2nd opinion on a desk

darenkaAugust 28, 2009

I wish I could afford some of the lovely quality antiques I've seen lately, but the budget demands I scour ebay in the near vicinity. So, what's your opinion; will this be a nice antique someday, meaning will it age well? Of course I'm attracted to it because it has interesting wood (I'll be known as the wild wood woman on this site after a few more posts). I'm currently using 2 IKEA night stands with a slab of particle board across the top for a desk. Has my desperation for a desk made this look more attractive than it really is? And finally, can anyone identify the wood? (I used to think I was fairly knowledgeable about wood, but the things I've been seeing here stump me.) Thanks in advance for your time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Desk-ebay-Germany

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This looks like someone took an older desk and recovered the top and drawer facings with some sort of laminate or veneer. It's hard to tell from the pictures but actually looks like Formica to me. I have to assume that, since you can or will be able to see this desk in person, you will be able to see for yourself. If you like the desk and you seem to have a need for one, I would say get it if the price is right. If you're expecting it to have value as an antique, I'm afraid the modification may limit its value.

Someone more knowledgeable about antiques may be able to shine some more light on this and possibly refute what I think so I will be waiting for their replies.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 6:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ahhh, maybe that's it. I actually like the back and sides of the desk more than the front. There seems to be something a bit off about it, but I couldn't put my finger on it. How silly, it never occurred to me that someone would do that to wood. I think I'm becoming desperate because everything here in the desk realm is fine expensive antique, ultra modern, or particle board.

Has anyone had success stripping off laminates and refinishing? It would be worth the risk if it stays cheap.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 7:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm assuming you live in Germany, but the description on the desk states it's laminate, no? It also says the keys to the desk are missing. I know furniture is quite dear in Europe because I have been in a few second hand shops, and more than a few antique stores. And the price on it now is not out of line for a solid, useable desk if that is your only need. But, like pris said, it looks to have been a nice older piece somebody covered over. Clean and functional, but the modification does impact value. I'd be more prone to find one you can refinish, but still keep the integrity of the era.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 10:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Outside doesn't match up with the wood on inside, I would venture that someone messed up the outside & used a wood grain Formica to hide the mess. Inside looks sturdy,well made so should last you as long as you need it. won't tip over on you! Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 2:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In answer to your question about removing the laminate. Everything I googled indicates that this is seldom successful. Getting the laminate off will cause a lot of damage to the wood underneath. The only time I've seen this even halfway successful is when the laminate was already coming up and you still have those bits that are firmly glued down. I suppose you could remove it being careful not to do any more damage than necessary and replace the laminate with a veneer more closely matching the original wood. That's a lot of work and doesn't make the desk any more functional. I personally don't care for the laminate that's on it but would consider painting over it. There are paints and instructions for painting over laminate. You could look into that and see if you would be interested.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 11:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ah well, I don't actually read German yet so I rely on my computer to translate these things. This is one area that there is NO threat of computers replacing people. From my fractured English edition, it seemed to say that the desk was solid wood, with a wood veneer. I recently purchased a dresser from an earlier period that does indeed have a wood veneer over a solid wood. (Germans, as a whole, seem to be almost brutally honest--so I assumed it really must be wood.) It's probably crystal clear in German--I just have a bad translation. While the photos aren't clear, the back almost looked like walnut, but the top, front, and even the edge had me completely puzzled. I suspect the drawers are birch.

I really appreciate your input in helping me figure out this puzzle. It's good to know that my only option with this one seems to be paint. My current particle board set up is quite literally giving me a headache--one of the reasons I like antiques (no particle board). At least I'll be in a position to make an informed decision. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 7:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It could very well be a wood veneer. As I said it just looks like formica laminate to me. If it is a wood veneer it wasn't a very good grain or color match. You can get veneers in almost any wood grain imaginable. That would make painting a whole lot easier and you could even check into veneering over with a better match.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 8:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think it's a wonderful 1930's Bauhaus desk with a zebrawood veneer.
The style is wonderful, it looks like the workmanship is very fine, the sliding shelves and the drawers look very well made.
I have no way to relate the price to anything I know....but I think it's a very fine desk, unique, not everyone's taste, but then neither are lots of other things.
Linda C

Here is a link that might be useful: Scroll down.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 12:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Linda is spot on about the desk. It appears to be sturdy and well made and if within your budget, a very good buy. I have no idea about the zebrawood but bow to her expertise. You would have to see the desk in person to determine exactly what the veneer is. If linda is right, then any refinishing would be something you would need to think about before painting or stripping.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 12:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My expertise in German is non-existant, but I had to take several years of it on a University level, because I was a Chemistry major. I'm very rusty, but the ad itself says that the veneer does not appear to be wood. As you said, Germans basically are honest about such things.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 1:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Go take a look at it. If it's zebrawood, as Linda thinks, it might be well worth the price.

It looks like a 1930s Art Deco with a leftover Art Nouveau influence ... very feminine lines, delicate scaling.

Birch and zebrawood?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 1:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Look at the wood on this one ... macassar ebony has that kind of stripe.

If so, it has always been an expensive wood, not easy to work with, and used on high-end furniture.

Here is a link that might be useful: Macassar Ebony

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 1:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree with lazygardens. The only way to know is to look at it personally. You'll be able to tell really quickly if it's wood or plastic made to look like wood.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 6:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, I sent the seller a message on ebay. I think everyone is right, the only way to really know what a piece is to touch it and feel it. The photos are poor, but they described it several times as beautiful, (and while that's a subjective term) it warrants investigation. Zebra wood had come to mind when I first saw it, but I've always seen the stripes more narrow--but there seems to be a huge variation in that though. I know Zebra was a favorite with some Art Deco designers. I'd be over the moon with any type of real wood veneer.

So would everyone send up good vibes and make this be Macassar Ebony or Zebra wood? I'd really like to own a new desk. It's almost a moral imperative with me; never paint any wood above the paint grade level--that's what paint grade is for. But Formica would be hard to live with for long. I'll let you know the outcome... Thanks again.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 7:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ommmmm!! Zebrawood......Ebony.....Ommmmm!
Sending good vibes....let us know!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 1:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Post better pictures if you buy it, please.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 12:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Another thing I noticed is the way the lighting hits on the possible veneer portions - it hits much different than on the wood and doesn't look quite right.

However, if you like it, the price is right and you think it will hold up over time, then it's a good buy for you. If your decision includes whether it will appreciate in value, then you'll probably have to do a little more research.

Another suggestion is resale and thrift shops - I've found amazing furniture buys at my local thrift store. My best find - a pair of 1950s upholstered Baker dining chairs (they need a little work, but for $50 each, they're a bargain). Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2009 at 11:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, my ebay message to see the desk has gone unanswered so I'll probably let this one pass. I'm not really concerned with my things appreciating greatly in the resale market. I just find that antiques wear well with time. There is a certain grace that makes them special no matter what else is in fashion. It's never that 'bean-bag' moment when you strike yourself over the head and say, "oh my goodness, what was I thinking!?!!" I tend not to like modern furniture, but even I can see that some of the really good pieces will become antiques. The others are just going to become old. That's why I'd still consider a piece that HAD to be refinished. I know it can destroy the value at antique market, but if the piece has good bones, that's my primary concern. When I win the lottery, I'll buy the best of the best. Now, I just want potential beauty.

In any case, I do appreciate the feedback and just the opportunity to weigh all the pros and cons. I know I've beat this one to death from virtually every angle--I appreciate your patience. I'm sure I'll be posting other potential finds. And hey, if it's still cheap at closing, I might buy it knowing I could sell it for a profit.

The one thing Germany seems to lack are thrift stores. They have real flea markets (but furniture is hard to lug around to those). There is an American base about 30 miles from me where they sell the worst looking MDF beat up garbage desks for $50-75. I mean stuff so awful you usually have set it on the curb, and HOPE someone takes it for free. And it sells....because it's cheaper than buying something new. They remind you that 15% goes to a charitable organization, but still, it seems like robbery. I'm almost tempted to buy a trailer, pick up ebay finds, and resell at the American thrift store. The income I generated to go to stocking my house with antiques. Hmmm.... I just need two men and a truck. And thanks for your good vibe jujus LindaC--they might work.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2009 at 9:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So you're in Germany but don't speak German? Tough assignment. I am in Canada, born here, parents were German immigrants and I do speak the language and can read the ad barring the odd word. Also, they emigrated in the 1950s and I know their furniture aesthetic. Therefore, I'd bet on this being a formica-type of veneer, maybe even factory-applied. Germans (to the extent that they or anyone can be stereotyped) are not only honest, but also pragmatic :-) Looks usually subjugate to function, or did in that day.

That said, if you're a wild wood woman, you'll enjoy the interior and frame enough to learn to love the exterior. I love wood too, but having lived with formica surfaces enough (see above) I appreciate their toughness and insensitivity.

Being probably factory-applied, the thickness of the actual surfaces may require veneer of some sort to match the edges etc, and I wonder if the actual material (should be visible where some edging is apparently off?) is even plywood, otherwise might be rough tongue and groove (I just took apart an old oak office desk, and that's what it was under the oak veneer). If you're going to be veneering anyway, I'd be inclined to leave this stuff on, as it's in good shape and is just very solidly reminiscent of the phlegmatically functional aesthetic of its time.

And if it's Zebrawood or something - well, bonus.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2009 at 2:31PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Straw in dining chair cushions-- does this indicate a date?
Hi friends, I just bought a lovely antique dining table...
Home Design Show in NYC
click to win tickets http://www.architecturaldigest.com/win-adhds-tickets...
Not sure what it is
Would like to restore this piece. Not sure of the age...
Ideas about this vase/bottle?
Hello! I recently discovered this great forum and am...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™