In the Right Place at the Right Time.
The term 'occasional furniture' actually dates back to the period between1660 and 1740 when the gentry took advantage of social change and had multi-purpose furniture made to suit different requirements at different times of the day. Extending the dining table, or having miniature beds on wooden wheels called 'truckles' to go under the main bed during the day were nothing new, but having small adaptable furniture that folded down or opened up were new in the Carolean era. Production of these pieces was made possible by improved methods of construction heralded by the introduction of a new craft and a new craftsman - the cabinet maker. His ability to create more finely cut joints, having access to more sophisticated hinges and of course the best long-seasoned quality timbers allowed him to create furniture that could be a serving board one minute to be quickly transformed into a table for gaming, needlework or tea the next. At this time rooms were not set permanently as we have them today or indeed as they have been since the mid-eighteenth century. Circular tables were made to tilt and long rectangular ones had disproportionately small centre sections from which two long flaps or leaves were hinged to be supported when horizontal by a framework rather like a gate, hence gateleg. Once invented these in various forms never went out of fashion and followed the styles of decoration throughout the ensuing periods. Still the most interesting are surely the earliest examples, miraculously surviving over three hundred years of use. Here the art of the wood turner comes into play, for now was the time when more than one person was responsible for making a piece of furniture. At first one can see just a single turned upright as in the table illustrated, but by 1700 the legs, stretchers and most of the gate were formed by the turner. An informal supper is over, let's fold down the table, tuck it away and dance.