MOVEABLE FEASTClassic military furnishings get the luxury treatment at the hands of a New York furnituremaker
BY DAVID COLMAN
Given its utility, mobility, and romantic history, it makes perfect sense that someone would want to update campaign furniture, the easily dismantled chairs, desks, tables, and beds that 18th- and 19th-century British officers took to war to maintain a certain standard of living. ButRichard Wrightman, a New York–based craftsman, has reasons of his own.
He first learned about campaign furniture growing up in California, Germany, and Denmark—his father, an army officer, was a collector. Wrightman’s own military tour of duty didn’t quite go as planned. “I’m too much of an artist,” he says. “I was reading Vogue Paris and trying to keep it a secret. It was my contraband.”
After a foray into fashion, he found a job at a custom architectural metalwork firm in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which led him to develop an appreciation for craft and design. “I asked myself, What do I really love?” he says. “Once I nailed that, everything came together.” In 2002 he designed a simple but elegant campaign chair, handmade with mortise-and-tenon joinery, that held together firmly and disassembled easily. In the nine years since, he has continued to make pieces that attract the attention of architects and designers. His collection of campaign furniture now includes dining chairs, tables, desks, stools, side tables, and consoles.
One could argue that Wrightman has improved on the utilitarian originals, making his new versions sturdier and more comfortable. Instead of using such time-honored materials as rope, caning, and mahogany, he carefully handcrafts each piece from high-quality brass, leather, and oiled oak, teak, and walnut. By streamlining the campaign aesthetic, he has created a collection whose elements work equally well with traditional or contemporary interiors. Most important, he’s turned a historical design footnote into a personal and refreshing example of the best kind of modern luxury.