Solid, write-on antiques

The stuff of ... status. A desk is more than a place to sign papers and talk to people. So go for one that's stood the test of time, says Sally Staples
Whether you are the chairman of a multinational corporation or starting up in business on your own, the most prestigious object in your office will be the desk.

It may be an imposing item of antique magnificence, or a more modest piece of furniture that will blend comfortably into a home that is also an office. Whatever your needs, Jan Elias at the Dorking Desk Shop in Surrey, one of the largest suppliers of antique desks in the country, offers plenty to choose from. There are partners' desks where two people can sit opposite one another, narrow bureaux with sloping tops and drawers beneath, bureau bookcases and even old school desks jostling for space in the shop showroom.

Most of the stock is classic Victorian, and full restoration work can be undertaken on the premises. Many of the desks are bought at auction and given a face-lift before being sold. Most prices range from pounds 1,000 to pounds 5,000, depending on the size, condition and age of the desk.

"Desks are a status symbol and they need to give out the right signals. In a doctor's surgery or a solicitor's office the desk itself and how it is positioned can affect the atmosphere," says Mr Elias.

The old mahogany and oak desks have solid wooden drawers - no plywood or chipboard bases - and are hand-dovetailed. These pieces of furniture were built to last, and often the only restoration needed is a new leather top.

"No two antique desks are quite the same," Mr Elias continues. "And as an increasing number of people are now working from home they often want a distinctive desk with character that is also a nice piece of furniture. Also, it's a good investment. People spend pounds 15,000 on a car that will be written down for a small percentage of that value in five years. But spend pounds 5,000 on an antique desk, and you will find its value will steadily increase."

The Dorking Desk Shop has sold Sir Winston Churchill's desk, and many other well-known antiques have passed through its doors. Currently its most valuable piece is a copy of Chippendale's Nostell Priory desk. The Neoclassic-style copy, crafted in 1865, has superbly detailed, carved swags and flowers, and a smooth, black hide leather top. The price tag is a cool pounds 65,000.

Among the desks, you can glimpse a variety of antique furniture including a Victorian mahogany chaise longue (pounds 1,450), a Victorian rocking-chair (pounds 480), a grandfather long-case mahogany clock with special naval features (pounds 4,850) and even a pair of brass candlesticks (pounds 160).

The Dorking Desk Shop, 41 West Street, Dorking, Surrey, RH4 1BU (01306- 883327). Open Monday to Friday 8am-5.30pm; Saturday 10.30-1pm; 2-5pm. A second showroom is now open at Stoney Croft Farm, Reigate Road, Betchworth, Surrey RH3 7EY (01737-845215).