It was 1898, and at the age of 10, Lucian Ercolani travelled from Tuscany, Italy with his parents. Lucian's parents aimed to leave rural Italy and pursue work in the bustling city of London. Lucian picked up English fast and at the age of 18 he attended night school Shoreditch Technique Institute to study drawing and design, and his journey into furniture began.
In 1910 Lucian was asked by Frederick Parker, who would later to create Parker Knoll furniture, to come and work in High Wycombe. Ercolani taught evening classes in furniture design, and here he met Edward Gomme the eventual founder of G-plan. As the World War I began, Lucian took work at E Gomme Ltd. and expanded his knowledge of mass furniture manufacture and design.
Lucian eventually founded his own company and throughout World War II they made wooden tent pegs and other items that were required in huge quanitites. By the time the war had ended, Ercol's production line was so efficient that they could produce premium quality furniture at great speeds and it led to fantastic post war success. This sense of quality and efficiency continues to this day, and some of the designs produced over 60 years ago are still in production.
Over the years Ercol has been awarded the Design Guild Mark for a number of their fantastic pieces of furniture. The Romana sideboard, pictured here was one of their more recent successes.
At Lenleys we've built a great relationship with Ercol over the past few decades. In store we have a dedicated Ercol studio, featuring upholstery, dining and occasional furniture. Upstairs in our bed department you can also find some beautiful Ercol bedframes, wardrobes and more.
We send our staff to Ercol's production facilities periodically, so that we can provide pertinent information about their process, design and history. We have access to the entire Ercol catalogue, so even if you don't see what you want in store, we can source and order anything you'd like.
Ercol work skillfully with solid wood to release the natural beauty of the grain. Their simplistic designs highlight the pattern of each wood differently, and they utilise the natural properties of each tree to create a better piece of furniture.
As a slow growing tree, Beech forms a tighter shorter grain which gives it great strength and durability. These characteristics mean Beech is ideal for shaping and bending with steam. The craftspeople at Ercol utilise this to create seamless flowing lines within their furniture, and provide style, strength and support to their seating.
Ash and Elm are also used for their strength and the beauty and intricacy of their grain. Ercol have been working with these woods for almost 100 years, and their ability to shape, sand and carefully finish each wood specificially is second to none.
In 1975 Ercol acquired Latimer Sawmills in Amersham, Buckinghamshire in the search for higher quality, more reliable wood sourcing. Now using state-of-the-art cutting machinery and computer controlled detailing Ercol can cut and finish wood to an incredible level of accuracy, and create even more beautiful and reliable furniture than before.
The level of craftmanship you need to build Ercol furniture is learnt over many years, and this knowledge has been passed from generation to generation since Ercol began in 1920. If you watch the video here you'll see one of Ercol's master craftsmen carefully constructing one of their famous Evergreen chairs.
The timeless nature and fine craftmanship of Ercol furniture is why designs that came about more than half a century ago are still highly desirable today. Take the Evergreen chair for example, it wouldn't look out of place by the fireside of a 1950's home, or alternatively it looks incredibly current and stylish in a contemporary 21st century home. Good quality design and time tested woodwork transcends fashion trends, and gives you a piece of furniture for life.
The manufacturing industry, like everyone else in the UK, had to unite throughout the World Wars. This meant working hard to support the government, and at Ercol they did this by producing tens of thousands of tent pegs a day, along with munition boxes and chairs for the Armed forces.
Ercolani's son, of the same name, served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force and crash landed in to the Thames estuary in 1941. Luckily he survived and drifted at sea for 3 days on a raft, before running a shore in the Isle of Wight.
Thanks to the determination of Lucian himself and the brave workers at Ercol, the company managed to survive and thrive in the bustling post war economy. Despite the lack of raw materials available, demand was incredible due to the rebuilding of our nation and Ercol invested in new machinery and began to increase capacity. The efficiency and level of craftmanship demanded of them throughout the war pushed their furniture even further and the name Ercol became synonymous with quality.
In June 1964, Buckingham Palace, Ercolani was awarded an OBE for his service to UK design and manufacturing. After a life dedicated to his craft and to the people of the United Kingdom, in 1976 Lucian Ercolani sadly passed away. To this day Ercol remains a family business, and the key values it was built upon remain paramount to it's success.