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Travel furniture from the 19th-century—and modern reproductions of the style—are often called campaign furniture. But the term can cover any furniture designed for use on the go, including many surprising and innovative pieces.
While modern soldiers tend to be limited to their regulation kit and a few personal items, wealthy officers in the years before 1900 could – and did – take along a vast number of home comforts, even including furniture.
Shipped at the officer’s expense, campaign furniture would usually be set up in tents or other makeshift accommodation. So they are often compact, sturdy and cunningly designed.
Other travelers, including missionaries and explorers, also used campaign furniture. In fact, modern camping gear and outdoor furniture are often directly descended from 19th-century innovations.
What pieces are typical of campaign furniture?
Since campaign furniture is for traveling, pieces are compact, collapsible or multipurpose:
Antique campaign furniture
Modern campaign furniture
The British Army was a driving force behind the development and use of campaign furniture. After about 1900, its focus shifted and officers stopped taking so much baggage. As personal travel had also changed, campaign furniture became less important.
Campaign furniture designed in the 20th century was primarily down-market because travel became more popular and diverse. Pieces vary enormously, from steamer trunks to candy-colored 1960’s camping chairs, and don’t encompass any one style or ethos.
Retro and repro: 19th century elegance updated
Reproduction furniture aims to be an exact copy of antique furniture, while retro pieces are simply inspired by particular pieces or the era as a whole. Both will try to capture the elegance and style of the period, often while using modern materials and standards. Prices will vary widely depending on the designer but may be much more affordable and practical than antiques.
Inspired by travel
Contemporary campaign furniture goes far beyond the popular deckchairs and aluminum camping tables. Designed for small-space living or luxurious travel, it may be a practical and portable—or simply a fun—travel-themed addition to a home. Examples include: