Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Please, Have a Seat!

I was recently reading about Campaign Furniture, and found it fascinating! I have heard the term, but knew very little about this wonderful type of furniture that has been around since the Roman times, but really hit its height during the 18th Century.

Military "CAMPAIGNS" or extended tours of duty in various places around the world is the impetus for this type of furniture. The miliary not only took armaments with, but once they reached a strategic point and dug in for the long haul,  they needed to be able to store maps, have a place to develop correspondence, congregate for strategies, sleep, eat, etc. The officer's tents served as the accomodation, but it needed then to be fitted out with tables, chairs, chests, beds. All these items were taken with the Army, carried with on foot, by boat or wagon or carriage. This furniture needed to be collapsable or made in pieces that were then able to be assembled on site. It also should be easily assembled, lightweight and quickly folded up if the campaign needed to be on the move at a moment's notice.

In the 18th Century, companies such as Sheraton, Hepplewhite and Chippendale made these designs for the British military, all focusing on functionality, weather conditions and durability.  Actually, with "form following function" (per the 20th Century German-American architect Mies Van der Rohe creed), some beautiful designs were created.

The chair at left is particularly lovely, belonging to Thomas Jefferson, who was a devotee of functional furnishings, designing many pieces of his own as well as writing implements, tools, etc.

There is a certain simplicity to these pieces of furniture that is compelling. They are straightforward and utilitarian. But of course, there is always the one piece that truly works, yet is way over the top where function or use can't possibly yield the most elegant solution. Take the camp bed below, for instance. It does work, but it must unravel and elongate several times to be of a proper length, and achieve the correct support. I wouldn't want to get a foot or arm tangled in those acordian folds! Ouch!

In Britian, the Army and Navy Society orinally made this type of furniture. As mentioned early, with demand, additional private companies continued production. The Army and Navy Society, by the way, was eventually bought by House of Fraser Victoria, which is still in existence today as one of Britian's major department stores.

There are contemporary takes on campaign furniture, but they hardly have the elegance of their wood forerunners. See below. :(

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