The History Behind The Ubiquitous School Desk

Beige colour school desks and chairs are neatly arranged in the classroom insisting the demand for old model school desks.
The History Behind The Ubiquitous School Desk

We are in the 21st century where school education is going hi-tech. However, two centuries ago, in 1880, most kids didn’t go to school. There were no laws that made school attendance mandatory. And even if they did, they studied under trees or sat on benches without desks, using their laps to hold and write on notebooks.

In due course of time, desks were introduced in schools. The fundamental design of a school desk was to encourage students to sit still and simplify reading or writing. Students spend an average of six hours in school, and a good deal of that time is spent behind the desk.

As school desks evolved, they became an inseparable part of every student’s life. Spread across two millenniums, the school desk has come in many different styles to render different functionalities. What’s more surprising is that many of these age-old school desk styles still exist, despite the numerous ultra-modern desks available today.

Our blog brings you an interesting compilation of the old school desk styles that are very much in use even today.

Old School Desk Styles: A Journey Through Time

1. The Fashion School Desk from 1881

The famous Fashion School Desk was designed and manufactured by the Sidney School Furniture Company, located in Sidney, Ohio. It featured a patented T-head and cast iron legs. The unique T-head eliminated the need for screws and bolts and instead joined the wood used for the top, back, and seat to the desk legs.

2. The Rettig Bench of 1895

Patented and designed by the architect Wilhelm Rettig, the Rettig bench is one of the oldest school desk models. It was also one of the most successful models that featured a wide desk with two wooden chairs and a heightened footrest. The footrest facilitated easy manoeuvrability in and out of the desk and also saved space.

3. The Standing Desk from 1899

Today’s ergonomically designed new standing desk models can trace their roots back to 1899, when the first standing desk was created. The late 19th-century standing desk was the product of a genius design. Students could sit and use the desk in front of them or simply fold the seat and desk to stand and work on it. The desk offered an ergonomic convenience when used either way.

4. The Chinese Bench School Desk from 1900

The dawn of the 20th century saw a complete wooden desk from China, which featured a pull-out drawer under the desk. This drawer served as a storage compartment and provided a designated private space for students to place their belongings. Besides the drawer, the desk also featured an attached wooden bench. Western furniture designers later used this idea.

5. The Welsh School Desk from 1920

The Welsh School desk was simple and extremely functional in design. It featured a double compartment with a flat top which was supported by an iron base. The desk was very popular for its simple design.

6. The Adjustable School Desk from the 1930s

Seen as an innovative evolution, the adjustable school desk was quite a revolution in the 1930s. It was designed to allow the students to adjust the height of the desk and the seat. It was the first desk with a swivel seat and an individual storage compartment, which made it highly popular.

7. The Prove School Desk from 1946

When the French architect John Prove designed this desk, it was considered one of the most influential designs of the early modern design movement. The desk featured a flat wooden top with a magazine shelf underneath the main deck. It served as a storage space for books and stationery paraphernalia. The wooden top was supported by bent steel feet that supported the frame for two wooden chairs attached to the desk.

8. The Munkegard School Desk from the 1950s

Exclusively designed for the Munkegard School in Denmark by Arne Jacobsen, this lightweight desk was made from plywood and chromed steel. The desk came with a hook to hold school bags and a cubby hole compartment for books.

9. The Steel And Chrome School Desk from the 1960s

Designed by Heywood Wakefield, this desk used a patented material called Hey Woodite along with chrome and steel. The desk was painted in a distinctive, iconic green colour that was popular in the 60s. It was sturdy and durable with a lift-the-flap compartment, and strong chrome legs that supported the entire frame.

10. The Wraparound School Desk from the 1970s

The Wraparound school desk is still popularly used even today. The design features a fibreboard table attached to a plastic chair. The design wraps around or partially encloses the student’s body. Although this desk is compact and has a storage compartment, it is not ideal for left-handers.

11. The Old Is New Again School desk from the 1980s

A clever combination of the Munkegard and the Heywood Wakefield desk, this desk has a steel-based top with finished plywood. There is also a storage compartment beneath the top. This model allows you to pair the desk with any chair model. These desks are widely used in many schools even today.

School Desks: Surviving The Test Of Time

Each passing decade has witnessed the evolution of the school desk from being a bulky entity to a modular, ergonomic, lightweight and colourful classroom accessory. Above all, the school desk has evolved with an improved focus on the child’s comfort and education. At Inspace Furniture Solutions, the leading school furniture manufacturers in Chennai, we have a wide variety of premium school desks for you to choose from. Swing by here to know more about our school desks and chairs.

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