Category Archives: Furniture Design

A tale of two chairs

A tale of two chairs

Tecta armchairs

Tecta armchairs, The Packet Furniture Co.

Both of these armchairs were manufactured by The Packet Furniture Co., Great Yarmouth, and formed part of the Tecta range developed by the company in the late 1940s.

The chair on the left is the Tecta demountable easy armchair, designed in 1946 by the world-renown architect Eric Lyons.

The chair on the right is from the ‘Cromerwood’ range of furniture designed by the virtually unknown G.A. Jenkins in 1948. The open backed ‘Linden’ armchair was also designed by Jenkins for this range.

The Packet Furniture Co., later in collaboration with E. Kahn & Co., developed the Tecta plywood furniture range as a solution to post-war production costs. For the designer, plywood allowed a greater freedom of form whilst still retaining the necessary low-cost manufacture. The stacking side chairs produced within the Tecta scheme have become ubiquitous in village halls and schools around the country.

Tecta armchair, Eric Lyons, 1946

Tecta armchair, Eric Lyons, 1946

As an architect, Lyons set the standard for contemporary housing with his Span developments, and had perhaps seen the need for similar standards within industrial design – other projects included the ‘Midget’ speaker for Celestion Ltd, and a battery charger for the McMurro Instrument Co., for whom he also designed exhibition stands. With his furniture designs, he could see the potential of a knock-down structure as a means to allow ease of transportation, and in turn, to further minimise production costs. Although the birch laminate was veneered in walnut, and these chairs were often upholstered in Marianne Straub fabrics, his designs were an overall utilitarian form, the function somewhat outweighing the aesthetic.

Tecta armchair, G. A. Jenkins, 1948

Tecta armchair, G. A. Jenkins, 1948

Jenkins, however, took a slightly more refined approach. Whilst still an austere design, the beech laminate frame has a less clunky feel, the gentle scoop of the bent ply arm and leg section provides an ergonomic form lending the whole chair a light appearance.

Over the past few years, enthusiasm for post-war British industrial design has grown and, as more of the foot soldiers in furniture manufacture have been discovered, The Packet Furniture Co. has quietly gained interest. Eric Lyons is perhaps the best-known name to emerge from the list of designers who worked for the company, his Span housing developments and Presidency of the RIBA (1975–77) have allowed him a place at the forefront of British post-war design history. It is to this end that many of the pieces from The Packet Furniture Co.’s most prolific period are automatically labeled as a Lyons design and offered for sale with this provenance, consequently pushing interest – and in many cases the price – upwards. The work of G.A. Jenkins is therefore left aside, undiscovered as more and more ‘Lyons’ designs are brought to light.

As is often the case with so many other post-war manufacturers, through a lack of available records – as is the case with G.A. Jenkins – we assume the bigger name to be responsible for the majority of the designs produced, thereby eliminating any potential interest in the work of designers and craftsmen who deserve credit. The subsequent revival of these designers must wait until we endeavour to investigate their work further, rather than simply google the more commonplace name and then attribute all designs to that more immediate person. Many people were involved in the re-instatement of British manufacture in the post-war years. The likes of Ernest Race, Robin and Lucienne Day all hold their place, amongst the magnitude of talent involved in, for example, the ‘Britain Can Make It’ exhibition of 1946 and the subsequent ‘Festival of Britain’ in 1951. Unless we work to research through books and period features, these names will be forgotten to the age and their work remain undiscovered forever.


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Aalto (1898–1976)

Stool 60

Stool 60, designed 1933

Hugo Alvar Henrick Aalto, 1898–1976.

Architect and furniture designer Alvar Aalto was born in the small parish of Kuortane in western Finland on the 3rd of February 1898, 112 years ago today. The Humanism and elegance of his design is illustrated here, in his bent ply ‘stool 60’ designed in 1933. An exhibition organised by the Architectural Review and held at Fortnum & Masons, Piccadilly in London in 1933, generated wide coverage of his work. Finmar was set up in London as an import company to meet the huge demand for his furniture generated by the exhibition, the success led to orders pouring into the small Finnish factory in Turku, and Finmar were unable to obtain enough furniture to fulfill the orders. Aalto dealt with the situation by taking an extended fishing break to Lapland. The story would have ended there, were it not for the efforts of his friends in London, who set up Artek Ltd in Helsinki to manufacture Aalto’s designs on a larger scale. His achievements as an architect are vast and there were many more designs, both in furniture and glassware, however, it is this simple bent knee stool that, for me, best describes his furniture for the people.

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Remploy Ltd

Bent ply side chair, Remploy Ltd, c.1950s

Found in a skip ten years ago, this discarded bent ply chair has become a favourite piece in my small, though select, collection of British post-war furniture.  Manufactured by Remploy, this piece represents the silent footsoldiers of British design in the post-war years.  Remploy produced essentially utilitarian furniture, with a basic in-house team, working with standard techniques to manufacture tables, chairs and storage solutions for use within the home and industrial marketplace.  Its simple form follows the principles of Artek and Isokon, whilst allowing it a no-fuss, almost non-design, aesthetic – to simply exist as a useful item of furniture in and of itself.  The survival of this one chair has allowed age and history to show how much a disregarded piece of furniture can, almost despite itself, become a thing of (albeit utilitarian) beauty.

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