Book Review - Ercol: Furniture in the Making

Friday 17 January 2014

Furniture in the Making is the book that post-war design enthusiasts have been waiting for. It tells the fascinating story of Ercol, one of Britain's best-loved and most successful furniture companies. Founded in 1920 in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire by Italian-born Lucian Ercolani (1888–1976), who came to Britain at the age of 10, Ercol is still going strong today as a family-owned and run company.

A gifted designer and an impassioned entrepreneur, Ercolani was the creative driving force behind Ercol for more than 50 years. The book focuses on the 'Windsor Range', his supreme creation, a co-ordinated collection of domestic furniture inspired by the traditional English Windsor chair. Initially developed towards the end of the Second World War as part of the government's Utility scheme, Ercol's Windsor Contemporary Furniture Family was launched at the Festival of Britain in 1951.

A runaway success, it was expanded throughout the 1950s and '60s, encompassing a diverse array of kitchen, dining, living room and bedroom furniture in an appealing and harmonious style. Ask a non-maker of furniture to name a quality brand from the last 50 years and there's more than a slim chance that Ercol will be on the list. Made from solid wood using a distinctive combination of beech (Fagus sylvatica) and elm (Ulmus procera), the Windsor Range married the modern with the vernacular, combining advanced technology with superb craftsmanship. It's possible these days to visit the factory showroom where a window into the workshop allows you to witness these timeless classics taking form.

On my first visit I was amazed at just how much of the work is completed by hand. Despite the obvious factory surroundings each zone has a small ‘shop atmosphere where the craftsmen make and use their own jigs and tools to carry out their allotted tasks. Search for Ercol on YouTube and you'll find plenty there to keep you amused over a cup of coffee. Drawing on Ercol's rich archives, as well as stunning new photography, the book explores the Windsor Range in detail, showing how the designs have evolved over the years, and how the furniture was - and still is - manufactured.

Researched and written by design historian Lesley Jackson, a leading authority on 20th-century design, the book provides a visual feast for Ercoloholics -yes, they're listed on Google as well - over 200 pages with over 400 colour and black-and-white images. Appealing to a wide audience, including post-war design buffs, collectors, students and anyone interested in interiors, it is lavishly illustrated and attractively designed. Whether you remember Ercol during its heyday or have discovered the delights of the Windsor Range more recently, this book provides essential reading and offers a definitive guide. A tale of creative ingenuity, engineering prowess and marketing flair, Ercol: Furniture in the Making celebrates a great British success story.


Price: £25

Contact: Richard Dennis Publications

Tel: 01460 240 044