The Campaign Desk: Bringing Back Historic Furniture Style

History of Campaign Furniture

Campaign furniture has a history dating back at least to the time of the Romans. Once there was a tradition of wealthy officers leading battles, there was also a demand for the unique style of furniture suitable for the battlefield. In the field, there is a need for both practicality and portability.

However, the need for sturdy and stylish furniture that was both highly functional and easily moveable probably wouldn’t be considered its own style until the time of Napoleon, making it a relatively modern furniture style. They were made in large quantities for the officers of Napoleon’s campaigns, and later, British officers followed suit.

Design of Campaign Furniture

The campaign desk is the big brother of the field desk. Field desks are generally lighter, and intended to be close to the front lines and easier to move or abandon if necessary. The campaign desk, by contrast, is sturdier, heavier, and made for to withstand consistent work in any condition.

For portability, the campaign desk can either be separated into pieces to be packed away or include folding legs. Often the former type was a take on a pedestal desk, in which the “legs” were drawers, and could be easily removed from the desk top and stacked together. The folding type frequently had a very substantial surface, resting atop a storage area. The legs crisscrossed with folding joints.

Both types featured some way to easily carry the desk, be it inset handles, straps, or a lip on the writing surface suitable for carrying. This was especially important when compared to the field desk since the campaign furniture, while portable, was often quite heavy.

The Campaign Desk Up Until Today

During the British colonial period, campaign furniture saw a massive boon in its popularity. So many officers were commissioning unique and functional furniture that there were custom furniture makers dedicated to just designing campaign furniture.

Civilians saw the uses of portable furniture as well, on safari for example, and so the style became a part of the public consciousness, even up until today.

However, the commissions of campaign furniture began to wane after the British clashed with the Boers for the first time. The Boers traveled lighter than the British, and, as a result, outmaneuvered them in the field of battle. The British army realized changes were needed. As the years passed on the 20th century neared, the increasing use of vehicles reduced the need of campaign furniture further.

Today, many of the original designs of campaign furniture persist. For example, the type of folding chair you might take to a sporting event or a portable fold out poker table may look very different, but the style of these has its roots in the style of campaign furniture.

Black Walnut Writing Desk By Eric Sprenger

Most campaign furniture you’ll see today has some differences from the original type, but the spirit of campaign furniture is that it is commissioned to meet a need and a function. And when it’s made by a Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers craftsman, it retains every bit of the class, beauty, and originality of the original campaign pieces.

Below you’ll see Eric Sprenger’s Black Walnut Writing Desk, made in the campaign style. The legs are hand carved walnut and crisscross as they would in a traditional, folding campaign desk (although this one doesn’t fold). The top of the desk is robust and heavy-duty, made to hold a lot of equipment for any type of work. The case and surface are figured and matched, so there is a consistent flow to the natural details of the wood.

Much like the original style, this desk is made for function as well as its good looks. In addition to ample space in the drawers, the entire writing surface “floats” allowing for hidden wiring throughout, perfect for working on a computer. One of the legs also features a wire chase, so the hidden cords can continue on to an outlet, organized and unfettered, The center has a pullout for a keyboard.

Although the need for high quality, custom-built campaign furniture may be less now than it was in the past, as you can see, our modern take on the style captures the history of this cool style while meeting the needs of modern furniture enthusiasts.


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