Rugged Individuals: Campaign Safari Chairs

Rugged Individuals: Campaign Safari Chairs

Catrin Morris
Jul 28, 2011

When we think of easily assembled (well, sort of) flat-packed furniture we think of IKEA. But collapsible and foldable furniture has been around since the Napoleonic Wars and gained popularity during the Victorian era. Such pieces are known as "campaign" or "knockdown" furniture for their use in military campaigns (not political ones) by aristocratic officers unwilling to sacrifice the comforts of home when abroad.

Campaign chairs made of lightweight teak and cane were refined but could be easily collapsed and unscrewed for travel. Over time, according to antiques expert Judith Miller, regular folks, seafarers and families emigrating to the New World started using the furniture as well; the campaign chair was perfect for an itinerant lifestyle.

Particularly popular in the British army during World Wars I and II was the Roorkhee, named for the military headquarters at Roorkhee, India. Lightweight and rugged in uneven terrain, the chair was designed to be both comfortable to sit in and easily carried. According to Forbes, the Roorkhee inspired a number of other famous designs, including Le Corbusier's Basculant Chair and Kaare Klint's Safari Chair as well as the Hollywood director's chair. Images 2, 6, 7 & 8 are examples of Roorkhee-esque chairs.

FIRST ROW
1. Martin Safari Chair in Leather. Lewis Drake British Campaign Furniture, $695. Durable buffalo hide leather seat with reinforced corners quickly slips over the frame. Weighs only 13 pounds and folds up compact.
2. 1950s Swiss version of the chair style popularized by Kaare Klint. Named in honor of the Indian Army Corps of Engineers stationed at Roorkhee, India. The designer is unknown but has been attributed to Hans Bellman of Knoll fame or Swiss designer and former Bauhaus student, Wilhelm Kienzle. Vintage and Modern, $600.
3. French 1970's black leather folding campaign chair by Maison Jansen, $1,800. 1st Dibs.
4. 3-legged hunting stool. Lewis Drake British Campaign Furniture. $275. Solid rosewood with a pliable soft leather seat.
5. New Safari Camp Chair at Ralph Lauren, $4,485.

SECOND ROW
6. Mid-century modern Danish leather chair. Hunt for Antiques. $800 Eu. 1850s Danish leather campaign / safari chair in wood and camel leather. Movable back, belt like straps, extremely comfortable.
7. A pair of vintage 1950s Swiss Design Safari / Colonial Chairs. Vintage and Modern, $550.
8. Richard Wrightman. The Long Island City, NY-based furniture designer's handcrafted furniture is made to order.

Images: As linked above.

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