Sir Robert Lorimer, architect of the Thistle Chapel and the National War Memorial in Edinburgh, was a leading designer of Scottish vernacular furniture. In 1916 William S. Miller, a prominent Glasgow shipping magnate, acquired the Balmanno Estate, Bridge of Earn, by Perth and commissioned Lorimer to remodel the castle, a 16th Century moated tower with some later accretions, and to create a series of walled gardens as well as furnishing the place from top to bottom. Balmanno is of particular significance, for Lorimer was at the height of his considerable powers at the time of the project and the castle was his favourite commission; he noted that of the houses he had built (or restored) it was the one he would rather live in.
Lorimer built up a close relationship with the craftsmen of the fashionable Edinburgh cabinet-makers, Whytock & Reid, often sketching out his ideas on the back of an envelope and leaving them considerable leeway in the interpretation of his design. Thus furniture designed by Lorimer has a distinctive restraint, charm and practicality that his imagination breathed into life and these elusive qualities set it apart. He believed that wood 'should tell its own tale'.
The Balmanno furniture was conceived in the same year that Lorimer acquired Gibliston from distant Campbell cousins, on the other side of Arncroach to Kellie. Thus there are many parallels between the furniture made for Balmanno and Lorimer's own home - and a closely related centre table with moulded top, as well as a smaller pair of side tables with platform stretchers, were in Lorimer's own collection at Gibliston, Scotland and remain with his descendants.
The singular quality of Lorimer furniture is achieved by the synthesis of the finest timber and tradition of craftsmanship endowed with the spirit of the architect. Lorimer's design for this table is recorded in the lower tracing of the furniture designs for Balmano, and as much of Lorimer's furniture was made by William Simpson and the carver John Murray of the celebrated Edinburgh furniture makers Whytock and Reid, it is entirely probable that they were responsible for this table.
Designed in the Tuscan manner, this table has always been considered to post-date the Great War, when Lorimer went to Italy as architect to the Imperial War Graves Commission. However, intriguingly an apparently identical table appears in 1903 in the Hall designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens - with whom Lorimer was friends - for Deanery Garden, Surrey, which was built by the founder of Country Life Edward Hudson. Moreover, another table on the same Balmanno design sheet was exhibited by 1913, so the Tuscan designs may well pre-date Lorimer's trip to Italy.