Bonheur-du-Jour de Val - a ladies writing desk

  • Advertise with us
Project by madburg posted 03-06-2019 06:51 AM 1798 views 7 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A Bonheur-du-Jour, which loosely translates to – ‘happiness of the day’. It is of course a ladies writing desk. I made it several years ago for my wife, and never got round to posting it on Lumberjocks. But here it is.

The design is my own, but is an amalgam of a whole range of ideas gathered from researching this classic piece of furniture. It is a complex structure made from Jarrah, with maple and vavona veneers, stringing, bandings and MOP inlays. It has 27 drawers, a range of secret compartments, various removable trays, a 72 note musical movement, and a pull out A3 drawing slope.

Having made the desk I decided that it needed a chair of similar style to go with it. Using one of our kitchen or dinning chairs didn’t really look right! – see later.

The Desk

This desk surface is covered with book matched red maple burl veneer, with a tulip wood boarder surrounded by jarrah cross-banded and a molded edge, that includes a black and white banding.

Desk top after its first coats of polyurethane.

It also has complex corners!

The desks legs are tapered and have inserted black corners, fine maple stringing, vavona inserts at the top, together with more black and white bandings.

The desk part has two rows of drawers. Three at the top, and two larger ones below. They all have jarrah fronts, with a red maple burl inlay, surrounded by a tulip wood banding, plus a jarrah cock bead.

- The middle drawer of the desk is a pull-out A3 sized drawing slope. This is covered with specially made-to-measure green embossed leather. In the tray under the slope is the book/pencil rest, which fits into the two brass reinforced holes on the front edge of the drawing slope. The three brass marks on the sides of the slope frame, when lined up with the front edge of the desk, show where the slope can be locked in place. Locking is achieved by sliding bolts fixed underneath the slope.

Adjustable support

Book/pencil rest

- The large left hand drawer contains a range of lidded compartments and a removable pen tray. It also has a traditional ‘blotter’ – back left had side. The drawer has a secret compartment in its base.

- The large right hand desk drawer has more trays and compartments plus three secret drawers in the back. Access is achieved by removing the tray and raising the pieces of wood that the tray is supported on.

- The narrow right hand drawer is fitted with a quill.

The quill holder is raised up out of the drawer and can be locked the in place, with drawer the being closed as far as required.

- The A3 drawing slope and the two main drawers are closed by self-retracting sliders.

The Secretaire
This is the cabinet on top of the desk. It has three cupboard doors with a drawer below each.

- The left and center bottom drawers are plain.

- The right hand drawer has a removable tray for a collection of my families old fountain pens.

- The left hand cupboard opens onto two small drawers, with stationary slots above.

The insides of the left and right hand cupboard doors are covered with a maple veneer and a woven lattice of tulip wood bandings.

- The center cupboard has a pull down leather covered writing slope that matches the leather on the A3 drawing board. This gives access to a removable tray with sealing wax, a seal, a spirit burner to melt the wax, and an ink well.

- The musical movements is a Sankyo 72 note, three tune movement. To rewind the movement, the drawer below has to be removed to access the key.

- There are three drawers above the musical movement.

These open individually, and also slide forward as a group giving access to the secret stationary holder behind. This folds down onto the musical movement. It would probably have housed the ladies lover-letters in the original days of the Bonheur-du-Jou.

- The right hand cupboard opens to 10 more drawers, with a small locked door in the middle.

Opening the locked door reveals a small chest of four drawers.

This chest can eventually be removed to gives access to a the secret box, hidden behind the left hand set of drawers.

The chair
I decided that using the desk with one of our kitchen or dinning chairs didn’t really work!! So I decided to make a chair to match the desk. It got inspiration from some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs.

The chair is made of Jarrah, and is a very simple upright design, more of a stool with a low back. You tend to sit forward when writing, so I dispensed with any fancy ergonomics to give it a comfortable back, other than a bit of padding on the back rail. The height of back is positioned so that when the chair is in front of the desk it lines up with the desks top surface, without masking much of the desk. Having said it is a simple design it is enhanced to match the desk with similar maple stringing, vavona inlays, black corners and bandings.


I used traditional construction methods for the desk and chair. So, I’ll not go into detail other than to show a few pictures of the desks construction.

If you have looked at my projects before I guess you will have recognized that this is typical of the sort of complex things I make. I like a challenge! It was made a few years before I made my Curiosity Cabinet - Ancient and Modern

I’m sure you will notice some similarities between the contents of the Secretaire part of this desks, the contents or the Curiosity Cabinet. In fact it inspired it!!

I hope you enjoyed looking!


-- Madburg WA

25 comments so far

View Ivan's profile


16719 posts in 3918 days

#1 posted 03-06-2019 07:00 AM

Indeed masterpiece! Real treasure! Incredible craftmanship!

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1126 posts in 3363 days

#2 posted 03-06-2019 08:54 AM

A truly impressive piece! The guided tour made it even more interesting and gives an indication of the complexities involved in a construction like this. Did you keep a log of the hours you spent?
I hope your wife makes frequent use whilst listening to the music.
Many thanks for posting and detailing the contents.

Jim Rowe

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View mikeacg's profile


1903 posts in 2108 days

#3 posted 03-06-2019 11:44 AM

Stunning! I will be looking at this piece a lot for inspiration in the future! Many thanks for all the extra pictures and commentary…

-- Mike, A Yooper with a drawl,

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7227 posts in 1632 days

#4 posted 03-06-2019 11:54 AM

What a project! Wow!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View EarlS's profile


4394 posts in 3398 days

#5 posted 03-06-2019 12:31 PM

Wow – that is some fine craftsmanship!! Plenty of build pictures as well for us to drool over. That is an heirloom project for sure.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View Bill Berklich's profile

Bill Berklich

1179 posts in 1439 days

#6 posted 03-06-2019 12:32 PM

Wow – that is truly spectacular! It is a piece for the ages. I love the level of thought and detail at every turn. All I can say is Wow!

-- Bill - Rochester MI

View recycle1943's profile


5282 posts in 2672 days

#7 posted 03-06-2019 12:56 PM

I just went to the museum, witnessed a prime piece of furniture and never left my own desk.
Thank You for sharing such a fine speciman of craftsmanship and devotion

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View BenDupre's profile


794 posts in 1538 days

#8 posted 03-06-2019 01:10 PM

Absolutely amazing!

-- The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred. – George Bernard Shaw

View builtinbkyn's profile


3027 posts in 1991 days

#9 posted 03-06-2019 01:40 PM

Beautiful in its design, complexity and execution. Amazing work!

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View fllatlander's profile


5 posts in 4279 days

#10 posted 03-06-2019 02:25 PM


View pottz's profile


16098 posts in 2034 days

#11 posted 03-06-2019 02:53 PM

that is an impressive piece of art,just truly gorgeous woodworking.i love that you took the time to post all the pics really gives us a clear idea of what went into creating this masterpiece,most only put up one or two pics so you never get a true feel for what went into creating something.thank you for sharing this.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View daiku_padawan's profile


108 posts in 1279 days

#12 posted 03-06-2019 03:01 PM

Beautiful desk. Really appreciate the walk through of all the compartments and how it went together.

-- ~Daniel

View sras's profile


5946 posts in 4179 days

#13 posted 03-06-2019 03:30 PM

Thanks for sharing this stunning work of art! Truly inspirational.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1982 posts in 3019 days

#14 posted 03-06-2019 03:50 PM

Now that is some kind of beautiful! Great work! Thanks for sharing that.

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View WhattheChuck's profile


453 posts in 4611 days

#15 posted 03-06-2019 04:27 PM


-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

showing 1 through 15 of 25 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics