Irish Country Furniture, 1700-1950

Claudia Kinmonth

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This book—the first study of vernacular furniture in Ireland—investigates the origins and distribution of the common furniture of the Irish people. A fascinating exploration of a material culture that is fast disappearing, the book makes a significant contribution not only to the history of furniture but also to Ireland's cultural history.

Claudia Kinmonth deals with each type of furniture individually, describing how chairs, settles, dressers, presses, beds, and cradles evolved and varied regionally according to local needs. She explains how factors such as the type of housing, shortage of timber, and varying specialisms of woodworkers combined to influence the design of furniture. Kinmonth notes that the many built-in and dual-purpose designs reveal both the resourcefulness and ingenuity of their makers and their way of life. In addition, furniture made of straw, wicker, driftwood, and even turf is evidence of a scarcity of materials that resulted in imaginative recycling. Kinmonth discusses the transition from traditional grained paintwork to the use of boldly contrasting two-tone gloss. She looks at the hearth and at small furnishings made by wood turners, coopers, tinsmiths, and basketmakers. The book concludes with a glossary of terms and a gazetteer that lists the museums that display this type of furniture.

The book is lavishly illustrated with Kinmonth's own photographs and line drawings, as well as with paintings, most of which have never been published before. Many of the pieces of furniture are photographed exactly as Kinmonth found them in the private homes for which they were originally built, and they provide a unique insight into traditional rural interiors.

Claudia Kinmonth is a freelance furniture historian and lecturer, specializing in the influence of materials and techniques on design.

"Kinmonth's champion study of Irish vernacular furniture is strong on social history and literary allusion, over and above its engagement with craftsmanship and aesthetics. . . . A pioneering book, . . . full of riveting detail."—Patricia Craig, Times Literary Supplement

"Beautiful . . . a deluxe effort . . . This is a work of art which will last forever."—Pat O'Leary, syndicated in Westford People, New Ross Standard, and Enniscorthy Guardian

"A well-informed and enthusiastic account of Irish country furniture. . . . A surprisingly rich and stimulating study."—Irish Independent

"This long-awaited, much-needed book . . . [is] a major achievement and a landmark in both international and Irish material culture history. . . . Claudia Kinmonth has [produced] . . . a pioneering study, the first full-length account of vernacular . . . furniture in Ireland. . . . This barely heeded legacy . . . has found a champion just in time."—Nicola Gordon Bowe, Crafts

"A fascinating exploration of a material culture that is fast disappearing, the book makes a significant contribution, not only to the history of furniture, but also to Ireland's cultural history."—Antique Dealer & Collectors' Guide

"Not only an informative history and gazetteer of a subject we all know about, and may not adequately appreciate, but thanks to the energy of the author, it does convey a very vivid sense of how life was lived in rural Ireland."—Milo Drummond, Irish Sunday Independent

"Lovingly described and illustrated. . . . However delightful a book for browsing (and useful for the collector and restorer), this is a serious study of surely considerable value to the student of our social and cultural history."—Books Ireland

"An absolute gem of a book."—Aidan O'Sullivan, Archaeology Ireland

"This splendid book explores a wholly different furniture landscape, that of the rural population. . . . [It] bristles with sharp insights into the social history of furniture."—Christopher Gilbert, Country Life

"Claudia Kinmonth has combined meticulous fieldwork with an impressive range of other evidence to provide a survey . . . that is exhaustive without being exhausting. . . . I cannot recommend this splendid book too highly."—Anthony Wells-Cole, Furniture History Society Newsletter

"An excellent addition to the country furniture dealer's library. . . . It is a well illustrated, well written history of what is perhaps one of the more neglected areas of furniture's past."—Stephanie Judson, Antiques Bulletin

"Kinmonth is a skilled cabinet-maker and it is her hands-on experience which permeates the whole publication. . . . Little or nothing escapes her eye. This survey is much more that an analysis of furniture, it is a social history from 'beyond the pale' and the result of many years field-work."—James Ayres, Tool and Trades History Society

"Claudia Kinmonth has done a splendid piece of research. . . . The furniture . . . in her evocative and nostalgic book . . . is a revelation."—Richard Edmonds, Burton Mail

"[Kinmonth's] is a sympathetic and deeply committed account of a fast-disappearing victim of contemporary Irish culture to which she does full and fitting justice."—Nicola Gordon Bowe, Journal of Design History

"Lucid and illuminating. . . . This book is so much more than just another lot of snaps of lumpy peasant furniture; it is a social history of the country people of Ireland."—Donal Channer, Irish Studies Review

"This is a welcome addition to the small collection of works on Irish material folk culture. It is beautifully illustrated and will be of interest not just to folklorists but also to anyone who has an interest in history or antiques."—Timothy P. O'Neill, Irish Arts Review

"Even a quick flick through its pages opens a door on a world almost gone, where simplicity and practicality did not preclude an aesthetic sense."—Irish Post

"The welcome result of several years devoted to the study of this hitherto somewhat disregarded area of Irish folk tradition. . . . This is a book both for the general reader and serious student and above all it is an enjoyable read by an enthusiastic and sympathetic author."—Fionnuala Carragher, Folklife

"This book is as inventively and resourcefully structured as its subject. It has been researched, constructed, and illustrated with the knowledgeable purposefulness only its author could have achieved. . . . Kinmonth's book makes an essential contribution to Irish cultural history, offering an exemplary standard of scholarship and production for all future studies in vernacular design."—Nicole Gordon Bowe, Studies in the Decorative Arts

"This is a work of great vitality and attractiveness. . . . This work is to be warmly welcomed and highly recommended to the members of this Society, many of whom will find it to be of absorbing interest. . . . It will introduce many readers to a contemporary folklore and ethnology perspective that I feel sure they will enjoy, recognizing the creativity that informs the lifestyle and the vernacular culture of ordinary people as it does that of the various other orders of society."—Gearóid Ó Crualaoich, Cork Historical and Archaeological Society

"This book is of significance for vernacular architecture, as well as furniture itself. . . . With its mass of photographs, the book is a delight to read or browse, providing a guided tour to the Irish interior from the meanest of cottages furnished only with turf or basketwork, to the respectable inn or middle-class parlour with its corner cupboard or drop-front bureau adding a touch of gentility."—N.W. Alcock, Vernacular Architecture

ISBN: 9780300063967
Publication Date: July 26, 1995
259 pages, 9 1/2 x 11
220 b/w + 100 color illus.