Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Campaign Furniture

I just might have India on the brain, seeing as how I recently posted on British Colonial decorating (which you can read about here) and am now writing about campaign furniture.   I have always loved the dark wood and simple lines that make campaign furniture pieces as elegant and useful today as they were for their original purpose.

Teak writing desk from India with removable legs (source: Manner of Style)

Campaign furniture was originally developed for the British army in the 1700s. During the Georgian and Victorian (1714-1901) periods in England, British officers of high social position would expect to enjoy some of the same comforts of home when they were out in military camps.   In order to assure themselves of as high a degree of comfort as possible special collapsible furniture became popular.  The furniture was designed to not only be elegant and comfortable, but to fold up and break apart and then be reassembled without needing nails and screws to hold it together.  The furniture also had to be light enough to be carried (by their attending servants that is).  They were stylish travel furniture in other words.   

Collapsible 19th Century Anglo-Indian hardwood campaign bed (Christie's)

One of the most well-known pieces of campaign furniture is the Wellington Chest (see the photo below), originally designed for the 1st Duke of Wellington, but still very popular today.  It has six to twelve drawers of equal depth and the right side panel opens for storage.  When the panel is closed, it overlaps with the drawers to keep them secure for travel.
Wellington Chest (Antiques Atlas)

19th Century Wellington Chest open to show the drawers and, in this case, a writing shelf (Antiques Atlas)

There were chests and beds and desks and chairs and tables:  pretty much any piece of furniture needed to make living conditions comfortable.

Campaign desk from the 1820s - note the handles on the sides to carry each section (The Buzz on Antiques)

Collapsible washstand c. 1830s (CINOA)

The White Dresser

Campaign dresser and boxes (The White Dresser)

The Roorkhe chair (shown in the photo below), named after the headquarters of the Indian Army Corps of Engineers in India, was used by the British military officers from the 1890s to the beginning of WWII.  Not only was this chair comfortable, portable, light-weight, and strong, but it was also stable on uneven ground.  The chair was constructed of individual wood pieces that fit into each other loosely and were held together by the leather arms and the leather or canvas seat.  The tension created on the arms and seat of the chair when someone sat on the chair, kept the whole structure in place and at the same time allowed for it to adjust to uneven ground.
Tree Hugger

Isn't this gentleman lovely - taking a bit of a rest in his elegant Roorkhe chair wearing his knee socks, pith helmet and linen suit.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Corbett sitting in a Roorkhe chair in Corbett National Park, India in 1936 (Coworkout)

Campaign furniture was so well suited for life on the road, that it also became popular for use while traveling and on safaris.  

Have a look at the gorgeous romanticized version of campaign furniture in a safari tent,

Roar Africa
and on a picnic in Africa.  

Roar Africa
Yep that's my kind of traveling!
Linked to Open House Party at No Minimalist Here,
Furniture Feature Friday at Miss Mustard Seed,
Saturday Night Spotlight at Love Where you Live


  1. When I think of campaign furniture, I always think of those little folding side tables (which I love), but I never realized there was such a variety that was made. Very impressive.

  2. This is such a nice post, Grace. I love the beds. They are so dreamy!!!

  3. thanks for the education! I didn't realize campaign furniture was so expansive!! Well done and quite informative, Grace.

  4. Thanks again for taking us to a whole different place Grace! You have such a talent for that.
    Beautiful images. Always love the image of the elaborate tent set-up with the canopy bed and everything, yet it is so hard for me to picture myself actually getting any sleep there...I would always have an ear to the sounds of impending threats outside the tent..

  5. Wonderful post, Grace, so well detailed! You have me craving a safari.

  6. This is really a good furniture.. Thanks for sharing the information regarding it.. I was looking for such information and I will definitely look forward to it.. It will look nice in my decor also..

  7. I have never heard of campaign furniture. So interesting.

  8. Hi Grace, I also have a fondness for campaign furniture and you are showing some wonderful pieces. Thank you so much for sharing this at my party.

  9. Hello Grace...

    My friend, I sooo enjoyed this post about campaign style furniture! I guess I have never thought about it much...although I have seen a few old movies with this very style. It's sooo interesting...I loved seeing some of the pieces and read about the history, etc. Ohh my goodness...isn't that safari tent just out of this world! I think I could be perfectly happy living there! Hehe! Again, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post with us...this was such a treat and I learned so much from it!

    Warmest spring wishes,
    Chari @Happy To Design

  10. Hi Grace,
    It was wonderful seeing your blog on campaign furniture.
    Do take a look at my website where we have recreated a range of furniture from that era. www.jandrguram.com
    Raj Guram

  11. Beautiful post. I LOVE campaign furniture! It's so...elegant and makes me think of far flung and exotic lands. I want to put on a pith helmet and drink a pot of tea.
    Indy (8) saw the photo of the picnic and said "Hey, that looks just like where Indiana Jones met Teddy Roosevelt in Africa!" He's seen not only all the IJ movies, but the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as well and IJ meets TR on safari when he's a boy.

  12. I've always liked campaign furniture as well -- don't have any but I always admire it when I see it -- either the real thing or reproductions.

  13. Some beautiful pieces! And great information about their history. I love the photo of the campsite in Africa, safari helmets & all. Thank you SO MUCH for linking up to my Sat Night Spotlight Party! It's a great way to meet new talented bloggers like you. Come back anytime. :)

  14. Great little article.
    Do have a look at Christopher Clarke Antiques in the Uk if you want to learn more. We have a great website and an amazing collection and are always happy to share our knowledge.

    Who would have thought. A campaign shower!

  15. I just found your blog because I searched on campaign furniture. I just found an end table piece at Goodwill ($9....score!) and it has embossed in the top drawer 'Campaigner'.

  16. Beautiful furniture, reflecting on a beautiful lifestyle! Does anybody currently make furniture like this? Is it reasonable to camp/safari at this level of luxury without using antique furniture? I would like to know.

  17. Brilliant!!!

    Enjoyed this post very nice indeed...an era long gone or perhaps not...for some

    For some still way of living...at times