Campaign Furniture

From Julius Caeser’s time to the British Empire, military personnel brought furnishings especially made for them to battle.  These custom furnishings are referred to as campaign.  A campaign being a series of military operations intended to achieve a particular objective. The furniture brought on a campaign needed to be portable, compact, and sometimes serve multiple functions.   The furnishings consisted of folding tables, chairs and bed bases, desk boxes on stands and drawer boxes that could be stacked to create dressers.  Case pieces are easily identifiable for their distinctive hardware and modularity.   Brass corner hardware and strap work provided protection during handling and harsh traveling conditions.  Throughout the years we have adapted elements of the campaign style for use in our homes and offices.


Desks were fashioned of fine wooden boxes in a variety of woods with one side hinged to be used as a writing surface.  The wooden boxes sat atop X-shaped wood bases that folded or removable legs that unscrewed.  Depending on your rank some furniture could be highly carved and ornamented.

Authentic Models Campaign Cabinet Desk is a great example showing interior cubbies and drawers.
The Morning Campaign desk from Theodore Alexander.  Love the finish and the feminine touch given this piece.

Another popular campaign piece is the x base folding table.  The flat surface or tray tables are very versatile and work in any room.  Use as a server in the dining room, a bedside table, in the bath to hold toiletries, or in the living room as end tables.  Always handy to have an extra one,  just fold up and tuck away in a closet until needed.

TA 1800 Tray.jpeg
Theo. Alexander 1800 Mahogany Tray Table – brass stretchers, bead molding and corners with removable tray
Tray table in a dining room for serving.  Colefax & Fowler

Officers used folding washstands for grooming.  When I needed storage for a small powder room I bought this three tier folding stand based on a campaign design.  French Heritage offers the stand in a variety of shapes and finishes like the black square one below.



Christopher Clark Antiques carries an amazing selection of campaign furnishings including this day bed.   Sofa beds and futons are based on this type of bed.  This piece sold to a collector.


Photo showing the bed above folded for travel.

Folding chairs and stool designs are still popular today.  This leather Paragon Chair is better known today as the Butterfly Chair.


The ubiquitous x base chair updated for today’s interiors with added comfort,  luxurious fabrics and a variety of finishes.

Authentic Models Campaign Folding Chair
The metal Martel by Gabby Home is based on Napoleon’s campaign chair.

Benches with x bases could be used as tables or seating during a campaign.  They provide versatile seating options in any room and are excellent for guest rooms as a luggage stand.  The choice of fabrics and finishes are endless.   If you’re hesitant about committing to color or pattern in a large format like a sofa, think about doing it on a bench.  Their small scale can pack a decorative punch.  The Adler bench is sleek and luxe and the tufted blue is soft and bedroom worthy.

Jonathan Adler Rider Bench
Fully upholstered x base bench from OKL
A metal and leather beauty from Caracole
Upholstered seat in a Greek key motif with  wood base.  C Maddox

Campaign chests are similar to Japanese tansu chests in that they both have corner hardware and are meant to be mobile.  The difference being  tansu chests are very decorative and were made for personal use in the home.

vCannery Row Home vintage OKL mf_vendor_UTU_4584868_1474140512677_852430.jpeg
Cannery Row Tansu chest
Antique Victorian secrétaire. Note the brass corners and recessed hardware.
Bungalow 5 side table, a modern interpretation of a campaign chest in white lacquer
Kimber .jpeg
Chests today are being presented in lacquer finishes to give them a modern look.  Kimber  chest from One Kings Lane

A filing chest of drawers in acacia wood by Theodore Alexander is a fine example of campaign style.  A very handsome look for the home office or adapt for bedroom storage.


One of the most famous pieces of British campaign furniture is the Wellington Chest  named after the 1st Duke of Wellington, General and Prime Minister Arthur Wellesley.  History credits him as the “conquerer” of Napoleon.  Here is an example of a late Victorian solid mahogany chest from the workshop of “Jas. Shoolbred & Co.”   A side flap folds over the drawers and locks.  The brass corner hardware is not evident in this piece and appears in excellent condition so not sure if this was actually used.


The photo at the top of the post and the one below show the interior of Napoleon’s tent.  Campaign style doesn’t get any more sumptuous than Napoleons.  I can’t get over the woven, leopard rug, it is fabulous.