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A Design Classic: All You Need to Know About Ercol Furniture

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Luciano Randolfo Ercolani, Ercol’s founder was born in 1888 in a little country town in Italy. He moved to the East End of London with his parents some years later with the assistance of the Salvation Army. Whilst he was not a natural when it came to learning English he left school early to become a messenger boy whilst continuing to play in the Salvation Army Brass Band.

He would later apply to the Shoreditch Technical Institute to join a Furniture Design Course. He took drawing and design classes and then entered the City and Guilds exams in theory and construction of furniture.  Harry Parker from Frederick Parker furniture (later known as Parker-Knoll) offered Lucian the chance to work with them and this was the start of Lucien’s working life in High Wycombe. Lucien also became life long friends with Ted Gommes whose family were to become founders of G-plan in the 1950s. He worked with them until he set up his own company in 1920.

Lucien established his own furniture factory with the financial help of some local businessmen. It was first called Furniture Industries but is today known as Ercol. In 1932 a local chair making business known as Skulls fell in to financial difficulties and Lucien Ercolani took this over and it enabled him to expand his business. Even today, Ercol’s chairmaking section is known as Skulls.

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During the war the Ercol factory worked for the government making 25,000 tent pegs per day as well as munition boxes and other supplies. Both of Lucien’s sons Lucien B and Barry were prominent members of the RAF and Lucien B was shot down when returning from a raid in the English Channel. He managed to survive and was decorated for his service to the war.

In 1944 Lucien Ercolini accepted an offer from the Board of Trade to produce 100,000 low cost chairs. It took him 12 months to design and build machines to produce chairs quickly at a very low cost – their cost was 10s 6d for each chair. Lucien Ercolano realised that he could be a major part of post-war manufacturing. A month after the war ended the Britain Can Make it Festival was announced to be held at the V & A in London. He saw this as a wonderful opportunity to launch Ercols brand new range ‘The Windsor Collection’ which is something that we all associate with Ercol furniture today. Other designs would evolve later and many of them we still know and love today – such as the Loveseat (designed in 1956) and the Studio Couch. The stacking chair is also easily recognisable – these were produced in the thousands in the 1950s and 60’s and are still part of the Ercol Originals collection.

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After being one of the founding members of the Furniture Makers Guild in 1951, Lucian R Ercolani was made Master of the Guild in 1957 which became a city livery guild in 1963. He was followed in this position by his two sons and his grandson over the next 4 decades. His granddaughter, Vicky, is also a liveryman of the company.

In June 1964 Lucian R Ercolani was awarded an OBE for services to UK design and manufacturing. After 82 years in the old factory in High Wycombe, Ercol moved into a purpose built 16,000 square metre factory on the outskirts of Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire. Designed by Horden Cherry Lee the building has won a number of awards for its architectural design and its environmental features.

Check out our Vintage Ercol selection on Vinterior

 

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How Being On-Trend Might Just Be Out of Vogue?

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credit: Felix Matthies

Let’s assume you’ve read some interior design tips a couple of years ago, and figured out that an open floor concept is all the rage, so you’ve torn down the wall dividing your kitchen and living room. And when there, you’ve installed brand new trendy copper pendant light fixtures and displayed some cool quote artwork. Newsflash: everything indicates that open floor plans are outdated, quote artwork a cliché and copper so yesterday. What are you going to do, build that wall all over again? No, you will stick with what you love. If what you love is vintage design, then this is your lucky year. In fact, every year is your lucky year, since no fad can come even close to this timeless style.

Trends Are Subjective

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Image source: Dwell

Although interior design trends often emerge as a result of current happenings on a global level (e.g. organic furniture – global tendency towards eco-friendly production), they are sometimes the result of someone somewhere saying that one thing is “in” and the other “out”, with all due respect to professional designers and other industry experts. They might have their reasons for putting some fabric on the pedestal while banishing another, but they have never been in your house and thus do not know how something looks like in that space.

Timeless Is Better than Timely

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Photography: Erica Gannet, via Design Sponge

Some trends are simply not here to stay, and if you redecorate your entire home to be in accordance with them, you will waste a lot of money and time on something that will bore you and the rest of the world the following year. And then, there are others that resist the years, decades and centuries, continuing to fascinate us and finding new ways to compete with all the fads. Vintage, is of course, one of them. This design style is all about embracing diversity and history, collecting things such as antiques and flea market finds. It can be interpreted differently by different persons.

Your Home Is Your Reflection

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Photography & Styling by Sarah Sherman Samuel

It’s not only that designers are subjective, you are too, the only difference being that it is your home we’re talking about. Your home should reflect your personality, and it is a rather consistent thing that doesn’t change every season. Blindly following trends will only make you lose yourself in the process. If your home is really dated, try to refresh it while keeping some things that say who you are.

Still, Trendy Shouldn’t Be a Boogieman

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Image source: Dwell

Trends are not always bad, and most of the time, professionals from the industry really know what they’re talking about. You shouldn’t reject something only because it’s a trend, especially if it makes sense in a space. For example, blurred lines between the indoor and outdoor space are one of the hottest trends at this moment, but outdoor style furniture offers functionality and aesthetics within a home and glorifies nature as a timeless inspiration.

A Subtle Way to Keep Up with New Tendencies

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Image source: The Glitter Guide

If you have chosen a timeless interior design for your home, it has probably been aging gracefully, requiring no refreshments whatsoever. Still, any design style, no matter how perfect it may be, would benefit from occasional updates, just to shake things up a bit. When you want to add trendy pieces to your home, stick to the more affordable items, such as throws, cushions, vases, and other accessories. The best thing about vintage style is that it embraces travel as a main motif, so it accepts a lot of different items and builds an eclectic, yet harmonious space with them.

Investing in furnishing and overall design is no small undertaking. It is, therefore, wiser to dress up your home in evergreen pieces, because trends will come and go, and style will stay forever. Old doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, aren’t we looking at old Hollywood beauty with nostalgia today and always hoping for beautiful past days to return?

 

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5 Tips on How to Spot an Original Ercol Chair

It’s not everyday that you get to sit in a design classic – and that’s always the case when you’re relaxing in an Ercol chair. Whether it’s the iconic Ercol stacking chairs, the model 203 sofa and armchairs from the Windsor range or the high stick-back Ercol dining chairs, you’ll know that you’re in good hands. The […]

Meet the Designer: Zoe Murphy of Stealth Design

When it comes to the design process, interior designer Zoe Murphy believes that a collaborative relationship with her clients is key in achieving authentic designs. As the proud founder of London-based design studio Stealth Design, Zoe’s creations are all diverse and unique but tied together by ‘low key luxe’ – championing spaces that have that certain je ne sais quoi. As Zoe describes it ‘it’s the idea that everything is comfortable and balanced but it has special elements’.

Here, Zoe tells us how she’s eyeing up our Papa Bear chair and why her top interior design tip is to ‘buy once and buy well’…

Is there a signature Stealth Design look? If so, how would you describe it? 

I have to confess I’m not really a fan of a signature look – I’m just not the sort of person or designer to impose their own look on clients. I’m much more interested in designing a scheme in collaboration with my clients – responding to both the place and the person. When clients become involved in the design, it tends to produce a much more effective and powerful result.  

But there is one thing I try to achieve in all my schemes – and that’s what I call low key luxe. It’s the idea that everything is very comfortable and balanced but it has special or luxe elements – that can be a treasured piece of furniture or perhaps even that the space has been designed exactly for your needs. 

In terms of furniture, what design classics standout for you? 

I love classic furniture – it tends to be classic for a reason.

We have Hans Wenger wishbone chairs around our kitchen table and they are so comfortable – essential given how much time I spend sitting in them!

I have also just bought a Noguchi coffee table after being desperate to buy one for years. I’m pleased to report it’s even more elegant and beautiful than I thought it was – literally perfect. Even though classic furniture can be expensive, it was definitely worth spending the money as I can imagine having both the chairs and table for the rest of my life. 

What would be your top interior design tip? 

Buy once and buy well is my motto.  

Focus on the space first. Spend all your money on designing the shell, then wait and when your finances have recovered, buy the furniture you really want to fill it. Don’t be tempted to buy cheap stuff – it’s generally shoddy made, in questionable circumstances and won’t stand the test of time. 

What does home mean to you? 

Home is an adaptable comfy mash up. It’s literally all things to all people – somewhere to come home and fall asleep on the sofa or somewhere to kick off your shoes and dance around the kitchen. But then the rest of my family have different needs and priorities – it has to be all things to them too.

What are your three most treasured pieces?

That’s easy – today’s list is:  

A Banksy I bought years ago  – I still feel it’s kind of wrong that it’s not on the street but on our wall but it holds so many memories of the glory days of street art when I’d walk down our Shoreditch street and another killer piece had gone up overnight; 

A set of library shelves made by Minty inherited from my great aunt and uncle, which don’t sound inspiring but are amazing and are single most enquired about item in our house; and

A pair of JBL floor speakers which were my husband’s Dad’s in the 1970s – we listen to a lot of vinyl and they sound fantastic so they were worth lugging back from Australia in our hand luggage.  

Just a warning – the list might be different tomorrow!

A perfect Sunday is… 

Getting up late after a brilliant night out with friends and going skateboarding in the park with my son (me badly, him with panache) to get rid of the cobwebs. At the end of a wintery day I’d be lying on the sofa by the fire reading the paper  – or, if I’m honest and more likely these days, catching up with Instagram and the design blogs …  In the summer I’d be doing the same thing lying in the hammock under the fig tree!

If you could choose one piece from Vinterior, what would it be and where would it live? 

Top of my wish list is a Papa Bear chair. It would live in that sweet spot in the front room, positioned between those JBL speakers, with something old school New York-ish (Velvet Underground, the Strokes, Galaxie 500) on the turntable.

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Where Retro and Modern Collide: Vintage Pieces in a Contemporary Home

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Image source: Veneer Designs

Vintage is the new modern, or at least that’s how interior design trends stand right now. Blame it on the growing popularity of classic décor inspired by Great Gatsby, The Great Budapest Hotel, or Amélie, but retro glam is here to stay. Still, vintage finds should be carefully incorporated into a contemporary home to avoid a haphazardly put-together impression. However chic mix-and-match décors may be, there are a few principles you should bear in mind when enriching your home with finds belonging to different design eras. Here are five home styling tricks professional designers follow when introducing vintage elements into a modern home setting.

1. Contrasts for Vintage Eclecticism

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Photography by Janne Olander for Stadshem

Vintage elements in bold hues will infuse a minimalist home with a sense of visual opulence and eclecticism. As a general rule, most successful old-meets-new décor blends rely on the power of contrasts for aesthetic interest, which is why you should pay attention to the colors of vintage furnishings you’re introducing into your home. An antique statement piece in a bold tone will feature as a focal point in a color-coordinated room, and if you’re after superior effects, you can also draw on contrasts in terms of texture and shape when incorporating retro elements in your home.

2. Mix ‘n’ Match for Boho Aesthetics

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Image source: New Darlings

Using furniture pieces belonging to different periods of design history will create a boho chic backdrop in your nest. If you’re a firm believer in visual eclecticism, you can try to blend several styles in your living area rather than using just a few vintage pieces as accents. The mix-and-match formula will help create a décor that exudes personality, depth, and interest, allowing the vintage pieces to blend in neatly rather than commanding attention or overwhelming the rest of the décor. For eclectic traveler home aesthetics, you can round off the bohemian-style décor with ornaments and mementoes salvaged on your travels.

3. A Sophisticated Antique Statement

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Image sources: Hannah in the House and Skona Hem

However visually engaging, eclectic style is not everyone’s top favorite, but it doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a no-frills modern décor. A single vintage statement piece of furniture will be enough to add character and aesthetic value to your living area, but you should select it with care to prevent a brash décor impression. For instance, an antique leather sofa with a foot stool can double as the living room centerpiece, whereas a bold Victorian-esque wardrobe perched by glass-paneled aluminium sliding doors will add depth and contrast to a modern open-plan living area.

4. Thinking outside the Vintage Box

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Image source: Cup of Jo

When using vintage finds as décor accents, you don’t necessarily have to stick to conventions. A daring blend of retro and modern pieces such as a vintage desk topped by a modern ergonomic chair will unleash aesthetic dynamicity and add the element of visual surprise to the home office or living room. On that note, a mid-century chest of drawers will look at home as the TV console in a nature-inspired living room, while a retro bureau can be used as the home bar for a sense of playfulness and creativity.

5. Where Retro and Country Collide

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Image source: Decoist

Most vintage pieces come in solid wood with a matte paint coat, but if you wish to liven up the home atmosphere with a dose of rustic charm, you can overhaul antique pieces following in the country style footsteps. Wire-brushed wood cabinetry or tables with bold grain will seamlessly blend into the modern décor structured around pastel colours, stone and/or timber flooring, and organic textiles. For bonus aesthetic points, you can dress contemporary laminate floors with an antique rug, and round off the vintage décor with a few country-inspired extras such as a rustic coat hanger, decorative signboards, baskets, and a distressed table or floor lamp.

Introducing antique pieces into a contemporary-style living area will increase the aesthetic value of your home and infuse it with character and timeless elegance. There’s a host of ways in which you can pull off the old-meets-new décor, so feel free to experiment with different approaches – just don’t let your modern-looking living area go without retro touches.

Zoe Clark


Shop at Vinterior, Britain’s greatest selection of vintage, mid century, antique and design furniture & home decor. Shop from the best independent furniture boutiques on one platform.

Author bio:

Zoe Clark is a journalist, freelance stylist and blogger. She is a visual storyteller and aesthetician by heart who often writes about decorating and DIY ideas. She loves sparking creativity in people and giving them ideas for their own spaces. You can find her blogging at Smooth Decorator.

 

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Meet the Designer: Amber Jeavons of AJ Interior Styling

Touring Amber Jeavons’s distinctive home, it’s clear that this is a lady with a keen eye for impactful, dramatic spaces. As a former dancer, Amber is now the stylist and designer behind A J Interior Styling, a design studio and consultancy. She uses her background in performance to bring drama and impact to her spaces, taking the inhabitants on a journey and maximising the space to its fullest potential.

We speak to Amber about her inspirations, what home means to her and what makes a perfect Sunday…

Do you have a signature look? If so, how would you describe it? 

In terms of style, I’m very versatile and as a Boutique business, I really feel that rather than a signature look one should strive to evolve and develop continuously. There is also a distinction between my own style and loves and that of the client and their space. So as far as a signature goes, it would really be present in the choice of each piece selected even down to a lightbulb! Each one will have a eureka moment with me when I see “it”.

My taste for the absolutely beautiful is how I hone in on the things I love. If one had carte blanche, then my aim is not merely to design an interior but to design something that shows off the space designed to the ‘pinnacle of it’s potential’. That’s a term I use personally to describe my ideal surrounding interior design.

The end result should be sensational, interesting and unique. It is created with an air of the dramatic, the holistic and the instinctual regardless of ‘style’ or colour scheme. Layering and texture are key. Being resourceful and creative in nature, this is also very much how I think about design.

In terms of furniture, what design classics standout for you?  

I like a lot of different styles – from the fabulous early Georgian to current designers. A particular favourite is Nigel Coates for extremely beautiful design.

I love to discover emerging designers, like those for example at Clerkenwell Design Week. I love finding and coming across a rich unique talent of products, furnishings and lighting.

For me, it’s not about the price of something or whether it’s the most expensive – it’s the stylishness, uniqueness and brilliance, which for me is the currency of today.

What would be your top interior design tip for our readers? 

Don’t necessarily strive to opt for what is considered fashionable or even the latest trend but find the style that speaks to who you are as a person and who your home is. The architecture of the space has as much a say in a scheme design as the occupant.

I’m very in tune with both – it’s like detective work, teasing out what a client loves and understanding who they are.

I’m a huge fan of Columbo and the influence it had on me as a child, not only on how he saw things and pieced them together, but also the rich interiors and fantastic architecture in LA (where the program was set) which I found fascinating.

What does home mean to you? 

I spend quite a bit of time at home as I work there and consider creatively my work and ventures I have interest in pursuing all just born out of a seedling of an idea I have…

To me home is not only meant to be a haven but a place where the space you surround yourself in, evolves and develops. We do, after all, change over the years and I feel our environments must therefore grow with us. I like the idea that there is some sort of organic nature to how the home develops and grows.  It perhaps inspires us and nurtures us, perhaps even it is a conduit for creativity.

Our homes speak in their own way about who lives there in a way that is curated over a period of time, even if it hasn’t necessarily. The art of design leaves one feeling that a home or space has always looked as it does and yet there is an air of slow transformation, of evolution.

What are your three most treasured pieces? 

I love things that have a story about them or things that savour a moment in history. In a way we’re storytelling as designers.  

Having a background as a dancer, with half a life spent on stage taking people on a journey into performance, so taking people now on a journey with their homes feels quite a natural a progression.  

My dining table is one favourite piece as it was my mother’s and in some ways the hub of home life. Mamma gave it to me where it now sits performing the same function and carries with it layers of history and conversation. I think it looks like the Pi symbol seen from side front view. 

Another treasured piece is a Japanese Samurai given to me by my Uncle as well as a brass sunburst mirror which attracts a fair bit of attention.

A perfect Sunday is… 

Thinking of something creative and the development of something I can use to inspire people.

If you could choose one piece from Vinterior, what would it be and where would it live? 

I would choose an antique Murano glass pendant shade, it would adorn the living room!

 

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