The Secretary’s New Day

Ricard Vila’s Otto Desk for Do+Ce

“My assignment was to create a furniture-design icon of the twentieth century, but Do+Ce was pointing to furniture made 60 years ago,” Ricard Vila says. “So we decided we needed that old standard of craftsmanship in this new piece.” Looking for new ideas in old classics, Vila researched antique furniture and found inspiration for his Otto desk in the nineteenth-century secretary. Although the Otto’s right-angles and clean lines are a departure from the sometimes literally rolling curves and mechanics of its predecessors, the space-saving principle has been preserved. “For those romantics who still like to handwrite letters, the Otto can fit in a living room or bedroom,” Vila says, “but it can also be used in a home office with a laptop stored inside.” The desk was first put into production by Do+Ce ( in 2004, when it debuted at the Valencia International Furniture Fair, and is now available in the United States through Design Within Reach ( Here Vila guides us through the finer points of Otto.


“I added a built-in cupboard next to the desk compartment to keep papers and anything else you need hidden behind a simple hinged door.”

“The woods and colors were chosen for their warmth, which is important in furniture for private homes. The wood is oak veneer and lacquered beech, and the base is treated with red lacquer; we also considered pistachio as a color—for optimists!”

“I thought of the desk’s name while watching the Spanish film Los Amantes del Círculo Polar (“Lovers of the Arctic Circle”); one of the character’s names, Otto, is phonetically pleasing in many languages—and the Os represent the cavity hidden inside the desk.”

“To create a more generous work surface, the door pulls down and expands the desk-top. A wooden drawer and pen cup were built inside to make it easy to organize your needs.”

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