In recent years, people have started to appreciate furniture made in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, and values have seen a sustained rise. Much of the most prized furniture from that period was heavily influenced by design from Sweden and Denmark, where Modernism was very much in vogue. The furniture also epitomised the Modernist aesthetic that had been promoted at the Festival of Britain in 1951. People appreciate this genre of furniture for its use of woods like oak, teak and elm, and for its simple, unadorned lines.
Lucian Ercolani (1888–1976) left school at 14, studied furniture design at night school, then set up his own firm, Ercol, in the late 1940s. The company still exists today, and recognises the classic qualities of Ercolani’s furniture in a contemporary range reproducing the designs of the 1950s and 60s. Collectors look for items like stick-backed chairs made from elm, nests of occasional tables and sideboards. Full sets of four or six dining room chairs with drop-leaved tables are especially desirable.
E Gomme Ltd of High Wycombe launched the G Plan range of furniture in 1952, with the intention that it should provide modern furniture for the entire home. The G Plan style has influences from Scandinavia, but it also has an essentially English simplicity. Sideboards, some including a drinks section, and cabinets are sought after, with both often made in teak or oak. G Plan coffee tables, some with glass tops, have also increased in value in recent years.
Furniture from the Archie Shine label was designed by Robert Heritage and much of it was sold at Heal’s. Heritage was particularly inspired by the Scandinavians and his long, low side boards with multiple cupboards and drawers are highly desirable. Particularly fine examples can fetch up to £1,000 and more, although they need to be in perfect condition to achieve such prices.
When you’re looking at English mid-century furniture, choose pieces with a well-known maker’s label and avoid pieces that have damage to the finish. Also check that joints and dovetails are sound. Furniture can be restored, but this is best left to an expert, and their services don’t come cheap.