CHAIR CAPITALby Niamh McCooey
In the year of 1875, almost 5,000 chairs were made in the small English town of High Wycombe. With an output like this, it’s not surprising that it holds the title of the chair-making capital of the UK.
Like many towns with renowned reputations, High Wycombe has always been proud of its huge furniture output, so much so that when Queen Victoria visited in 1877, the council organised an arch of chairs to be erected over the High Street with the words ‘Long live the Queen’ printed across the arch for her to pass under.
It was here in this town that Italian furniture designer Lucian Ercolani set up his own furniture making business in 1920 – a company that many know today simply as Ercol. Known locally (and affectionately) as the ‘Old Man’, Lucian perfected the art of steam bending wood here in his High Wycombe workshop. His first (and one of his most famous) furniture features was the simple yet elegant Windsor bow. This design went on to become a defining feature of Ercol chairs.
Now, almost 100 years since its initial inception, the Windsor bow is still going strong. Proving itself to be a timeless piece of design, this steam-bent wooden feature is now being incorporated into Ercol’s most stylish collections – Evergreen being one of them. The chairs in this sleek line of furniture are each hand bent by two craftsmen through three different axes in their Buckinghamshire workshops.
Every steam-bent beech frame stays true to its artisanal tradition, only ever made by the hands of highly trained makers following in the footsteps of Lucian himself. While they may not still be made in the chair-making capital of England, these fine pieces of furniture remain to this day closely connected to the land, economy and cultural heritage of the town of High Wycombe.
In collaboration with Ercol, Selvedge will unveil a new art installation at London Design Fair this month, 21 – 24 September 2017
Stand PS1, The Old Truman Brewery, 26 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR
Images courtesy of Ercol