Iconic American Design for Your Home: Custom Spool-Turned Furniture
What is spool-turned furniture? Although most frequently associated with antique beds and cribs, furniture of all kinds can feature distinctive lathe-turned columns that resemble stacked sewing spools. This wood turning style has also enjoyed repeated resurgences of popularity in the United States.
As Amy Azzarito of Design*Sponge writes in “Past & Present: Spool Beds and Bedding Roundup,” spool turning was popular in colonial times and “became emblematic of colonial style.” It made a comeback in the mid 19th century, due in part to the development of the stream-driven lathe.
Perhaps the most popular articles of spool-turned furniture are the so-called “Jenny Lind” style beds and cribs. When the singer Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale,” toured America from 1850 to 1852 (coinciding with the returning popularity of spool turning), she inspired a craze of “Jenny Lind” items. A craze fanned in no small part by P.T. Barnum. Sources both popular and scholarly include among those items “Jenny Lind” beds, imitations of the spool-turned bed on which she supposedly slept, which were sold with that famous name. However, in an intriguing investigation, “I am the Errol Morris of Jenny Lind Cribs,” Greg Allen of the blog Daddy Types finds no evidence to support the claim that any style of beds or cribs was referred to as “Jenny Lind” prior to 1925. The marketing association of Lind with spool-turned pieces, for whatever reason, most likely started in the 1920s and 30s, a time of renewed interest in American antiques, concludes Allen.
The fascination with spool-turned furniture has even reached our era. As Lisa Frederick of Houzz notes in “Celebrating a Classic: Spool-Turned Furniture,” designers are incorporating this technique in furniture in styles ranging from contemporary to cottage.
With CustomMade, you can explore the possibilities of spool turning without antiquing or searching furniture retailers for a pre-made piece. What appeals to you about this look? Does it evoke memories of a “Jenny Lind” bed you may have slept in as a child (whether or not anyone did so prior to 1925)? Can you envision the sinuous contours as complements to your décor or as flourishes to furniture legs and posts that might otherwise go unnoticed? Take your inspiration to our CustomMade “Get it Made” project board and let artisans interested in your ideas contact you. You’ll be making your own unique custom furniture contribution to an iconic American design.