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Art Deco Desks, Drawers & Bookcases
There is a great variety of Art Deco desks that survive today. For craftsmanship consider examples by prestige firms like Heals, Gordon Russell, Bath Cabinet Makers and Waring & Gillow. Expect to pay a premium if the piece is known to be by a noted designer like Serge Chermayeff, Betty Joel or Gordon Russell. In the Modernist taste, the output of the manufacturer Makers of Simple Furniture, whose products were designed by Gerald Summers, are also highly desirable. Many pieces of writing furniture will have Bakelite handles with a traditional leather insert to the top. Rubberised or other more innovative surfaces have regrettably rarely survived. Bureaus occasionally become available and those in a genuinely 1930s style are often closely related in design to the cocktail cabinets.
Chests of drawers or sets of drawers with a cupboard over (called a ‘cupboard chest’ or ‘tallboy’) were a regular component of bedrooms suites in the 1920s and 1930s, and so are fairly readily available in traditional solid woods, or veneered in walnut in a more distinctively Deco style. Usually sold as standalone items, they are highly versatile pieces in the contemporary home. Examples in oak bearing a ‘Heals’ disc, or of comparable quality (being made by the same manufacturer) have a timeless air about them.
Bookcases in rich veneers are rare. Book shelving is found often in conjunction with glass fronted display space in side cabinets. Storage for large telephone directories was sometimes incorporated into side tables intended for telephones in the hall. Another innovation was the facility to store books in Book tables that doubled as centre or coffee tables. The original Isokon Penguin Donkey was a small book stand designed by Egon Riss in the late 1930s, with the compartments designed to be the perfect size to store the newly launched Penguin paperbacks.