for small offices
- Legroom shelf steals from the space
- Assembly required
- May have knotted deformities in the natural wood
4. Modern Singles
For a smaller office space, the Solid Oak Single Pedestal Desk works better. The price also won’t make you worry about your children’s college tuition as it costs $1799. You also choose the side of the pedestal. This desk is solid wood in a compact design when you don’t have a huge office.
Truthfully, roll-top desks are amazing for home offices because we can close them. It offers the same benefits as a double pedestal roll-top desk. You can still close the traditional slatted tambour to hide the office and paperwork over weekends. Well, that goes for people who take weekends off.
With remote work becoming normal, hiding your office over weekends can make you feel at home. The tambour also locks, which is great if you have kids or nosy people snooping around. It comes in seven finishes, including natural, caramel, briar, sand, unfinished, espresso, and merlot.
- Solid wooden desk
- 38″ workspace
- Lockable roll-down
- 42″ W x 22″ D x 46″ H (overall dimensions)
- 25″ W x 24.5″ H (legroom)
- Free shipping
- You can paint the unfinished style
- Less durable with the panel side
- Delivery takes 8 weeks
- In-home delivery costs an additional $250
5. Mid-Century Modern
If you’re looking for a desk you can hide better than normal roll-tops, the Swedish Modern Teak Desk looks like a chest of drawers when it’s closed. It blends into any room if your office is also a shared space. It’s one of the cheaper options for a new roll-top desk, but please don’t fall over when you see the shipping price.
The desk costs $1000, but shipping will stump you at $499! It still works out cheaper than most of these options. The cylinder-style desk has a solid wooden tambour but slides smoothly. The workspace also slides outward to make up for the missing legroom where the drawers are instead.
- Solid wooden desk (teak)
- Designed by Egon Ostergaard in the 1960s
- Lockable roll-down
- Blends better in any room, not just an office
- 35.5″ W x 18″ D x 38″ H
- Shipping costs an arm and a leg
- Delivery takes 3 to 8 weeks
- The roll-down may warp in humid weather over time
6. Rolling Castles
If you’re looking to spend a fortune to turn your office into a bold statement, the Castlebury Roll-Top Desk is an option. With the price starting at $4250, you’ll need pure love to invest in this desk. However, it’s gorgeous enough to attract your attention and that of your visitors and clients.
They handcraft these beautiful desks from solid cherry, maple, hickory, white oak, natural oak, walnut, or elm. The detailing of the wood is exceptional, which is expected from the Amish community again. You can customize the wood type and finish. You can even customize how the drawers slide in and out.
This is a heavy desk with a one-inch slab workspace, and it will last many years. It’s an investment worth making if you can. It has pencil drawers, file drawers, and dovetail joints. You also have an option to lock or not, and you can choose from 51 different knobs and handles for the drawers.
- Solid wood desk
- Durability is no joke with this one
- Rustic or contemporary style
- Cord hole with grommet for laptop and desktop cables
- It suits an executive wanting to make a statement
- 65″ W x 27.5″ D x 52″ H (overall dimensions)
- 24″ W x 24.5″ H (legroom)
- Costly delivery
- Too large for small or medium offices
7. Mission Accomplished
Stepping back to the simpler roll-top desks that don’t boldly go where no man generally goes, the Mission SM Desk is another Amish design. The desk costs $1210, and it reverts to the bureau style again. The traditional slatted roll-down is carefully crafted to continue rolling for years. The desk comes in oak, white oak, or cherry.
Let’s face it; not everyone needs a desk big enough to house an entire office park. This is a great desk for smaller spaces, corners, and home offices. It also has a pull-down sliding keyboard drawer if you’re using a desktop computer. It has two pull-out writing boards, and the prestigious desk is simplicity at its finest.
- Solid wooden desk
- Durable (apart from the dainty legs)
- Small enough to fit most offices
- It comes in three different wood types
- Highly durable roll-down guaranteed
- Can be painted or distressed (by you)
- 30″ W x 20″ D x 45″ H
- It has a small workspace
- Delivery is based on your zip code
8. Go Big or Go Home!
If you want to feel like King Louis XV when he saw his first roll-top desk, the Bureau Du Roi is a costly investment for an unforgettable office. The cylinder-style desk costs a whopping $12180! Expensive is an understatement, but this is the pinnacle of having a piece of history in your office.
Sourcing true antique or reproduction roll-tops is reserved for big spenders, no doubt. I had to add this desk like a big maybe due to my obsession with antiquities. The desk has brass trimmings, Mother of Pearl inlay, and intricate marquetry. This is a passion piece that will be an interior designer’s dream.
However, you have to design your office for comfort. If you love the lavish side of life and want clients to feel lost in a palace of sorts, this desk is for you. It will be imported, though. It’s currently based in Europe, but worldwide shipping is available. You could also have a reproduction made right here in the U.S. to match it.
- Gorgeous doesn’t cut it
- Solid Kingswood
- Ornamental enough to fit a king (or queen)
- It comes from the Palace of Versaille
- Durable enough to have lasted many years already
- Solid roll-down
- It comes with an established history
- Will continue gaining value if looked after
- 60″ W x 35″ D x 56″ H
- Import duties apply
- Longer waiting period
- It won’t fit all offices
Well, that last roll-top desk sure puts the others to shame. It was designed similarly to the very desk that started the trend. However, not everyone is into ornamental pizazz. Modern roll-tops can be designed in most materials, including metals. Otherwise, an executive might lean toward a classic Maplewood in their office.
Customization Tips for Roll-Top Desks
Roll-top desks come in many shapes and designs, but you don’t need to be limited to those you buy from Amish artisans. Again, the Shabby Chic or distressed look is in style. Whitewashing a simple desk like the Derbyshire choice in the number six will fit most offices where you want to give the sense of greater space.
Whitewashed wood is a technique popularly used to turn old furniture into something new and fabulous. Not everyone likes the feel of a traditional office. Having cottage-style office furniture is the niche. It also allows you to blend durable wooden furniture into a white contemporary office.
The repurposed desk from LeCultivateur on Pinterest certainly brings a modern design to a roll-top desk. He used a simple pedestal-style roll-top desk to design a distressed look, which would fit into any office with plenty of white and silver accents.
General Finishes pinned another awesome roll-top desk where they used gray instead of white. They first painted the desk white for an undercoat, then it was distressed and covered with gray. Gray is another universal color that fits into most offices, and this one would even suit an executive office with a touch of authenticity.
You can experiment with most colors, especially pastel colors. Mint green looks amazing if you want a sense of nature to calm your mind while you work. Light blue also makes the room feel airy and brings a sense of calmness. Who can say they couldn’t be calmer in the office?
For the bold, there’s a neon option for roll-top desks. Combining black with blue, yellow, orange, green, or red is reserved for bold people, but the possibilities of what you can do with your roll-top desk are endless. It depends on your personality, but you don’t have to stick to a wooden finish in your office.
If your personality is broader than the typical wooden furniture or whitewashed trend, you can make a bold statement with a simple repurpose project.
Depending on your colors of choice, you can paint a roll-top desk white with blue accents. The desk will look white when all the drawers are closed, and the tambour is down. However, there will be a surprise as you slide the drawers or tambour open where a world of blue hides behind the simplicity of white.
- Citrustrip Stripping Gel
- Painters tape
- A paint scraper
- Stripping brushes (don’t use the stripping brush to scoop running paint when you spray the desk)
- Plastic drop cloths for underneath the desk
- Thin steel wool (thick steel wool will damage the wood)
- A box of disposable cloths
- Plastic painter’s sheets
- Two colors of semi-gloss spray paint (about 4 cans of white and 2 cans of blue for a double pedestal roll-top desk)
Follow these steps to create a gorgeous hidden hue with a white desk:
- Start by covering the floor before working with any paint or stripper.
- Wearing gloves, apply the thick paint stripper to the wood (it will also remove stain and varnish).
- Leave the desk for 20 minutes.
- Use the paint scraper to remove paint if you painted it before.
- Use the steel wool to scrape the desk before removing the stripper.
- Use disposable cloths to remove the remainder of the stripper. Your wood should look natural now. Don’t use cloths that leave lint on the wood.
- Allow the wood to dry overnight.
- Use the painter’s tape to cordon off the areas where you’ll spray white. Be sure to cover the white areas of the desk thoroughly by taping down the painter’s plastic.
- Start spraying the inside of the drawers with the blue can, but don’t spray from closer than four inches away. You’ll have running paint. Move the can from side to side. Don’t change directions while spraying.
- Leave the paint to dry for three hours before applying a second coat if you need it.
- Let the desk stand overnight before removing the painter’s tape and plastic.
- Cordon off the dry blue paint areas the next morning with painter’s tape and plastic.
- Repeat the four-inch and side-to-side rules while spraying the entire outside of the desk.
- Leave the white coat to dry for three hours before applying another coat.
- Let the desk stand overnight before removing the painter’s tape and plastic again.
A bonus tip would be to carefully avoid spraying the rails on which the gliders run for the tambour. You don’t want your roll-top being unable to roll down. Cover the rails with painter’s tape as well. And voila, you have a retro desk with a hidden blue workspace and drawers to move into your office.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: Due to the vast possibilities and style of the desks, you can use them in any office or home. Choose your style according to the office furniture surrounding the desk. Wooden furniture can never go out of style because of the paint techniques and finishes with which you can experiment.
Answer: Antique roll-tops will have a plaque from the manufacturer behind or on top of the tambour. Some manufacturers place it under the workspace, in the legroom. Some plaques also have the date of manufacture listed. Knowing who manufactured it will help you age the roll-top.
Answer: Some people call them davenports, bureaus, secretaries, or escritoires. The name would depend on where you’re purchasing one and what style inspired the desk. Number nine on my list is called a Bureau, as the French call it, but the desk is a roll-top that allows you to close your workspace at the end of the day.
Roll-Top Desk Ideas and Inspiration: Final Thoughts
Roll-top desks are a gorgeous addition to any office, and they allow you additional privacy when the day ends. You can keep your office essentials locked up, or you can take your mind off work by shutting the tambour. With all the remote work in today’s world, separating the office from home is essential.
My love for antiquities will always trump my logic about how much money I spend on roll-top desks, but I recommend that you get one to separate work and home. Even in a traditional office, roll-top desks bring a certain level of sophistication. Number nine would be my winner, but it’s not for everyone.
Secondly, I love the Shabby Chic Distress desk as it has so much potential. Measure your space, choose your style, and get yourself a desk that will last for many years.