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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

British Campaign Style

It’s been awhile since I featured a design style post. I LOVE writing these posts~ sharing wonderful information, historical backgrounds and above all gorgeous, inspirational eye candy. My goal is to hopefully feature more posts of this nature in the future. As always it is just a matter of finding the time they take to assemble.

Fuschia campaign dresser
Campaign furniture has been in use by traveling armies all the way back to Julius Cesar. Napoleon loved it as well. But we can thank the British army for elevating it to a higher level. British officers often sought the comforts of home while fighting in distant lands such as India and Africa. Each piece of furniture was designed to assemble easily and to be taken apart at a moments notice. The result was lightweight furniture that was very durable, comfortable, lovely to look at and easy to pack.


“Line of March of a Bengal Regiment of Infantry in Scinde” 1843 ~ Lieutenant F. P. Layard

The classically styled pieces seem to work in most interiors.

summerfield design blog

Keep reading for more information and DIY examples and links.

Much of the early furniture was originally created by unknown cabinet makers. But by the mid 18th century the demand for such furniture was so great, due to so many people moving to the Colonies, that many prominent furniture makers such Chippendale and Sheraton, among others, created pieces that could be easily dismantled for storage.

Campaign furniture

In 1871 British officers created The Army & Navy Co-operative Society. Their intention was to supply “articles of domestic consumption and general use to its members at the lowest remunerative rates”. Furniture production was at the top of the list.

The furniture fell out of favor with the invention of the motor car which made distant travel quicker and thus ended the need to move military camps. True campaign furniture pieces are still easily found but, given their ongoing popularity, they’re quite expensive. Knock offs abound in thrift store and consignment shops.

The most common piece of campaign furniture is the campaign chest which is, in essence, a chest of drawers. It was generally made of mahogany or teak as such wood could withstand hot and humid climates. The brass corners, strapwork and easily identifiable handles were made to protect the piece and withstand harsh travel conditions.


They are truly versatile pieces and look fantastic when updated in jewel box colors.


Campaign dresser as TV stand. I love campaign-style furniture reimagined in bright colors and those twin brass etergees aren't too shabby either!


Side tables are also très chic!

The second most iconic item would be the Campaign desk.

Basic black is never boring. The brass hardware POPS!

White is also quite welcome.

summerfield design blog

Other pieces included four poster or tent beds (a necessity to protect against malaria).

braxton and yancey: Campaign Furniture – Perfect for the Compass Rose Story

Dining tables featured hinges that could fold the table down to the size of a briefcase. Chairs could also be broken down.  


Many of the chairs are easily distinguishable by their “X” crossed legs.

campaign furniture... tack trunks and other equestrian appointments take their inspiration and functionality from campaign furniture of the past centuries.

The Paragon or Roorkhee chair had a removable canvas seat.


It inspired the 1940’s well known Butterfly chair.

Butterfly chairs make great use of small spaces because the fold up and move around easily... Keep a couple extras in the closet for impromptu casual game night entertaining?

There were also sofa’s, washstands, game boards and wardrobes. I myself would love to get my hands on some of the cooking equipment.

campaign furniture | Dealers in military campaign furniture & antiques - Christopher Clarke ...

Today you can find new campaign styled furniture at such stores as Restoration Hardware…

Furniture Online & Decorating Accessories | Campaign Tripod Lamp | Interiors Online Furniture

campaign furniture style, Round Leather-Wrapped Mirror | Rejuvenation

Urban Outfitters and World Market.

You can also DIY your own.

Campaign Inspired IKEA Rast Hack.

Green Campaign Inspired IKEA Rast Hack

Love the hardware used on this made over piece.

DIY Fuschia Campaign Chest 500 DIY: Campaign Chest

Fellow Phoenician Jenny Komeda created a wonderful Campaign inspired kitchen island.

Very few books have actually been written about Campaign style. You can find a section in the 1971 offering “Colonial Furniture in New Zealand”  by S. Northcote-Bade.


Another highly sought after book is “British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas, 1749-1914” by Nicolas A. Brawer. If you ever see a copy in a used book store pounce on it as it is now out of print and generally sold in the $200 to $300 range. 

Can you see yourself adding a bit of Campaign style to your home?



Rita C. said...

I like your informative posts, Laura.

My husband had a DR and TV room furnished with Henredon's Scene One campaign style furniture when we combined households. After we refinished our floors, I reconfigured several of the pieces for a new look. I like the overall handsome appearance, and the pieces serve me well in storage.

Denise said...

I love your informative posts, Laura; I always learn something new. :) I must admit, most of the campaign style furniture is not "my cup of tea." However, I can imagine it would be quite popular today because it does have a rather streamlined and definitely a chic look about it. It's interesting to think about people being able to transport all types of furniture from one place to the next -- before the days of cars and moving vans.

Thanks for sharing and have a great day!!

Denise at Forest Manor

The Quintessential Magpie said...

I love this style, Laura. My sister used to have an antique campaign chest. I actually have a campaign bathtub that has a lid. It is an antique, too.

Recently, I bought a mirror similar to the one with the leather strap, but mine has a rope strap. And I have a side table that folds. I really didn't think of it as campaign furniture so it was interesting to read that.



Craftymoose Crafts said...

Thanks for a really interesting post. I like the style of furniture--especially the chests!

Vel Criste said...

Found out some info here when I was researching about my first campaign furniture I recently scored! Love it!

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

I love Campaign furniture. I too would love to have that copper cookware. It is fabulous!

Jeanette@Creating A Life said...

Laura, I have to admit I don't think I had heard much about campaign furniture before, although some of the pieces, mainly the chests and desk, are recognizable to me. It's obvious you spent a good deal of time putting this post together! It was full of interesting information and beautiful photos, and I really enjoyed learning something new today!


Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

It looks very nice. We live in a log home, so our style isn't so modern, but I do like it.

Karena Albert said...

It is such a classic look that works with traditional or contemporary!

The Arts by Karena

Bonnie said...

Laura, I enjoyed this post very much and learned several things.

My bedroom furniture is campaign style and I've used it for years and never tired of it. I love the painted pieces shown in several pics. Drexel Heritage used this style for a long time.

Thank you for your historical research. It is true form follows function isn't it?

GSGreatEscaper said...

Love this info - I've read a lot about campaigns and love seeing these diagrams esp. the folding bed! I'll be on the lookout now...thanks so much! (BTW I am rereading the Forsyte Saga right now so this goes well with that....)

Sarah said...

Laura, this is an excellent post. I much enjoyed reading about this style and seeing all the various pieces. I'd love to find some of those copper cooking sets.
We purchased an entire bedroom set when we first married. It was the thing to do in the 70s. It was campaign style. Wish we still had a few of the pieces, but gave it away when we moved to our current home in the 90s. I still admire the style.

DREAMS ON 34th STREET ~ French Bread & Family said...

My hope chest is British campaign style. It has been our coffee table for many years. I never tire of it!

Great post Laura. You are the best at research!