In the past, campaign furniture brought style, comfort, and function to far reaches and temporary camps for explorers, generals, and surveyors. Today, it lends historic elegance to more permanent locations. Learn more about campaign furniture and how to use it in your home.
Campaign furniture is a specific style of furniture that goes back centuries but reached its heyday during the late 1800s and early 1900s period of the British Empire. It was constructed and designed for use during a campaign -- a big, transmutable effort to chart a map, make war, hunt, or settle new territory. Well-bred military officers and high society campers wanted the comforts of their real homes, so the style origins of campaign furniture are classical European. But the pieces are ingeniously designed to knock down (fold up) and be carried when the camp moved.
Putting a piece of this furniture in your house declares a certain worldliness, as well as a sense of history and age, which can make a newly decorated home feel rooted in the past. The tops of campaign tables and desks come apart from the bases, which have hinged legs. The legs fold flat for transporting, then unfold and lock into place, forming an X when erect. Heavy pieces of furniture, such as chests of drawers and trunks, have handles built into the sides. Some handles are cleverly disguised, some are used as decorative adornment, and all are designed to lie flat against the furniture so they don't get knocked off during transport. Brass was the fashionable metal at that time, so brass handles, hinges, locks, and corner protectors are common.
1. A side table or desk will add a layer of sophistication to your living room. Campaign furniture has an exotic quality. It whimsically reminds us of journeys, foreign places, and calls of exploration.
2. Choose a dark metal or wood poster bed, and hang sheer white curtains or netting from the canopy. Campaign furniture was often used in locales that are warm and tropical, like the colonized Caribbean islands, so it can bring a seaside vibe to even the most landlocked rooms.
3. Use a trunk as a coffee table or end-of-bed chest to store extra linens. With its practical design, campaign furniture is perfect for someone who moves frequently. It's also compact, so the furniture pieces suit small, cozy spaces.
Many leading furniture retailers like Target are picking up on this trend and are carrying campaign-style furniture pieces. For many years, companies that feature imported furniture and worldly looks, such as Pier 1 Imports and Cost Plus World Market, have included pieces in their everyday collections. There are also companies that specialize in authentically reproducing original antiques, such as J&R Guram (jandrguram.com) and Lewis Drake and Associates (britishcampaignfurniture.com).