Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 3 February 2016

How to Buy a Desk

I’ve been putting my office together for over a year, now.

2015 was a bit strange. The office was all set at the end of ’14, but not decorated. I had planned to decorate, and then life with all its stuff and things took over, so it didn’t happen. It is about to happen.

I’ve bought paint… Twice. I’ve switched out a bed for a sofa-bed and I’ve had a stove fitted. All good things.

My desk is actually an old table. It’s round and two leaves of the top fold down if I don’t want to use the entire surface. It would comfortably seat four for a meal, if it was used for its conventional purpose, and six if the diners were close friends. It’s a good and attractive table. I like it, but I decided that it was a little too large for my purposes.

The husband has a slightly smaller, square table in his office that I’ve always rather liked. Furniture is community property in our house, and it’s not uncommon for it to be moved around from room to room for all kinds of reasons. So, I wandered into the office with a cup of tea on Sunday and asked the husband about the table. 

I’m not quite sure why I expected a two minute conversation, because it never happens that way. I’m not sure how long the conversation actually lasted, but I do know it involved a careful study of his room and quite a lot of measuring.

By the time we’d finished, the room had undergone a fairly radical redesign.

The husband had decided that he’d like to move some furniture and add a new piece, if I was to have the little table, and then came the big one… The husband had decided he was in want of a new desk.
The husband, elbows comfortably on the old desk

The current desk has been in operation for about fifteen years. It’s seen a lot of use, he’s spent a great many hours sitting at it… I’m not sure I could or would want to work out just how many. But the husband decided it was time for a change, and he had a pretty good idea what he wanted to replace the old desk with.

So, yesterday, we went table hunting.

As a writer, I’m peripatetic. I have a writing room, of sorts, an office, and I use it, but it’s a room where all kinds of things happen. I call it my office, because it’s used almost exclusively by me, but it isn’t exclusively my writing room and it certainly isn’t the only place that I write. This is less true of the husband.

The husband’s office isn’t the only place that he works. If he needs to do research, he might watch something or read anywhere in the house, he might take handwritten notes wherever he happens to be, and we can talk work in the car, on a train, in restaurants… you name it. The husband writes almost exclusively in his office, and almost exclusively at his desk. The chair he sits at and the table he writes at are pretty important to him.

Did I mention that the husband had a pretty good idea what he wanted to replace his desk with?

Did I mention that we’re also not actually talking about a desk?

What the husband actually wanted was a table, and he didn’t want new.

We don’t buy a great deal of new furniture. We live in an old house and we buy a lot of pre-owned stuff, especially when it comes to cupboards, cabinets and tables. I’m a sucker for old chairs, too, and I’m lucky enough to have a good upholsterer working locally.

So, the husband knew the size and shape of table he wanted, but he also wanted something old.

You can’t just walk into an office supplier and pick out what you want when that’s what you want.

You could, of course, check out eBay, but with furniture it’s nice to see it, and to touch it.

Let me make it clear that we’re not talking about antiques here. The husband needs a good, solid, strong piece of furniture that will take daily use. He needs to be able to stand electronics on it, piles of books and other research materials, some of which might impact on its surface, dozens of beverages in the average week, and, of course, desk breakfasts and lunches most days. He really didn’t want anything precious that he would be afraid to mark or dink. He also didn’t want anything that would buckle under the weight, wobble at the joints or be uncomfortable to sit at. EBay wasn’t going to cut it.

I expected we might find a table in six months, or that it might take a year. It didn’t matter, we’d find a table when we found a table.

We don’t take holidays, but we do try very  hard to take time off on the first Monday of the month. It doesn’t happen every month, but we try. Yesterday, Tuesday, after a long run without a break, the husband declared that we were going to begin desk shopping. There are several places local to us where we begin this kind of search. So, we jumped in the car and drove to the first location.

Inside Hendersons.
See more on their FaceBook page
The shop in Rochester hasn’t been open for long, probably about a year, but we were one of its first customers and we return regularly. We always come home from Hendersons with something, often something small, but always something. The couple that runs the place has a good eye and they buy well; they’re also lovely to deal with. I wandered into the shop first, as something in the window had caught the husband’s eye.

As I walked into the shop, something caught my eye, too, and I turned. Inside the shop, the window display had been arranged on a table. It was gorgeous.

“I’ve found it!” I said as the husband walked through the door.

The tape measure duly came out, a chair was pulled up to it, so that the husband could check the sitting position, and we oohed and aahed for ten minutes.

We couldn’t quite believe that we had found the husband’s new writing desk, so we asked the owner not to sell the table for an hour while we thought about it, and went for a cup of coffee.

We drank our coffee and talked about the table, and another piece of furniture that the husband liked for his office. I decided what I wanted to pay, because Hendersons are always comfortable doing a deal, and we returned to the shop to make our purchases.

I thought that replacing the husband’s desk after fifteen years, thousands of comics, dozens of novels, several computer games and a movie would probably prove challenging, that it might take six months or a year to accomplish. It took an hour on a Tuesday morning. Go figure.


  1. Ah, furniture shopping for someone else...

    I'm heartened to know IKEA was nowhere near the top of that list (The Swedish are punishing us for something I'm sure of it), as it's usually the first stop for most people I know and it drives me mad.

    I'm finding it harder and harder to find places myself when it comes to shopping for furniture. MDF or Chipboard lacks... heart, soul, character...? Whatever it is, most furniture lacks it. I've been on the lookout for decent bookshelves for my collection with limited success. It's not so much capacity, more stability, and the ability for shelves not to bow under the strain.

    Annoyingly, most shops around where I live that sell real wood furniture all claim to be antique dealers, and bump up the prices something shocking. I'm now at the point of going to my local hackspace and building it myself (ater loosing a few fingers and the majority of my dignity of course).

    1. I've done precisely this, in the past, on more than one occasion. I once built a kitchen, from scratch, using my own two hands. The key is to glue and screw. Smiles. Good luck!