Object Lessons: The Ercol Stacking Chair by

Issue 14 · Warm Minimalism · April 8, 2014

Object Lessons: The Ercol Stacking Chair

Issue 14 · Warm Minimalism · April 8, 2014

A British design with a distinctly continental flair, the Ercol stacking chair was designed by an Italian immigrant brought up in London's East End. Lucian Ercolani founded Ercol in 1920, and during the Second World War, the company made its name mass producing kitchen chairs for the government-sponsored Utility Furniture Scheme. It wasn't until the burst of national pride and optimism of the 1950s that Ercol dusted off its wartime image and came up with something more streamlined and cheerful. Love seats and nesting tables were introduced and, as if to prove just how light and practical this new aesthetic could be, the stacking chair was launched in 1957. This design, with its slender, tapered, outward-turning legs enabled the chair to be stacked vertically, making it practical for the compact modern home as well as for public spaces. 

In 2002, fashion designer Margaret Howell collaborated with Ercol to revive some of its notable midcentury designs, including the stacking chair, to sell in her shops. The reissues were a great success and the styles are now available as part of the Ercol Originals collection. The Ercol factory is still family run (Lucian's grandson, Edward, now heads the company) and the furniture continues to be made in Britain using environmentally sound practices. Here are some examples:

Above: The Ercol stacking chair, 17.75 inches wide, 19.75 inches deep, and 30.25 inches tall, is £305 at Haus. In the US, the Ercol stacking chair is available in beech or elm and in a natural finish as well as black, white, and several colors for $470 from A+R in LA. The chair is also available for $525 at Top Hat in New York; to place orders, contact Sweet Bella.

Above: The Utility Furniture Scheme was created by the British Board of Trade in 1942 to make furniture available at an affordable price. The catalog featured one of the Ercol stacking chair's predecessors, the Windsor-style Ercol kitchen chair, far right. Photograph via Ercol.

Above: A selection of Ercol Re-issue Chairs in the window of Margaret Howell on Wigmore Street, London. The chairs are available at Margaret Howell shops in London, Paris, and Tokyo—have a look at them stacked in white in our post on the Tokyo outpost, Japan's Best Brit Brand.

Above: Vintage Ercol chairs are used at Rochelle Canteen, in Shoreditch, London, and can be sourced on eBay (for the most choices, search UK sellers).

Read about Christine's Ercol obsession in Design Sleuth: Stalking the Ercol Stacking Chair. Looking for more vintage inspiration? Browse our photo gallery of Midcentury Designs (and Modern Interpretations) For outdoor seating ideas (including some stackable and folding designs), see Gardenista's 10 Easy Pieces: Outdoor Bistro Table and Chair Sets

Have an opinion? Care to comment? We'd love to hear what you have to say.