We have over 1000 boutique suppliers on Vinterior, and this week as we celebrate Ercol we speak to our Ercol furniture specialist Simon Andrews to tell us more about life working with Ercol – and his top tips on everything Ercol.
Where are you based and who works with you?
We are based in Alfriston, a lovely village in the South Downs between Eastbourne and Lewes. There are two of us, Penny and Simon – The Andrews Partnership.
How long have you been working with Ercol furniture ?
We’ve been working with Ercol furniture for many years now. Long before we started The Andrews Partnership we were both involved with furniture restoration and upholstery.
How did you get into it?
We moved to the South Coast from Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire about 4 years ago and that was the catalyst that made us devote ourselves full time to Ercol. We wanted to be the UK’s leading supplier of restored and reupholstered Ercol furniture and I think that we have succeeded.
What is it about Ercol that makes them stand the test of time?
It’s simply a question of great design. The pieces are simple without being purely functional and they have great proportions. The size of the pieces is ideal for today’s apartments and houses where space is often at a premium. And there is enormous scope for experimentation with fabric – from traditional to really funky – so many designs work with Ercol.
Do you have a favourite piece from Ercol?
Penny would tell you that it is the 344 easy chair. It’s smaller and more compact than the ever popular 203 but it’s extremely versatile and makes a great bedroom chair. I think that I would probably go for the Studio Couch (Model 355). This is so elegant and looks great either with either a traditional blonde finish or painted. We are just about to launch a range of painted, restored Ercol (The Alfriston Range) and one of the first pieces will be a black Studio Couch with some stunning fabric. It will be available on Vinterior very soon.
Your Work With Ercol
How do you go about a renovation project?
We only use light (blonde) Ercol pieces – we don’t try to lighten the dark finishes. We remove all the old finish and strip the webbing. We work by hand and sand the frame to the point where we have the smoothest finish that we can get. We then apply multiple coats of finish which is a blend of entirely natural oils and waxes. Each coat is applied and buffed by hand. At least 8 hours is left between coats. When we are happy with the finish the frame is traditionally rewebbed using Pirelli webbing. We always use new cushions which are cut to a precise template. Covers are made to each cushion set ensuring the best possible fit.
Do you still use the traditional techniques used in the original manufacturing process?
Yes we do. The only change that we make is to hand finish all our pieces rather than use a spray lacquer. Hand finishing is not an option for volume manufacturers, so we are able to gain a bit if an advantage here. Hand finishing really enhances the look and feel of the wood. We do have a spraying facility which we use for our painted pieces.
What gives you most pleasure with what you do?
There is no question here – it’s meeting customers to talk about what they would like and delivering the finished pieces. Our moto is “exceeding expectations” and we manage to achieve that. It never ceases to amaze us just how nice our customers are.
What is a typical day for you?
Get up, take two teenage girls to school and then head for the workshop. Our workshop is on a farm with several other furniture makers and similar businesses, so we’ve got plenty of company. We try to make Monday admin day when we stay at home and catch up with email, Facebook and Twitter.
If someone was buying their first Ercol piece what advice would you give them?
Buy something you really want and make sure that it will fit where you want it to go. Really think about the fabric – there’s so much choice that it pays to take your time.
What was the most interesting project or person you have sold a piece to?
We shipped a suite of Ercol furniture to a villa in Portugal. We sold two chairs, a studio couch, two tables, dining chairs and a room divider to someone in Yorkshire who had built a log cabin just for these pieces. And there are two of our painted pieces in a film studio in Pinewood.
Simon’s Top Ercol Tips
- Don’t be obsessed by labels. References to “Ercol Blue Label” imply that there is something special about these pieces. There isn’t. Ercol used blue labels on all their furniture from 1954 to c1975. Labels really don’t add any value.
- There are few, if any, intentional fakes offered for sale. But many pieces are sold by people who really don’t know what they are doing (and this includes Auctioneers as well as some curated sites) – so you will find non Ercol pieces described as Ercol. Always check if you are not sure – we offer an identification service.
- Many Ercol armchairs look similar but are, in fact, quite different. This particularly applies to 203, 204 and 335 models. Make sure you get the right one – always check.
- There is a lot of confusion about the finish and colour of Ercol pieces. Anything described as “light” or “blond” should be an Ercol natural, clear finish. This is the lightest finish you can get, but it can darken considerably with age. Pieces described as “dark” should be quite dark and from the Old Colonial range. The biggest confusion is with “Golden Dawn”. This is a stained finish that was introduced around 1982 and which is surprisingly dark – but it is often used to describe blond pieces.
- Upholstery is very important to the look of your furniture. Look for tight fitting covers, neat seams and, with patterns and checks, make sure everything lines up.