I’ve always been fascinated with furniture that expands to become something totally different much like the transformers that appear as cars or trucks then become huge robots. I look at these transformers as I do pieces with secret drawers and compartments – it’s a surprise.
During a recent trip through a couple of auction catalogs, I noted a few examples that I thought I’d share. Interestingly, these auctions were and are in London and are of English antiques, This makes me wonder if woodworkers in the United States back in the day were not as creative as European woodworkers, or just didn’t have the customers for or the time to build these hidden gems. You can, of course, find examples strewn around the country, but the largest number of these pieces seem to come from the Old World.
The first example is not as strong of a transformer than the two pieces coming later. It’s an English Gate-leg table. The leaves flip up and two not-so-hidden swing legs pull out to support the leaves. I like this design because when not in use, the table sits compactly out of the way, yet it is not easily tipped over do to its significant base.
Next up is a smallish two-drawer stand that when looked at, you know there is something about it. You obviously see the added leg fronts. And the drop-leaves let you know that the tabletop grows in size. The question then becomes: What else is in the cards for this stand. This is where it gets interesting. Would you expect that this stand transforms into a writing and dressing table? Check it out.
My last example is magnificent. It does, however, fall short of Roentgen furniture pieces, which are the utmost in secret compartments and transformation. I spent quite a while looking at these photos. I’m amazed at what lifts, slides, turns and flips to open this George III Satinwood, Mahogany and Indian Rosewood-Crossbanded Dressing Table. The auction information states that it is circa 1790 and probably by Sheraton. And the entire piece is listed as only 39″ wide. Oh, make sure you notice the feet. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)
I often get asked if it’s OK to glue up feet and legs. My standard reply, which I might need to rethink, is no because you’ll see the glue lines. If, however, you assemble alternating wood species as shown here, you can make it work – at least Mr. Sheraton did.
If you have examples of furniture that transforms, add a link in the comments section. Let’s see what we can find.
Build Something Great!