George III Tri-Top Mahogany Table c.1770 | Antique and Art Exchange

Metamorphic Furniture

The last part of the 18th century was a time of great innovation in virtually all areas. Much like today, many people were building things that would change the way we live. Metamorphic furniture is particularly interesting instance of innovation. Generally the ideas behind the innovations did not endure but the furniture, although rare, did. A metamorphic piece of furniture transforms in unexpected ways. Metamorphic furniture became fashionable in England during the Georgian era, which spans from 1714 to 1830. One particularly famous form of metamorphic furniture is the metamorphic library chair, which is an armchair that can transform into a set to steps. I have also seen tables that transform into steps by folding open and stair cases that function as a chest of drawers. Researching this topic a little, I also came across an especially decadent metamorphic table that bloomed outwards to create four elevated podiums for individual members of a quartet. Metamorphic furniture, also called “mechanical” furniture, highlights the utilitarian sensibilities of English designers during the Georgian era. Furniture was elegantly designed to serve multiple functions to conserve space. There are, for example, many variants of bedside tables that can also, with few adjustments, convert into a commode. Currently, we posses a tilt-top game table that can be used for tea or dining, but can also fold open into a a gambling table complete with leather top, candle-stands and “wells” for coinage. A more basic example of metamorphic furniture is the architect table, which I love. The height and angle of the top of these tables adjust so one can work either standing or seated. We currently have a table like this where the top drawer is fitted for writing and collecting rent. Perhaps my favorite example of metamorphic furniture is found in a Swedish castle where otherwise concealed table and chairs literally emerge from the floor. This was true a fascinating time in furniture design and the genius utility of metamorphic furniture lives on.


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