Take a memo: secretary works Design: The bureau- bookcase is one of history's most successful examples of multifunctional furniture.


June 23, 1996|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Even if traditional furniture design is not especially to your liking, it still warrants careful examination from an aesthetic as well as a functional standpoint. That's true, by the way, for almost every element of interior design that has survived decades' or centuries' worth of changes in taste and usage.

They all have something to teach us.

The bureau-bookcase, also known as a secretary, is one of history's most successful examples of multifunctional furniture -- though it's been categorized in that way only relatively recently.

Surely everyone has seen such a piece. Opened and supported, its fall-front reveals an array of compartments, crannies and shelves that are invisible when the lid is closed. Another cabinet usually stands above the desk top, either open-shelved or closed by a pair of doors.

The design of the bureau-bookcase has evolved over the centuries and been adapted to suit the preferences of many different cultures. Its basic concept remains unaltered, however, because it is practical as well as portable. Taller than it is wide, the secretary also has elegant proportions that make it a graceful focal point.

Among its many reinterpretations is a sleek and unadorned design that works well in contemporary settings. That may be of special interest to those nontraditionalists out there who have viewed secretaries as hopelessly old-fashioned.

The photo shows another adaptation that should appeal to a wide audience. This custom-made child's version of the bureau-bookcase has been surfaced with colorful and highly durable Nevamar plastic laminate that gives the piece a sprightly decorative appearance.

Children's rooms are often among the smallest spaces in a home. At the same time, they usually accommodate a greater variety of functions -- playing, sleeping, studying, eating -- than almost any other part of the house. Ample and convenient storage space is, of course, a highly desirable feature as well.

For all these reasons, a vertically oriented task and storage piece makes a great deal of sense in a child's room. Quite possibly, interior designers of the future will see this as yet another typically clever adaptation of the supremely versatile bureau-bookcase.

Pub Date: 6/23/96

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