Simplicity Is The Ultimate Sophistication

One of our Trustees is a retired furniture restorer who has a deep interest in the furniture designs of Charles Voysey. She writes as follows.

Bookcase & Stationary Cabinet Designed by C F A Voysey

Voysey was not a craftsman in the literal sense but was a true designer. Though primarily an architect it was his belief that no detail of a project was too small to deserve his attention in order that a harmonious whole was the result. He designed everything, from the landscaping of gardens to wallpapers, textiles and even the handles of a kitchen dresser. In the Winsford Cottage Hospital we see many examples of this philosophy.

However, though not a craftsman himself, he had his designs made up by people who undoubtedly were, including Frederick Coote, with whom he worked from 1889 to the end of the 1890s, and F C Nielsen. The first exhibition of furniture designed by Voysey was at the Arts & Crafts Exhibition in 1893.

Sideboard Designed by C F A Voysey

Simplicity with Sophistication

His style combines refined simplicity with sophistication, simple in form without what he considered to be superfluous decoration. Wood has been carefully selected for the quality of the grain, usually oak, unpolished, unstained, and with a soft oiled finish. Often the details of the construction are visible and this emphasises the material being used.

His furniture is meticulously proportioned and of an elegant and sturdy character. Straight lines and lack of embellishment give these pieces a deceptive simplicity. Sparing use of favourite motifs such as pierced hearts and gently curving tops with tapering and capped uprights above chamfered legs contribute to his very individual style.

To know where to stop and what not to do is a long way on the road to being a great decorator by CFA Voysey

There is currently a resurgence of interest in his wallpapers, no doubt because they are easier to reproduce than his furniture designs, but his furniture should never be underrated.

The Studio

The above images and quotation were taken from an article ‘Some recent designs by Mr C F A Voysey’ in The Studio, Vol.7, 1896, 209-218. Copy held at the Winsford Trust Archive.