The Kidney Desk: A History

A 19th Century Walnut Kidney Desk Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

We are delighted to share one of our latest acquisitions: this very fine 19th century walnut kidney desk with ebonised moulding and parquetry inlay.  The green vellum lined top with its brass gallery surround stands above three frieze drawers and cupboard doors opening to reveal interior fitted drawers.  The reverse of the desk features central open bookshelves.


The kidney desk originated from a table with a kidney-shaped top.  This design, often referred to as a haricot, first appeared as a writing or dressing-table during the Louis XV period (1715-74) in France before being introduced into England in the late 18th century. The kidney table evolved to incorporate drawers and often small shelves for books and thus became the favoured knee-hole form desk of the Sheraton and Victorian periods. Its practicality of shape and design as well as its pleasing and innovative aesthetics made it very popular. The finest examples of this style of desk were made by Gillows of Lancaster in the late 18th century until the mid-19th century.

Gillows of Lancaster & London Drawing of a Kidney Desk

Gillows of Lancaster & London Drawing of a Kidney Desk

The design for this form of desk is illustrated in ‘Gillows Estimate Sketch Books’ (1840) as illustrated above.

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