How do you camp? Do you go all out with a luxury bell tent, candle chandelier, sheepskins, lanterns and fire bowl? Or do a couple of blankets and sleeping bag suffice?
Under canvas a British gentleman abroad in the 18th and 19th centuries would have expected a few essential pieces. A full wardrobe, carpet, cupboard, desk, chest of drawers, dining table, armchairs and a sideboard or two. In fact, they attempted a campaign carbon copy of the creature comforts they enjoyed back in Blighty, in their club, elegant townhouse or country estate.
William Howard Russell of The Times noted in his diary in 1858 that “Sir Colin Campbell's baggage extended for eighteen miles". Mobility during military campaigns was seemingly not a priority.
But comfort was, and it kickstarted a new fashion for moveable pieces that created a luxurious home from home: multifunctional furniture that recreated club aesthetics in a canvas camp. Social standing represented by elaborate vanity units and settee benches.
The rise and expansion of the British Empire during the 19th and 20th centuries was a veritable camel train of fashionable military furniture.
With the challenges of the function, came innovation in the design. Clever features included brass edges to protect vulnerable corners, recessed handles to give the furniture a neat, almost nautical appearance; removable turned feet; hidden hinges and bolts in the backs of seat arms; corner straps and an ability to break into two or more components. Some pieces sported multiple hinges so components could be flat packed, concertina style. It was origami, European style.
As the demand increased, new, inventive, knocked down designs were created: tables that hinged to fold down into a box the size of a briefcase, chess boards containing tripod legs and a telescopic column to convert into a table. The sleek need for speed became the mother of invention.
Storage was also key. Each piece needed to serve two purposes: a travelling bookcase would moonlight as a packing trunk, a campaign chest acted as chest of drawers and portable storage. Although not light on their feet, the British army were going to have their cake and carry it too.
As pioneers of luxury camping in the 21st century, our desire to create sophisticated canvas camps that turned a wild setting into first class surroundings, was matched by the need to efficiently deliver these beautiful camp sites to festivals, weddings, parties and events across the UK and Europe. Think of it as more of a comfort campaign.
We faced the same challenges as our forefathers, but with the added need for speed, style and quantity (and the distinct lack of Sherpas). Although some modern transport has changed, much hasn’t. We use the same materials: canvas, wicker and wood that can be re-worked, stitched and mended. We avoid metal and plastic that dents, chips, warps and perishes.
We created practical, portable solutions that offered our guests an elegant space with beautiful designs that could be transported with ease and without damaging the furniture, or canvas structures, with each journey. Our bespoke pieces fold, concertina, flip open and hang. Wicker baskets double up as seats and bed bases have elaborately cut out storage sections.
Each bespoke design fits perfectly into storage elements integral to the structure. Dressing tables that can hang from the yurt framework, tables that pull apart and lie flat, shortened and foldable chairs. These were all created with comfort and mobility in mind.
Our luxury suites, a masterclass in concertina and foldable design themselves, needed a clever way of transporting the accessories, mirrors and drink making facilities. The result, a mad hatter tea party puzzle built into the bed bases.
Challenge really is the mother of invention. And like Colonel Tomkinson said, ‘It does not follow, that because we attempt the best in every situation that we cannot face the worst.’ We bring out the best in every situation or even campsite, so that even if your favourite act doesn’t show or the rain does, you are perfectly prepared.