“‘The Repair Shop’ furniture restorers Jay Blades and Will Kirk repaired the highly-prized DAVENPORT desk of Nick Fiaca, that had been damaged by burglars.”
Robert Brennan - 'Finding Human Dignity' - BBC TV
“Mr. Colombik went for a radical transformation when he painted his ancestral coffee table. He colored the columned base acid-green then added a black-marble top. ‘That piece was meant to pose next to the DAVENPORT, itself sheathed in protective plastic,’ he said.”
Kathryn O’Shea-Evans - The Wall Street Journal
The term “davenport” can refer to two totally unrelated types of furniture:
- a tall narrow desk with a slanted writing surface and drawers at the side (mainly British)
- a large sofa, especially one convertible into a bed (US & Canadian)
The use of the term “davenport” for sofa began around 1900 when the Cambridge, Massachusetts, furniture manufacturer A.H. Davenport Co. created a convertible sofa, also known as a “sleeper sofa”.
For some years the word “davenport” was used as a generic term for any sofa, in the same way, the brand name Kleenex became synonymous with disposable tissues.
The Davenport company was one of the most prominent American furniture manufacturers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The company manufactured custom upscale furniture and partnered with well-known architects such as H.H. Richardson and Stanford White to produce grand interiors.
Davenport Co. produced custom-made furniture pieces for the White House renovation of 1902. After a long decline, the once-legendary company closed for good in 1973.
The second use for the term “davenport” is for a small, British desk with a unique form. Also called a ship’s captain’s desk, it was originally made for a man known only as Captain Davenport, who originally commissioned it from the Gillows of Lancaster company near the end of the 18th century. This type of desk was extremely popular in the 19th century and especially in the Victorian era.
The davenport desk has a slanting top that can be lifted up on hinges. Beneath the desktop is a compartment for writing supplies, as well as drawers and pigeonholes. The desk features drawers and cupboards that open on the side, not the front. It looks a bit like an old-fashioned school desk of the early 20th century, only larger.
Original examples of this desk can be found at auctions, in vintage furniture stores, and online. It is still made as a reproduction and owners find that it adds an interesting element to a study or living room.
PRACTICE OWAD in an English conversation, discuss something like:
“What a strange coincidence that two men named Davenport, in different countries and at different times in history, both gave their names to pieces of furniture.”
THANKS to Sabine for suggesting today’s word.
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