Sunday, 27 April 2014

Coffee Table Book. A Review of Ercol: Furniture in the Making by Lesley Jackson

Ercol: Furniture in the Making by Lesley Jackson published by Richard Dennis Publications ISBN 978 09553741 97 192pp rrp £25
Looking very at home on my Pebble table, Lesley Jackson's book traces the history of a business started by an immigrant Italian family whose products literally became "part of the furniture" of British society in the years after the Second world War. Lesley Jackson draws on contemporary sources including Lucian Ercolani's own memoir to recount the interesting story of how a combination of clever design, good business sense and paternalistic management style steered Ercol, originally called Furniture Industries Ltd, through difficult times during which other famous names like G Plan disappeared. The fact that the company exists to this day, owned and managed by the same family and still manufacturing a proportion of its furniture in Britain is a testament to the sound principles instilled by the founder. The Ercolani family left Italy in 1898 because of their non-conformist beliefs, membership of the Salvation Army, did not sit well with their Catholic neighbours and it seems like karma that Ercolani's designs for the Windsor range would come to be influenced by another non-conformist group, the Shakers. A visit to the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1923 which had a display of Shaker furniture with its minimalist and functional style left a deep impression and shaped the idealism which inspired not only designs but also the principles by which the Ercol company was run. Success with wartime contracts to supply utility furniture led to the creation of the classic Windsor designs which with their simplicity of form and functionality have retained their popularity for over half a century looking just as good now in a contemporary setting. The book is generously illustrated, modern photos of signature pieces including the love seat and butterfly chair and also fascinating period photography of the shop floor. From the 1920s, Ercolani commissioned professional photographers to document the works and these are brought up to date with a modern sequence of the manufacture of a Quaker dining chair. The illustrations taken for catalogues in the sixties and seventies are a window on the times; did we really have carpets and wallpaper in those colours? A reminder also of how we felt the need to define the territories of that sixties phenomenon the lounge/diner with a room divider. There are also reproductions of the company's identification sheets and lists of dimensions. All a feast for an Ercol enthusiast who wants to identify and date a classic piece, the emphasis is largely on Windsor but Ercol's other ranges are also well covered. I can't imagine a better book on the subject apart perhaps from a limited edition with real elm covers! To buy a copy direct from the publisher's web site follow this LINK

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Most Overpriced Pebble Tables

HERE A set of patriotically painted pebbles to appeal to any Noo Yawk hipster. Asking price $1600! You cannot be serious!


The current craze for upcycling, the euphemism for badly painting any old piece of furniture has a lot to answer for. Today's misguided buy at the boot sale is the nest of three pebble tables pictured above. The seller had found them in a shop just after the vendor had committed an atrocity with a paint brush and some chalk paint. He knocked a tenner off his price without even being asked so I thought I would take a punt. Underneath they are dark finish but with the top of the middle one suffering some joint separation and all three having marks on the tops they are candidates for a complete strip, sand and refinish job. I've always been a bit ambivalent about sets of Ercol pebble tables as the smallest one really isn't much use. Prices have shot up since the design was reissued so I had resisted the temptation to add a set to my collection. (That didn't stop me buying an immaculate single large pebble in Golden Dawn last year as we did need a small coffee table for the garden room.) The paint job may be hiding a multitude of sins but hopefully I will end up with set restored in light finish that are in nice enough to use but not valuable enough to worry about.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Windsor chairs in Korea

Undoubtedly the grooviest coffee shop in the world has some rather ercolesque seating. Picture HERE. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

New Book for all Ercol Windsor enthusiasts

Ercol: Furniture in the making. By Lesley Jackson (Richard Dennis £25) I came across a reference to this in House and Garden, I haven't seen a copy yet but looks like a must read for anyone with an interest in Ercol, old and new.

Ercol Windsor on the telly

I've just noticed that a few pieces of light Ercol Windsor have been been making walk on appearances in some TV ads. Bt's broadband services HERE Ribena's new ad HERE And there's a sausage ad, (can't remember the brand) featuring a plank table. Presumably the characters in the BT ad are no longer poor students if they can afford such a big TV and the latest 6 spindle Windsor chair :-)