5 Tips on How to Identify an Original Ercol Chair
It’s not every day 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 dining chairs, you’ll know that you’re in good hands.
The company, which was founded in 1920 by Lucian Ercolani, has long been a stalwart of the furniture industry and its designs can be seen in all walks of life – the Ercol factory even produced tent pegs for the army during the war!
Here, we’ve asked one of our expert sellers, Simon Andrews to talk to us about the tips he uses to spot an authentic Ercol chair.
I think that the first thing to say is that there isn’t a market in fake Ercol chairs. There are no devious manufacturers turning out fake Ercol furniture as they would a Gucci handbag or a Rolex watch. What we do see, however, are a lot of sellers (on all the main online sites) describing furniture as Ercol, or Ercol style, when it is nothing of the sort. In many cases these are genuine mistakes, but I suspect that some are deliberate attempts to mislead.
The Ercol range is huge, so to keep things reasonably concise I have limited this discussion to the Windsor range, which covers all the most popular mid-century pieces (c1955 to c1980) including armchairs, sofas, dining chairs, tables and sideboards.
So, how do you identify an original Ercol chair? There are a number of things you can do to make sure that you end up with the genuine article:
Is there an Ercol label?
The most obvious sign that you have a genuine Ercol piece is an Ercol label. All furniture is stamped with a sticker which indicates the year in which it was manufactured. Ercol labels have changed over the years but the ones that you are most likely to find are either small, square blue labels, printed on metallic paper or circular gold labels, with a lion sitting above the name. These original Ercol markings are still a great way to spot an authentic piece, but by no means foolproof. The blue labels in particular tend to come off easily (and are not easy to replace) so whilst a label is a clear indication that the piece is Ercol, don’t let anyone tell you that this increases the value. It doesn’t. Nor does a missing label indicate that it isn’t genuine – it may have just come off over the years.
And, don’t be fooled by descriptions with “Ercol Blue Label range” or anything similar. The blue label is not specific to a particular range – it is simply an indication of the date of manufacture. Very roughly, Ercol blue labels date from 1954 to 1976 and the gold labels from 1977 to 1995. More modern pieces usually have a metal Ercol marking fitted to their base with ‘Ercol’ written in lowercase as the logo.
What is the Ercol chair made of?
There are only two woods used by Ercol in the Windsor range during the mid-century period, beech and elm. Elm for solid seats (rocking chairs and dining chairs, for example) and the tops of tables. Beechwood is used for table and sideboard legs and most of the chairs, except for the solid seats. Beech is a light wood with a very noticeable fleck in the grain – Elm is somewhat darker, with an attractive swirly grain pattern.
Consider the style of the Ercol piece
A classic feature of the Windsor range chairs is the presence of the Windsor wedge joint, or wedge-through-seat joint. To spot this, simply look for small circles on the base with a different wood grain to the rest of the seat, where the legs meet the seat.
Almost every Ercol chair from the Windsor range will be webbed, except for some very early chairs (1953 – 1955) that used tension springs. ‘Webbing’ refers to the straps that make up the base of the chair, underneath the cushion. The webbing patterns changed several times over the years, but the traditional webbing that features on many chairs is ‘Pirelli’ webbing, which has a canvas interior and rubber exterior.
Another good spot is checking the sticks that make up the backrests of chairs. On Ercol chairs, the stick backrests are always round, whilst many ‘Ercol style’ chairs have oval or squared off sticks.
Colour & finish of the Ercol chair
Colour causes much confusion. To be accurate, all Windsor chairs of this period, up to 1981, were finished in natural ‘light wood’, that is to say, they were finished with a clear lacquer. Chairs from this period which are dark, and identical in shape, come from the Old Colonial range.
From around 1982, Golden Dawn was introduced as an option, and the old colonial dark finish became Traditional. Be careful when buying furniture in darker colours. Golden Dawn is often wrongly used to describe natural ‘light finishes’, when it is, in fact, quite dark, albeit not as dark as Old Colonial/Traditional. And, don’t be tempted to buy a piece with a dark finish in the hope that it can be made lighter.
Is the price right?
‘Ercol inspired’ pieces will often have a far lower price than a genuine piece, especially the Windsor range since it’s one of the most sought after vintage collections. You can carry out a price comparison by cross-checking across different sites to see what the average fetch for different pieces is, and if the price is vastly different from the price on Ercol’s website, then give it a miss.
Getting serious about identifying Ercol furniture
If you want to know more, there is an excellent book, Ercol Furniture in the Making by Lesley Jackson, which can help identify Ercol pieces. There is also an archive with some old Ercol brochures here and we’ve recently posted an article on our Stories about the history of Ercol.
Interested in an original Ercol piece? Browse our Ercol furniture and Ercol seating selection on our vintage marketplace. Our expert sellers have carefully curated our range so that you can be sure everything listed on Vinterior is genuine and authentic.
2 thoughts on “5 Tips on How to Identify an Original Ercol Chair”
I’d love to know why you shouldn’t buy a darker piece and strip it to the lighter wood!? Thanks in advance
Hi there. Dark finishes can’t be made lighter by applying a more natural lacquer over it. However, you could strip the wood back to its natural grain. If you’re looking for a lighter-coloured Ercol chair, the ‘light elm’ finish could be perfect.