The Desk

I’m on my hands and knees under a piece of furniture, looking up, holding a magnifying glass in my hand. It’s a tight fit and at my age, it is no small challenge to maneuver. I’m searching for a stamped name or insignia which might help identify its era. Getting that specific history right for this story is important, but unfortunately, I don’t see any clues.

I am referring to a family heirloom which has doubled as both a table and a writing desk for decades. Somehow, it is both simple and beautiful at the same time. And it is very familiar to me.

When I was a young girl, my grandfather passed on this special piece of furniture to my mom. I suspect it was sometime after my grandmother died in 1954 and he had sold their summer home. It was an old farmhouse they purchased in 1938, which they named Grassmere. The farm lay on 40 acres and the farmer next door used the land for his cattle. It was located minutes from an Amish community.

It was a respite from city life. Their apartment was in Cleveland, Ohio, close to the Cleveland Museum of Art. They both entered the museum’s annual juried art exhibitions; The May Show. They also taught art at Cleveland College.

Given their passion for art, they actually transformed the large barn/garage on their farm into an art studio where they taught students over the summer months. I’m pretty sure the desk was in the main house.

When my grandfather gave it to my mom, she moved it around the house until it eventually made its way into this young girl’s bedroom. It became my desk for schoolwork. It was the first space where I studied and wrote mostly school essays, however, there were exceptions. I remember when our local Geauga Lake Amusement Park held a writing contest. They posed the question, “What makes Geauga Lake the best amusement park in the state?” (I’m paraphrasing.) The winner would receive two free passes to the park for that summer. I knew I wanted to submit an entry.

I worked hard on the submission. I remember one line. “Geauga Lake is not expensive, but it is expansive with all the things you can see and do.” And believe it or not, I won. That success made an impression. I also dabbled in poetry for an English class using this desk. The title of one poem was “The Doe and the Dog.” I still have it buried in my papers somewhere, and I’m sure that’s for the best, but I remember getting an A minus. I felt a certain attachment to that poem. I know that my teacher, Mrs. Beasley, truly enjoyed it. The point is, this piece of furniture is the place where my interest in writing was born.

After my father died in 1978, mom sold our childhood home and moved into a townhouse. She kept the desk and used it as a table. Eventually, it headed south with her when she moved in 2000. There, it became a desk again where for almost 20 years she wrote thank-you notes and Christmas cards. She kept a phone and a calendar on it. When she moved into independent living, she no longer had space and I expressed an interest in it.

Oddly, I did not use it for writing for almost two years. I needed a table and so I used it as one; until last summer. At that time, I was knee-deep in the sketches and photos and writings of my grandparents’ history. Ironically, I had this material scattered all over the guest bed because I never really used the small desk I bought in 2015. Then, I saw the photo below. (Please excuse the graininess, it is a digital copy of a xerox copy of a very old magazine article.)

It is a photo of their art studio. It is the place where they both lived and painted in the 1920’s. And there, on the right side, it is unmistakable. It is the desk. The photo shows they were using it as a table; complete with candlesticks and decorative objects d’art. Now I had a historical time frame.

This piece of furniture had sat in the center of their creative world. If writing was my “art”, I wanted to return to its simple surface and have it inspire and hopefully shape my words along with me. I wanted that rich history of creativity flowing through me as I sat at it. What did this beautifully carved wood bear witness to? It is a tangible connection to my grandparents; to my past.

Naturally, times have changed and I no longer put a pencil to paper on its surface. My computer lies on it. There are a few indentations (whether it’s part of the original grain or not, I’m not sure) and the surface is definitely faded compared to the legs. There is even a circular watermark. I cringe if I did that as a teenager. Overall, it’s in excellent shape. The craftmanship is strong.

If indeed someone crafted this interchangeable table and desk in the 1920’s, I think I would classify it as Art Nouveau. These often display “long, sinuous lines” that flow and curl in natural ways. I think the legs display this feature. It also means this antique has to be 100 years old.

I am grateful that I get to use a piece of furniture which has stayed in our family for a century. It is a miracle it wasn’t previously sold or donated. And if that isn’t enough, I get a second chance to dream and write exactly where it began 50 years ago. I do not underestimate the rarity of that experience.

We moved a few pieces of furniture and a lot of files around to meet my need to use this treasure again. It now sits in a perfect, warm corner with a window. I am eager to see where we go together.


  1. Yes, the table/desk is a work of art but it is functional and has a wonderful family history, which you obviously appreciate. The desk I did my homework on was an end-table. It was a work-around but gave me privacy to do homework in my bedroom.

    Yes, I too “am eager to see where you go together.” Much like me, you are also doing the good work of blogging your family’s stories. Great, Melanie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a clever solution for a desk Marian. You can concentrate so much better in your own space. ♥ I have various ideas swirling around in my head, but I love opening up about my family history and recording these stories on the blog. You’ve been doing it for 10 years now, so not only do you have a lot of content for books, but you’ve also created a historical record for your family’s future generations. How great is that? Thanks Marian. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, that’s an amazing piece of history for sure! Was it this desk on which you wrote your 3 favorite people were “me, myself, I”, lo these many years ago? 🤣 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A piece of furniture with a storied history. It’s interesting how a functional component can change roles over the years. My parents had a pool table transformed into a place for putting every reading material known to man into a stacked pile after the kids exited the house. Apparently, Mom wasn’t hustling her friends. I’m not casting stones; I did the same as a teacher. Following the skyscraper model, we build up and not out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never heard of the “skyscraper model”, that is very funny Pete. 😂 Yes, it was a bit of a challenge figuring out how to identify this heirloom as it has effectively functioned as both to so many family members. Writing “table/desk” throughout would be cumbersome. Honestly, I hope the family tradition stays alive with our younger family members, even if they use it as the base for a skyscraper. 😊 Thanks Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful piece of furniture. I love that you found the picture of it along with the notation of it being in your grandparents studio. It has obviously absorbed their creativity and now inspiring yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pam. 🙂 I’m not sure why, but I removed a sentence “if people have auras, then objects can too”, and I believe that with this desk. I still have to put in hard work, but I’ll take support and inspiration from any source offering it.


  5. I love this desk and the wonderful history behind it. So glad you have it back now and found the perfect place to put it.. It’s a beautiful antique I’m sure you will enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Betsy, I know you are very familiar with it; probably even sitting at it a few times! I am SO pleased it was able to stay in our family and that I get a chance to use it again. That is special. ♥


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