Brown furniture is out, so they say, but I disagree. While the heavy and imposing presence of mahogany – once that most desired of woods – may have fallen away in popularity, plenty of pieces crafted by the hands of the most consummate designers down the ages still attract a keen following.
For me, the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th century provided one of the most creative and enduring periods, giving us William Morris, Charles Rennie Macintosh, Ernest Gimson and Gordon Russell, among others.
The art critic Nikolaus Pevsner described Gimson as “the greatest of the English architect-designers”, a worthy title, but one earned not without competition from the other greats. Macintosh, of course, was Scottish.
Russell, who lived until 1982, put down his saw and plane at the end of the 1920s to manage what became a furniture factory, putting out beautiful cabinets, tables, chairs and other pieces that are treasured to this day. But it is his own hand-crafted pieces that are most sought after.
Just east of Petersfield, you can still visit the active workshop of the late Edward Barnsley, though you will need deep pockets to commission something special.
To the north of England, the modest but no less accomplished hands of Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson added his signature carved mouse to every piece from 1919, creating not just an avid fan base inspired by the honest solidity and supreme craftsmanship of his oak cupboards, bread boards and chairs, and by the captivating rippled surfaces of his chests of drawers and tables, a feature created using an adze to catch the light in the most enchanting way.
Look them all up on the internet and then tell me brown furniture has had its day. Alternatively, bring your examples to me on one of our valuation days.