Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Highs & Lows of the Coffee Table

The coffee table has to be one of the most widely used pieces of furniture today. However in Antique furniture terms their a fairly recent item of furnishing only being specifically made and called “Coffee Tables” since the late Victorian period around the 1860's.

An Early French Oak Coffee Table circa 1860, Offered by;

Before that time (around 1650-1700's) occasional tables were used for this purpose and positioned to sit in front of high backed settles or settees. The tables were higher than the coffee tables we know of today as the settles were designed to make the occupant sit more upright and usually a Tea table or similar style of table was used.

George III English Mahogany "tilt top" Tea Table circa 1760, Offered by; 

18th Century English Tea Table in Mahogany, Offered by;

Towards the end of the 18th century the settee and settle with its high sitting style began to be replaced by the sofa designed for comfort and with a much lower back. This in turn led to the beginning of the “Sofa Table” a slightly lower table which stood against the back of the sofa enabling anyone sitting to put down a cup or book and a better level.
A 19th Century English Mahogany Sofa Table, Offered by Debenham Antiques Ltd;

 The first record of a specifically designed coffee table was in 1868 by E.W Goodwin and quickly mass produced throughout Great Britain by a company called Collinson & Lock.
Although history seems to show that the coffee table originated in Britain , its my opinion that a great deal of their influence comes from China, Japan & India. The reason being the nearest early comparison seems to be the low tables used in tea making ceremonies, that in conjunction with the fashion around the 1880's for oriental d├ęcor and Japanese influences in European furniture design.

Chinese Lacquered Tea/Coffee Table circa 1920, Offered by;

Over the last century the rise and popularity of the coffee table has been immense and a vast number of styles has followed. Wonderful antique dining tables have been “ cut down” to fill a niche for the demand of the “antique” coffee table, blanket chests or trunks are often used and on occasion I've even been served coffee on a vintage Louis Vuitton Courier trunk !!

An English Pine Farmhouse Table circa 1880 Cut Down to Coffee Table Height, Offered by; 
A French Art Deco Coffee Table in Walnut, Glass & Chrome circa 1930, Offered by;
A Mid 20th Century Danish Coffee Table by Grete Jalk, Offered by;

 I wanted to show a few pictures of tables that have recently caught my eye, some are fabulous some just imaginative.
A Coffee Table in Pop Art Form, Signed "John Gwinn 1969" Offered By;

A Rare Baker Chinese Yellow & Hand Painted Sakura Blossom Coffee Table USA circa 1950, Offered By;

An Antique Continental Clock Face Mounted onto a Later Metal Base, Offered By;

A Superb Brazilian Coffee Table by Jorge Zalszupin circa 1960, Offered By;

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Campaign Furniture

Campaign furniture has been around since the times of Julius Caesar and was carried by the Roman Army. Later in time it was introduced in the early 18th century to provide high ranking British officers fighting campaigns abroad with some of the home comforts they would miss whilst serving in the field of duty under canvas.

This furniture was good quality and made to endure the rough and rugged travelling involved to reach their destination.
The selection of furniture produced was large and varied and its wide range included chests of drawers, writing desks, beds, chairs, bookcases, card & gaming tables, washstands, commodes and even chests to carry fine wines and liqueur.

A 19th Century English Mahogany Campaign Chest, Available from;
No expense was spared in the making of this furniture and the British military employed such esteemed furniture makers as Thomas Chippendale & George Hepplewhite. The design and construction had to be stylish but at the same time foldaway and transportable with relative ease. In those days it seems the appearances and luxurious lifestyle of the “Top brass” came before the tough rigour of war. They expected the same home comforts and lifestyle whether on campaign in Asia or Africa.
British Campaign Bookcase in Rosewood, made in India circa 1900, Available from;
 The vast majority of campaign furniture of this time made in England was built in mahogany or walnut, both hard woods and able to stand up to the task in hand. As time went on campaign furniture began to be made “en route” and finer exotic woods such as camphor, teak and paddock were used.
English Campaign Table in Mahogany circa 1800, Available from;

 Nearly always the hardware on campaign furniture was brass, the handles were fitted to sit flush with the wood to ensure the piece was symmetrical and didn't have any obstructions when being packed. Brass corners and straps were also fitted  to restrict any damage caused when the furniture was transported.

A Very Rare Mahogany Campaign Card Table circa 1898 by Albert Barker, London, Available from;

A Major General by the name of Lachlan Macquarie wrote both in 1791 & 1806 of the expensive loss of his luggage and equipment after having had to abandon it.
I was for some time in great pain and anxiety about my baggage, having received information on the line of march, from my cook, who came up to me puffing and blowing and terribly frightened, saying, that he was obliged to quit the bullock he led which carried my tent, in order to save his life from a Looty that attacked him, and he saw my head servant Francis run away from another Looty, as he was with and had charge of all my bullocks and baggage I concluded that I had lost everything belonging to me. What distressed me above all was the idea of losing all my paymasters books and papers, which would occasion great perplexity and doubts in the settlement of accts with the regiment,But I was happily relieved from all my fears and anxiety on this score, in the course of an hour by the agreeable appearance of my head servant Francis with part of my baggage. Having only lost one bullock with my tent, my table and some baskets with wine and Liquors and sundry small articles for messing – in all amounting to to about two hundred rupees in value.”
In October 1806 he then penned;
I must therefore still prosecute my original intention of joining the 86th Reg in the field for which I have already made all the necessary arrangements and preparations by equipping myself completely for field service at an enormous expense have already laid out not less than five thousand Rupees on several field equipments.
Major General Lachlan Macquarie
So as you can see it cost a small fortune for each officer to equip himself with the items he considered himself worthy of for a campaign. (Just as a after note, Lachlan Macquarie ended his career as the 5th governor of New South Wales..)
Late 19th century British campaign Tobacco Chest, Available from;
Today antique campaign furniture is popular and sought after, the fold away & compact style suits a home or apartment that is short on space. It is expensive, but alternatively there is also some very good quality reproduction pieces available. 
Personally I adore the style and elegance of campaign furniture with its almost timeless appearance especially antique with the endless history and stories each piece holds.
An British Naval Sea Captains Secretaire circa 1890 in Mahogany, Available from;

A Very Fine English Campaign Dining Table circa 1830, Available from;

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Glory of Antique Painted Pine

When it comes to writing about antique pine furniture I can't help but think of the large numbers of old painted dressers, chests and tables I've bought. The endless hours spent soaked in muddy fields across Europe during Antique shows, and my quest to fulfil my order book and my workshop. I would leave a show at the end of a long couple of days, my truck laden with new stock and drive towards home, feeling like a child on Christmas eve and hardly able to wait to get back to the warehouse to check out exactly what I'd spent my buying money on.
An English Painted Pine Chest of Drawers Circa 1830, Available from;
An English Painted Pine simulated Mahogany Glazed Dresser / Cupboard circa 1860, Available from; 
 Once unloaded I would examine each piece, list the work needed to be done and decide whether that piece should be left painted or stripped back to the bare wood and waxed finished. This would depend on a number of factors such as, if the paint colour was appropriate (people do have some strange colour schemes !!) .
A 19th Century American Painted Blanket Chest from New England, Available from;  
 Occasionally I have been able to painstakingly remove the numerous coats of paint layer by layer to reveal the original Victorian ornate paintwork, this is very time consuming but can sometimes be very worthwhile both aesthetically and financially. Other things I consider is the cleanliness of the piece, obviously the majority of these pieces are a 100 plus years old and maybe a little worn which is fine,  however nobody wants to use a dirty dresser no matter how old. Also now and again some of the most interesting pieces have ended up being used as the tool chest or the storage cupboard in the garage or worse, so sometimes stripping or repainting a piece might be the only option. Other times the colour and the warmth of the worn paint finish is just too perfect to be stripped and a light clean has to be sufficient. I once managed to purchase a superb but very shabby looking Victorian pine drapery counter from a farmer who had been storing animal food in the drawers..It stayed looking shabby and just the drawers were cleaned and waxed.
An English Painted Pine Faux Bamboo Style Chest of Drawers circa 1890, Available form;
An English "Lincolnshire"Stripped Pine Sideboard circa 1870, Available from;
I love the element of surprise when buying antique painted furniture because your never sure quite what's under that last coat of paint, its not for the faint hearted and experience really does come in handy.
Pine furniture was very often made locally either by local carpenters or pieces were built by family members and passed around, cabinetmakers seldom worked with pine as it was seen as an inferior wood, that was also the main reason a great deal was painted.
An English Painted Pine Table circa 1860, Available from;
 The Victorian process for painting pine furniture was after the tradesmen had constructed the piece it would then be completely covered in a thin plaster solution and allowed to dry. This would hide the grain of the wood, then it would be lightly sanded to a smooth finish ready to be painted, with either a simulated grain effect the colour of a more exotic wood normally mahogany or rosewood or the other popular style was a pale colour painted onto the piece then a fine pinstripe was put onto drawers sides and top and occasionally decorated with flowers.
An English 19th Century Painted Pine Chest of Drawers , Available from;
A Blue Nova Scotian Painted Pine Cupboard circa 1850, Available from;

Tables are similarly rescued from workshops and barns as an old pine table makes a great workbench or potting table, these are easier to restore as the tops can usually be scrubbed the legs tightened if required and then wax or painted.
A 18th Century English Polished Pine Farm Table, Available from;
 Old pine is exceptionally forgiving to restore and sometimes the most well used pieces exude the greatest character.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Club Chair

The Club Chair first originated around the 1850's and was produced for the many exclusive gentlemen's clubs that were beginning to open throughout Europe. These chairs were designed with a slightly lower back and wide seat to accommodate the wealthier gentleman (which also in those days usually meant slightly larger). The lower wider arms enabled the men to sit relaxed while they sipped on their drink and smoked cigars.
An English Leather Club Chair circa 1900, Available from;

These chairs were upholstered in usually a black, brown or green leather and were at that time the epitome of masculine style, this to some extent remains the same today. 
A pair of Italian Leather Club Chairs circa 1930, Available from ;
 During the early 20th century the club chair became a more common piece of furniture and began to be used in restaurants and in the home study or library as at that time these 2 rooms in the home were traditionally used by the man of the house or the breadwinner.
A Fine pair of Luxurious French Club Chairs circa 1940, Available from;

As the 1930's and the Art Deco period took hold and the formal look of the masculine club chair began to ease a little, some of the chairs began to become a little softer in their appearance with the use of lighter wood and more colourful or feminine fabrics.
One 0f a Very fine Pair of  Burl Ash French Club Chairs circa 1930, Available from;  

A Pair of French Art Deco Club Chairs circa 1930 with Ebony trim and Floral pattern fabric, Available from;
Today the Club chair is still a favourite in both high end and casual restaurants, as well as in the home setting. A great accent piece for any room and the simple form and comfort of this chair makes it versatile and easy to place in numerous styles of decoration both masculine and feminine.
A Pair of 1950's French Club Chairs, upholstered in Italian Silver Leather by Jacques Adnet, Available from;

Pair of Large Sculptural Italian Club Chairs circa 1950, Available from;
I really just couldn't resist adding this picture...The Abington Velvet Union Jack Chair  circa 2011, Available from;

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thonet Bentwood Furniture

Bentwood furniture has always fascinated me, I like the shapes and curves that can be produced by the few specialist cabinetmakers able to achieve this style with still ensuring the furniture appears to and actually feels inviting and comfortable.
A Pair of Bentwood Chairs circa 1930's, Available from;
The master and probably the founder of this technique was a gentleman by the name of Michael Thonet.
In 1819 at the age of 23 and after serving an apprenticeship as a carpenter this young German/Austrian man started work on his own as a cabinetmaker. He first started trying to build furniture from gluing pieces of bent wooden slats together and after persevering with this for several years finally succeeded in 1836, designing and building a chair known as the “Bopparder Schichtholzstuhl” in German or the “Boppard Layerwood” in English.
A modern version of the "Bopparder Schichtholzstuhl" Chair, Available from ;

Eventually after many attempts to patent his idea with no success  he finally had a breakthrough which was to change the entire future of “Bentwood “ furniture. This was the ability and technique of being able to bend, curve and shape wood by forming it using a very hot steam process.
Once he had mastered this process it enabled him to begin to produce a wide range of chairs in various shapes and styles along with a smaller range of other furniture.
Set of 6 Austrian Bentwood Chairs by Thonet, Signed J.J.Kohn. Available from; 

Rare German/Austrian Thonet Chaise Longue circa 1900's, Available from;
A  German Bentwood Hall Stand circa 1890 by Thonet, Available from;
 During his life Michael Thonet won numerous awards & prizes for his furniture mainly for his chairs. After he died in 1871 his company continued to flourish and by 1930 had sold in excess of 50 million chairs.
There are numerous styles of Thonet chairs and each is recorded as a number rather than giving each style a name, this practice is still current today in the Thonet company.
Michael Thonet (aged 65)
Today Thonet are still producing traditional “Bentwood” chairs and other furniture from their factories in Germany and added tubular metal seating to their range in the 1930's, now keeping up with the modern styles and trends there's some great colours involved too. Their website really is worth checking out at;

2 from a Set of 6 Mid Century Chairs by Thornet, Available from;
A Pair of Bentwood Stands Circa 1906, Designed by J&J Kohn for Thonet, Available from; 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Recycled Lighting

Although its always a little sad to see old factories, institutions and even retailers being either closed down, refurbished or even demolished, the salvaged lighting from these places is always interesting to find.
The wide range of lighting to be found is so varied and most of it can be reused. Once cleaned,restored and rewired you will find it looks great and can always be found a place for use somewhere in the home.
A pair of French Pierced Metal Industrial Lights Circa1950 available from, 
  Vintage lighting especially industrial and medical is nearly always produced in painted metal, and if desired can be stripped of its paint and polished. Vintage medical lighting such large floor lamps and desk lighting always looks superb this way in my opinion.
An Early 20th Century Polished Nickel Factory Lamp, Available from,
A Rare Telescopic Swing Arm Dentist Wall Light, Available from,  

A 1930's Polished Chrome & Aluminium Anglepoised Desk Lamp by Herbert Terry
 One of the worlds oldest manufactures of industrial lighting is a company called Holophane. Founded in 1898 and situated in London, England they produced some of the first electrical lighting for industry worldwide, and soon began manufacturing lighting in the US based in Newark Ohio. This company is still trading and producing lighting to this day.
A Vintage Holophane Billiard style fitting, available from, 
 When it comes to hanging reclaimed lighting there's plenty to chose from, again a great deal are painted metal which I think always look good left or possibly repainted. Unlike table and floor lamps polished metal hanging shades can sometimes make a room look a little 70's, the exception of course is if that's the look you've chosen.
A Set of 4 French Black Enamel Industrial Globe Lights Circa 1940, Available From,  
4 American Green Enamel Industrial Pendant Lights, Available from, 
 Sourcing specific lighting like this can sometimes be hard, but with a few hours searching online auctions or a call to your local Antique or Architectural reclamation dealer you should be able to find what your after. But remember when your looking for any particular antique or vintage piece always start your search with a fairly open mind, you rarely find the exact piece you wanted, normally its better....
A Pair of Industrial Bulb Lights Circa 1950, Available