Lucian Ercolani (1888-1976)
Lucian Randolph Ercolani, otherwise affectionately known as the "Old Man" by his successors, founded Ercol in 1920. An advocate for workmanship, Ercolani had an unrivalled passion for quality and designing furniture built on the ethos of “design for comfort; design for function; design for beauty.”
Born in 1888 in Italy, Ercolani and his family moved to the East End of London with the assistance of the Salvation Army in the 1890s. At the age of 14, he left school early to become a messenger boy whilst continuing to play in the Salvation Army Brass Band.
It was during this time when he spotted a poster for a furniture design course, and with the encouragement of his father Abdon, enrolled at Shoreditch Technical Institute. His creative flair for design and furniture construction became apparent, which resulted in crafting his very first piece: a delicate musical cabinet decorated with mother of pearl.
“At Gomme’s … it seemed to me … that the simple chair was the outcome of very good and precise workmanship.”
Fast forward to 1906, Ercolani was working in the Salvation Army joinery department, producing staircases and handrails. Four years later, Frederick Parker invited him to join his business, which made furniture at workshops in High Wycombe, the 'furniture capital' of England. This venture lead to Furniture Industries being founded in 1920, which was later renamed to Ercol.
Ercol became a household name in post-war Britain, and has stood the test of time as a leading international brand in the industry thanks to Ercolani's iconic vision and quality of furniture produced, including the Windsor Collection (1947), Butterfly Chair (1958), Evergreen (1957), and Studio Couch (1956).
Demand for mass-produced furniture at affordable prices rose in the post-war years, and Ercolani sped up the production process through his innovative system for steaming timber. This allowed the company to produce up to 2000 chairs a week, with the famous Windsor Kitchen Chair selling in the millions, indicating the beginning of Ercol’s success in the British furniture industry.
Later in 1951, Ercolani helped establish the Furniture makers Guild and was awarded an OBE in June 1964 for his services to British design and manufacturing, in recognition of his talent for delivering affordable furniture with comfort, efficiency and functionality at its core.
In 1975 Ercolani published his memoir, entitled A Furniture Maker, telling the story of his journey from being born as an Italian immigrant to building one of the most successful furniture making businesses in the UK.
Ercolani passed away in 1976, but his legacy lives on in Ercol’s timeless furniture that will continue as interior staples for years to come. Ercol relaunched many of Ercolani’s iconic mid-century designs in their Originals Collection in 2003, and the in-house team regularly invites designers to reinterpet classics for contemporary tastes, reflecting Ercol’s tenacious ability to evolve with the changing landscape of design.
Ercolani's grand vision to design furniture inspired by style, comfort and functionality, and a thorough dedication to uncompromising quality and craftsmanship stood him apart from the competition, leading to his success as one of the nation's most prominent mid-century designers.
Shop the Ercol collection here.