The history of the pieces we sell here at Layer is fascinating to say the least and we love to learn about the mavericks and geniuses who transformed the design industry into what we know it to be today. With this in mind, it’s our pleasure to share with you our top most influential British designers of the 20th century.
Ranging from the brains behind the simple yet functional Polyprop chair, to the visionary who designed the furniture for the Queen Elizabeth 2nd ocean liner in 1968, these pioneers have not only created works of art which look beautiful when placed in our homes, but they have influenced the way we live and approach design – without us even noticing.
Our first spot has been reserved for Robert Heritage. Robert revolutionized the British design industry, which all started by gaining an education at the Royal College of Art, where he later became the Head of Furniture School.
Robert chose to partner with furniture manufacturer Archie Shine and together they created an eclectic mix of furniture, in which they were rewarded a Royal Designer Honour. Robert was the talk of the town for many years, so it’s no surprise that he was approached to design the furniture for the Queen Elizabeth 2nd ocean liner in 1968.
Cabinets, sideboards and extendable tables – there was no type of furniture that Robert didn’t execute beautifully. With his range of exciting and innovative pieces that you can find here at Layer, it was without question that he landed a spot as one of our top designers.
With the aim to only improve our quality of life, Robin Day has earned his place in our top mid century British designers. It’s no wonder that Robin is said to be the most iconic British designer of the 20th century, with his most celebrated piece being the Polyprop chair.
Robin was also the first designer to use thermoplastic to create the shell chair. His aim was to produce furniture that was inexpensive, offloading over 50 million finished chairs into circulation. With this in mind, he was able to sell his products in bulk with the intention of selling to airports, public transport, canteens and restaurants.
Robin’s designs were considered post war modernism, giving the country a little essence of glamour after the war. He brought contemporary design to the mass market, all with affordable prices. The work Robin produced changed society’s outlook towards design and made its way into the profound Design Museum.
Designs like this mid century chair (above) were used throughout the Royal Festival Hall, and throughout a series of rooms for the ‘Homes and Gardens’ pavilion at the Festival of Britain.
The designer with a ‘vivid imagination’: Gordon Russell. As a design pioneer, Gordon was interested in the life that surrounded the product. At the young age of 15, he understood the importance of how an object was made and, equipped with that knowledge, he later built a fine arts and crafts house which he called his ‘Utopia’.
After serving time in the war he returned to Broadway to pursue his interest in furniture design working closely with renewed energy. Even with the development of machinery he chose to work as a workshop due to the atmosphere that came with it.
During his career he was knighted for his services to design and the British industry – in fact you can find him in clay! Alan Thorhill produced a well-deserved sculpture of Gordon Russell to commemorate the impact he made on Britain in the mid 20th century.
Here at Layer, we are proud to display a selection of his most respected pieces.