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Byline: Mike Litherland

ALTHOUGH furniture is having a hard time at auction - brown furniture, especially - there is one type that has stood the test of time.

Ercol Originals are pieces of timeless and classic design that never date or show their age, designed by founder Lucian Ercolani and established in 1920 by him in London's East End.

After leaving school, he became a messenger boy and, while running errands, saw a poster advertising a furniture design course at the Shoreditch Technical Institute. It was a career his father supported since he had been a picture frame maker in Florence and then a carpenter for the Salvation Army.

In 1920, Ercolani set up his own factory, with backing from local businessmen. In 1932, he took over Water Skulls, a respected firm of high-class chair-makers, giving him the opportunity to further expand.

In the '40s, due to raw material shortages, a Utility Furniture Catalogue was set up to ensure well-designed furniture was produced that made highly efficient use of timber.

In 1944, Ercol was asked by the Government to produce 100,000 low-cost chairs with a bentwood frame and an arched back supporting spindles.

For the order, Ercol perfected the steam bending of wood in large quantities. English elm was previously thought impossible to bend, because it distorted. Ercol's innovation meant one chair could be assembled from 14 pre-formed components, every 20 seconds.

This was the begining of mass production for Ercol and saw new collections produced. One of the most easily recognised examples is the Windsor collection. Windsor cabinets have since become a design classic, made using traditional craft techniques, featuring oval wooden handles and displayed dovetail joints. These marked a move from the dark, heavy, ornate pieces seen in previous years and were both functional and unpretentious.

In 1956, Ercol brought out the Studio Couch, which was designed to serve as both a big sofa and a single bed for house guests. This featured the characteristic steam bent arms, with the back made from elm and the rest out of beech. This was a design classic back then, and it still looks fresh and modern.

You will not find better prices at auction than the Ercol Golden Dawn beech and elm table and four chairs, pictured, sold for PS300. | We are now accepting quality items. Call 01704 538 489 or go to 43, Hoghton St, Southport. Call to make an appointment.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 31, 2018
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