A Special Commission: Campaign Furniture Hardware

One thing I love about this very odd job blogging about furniture hardware is the opportunity to expand my knowledge base. I cannot tell you how many times I watched Jewel in the Crown, The English Patient and other films with a strong colonial British showing without knowing the proper term for all that striking military luggage-like furniture.

Despite a history of vast travels throughout the British Empire, the majority of Campaign furniture has settled in England and is available through reputable antique dealers such as Christopher Clarke. Additionally, reproductions also seem to be an English specialty. In the United States, retailers seem to carry only metal frame pieces vaguely inspired by these wooden works of exceptional craftsmanship.

image courtesy of Christopher Clarke

Furniture With History

Campaign furniture’s design caters to the refined taste of high ranking military officers and government officials of late 18th and early 19th century England. These men traveled the world with pomp and privilege. Campaign furniture made the comforts of home portable, with specialized compartments for equipment, maps, uniforms, etc. The pieces were well made, practical and designed to withstand the rough travels over sea and land. Chest-like desks and other pieces would sit atop metal stands to avoid the wet ground when out in the field.

Time To Bring In The Special Forces

Because of fluctuating exchange rates and the expense (and hassle) associated with shipping from abroad, bringing one of these Campaign furniture pieces over from England is not easy. Today, the majority of reproduction pieces are built in England.

In the U.S., however, campaign furniture pieces commissioned by antique dealers and high-end retailers often go to one man esteemed for his unsurpassed craftsmanship, Douglas P. Dimes of famed D.R. Dimes.

This cherry wood table is a recent example of the fine work done by, D.R. Dimes and their ability to create historically accurate reproductions down to the smallest details. One distinguishing detail of Campaign furniture is the intricate hardware, designed to embellish the piece, keeping functionality in mind. The recessed hardware design kept the metalwork from catching.

Campaign furniture’s flush mounted hardware, a unique style that later permeated other applications of colonial furniture, could not be approached as an afterthought. The flush-mounted hardware is intrinsic to actual construction of the table. Therefore, Doug turned to Horton Brasses for specially commissioned brass.

Horton Brasses had the unique ability to make the custom hardware for me and understand what it should actually look like and work.  There are any number of companies that could do the work but Orion and his people have an institutional knowledge that can only come from a multi generational family owned business.  I know what I needed but I am in the furniture business.  To have a vendor that gives me the answers as opposed to asking questions is very important.   The fact that I have a very good relationship with Orion both professionally and to a degree personally makes working with Horton Brasses both valuable and a pleasure.  I wish I had more vendors like them.

–Douglas P. Dimes

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