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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Apart from being a novelist, poet, and textile designer, William Morris was also a furniture designer. Most people might not know this, but Morris is an influential figure in the furniture world of 19th century England.

Although he studied architecture in school and is more famous for his interior designs and fabrics, Morris furniture works are equally remarkable and have inspired numerous furniture makers over the years. Unfortunately, it was in the late 20th century, well after his death, that a lot of people started to appreciate the genius of Morris' furniture designs.

William Morris started dabbling in making furniture with the formation of Morris, Marchall, Faulkner & Company. The company, which later became Morris & Co., was created some years after he moved into the Red House with his family. The experience of making furniture for the Neo-Gothic and medieval-inspired Red House may have spurred his desire to produce furniture commercially. William Morris collaboration with his lifelong friend Philip Webb played a crucial role in his success at making furniture. The duo worked on a vast majority of the furniture works produced by Morris in his lifetime.

Inspiration for William Morris' Furniture

William Morris' furniture works were heavily inspired by nature and his political leanings. He believed in socialism and sought to create affordable, long-lasting, hand-crafted furniture that everyone could enjoy. He drew ideas from medieval, rustic styles and pioneering artisans like William Bruges for his furniture works. William Morris furniture designs are known for their striking forms as well as their captivating simplicity. Morris insisted on being personally involved in the creation of all his works rather than leaving them in the hands of the artisans in his workshop.

In his early years, Morris tapped into the ideas of John Ruskin, and the principles of this Victorian-era art critic reflected in his work many years later. Although he was not against machinery, Morris focused on crafting high-quality furniture pieces by hand. At the time, elaborate machine-made furniture pieces were trending in England. Therefore, his furniture pieces were unique and highly prized. Morris used various natural materials for his furniture. This includes wood from the teak tree, oak tree, acacia tree, rattan palm, and the rush plant, to name a few. His furniture pieces were mostly made from natural materials and his straightforward style allowed these materials to take the spotlight.

William Morris Furniture Designs

William Morris made different types of eccentric furniture designs, including tables, armchairs, sofas, bedroom furniture, dining tables and chairs, and much more. The William Morris furniture collection even includes a double children's chair. Some of the furniture works by Morris come with textile covers that feature his trademark designs with nature-inspired themes. Below are some of the most popular William Morris furniture works:

Morris Chair: One of the most popular William Morris furniture designs is the Morris chair. This was one of the first reclining chairs to be made. It was based on a prototype by Ephraim Colman. The Morris chair featured a padded or flat armrest. Some versions of the chair came with notches at the base, so it is possible to adjust how much it slants.

The Limber Morris Chair, which was made by Charles Limbert, is based on the design of Morris' design. This is a sofa-like chair with flat wooden arms. Most versions of this chair come with leather cushion. However, there are some with colourful Morris-inspired cushion covers. Just like its predecessor, the Limbert Morris chair reclines a bit and is adjustable. The Limbert Morris chair stood out for its unique style and aesthetic appeal. Some versions of this chair came with square and rectangular cutouts at their base. There are many variations of this furniture, including a Rocking Limbert Morris chair.

Morris Rush Chair: Another popular William Morris furniture design is the rush-bottomed Sussex chair. Morris didn't invent this design but made some notable improvements to it. Morris-inspired rush seat continues to be recreated by furniture makers today.

Legacy of William Morris Furniture

While William Morris furniture did not earn the affordable and anti-elitist status that he envisioned, they have always appealed to a niche market. Morris' furniture works have directly and indirectly inspired countless designers over the years, including C. R. Ashbee, Charles Limbert, Frieda Gormley, Javvy Royle, and many others.

Earlier this year, California-based Selamat Designs partnered with Morris & Co. to create furniture and accessories inspired by William Morris' work. House of Hackney and Stickley Furniture also have a range of colourful furniture inspired by Morris' work. William Morris believed that artisans must find joy in their work to be able to make beautiful, timeless creations. His idea that artisans must discover and create an outlet for expression through their work has been embraced by countless artists in different fields.