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Classic Update: Campaign Furniture

Clever and elegant campaign furniture, built for the long haul, is here to stay 

Written and produced by Kari Costas

Between weight limits and baggage fees, today’s traveler is hardly prone to overpack, let alone check a bag. But 300 years ago, hauling luggage—and lots of it—was standard practice for the British gentility. As the British Empire expanded in the 18th century, officers sent on military campaigns to the far reaches of the globe commissioned lightweight “knockdown” furniture that could be efficiently packed and assembled without tools.

Ralph Lauren’s new “Sonora Canyon” dining chair in Sunbleached Leather takes a cue from the legendary Roorkhee campaign chair designed in the 19th century and named for a military post in India. Shown with the “San Simeon Stripe” rug in Sunset and “Verona Pink” wall paint (

Canopied beds, wardrobes, card tables, and even bidets were designed by the country’s best cabinetmakers, who devised stylish pieces that resembled their domestic counterparts. Comfort—and appearances—were paramount to this new class of traveler, who toted the finely made accoutrements to India, Africa, and the South Seas, determined to maintain the luxuries of home while living “under canvas.” And while 600 pounds of luggage is a far cry from today’s standards, this on-the-go style isn’t going anywhere.

“19th Century Campaign Iron Canopy Bed” by RH

I love the grand statement of this bed, and the idea that it has its roots in the British military (although I can’t imagine it’s very practical setting this piece up in a field!). I would use it in the center of a bedroom—it’s so sculptural that it demands to be seen from all angles.                       
—Adam Hunter, West Hollywood

“Campaign Side Table” by Williams-Sonoma Home

This piece is stylish but simple, the kind of piece that can grow with someone. I’d love it in a young boy’s room, paired with graphic storybook illustrations.
—Lauren Geremia, Emeryville, California

“Jet Set Desk” by Jonathan Adler

The navy and white colors of this desk/vanity are crisp and elegant, and the brass accents look super chic against the trunk-inspired texture. It’s a timeless piece that could go in any interior. 
—Nicole Fuller, New York

“Grant Mahogany Campaign Desk” by Alexa Hampton for

I love the simplified, angular forms of campaign pieces. This updated version of a campaign desk is bigger and better suited to our everyday needs. It doesn’t overwhelm, so it could mix well with a range of other styles and periods. And that, more than anything else, is what makes it a classic.”  
—Alexa Hampton, New York

 “L1898-01 Leather Chair” by Lee Industries

I love this chair because it feels so lounge-y and laid-back. Campaign-style furniture is wonderful because its materials age beautifully through the years. I would use this chair in a library as a contrast to the more formal upholstered seating, lending an unexpected twist!            
—Frank de Biasi,  New York & West Hollywood