A CLOSER LOOK - Settle Down, Bottoms up...

April 26, 2022

A CLOSER LOOK - Settle Down, Bottoms up...

                               
Surface texture often expresses and defines the age of old wood, helps to tell its story, and resonates with us today. When we see a piece that attracts our eye, it’s frequently this material quality that tempts us to touch it, and is common to many of the best examples of vernacular furniture, somehow separating the extraordinary from the good.  
 
At RYA, we see the best pieces of vernacular furniture as sculpture, unique pieces fashioned by hand, often to serve specific functional purposes, yet with a unique individuality that sets them apart.
 
This unusual early West Country Tavern Settle is a rare example, with its angled form, suggesting it was set against the wall at one end, (probably the right-side end), with the left side extenidng into the room, presumably angled to face the fireplace. 
 
Unusually created with broad horizontal boards to the back, joined and secured by three chamfered vertical uprights, framing four “chair back” sections which are surmounted by a shallow full-length canopy and flanked at each end by satisfyingly graphic boards, with integral shaped “wings” and generously scooped arms.
The plank seat is comfortably deep, fashioned on both sides from a broad single plank together with a narrower front board, meeting at the central angled joint, where the two wider boards are secured with a large wonderfully worn and patinated inset metal strap and supported on a central square tapered leg.

So, what more can we learn from this uniquely designed tavern seat? Looking closer… you can see that the seat on the left side is paler and more worn than on the right side of the angled joint. Again, looking at the backrest, one sees the wear and golden colour of the timber glowing though the crusty old polish. The aged, log smoke patinated and burnished surface is also more accentuated on the left side and gradually becomes less worn and more uniform as you look right, indicating that the left side was the preferred end to sit, presumably facing the fireplace. 
 
The timeworn faces to the lower parts of the chamfered uprights, exposed edges, and all around the arms, tempt us to run our fingers along them to feel the satisfying smoothness and silky surface of the old elm boards, which juxtapose so pleasingly with the dark build-up of the old dry areas that have seen little wear. This is just the way we like to find things, untouched, authentic, and as they have grown to be. Time and nature lending a tactile surface texture, the magic ingredient.
 
The timeless simplicity of this functional seat somehow emphasises its robust unpretentious nature and yet there is something exciting and noble about the narrative it’s physical form shares with us today. The tangible sense of its history and the lives of those who have settled in it. How many drinks have rested on that little angled shelf at the right-side end? What tales have been told within its historic cosy embrace?


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