In this post: If you’re looking for a pretty French desk at a reasonable price, this shopping guide offers many affordable options with great style and French attitude.
Do you have an office space that you absolutely love to work in?
When I began working at home several years ago, I set up an office in a light filled room surrounded on three sides by wall to wall windows. But the icing on the cake was a pretty writing desk I bought at an antique shop in our neighborhood. I truly enjoyed working at that desk and was inspired to decorate it with pretty French accessories.
Then we moved to our new house, and the desk fit perfectly in my daughter’s room. I knew I’d have to find a new one for myself.
My new office was much darker and the desk would be free standing in the center of the space, so instead of being concerned with only the front of the desk, I now needed to find something that looked great from all sides.
You can see the one I picked in my French country study, and I must say, it’s one of the most asked about items in my home.
That beautiful French desk is included in the shopping guide at the end of this post, along with many other options, including one that looks like the antique desk my daughter now uses.
But first, let’s look at some characteristics you might want to look for in a French-inspired desk, along with ideas for styling it in your home.
Design Characteristics of French Desks
French desks, regardless of their specific style, often share several design features that give them their distinct and elegant appeal. Here are a few of those characteristics commonly found in French desks:
- Ornate Carvings: French desks often feature intricate carvings on the legs, aprons, and sometimes on the drawers or top surface. These carvings can include floral motifs, acanthus leaves, scrolls, and other decorative elements.
- Curved Silhouettes: Many French desks boast curved or serpentine silhouettes. These graceful curves can be seen in the legs, aprons, and even the desktops, adding a sense of fluidity and elegance to the design.
- Cabriole Legs: Cabriole legs are a hallmark of French furniture design. These curved legs, with an outward curve at the top and an inward curve at the bottom, provide a sophisticated and classic look to the desk.
- Quality Woodwork: French desks are typically crafted from high-quality woods such as walnut, oak, cherry, or mahogany. The rich, natural grain of these woods contributes to the desk’s beauty.
- Veneer and Inlays: Some French desks feature veneer and inlay work to create intricate patterns or add contrasting details, elevating the visual appeal.
- Metal Hardware: Drawer pulls, keyholes, and other hardware elements are often made of metal, such as brass or bronze, providing a touch of sophistication and durability.
- Escutcheons: Small decorative plates surrounding keyholes are common on French desks, adding a refined and intricate touch.
- Leather or Fabric Inlays: Some French desks have leather or fabric inlays on the desktop, providing a luxurious writing surface and a touch of texture to the design.
- Curved or Sloping Writing Surface: Many French desks have a sloping or curved writing surface, allowing for a comfortable writing or working position.
- Elegant Finishes: French desks often feature elegant finishes, such as a polished sheen or a distressed look, which enhances the antique and timeless charm.
- Drawer Compartments: French desks typically have multiple drawers with varying sizes and compartments, offering practical storage for writing materials and stationery.
These design characteristics collectively create the timeless and sophisticated appeal that is synonymous with French-style desks. Whether in a classic Louis XV or a rustic Provencal design, these features contribute to the desk’s overall allure and make it a centerpiece of any room.
Types of French Desks
French style desks come in various designs, each with its own unique traits. Here are a few different kinds of French style desks:
- Louis XV Writing Desk: Features elegant curves, ornate carvings, and often adorned with intricate details like floral motifs and scalloped edges.
- Louis XVI Bureau Plat: A large, rectangular desk with clean lines, tapered legs, and minimalistic decorative elements, often made from fine wood.
- Provencal Writing Desk: Inspired by the rustic charm of the Provence region, these desks typically have a weathered, distressed finish and a simple, country-style design.
- Bombe Desk: Characterized by its curvaceous, bombé shape, this type of desk often has three drawers and elaborate hand-painted designs.
- Escritoire: A small, portable writing desk that usually features a slanted writing surface, compartments for storage, and a fold-down top.
- Roll-top Desk: A classic design with a roll-top cover that can be pulled down to conceal the writing surface and drawers, providing a neat and tidy appearance.
- Secretaire à Abattant: Also known as a drop-front secretary desk, it has a hinged front panel that drops down to reveal a writing surface and interior compartments.
- Partner’s Desk: A large, sturdy desk designed to be used by two people, typically with drawers and storage on both sides.
- Bonheur du Jour: A delicate, feminine writing desk with an upper display section for books or decorative items, and a lower writing surface with small drawers.
- Directoire Desk: Exhibits a transitional style between the late Louis XVI and the Empire period, with clean lines, brass accents, and geometric designs.
- Vanity Desk: A French-style vanity often used for makeup and grooming, featuring a mirror, drawers, and sometimes a matching stool or bench.
- Art Deco Writing Desk: Though not exclusively French, it represents a style that was prominent in France during the early 20th century, featuring geometric shapes, luxurious materials, and streamlined design.
Each type of French style desk offers a distinct look and feel, allowing you to choose the one that best complements your personal taste and interior decor.
How to Style Your French-inspired Desk
Styling a French writing desk involves incorporating elements that evoke a rustic, elegant, and charming aesthetic. Here are 10 updated ways to style your French inspired desk:
- Neutral Color Palette: Stick to soft and soothing colors like cream, beige, light gray, or pastel shades to create a calming ambiance.
- Distressed Finish: Embrace a distressed or weathered finish on the desk to enhance the vintage and rustic appeal characteristic of French country style.
- Floral Accents: Add floral patterns or fresh flowers in vases to infuse a touch of countryside charm.
- Vintage Desk Accessories: Use vintage or antique-looking desk accessories like brass candlesticks, quill holders, or ceramic inkwells for an authentic touch.
- Linen Table Runner: Place a linen table runner on the desk to add a touch of elegance and to protect the surface.
- Bouquets of Lavender: Incorporate bundles of dried lavender to infuse the space with the delightful scent of the French countryside.
- Wicker Baskets: Utilize wicker baskets or woven containers to organize and store stationery, books, or writing materials.
- French Country Artwork: Hang framed prints or paintings depicting rural landscapes, floral scenes, or vintage French advertisements.
- Rustic Lighting: Add a vintage-style table lamp with a fabric shade or a wrought iron chandelier above the desk for warm and intimate lighting.
- Curated Décor: Display a curated selection of decorative items like vintage clocks, old books, rustic picture frames, and small sculptures that complement the French country theme.
As shopping online has changed quite a bit in the past few years, there are some things I’d like to point out.
For one, I do my best to update this post periodically, but many of the vendors run out of stock quickly so you may find some broken links. Please know I do come back to change those links as often as I can. If you’re looking for something in particular, I may be able to help if you send me an email pointing it out.
I’ve tried my hardest to link only items most people would consider “affordable”, which for desks I define as under $1000 (with many in the $300-$500 range).
However, with stock so severely limited in recent months I’ve included some higher priced items. I promise you this is not a bait and switch tactic but rather an attempt to offer a selection of options to those who don’t mind spending a little more.
At this writing there are still plenty of items on the list that are priced in the low hundreds, but I do find it increasingly difficult to find these items available in stock. More than half do currently fit my definition of affordable.
Please enjoy looking through the choices selected below and if you find one you like, all you need to add is some pretty feminine accessories and you’ll be good to go.
If you must do work at home, why not make your office space as lovely as possible? The addition of a pretty writing desk can ignite your creativity and make getting things done more pleasant, even if you’re just paying the bills.
And what better way to be inspired to get your work done!
To get the look, click on the items below for direct links to the products. Where actual items were no longer available, I’ve provided similar options. If an item is out of stock but may be restocked, I left it on the list.
(This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.)