Scripps Howard News Service
Although some today might use this piece of furniture as a desk, it is a dressing or vanity table and came with a bench.

Dear Helaine and Joe: I hope you can help me identify the desk shown here. I purchased it about 15 years ago. It is heavy, six-legged and kidney-shaped. I have included a picture of a drawer to show it conforms to the desk's overall shape. This piece does not have any flat wall surfaces. I do not know anything about the furniture or the style it represents. Any information would be appreciated.

Thank you, — L.B., Chapel Hill, N.C.

Dear L.B.: A "kidney shape" is defined as being a long oval indented at one side. Objects with this shape are sometimes described as being "reniform." It was very popular during the mid-20th century, but much earlier pieces can be found.

The piece in question — which, incidentally, is not a desk — was made sometime in the third quarter of the 20th century, probably circa 1965 (plus or minus 10 years).

It's not an antique, and it will be a very long time before it qualifies for this distinction. During the 20th century, an object had to be at least 100 years old before it received the "antique" designation. Today, we hear some antiques dealers and "experts" on television trying their darndest to move that dating system forward to 50 years or older. But this goes against long-standing tradition.

We believe that such an adjustment is unwise. It will hurt collectors in the long run by opening up the floodgates to a plethora of used furniture, kitsch or pop-culture items. We don't object to calling objects that are 30 to 100 years old "collectible" or "vintage," but that's as far as we are willing to go.

As for L.B.'s piece, it is a dressing or vanity table. Originally, it had a bench and maybe a mirror to go with it. This type of white-painted furniture with gold trim, done in a pseudo-French Provincial style, was extremely popular during the 1960s and '70s, primarily with mature women seeking a feminine look.

Truly vast amounts of this manufactured furniture are on the market, but not many people — outside of those attracted to a womanly "shabby-chic" look — are interested in acquiring it. In short, this type of furniture is completely out of fashion at the moment.

The white-painted, gold-accented furniture is generally found in bedroom pieces: dressers, chests of drawers, nightstands and headboard and footboards. Dressing tables and benches seldom were in this grouping. Therefore, they're somewhat harder to find.

This kidney-shaped dressing table has potential to be very attractive in the right boudoir setting, but without its matching bench (and, perhaps, mirror), its insurance replacement value is fairly modest. Its value should range from $150 to $200.

Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 27540, Knoxville, TN 37927. E-mail them at [email protected].