I have always been a huge fan of sturdy English cottage furniture – the uncomplicated style of dark country oak, well patinated in all its forms.
There is an honesty to these simple, sometimes not so simples pieces, utilitarian, built to last. Yet even in their rough and tumble style, there is always a graceful line, a curve or two that softens each piece, pleasing the eye.
I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I would swear that I would have been hanging around during the late 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries in England, when these pieces were crudely produced by local craftsmen and graced the simplest of dwellings. Thatched roof cottages (as I like to imagine), with each piece serving many purposes, each having a role in a good Jane Austen story, and each taking to a good waxing and a spit-polished patina where still, over the centuries, the lovely grains of oak showed through.
I am specifically enamored of, and have owned many sets of English oak dining chairs from that distant period. Those stiff back dining/entertaining/sit by the fire hard plank seated chairs, often with a crude, beautiful, urn-shaped back splat and those graceful albeit crude oxen-yoked shaped shoulders in an almost Chippendale style form.
The many sets of these chairs, stools, chest of drawers, donkey chests, cupboards, pot racks, servers, and myriad style tables that I have bought for my own home, or those pieces begrudgingly, solely bought for resale in my showroom and/or gracing a design project, have each possessed their own unique personality. Each one sharing its own history, each one so difficult to part with, each remembered so fondly. As the style passed from decade to decade, later pieces introduced soft curves, seating became more body friendly, more luxurious – refined legs, aprons, spool-like stretchers. My favorites however remain those solid, simple, straight leg chairs with their humble straight forward stretchers.
I’m enamored too of the hard to replicate high, almost mirror like polish and patina early oak pieces seem to have taken on, a sheen accomplished over the centuries by waxing over grit and grime of the day from soot, from the fireplace, dusty roads, and paths rarely imitated.
Oh, good old English oak.