The ercol Originals are pieces of timeless and classic design that never date or show their age. It is furniture that is as relevant and as functional now as it was when it was created in the 1950s and 1960s. This furniture was designed by ercol’s founder, Lucian Ercolani, who drew for his inspiration on the time proven local design and craft in the Chiltern Hills around where he lived and built his first factory in 1920 in High Wycombe.
Some of these pieces have never been out of production since their introduction nearly 60 years ago. Other favourite pieces we have brought back into production - in 2002, ercol began a successful collaboration with the fashion designer Margaret Howell and reissued a selection of archetypal ercol pieces from our back catalogue, based on the classic Windsor chair. Starting with the Butterfly and Stacking Chair, this selection has grown into the Originals collection of today. These pieces are as appropriate to today's living as they were when they were originally issued.
A feature of the Originals chairs is the classic Windsor wedge joint, where the leg of the chair goes right through the seat, a wedge is then inserted into a cut in the leg, forming a remarkably strong joint. Sanded off flush with the seat, the joint then provides a beautiful design element.
The Originals are available in ercol waterborne finishes (see individual product pages for details) and in an array of painted colours to go with your home and your style. Graded colour wood finish adds a startling and modern appeal to the love seat.
The utility of the Studio Couch from sofa to day bed can be combined with a great array of colourful fabrics from our own ranges or from your own selection (see our guide).
The sturdy traditions of English country furniture give the Original range its distinctive qualities. It is tough, durable furniture that manages to combine elegance and lightness with function and strength. The materials are a combination of the classic beauty of elm combined with the strength and qualities of beech. The grain and colour of the elm provide the beauty of the seats and table tops, whilst the strength of beech provides the durability. The qualities of beech, which allow it to be steam bent into the glorious gentle curves of the backs of the chairs are characteristic of this lovely timber.
The bent beech plies give the comfort of a natural springing to the back of the Butterfly chair whilst the ingenious design of the stacking chair allow it to be stacked vertically. The delicate but broad bow of the Loveseat makes a wonderful curve for two to sit side by side at the Plank table with its top of fine grain elm. The amazing double bow of the Chairmaker’s chair makes for an imposing but wonderfully relaxing seat to go with the surprising utility of the little nest of three tables, model no 354, affectionately known as our “pebble” nest.
The chairs are simple evolutions of the classic Windsor chair. Lucian Ercolani was responding to a Board of Trade contract in 1943 when he first worked on adapting the country Windsor chair into a production friendly design. The simple definition of a Windsor chair is that the back and legs are attached to the seat. This definition gives the designer great room to select different themes and create huge variety. These dining chairs were made in the countryside by “bodgers” for many centuries before Lucian took on the idea in the middle of the 20th century. Using the strength of beech and the beauty of elm he carried this definition on into a huge variety of dining, kitchen, and school chairs and then extended the idiom into the low easy chair range epitomised by the 206 armchair and the studio couch. Lucian was prolific in putting his mind to huge variety. The soft curves of the bows were the inspiration for the soft curves of the table tops with their softly thumb-moulded edges.
The beauty of the colour and the grain of the elm took Lucian on to use elm for the tables and cabinets of the Originals and the following Windsor range.
The Originals are achieving a position in the pantheon of classic designs of the 20th century, designs still relevant and new to those who meet them for the first time in the 21st century. They have become a much sought after British classic.
Timbers and finishes
Lucian R Ercolani
Lucian R Ercolani, or the "Old Man" as he is affectionately known in the company, founded ercol in 1920. Born in Italy in 1888, Lucian's family moved to London in the 1890s. There he went to night school at the Shoreditch Technical Institute where he studied drawing, design and the theory and construction of furniture. In 1907 he made his first piece of furniture - a musical cabinet, inlaid with mother of pearl. Years later the company tracked this down and we still have it to this day.
The Old Man designed the company's products for many years. The Windsor range remains one of our most popular ranges over half a century after it was first launched in its original guise, whilst a few years ago we reintroduced some of Lucian's classic designs, which now form the ercol Originals.