Generations of Desks


My first desk as a professional had belonged to my Dad. He was a builder, and his head carpenter crafted an architect’s desk from pine, with a black stripe around the heavily shellacked tilting top.

My second was the center of an Austrian armoire, the only affordable piece of furniture we could find that was deep enough to hold a computer monitor a foot deep. I homeschooled two young children and worked from home, so closed the door to return our living room to a living room or to forget pressing deadlines. (As if I ever forget deadlines. And aren’t all deadlines pressing?)

My third was a six-by-six English oak partners’ desk. Business growth merited a desk of some size, and we had moved into a beautiful country European house with an office just inside the front door. I still worked from home, and this piece served my clients well.

Then I retired. We moved to the mountains, and I purchased (for $300!) a simple French dining table. It would suffice for doing family finances and small tasks.

I didn’t count on writing fiction. The ergonomics are horrible. My hands are well above my waist when I type, my wrists at odd angles. After every five-thousand words, my posture ages ten years. My husband became concerned. For Christmas, he suggested that we have a desk made. He appreciates the fine art of woodworking and has a woodworker friend in this valley.

Given that my husband has not read ONE of my books, I thought the gesture was epic. And I am not a stupid woman, so accepted his offer.

0122161401aAfter much thought, measuring, and discussion with the woodworker, I settled on a contemporary interpretation of one of my favorite styles: Beidermeier. I went to a fine lumber yard in the nearest city. Beautiful burled cherry timbers with faint pink, lavender, and green whorls <sigh> caught my eye. I could see the desk in this office that cantilevers over a mountain valley. From here, atop an antique Heriz rug in reds, oranges, blues, and fawns, I would write the next installment in archaeologist Grace Madison’s adventures, glancing at bald and golden eagles, peregrines, hawks, and the occasional freak-me-out predator.

0122161358The woodworker starts next week. I was the perfect excuse (I know one when I hear one) to buy a new lathe. He’s studied the grain of wood blanks that will become legs, marking them so that he turns them and places them to look as if they splay.

As we’ve developed this project, I’ve been struck by how like writing a novel it is. Gathering facts and bits and pieces, projecting the storyline (or developing the design in CAD), thinking forward and backward to prevent going down a path that becomes a dead end.

I’ll be documenting my desk in the coming weeks, comparing its development to that of my work in progress. I hope you walk along with me to observe a lost art, a throwback to the time when every piece of furniture was handcrafted for a specific purpose.

What a privilege! What an adventure!

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