Furniture from the Raj

Anglo-Indian colonial furniture from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries was created by Indian craftsmen for their European clientele.  The first British settlers were traders sent by the East India Co.  They administered the Empire until after the “Indian Mutiny” of 1859 when the British government took control.

These merchants and officials came with wives, children, and crates of English bric-a-brac to recreate in their tropical bungalows the Victorian parlors they had left behind.

The furniture they commissioned for their new homes in India was made from native materials, usually Burma teak, Indian rosewood, and the plentiful bamboo.  The tropical climate encouraged modifications – adopting canning in place of upholstery on chairs and sofas, for instance.

The Indian craftsmen made further adaptations by adding native decorative touches; carved Moghul motifs began to appear atop Victorian clothes presses.  And thus, the distinctive “Raj” look came into existence.

A third stylistic element in Indian colonial furniture is – surprisingly – Portuguese.  The Indians refer to this style as “goa” after the Portuguese settlement on the West coast of India.  The sea-faring Portuguese arrived in Goa in the early 16th century and stayed for 400 years.  Their colonial furniture has a Mediterranean flavor.