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Roll top desks originally gained popularity in the 19th century. Industrialization due to several factors including the mass production of furniture and the growth of commercial activities and businesses made the roll top desk a necessity. Roll top desks were originally designed for the emerging merchant class, to be used by clerks and bookkeepers as an all-in-one office work space to organize ledgers and other important papers.

The roll top desk, which could be easily mass-produced, became very popular with nineteenth century businessmen because it reduced the number of pieces of furniture needed to furnish a place of business. Today, while the appeal and appearance of roll top desks remain relatively the same, there have been some minor changes so that they can accommodate modern technology like computers.

International Caravan Carved Wood Roll Top Desk in White International Caravan Carved Wood Roll Top Desk
International Caravan Carved Wood Roll Top Desk in White
International Caravan Carved Wood Roll Top Desk

Roll Top Desk Construction

Roll top desks are almost always made of wood. Its signature rounded cover or roll-down lid provides added protection to the desk’s contents, while creating privacy. Essentially a standard pedestal desk, the three-sided cabinet that forms the lid typically includes tracks along the side and top edges. Whether it’s a high quality or a discount roll top desk, these tracks are usually made out of plastic or metal so that the tambour or wood lid can slide easily up and down.

The finish is what gives a classic style writing desk like the roll top its unique character. Real wood like walnut, mahogany or teak create sophistication. The warm golden hue of an oak roll top desk lend the room an entirely different vibe than a a black roll top desk.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Roll Top Desk

  • Because roll top desks come in different sizes from small to large, take measurements first. You don’t want to purchase a writing desk only to find that it’s not going to fit its intended space.

  • Roll top desks make a statement. Choose an accompanying office chair or desk chair that will complement the desk you selected – ensure the finish of the chair is a good match with the desk. Consider purchasing an ergonomic chair that will give you the best support, particularly if you intend on sitting at your roll top desk for long stretches at a time.

  • When purchasing a roll top computer desk, check to make sure that there will be both adequate wire management and proper ventilation. Even though the tambour or lid will be raised when working at the writing desk, you will still need an unimpeded flow of air to keep equipment from overheating.

  • A roll top desk can include a number of organizational, storage and decorative features in a variety of combinations. Decide which ones will best suit you and your home.