Antique Campaign Furniture: Iconic Pieces that will make you stand at attention
Touting a classic, military background, campaign style furniture became a staple during the height of the British Empire. Officers would be sent on lengthy military campaigns to exotic locales like India and South Africa, and longing for the luxurious comforts of home, campaign furniture rose to popularity.
Campaign furniture was designed to be easily packed up, stowed, and carried around on military travels. It needed to be aesthetic, yet utilitarian; stylish, yet comfortable. Convenient transport was key, so antique campaign furniture is by definition lightweight, foldable, stackable, and easy to assemble and break down. Pair that with quality design and beautiful craftsmanship, and you have the best of both worlds. Antique campaign furniture is rugged and functional, yet also luxurious and refined.
Today campaign furniture remains a coveted decor choice. Even if your travels aren’t military tours, campaign furniture evokes a sense of adventure, making it perfect for travel enthusiasts who want to bring an exotic, safari-inspired look into their home. Also called safari chic, campaign furniture is ideal for mixing and matching with the high-end, safari-inspired pieces by designers like Arne Norell, Percival Lafer, and Sergio Rodrigues. The plump and hammock-like contours of these designers’ chairs and sofas are perfectly contrasted by the neat angles and smooth fronts of designer campaign chests and chairs.
Characteristics of Campaign Furniture
Rugged and explorer-inspired, campaign style furniture has many distinct characteristics. Timeless and practical, it certainly makes onlookers stand at attention.
Most campaign furniture is made out of durable woods like teak and mahogany, and features strategically-designed metallic hardware and leather details.
Brass is the most classic type of metal used for campaign hardware. Many pieces feature recessed brass handles, as well as angle pieces that were designed to protect the corners of furniture during travel. These are perhaps the two most iconic hallmarks of campaign furniture.
Today, durable leather straps are coveted design elements, but in the furniture's heyday the straps also served a utilitarian purpose, as they allowed pieces to easily be picked up and carried. Canvas was a popular material choice for chair seats to keep them lightweight and portable.
Most campaign furniture was constructed in separate pieces so that it could be easily assembled and dismantled, and to ensure it took up less room than one large, clunky piece. For example, chests could be broken down into multiple pieces for travel, and then stacked on top of each other when it came time to use them. Chairs, desks and tables commonly had foldable legs, and were constructed out of malleable metals or woods.
Incorporating Campaign-Style Furniture in your Home
In its early days, campaign furniture consisted primarily of folding chairs and tables, desks, chests, military steamers and trunks. These items were essential for storing things as well as setting up makeshift homes in faraway lands.
Though modern-day uses of these pieces are distinctly different, incorporating campaign furniture in your decor salutes the era that inspired the trend. No matter what your lifestyle, campaign furniture can add a charming and adventurous look to any home. There are many vintage pieces available, so it's worth investigating pieces you fall in love with to find out if they're antique originals, or a quality replica from more recent years.
Campaign chests are one of the hallmarks of this style and can be used in many different ways. Station it as a dresser, entryway table, buffet, or a bathroom cabinet. Smaller campaign chests can serve as elegant nightstands and side tables. Many authentic antique campaign chests can be broken down into multiple pieces, making it possible to use them in several locations throughout your home. Fashion them as coffee tables, trunks at the foot of the bed, or as simple storage. This will help imbue your entire space with the chic safari look.
You can also play up a rugged, explorer theme and style your campaign furniture with a globe, antique clock, lantern, or another antique decor accessory. Hang a vintage map above your campaign chest to create a nook that inspires wanderlust.
Another option is contrasting a rugged chest with feminine or modern accents. Adorn a designer campaign chest with a beautiful vase of flowers or a potted plant, an ornate lamp, a stack of books, or perhaps even some vintage perfume bottles.
Antique campaign desks can be a timeless fixture in an office, as they are often outfitted with numerous drawers and other nooks and crannies for storing all of your supplies.
Campaign tables can serve as a coffee or entryway table, or as a vintage take on a media console. Pair them with a beautiful antique rug or hide to create an exotic look inspired by faraway lands.
And of course, should the wild call to you, antique campaign furniture can be packed up and taken on the road—perfect for staging a glamp-site or an outdoor safari-themed wedding or party. For those with continuous wanderlust, campaign furniture offers the opportunity to pay homage to the heritage of travel, while making the everyday feel just a touch more exotic.