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Furniture, Desk, Metamorphic Desk Chair, Stephen Hedges, American, Antique, 19th Century


Stephen Hedges (attributed to)
Metamorphic Combination Table, Desk and Chair
American: c. 1850s
Oak, upholstery, metal fittings
29.5 inches high; 33 x 26 inches top, closed

An ingenious metamorphic oval table opening to a desk and a chair, raised on cabriole legs, ending in scrolled feet and casters. The flip top of the table opens by hinges at the center, and the chair opens by hinges above the inner leg. When the table is opened, one half becomes a desk (with inset drawer) and the other half becomes a barrel back desk chair (joined at 2 hinges and facing the desk). The desk as opened has two cabriole legs and the chair as opened has three cabriole legs. When closed the outer leg of the desk joins with the outer leg of the chair, in affect creating one joined leg and thus four apparent cabriole legs to the table. The chair is upholstered in later striped cut red velvet with brass tack head nails. The top of the desk is fitted in simple later brown leather.

Product description continued below.


This ingenious piece of library furniture closely resembles drawings accompanying Stephen Hedges’ patent number 10,740 for a “convertible chair” in 1854, and is very similar in form to a walnut veneered example sold at Christies on October 3, 2007, stamped “Stephen Hedges New York.” That example sold for $5,250, including buyer’s premium; another example sold at Christies in January 1998, for what is likely an auction record — $29,900, including buyer’s premium.

Hedges described his invention as “A new and useful Piece of Furniture, Intended to Serve as a Table Alone or as Chair and Table combined.” Other similar examples are housed in museum collections at The Museum of the City of New York, the Morris-Jumel Mansion in upper Manhattan, and the Gallier House in New Orleans, Louisiana. The design is sometimes referred to as an “Aaron Burr desk,” due to an apocryphal story that Burr had owned one, published in a New York Herald article in 1911. The story is now thought dubious though, because Burr’s death predates Hedges’ patent by 18 years. Still it is conceivable that Burr had a metamorphic desk that was a predecessor in design to the Hedges chair.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall aging, shrinkage, wear, minor restorations, including some minor unobtrusive shrinkage cracks and openings.  Wood finish very good.  Overall the desk and chair have 5 legs — these are slightly loose at the joints making the desk and chair slightly wobbly; this can be corrected by Seller’s furniture restorer for an additional charge of $1,300. Later upholstery clean and sound. Later very simple brown leather on desk top very good with some wear.


Anderson, Henry H. “Recap. of Stephen Hedges’ ‘Aaron Burr Desks’,” unpublished mss., 1994, recorded in the Winterthur Library: Decorative Arts Photographic Collection.

“Sale 1882, Lot 30. Important American Furniture, 3 October, 2007, New York.” (17 May 2011).

“Sale 8840, Lot 528. Highly Important Americana, 16 January 1998, New York.” (17 May 2011).

Additional information


19th Century