Ercol has been a household name for over half a century. The furniture maker’s story spans twentieth century Britain, from its founder's roots in Shoreditch, through the Second World War and the post-war years, to present day where the designs look and feel as relevant as ever. That's why you’ll find vintage Ercol furniture in all our English Houses, from Shoreditch to Farmhouse, and why modern versions of the iconic originals will slot just as easily into your home, whatever your style.

Ercol founder Lucian Ercolani was born in Italy in 1888 and immigrated to London’s East End as a child. The Salvation Army employed his father as a carpenter and sent Lucian to school. While running errands for them he saw an advert for the Shoreditch Technical Institute’s Furniture Design course. After studying at the Institute, he took City & Guild exams in theory and furniture construction.

In 1910 Harry Parker of the furniture makers Frederick Parker (which became the famous Parker-Knoll) invited Lucian to work with him in High Wycombe - the hub of English furniture making. Here Lucian met Ted Gomme, founder of G Plan, who became a lifelong friend. Eventually Lucian set up on his own, starting Ercol in 1920.

Ercol’s war effort

Four generations of the Ercolani family have worked in the business and many employees have followed in their parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps on the factory floor. Lucian Ercolani's sons Lucian B and Barry Ercolani were both involved in the RAF during WWII, rising to Wing Commander and Flight Lieutenant. The factory made 25,000 tent pegs a day during the war.

During the war the government launched the CC41 scheme to allow people to use their rations to replace items destroyed by the Blitz. The scheme ran from 1942 to 1952 and made the name of many furniture makers including Ercol and G Plan, who developed utility furniture that used fewer resources than the dark, ornate pieces of the pre-war period.

Post-war recovery

Before the end of the war, it was clear that industrial design was going to be a vital part of British manufacturing's future and this was recognised by the 1946 Britain Can Make It Festival. Lucian Ercolani’s contribution was the Windsor collection, which was inspired by the heritage of craft within the Chiltern Hills and areas surrounding his first factory.

The 1951 Festival of Britain also aimed to promote the nation’s homegrown creative and scientific successes to generate a feeling of optimism. Following the success of the CC41 scheme, Ercol was becoming recognised as one of the key proponents of well-made and well-designed furniture that was accessible to ordinary people.

English heritage

Ercol’s furniture designs were inspired by English classics, which is why they suit every kind of home, from Victorian terraced house to 1960s flat. Because they’re based on shapes and proportions that have been part of the vernacular style for centuries, and use the same materials – oak, ash and beech wood mainly – they seem both timeless and modern, instantly familiar and pleasing to the eye.

A good example is the Love Seat: a clever combination of a traditional English settle and the Windsor chair, it has a beech frame with a steam bent top rail and an American elm seat.

Take the chair

The stacking chair is one of the most recognisable Ercol chairs from the 1950s. Designed by Lucian Ercolani, it is light, durable and can be stacked vertically. Thousands were made in the ‘50s and ‘60s and it’s still in production today as part of the Ercol Originals collection.

There's a long history of chair arches being built to mark special occasions in Britain such as royal visits. In 2009 Wallpaper* magazine asked Ercol to work with Italian designer Martino Gamper to build an arch out of 120 stacking chairs for a display at the V&A during the London Design Festival.

Nearly a century after Lucian Ercolani founded the company, it continues to invest in British design and manufacturing and sustainability is as important as ever. The award-winning Ercol factory in Princes Risborough has floor to ceiling windows to maximise natural light and is heated by a biomass boiler fuelled by sawdust and wood offcuts. All the furniture is sprayed with water based stains and lacquers, rather than solvent-based finishes, and every piece is made from sustainably sourced hard wood.

A simple but powerful principle underpins brands like Ercol that were born out of the CC41 scheme, a democratic approach to design that still feels revolutionary: everyone should be able to own and enjoy beautiful things that are made to last. That is Lucian Ercolani’s legacy; he brought great design to ordinary people’s homes and put British craftsmanship and design on the world stage.

Soho Farmhouse

You'll find vintage Ercol furniture in the cabins and the main spaces at Soho Farmhouse