Ercol 204 armchair

Ercol 204 armchair – better than the Ercol 203?

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Everyone knows the Ercol 203 armchair as the most iconic of Ercol pieces, but perhaps we should pose the question; Ercol 204 armchair – better than the Ercol 203?

Everyone loves the model 203 armchair which was manufactured from 1953 until 1983 when it was superseded by the model 204, which was made from 1983 to 1992. It is really not easy to spot the difference between the two unless you see them side-by-side. The 204 sits slightly higher than the model 203 – the seat frame is about 6cm higher at the front. And the seat is not quite as deep on the model 204 giving a very slightly more upright sitting position. It is generally though that these changes, as they did not affect the overall aesthetics, were introduced to create a more comfortable chair, particularly given the changing shape of the population since the early 1950s. This makes sense as Ercol made similar changes to the seat of the 370 dining chair in 1987 (renaming it model 870) for the same reasons.

Because the two models are so similar there is a tendency for “203” to become a generic name for both chairs. This can easily cause confusion, particularly as the cushion templates for each chair are different (you can’t mix and match). You will often find an Ercol 204 armchair being sold as a 203. There is also no equivalent of the 341 footstool (as far as I am aware) for the 204.

As far as comfort is concerned this will also be down to personal choice but I must say that I find the 204 by far the more comfortable of the two (although, as far as I am aware, there is no matching footstool for the 204). However there is a 204/2 two seater sofa to which all the above arguments equally apply.

There is one simple way to tell the two apart. The 204 measures 30cm from the floor to the top of the seat frame at the front. The 203 measures 24cm.  The other dimensions for the 204 are:-

Height to top of cushion at front – 43cm

Depth of seat cushion – 62cm

Height of back – 82 cm

Width across arms – 70cm

Depth of chair (from wall) – 88cm

 

Ercol 204 armchair

Ercol 204 armchair

We usually have both the ercol 204 armchair and 204/2 sofa in stock so if you are interested, please get in touch. You will find our contact details below.

 

 

 

 

 

Ercol cushions and covers

Ercol cushions and covers

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Beautiful hand-made cushions and covers for Ercol chairs and sofas. There is nothing that enhances the wonderful simplicity of your furniture more than a set of Ercol cushions and covers from The Andrews Partnership, the UK’s leading specialist restorer and upholsterer of Ercol furniture.

We take great pride in the quality of our cushions and covers. Foam fit cut from our own templates which precisely match the Ercol chairs and sofas. We offer a fabulous range of fabrics from many leading designers and mills. But it is the quality of our workmanship, attention to detail and vast experience that set us apart from all others.

We can help you select just the right fabric; our samples service is second to none. We will send you as many samples as are necessary, we will talk you through all the options. You can visit us in our workshop and spend some time with our fabric books.

This video shows some of our recent work for our customers. Some are conservative and traditional, some a bit more funky and “out there”.

 

No matter what your taste get in touch with us and talk to Penny about Ercol cushions and covers from The Andrews Partnership. If you would like to visit our workshop in East Sussex we would be delighted to see you. Please make sure that you call first to make sure that we will be there. If there are particular fabrics that you would like to see we can also order samples for you ahead of your visit.

 

Ercol furniture restoration - how we finish

Ercol furniture restoration – how we finish

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It seems that every few days I get a question about the best way to finish Ercol furniture as part of a restoration project. I hope that this blog, “Ercol furniture restoration – how we finish” will go some way to answering these various questions.

The first thing to consider is the product that we will use for finishing. Some time ago I published a blog (you can read it here) which explained why hand finishing with oil and wax is a better solution than a lacquered finish. This is true in the professional workshop and it is even more relevant in the DIY environment where spray equipment and facilities will be limited at best. Don’t be fooled by those who say “lacquer must be best because that’s what Ercol used”. This is a nonsense argument. Ercol used lacquer because it is the only commercially viable finish for volume furniture maker. Hand finishing has always been the method of choice for the finest pieces of furniture. And it should be the method of choice for your Ercol furniture restoration project.

A combination of oil and wax is also a far better finishing solution than wax on its own. A paste wax (such as Briwax) will not give long lasting protection to fine furniture in daily use. It is hard to apply well, needs frequent reapplication, tends to clog in hard-to-get-at places and is frequently disappointing to look at.

Our preferred solution, a “high solid” blend of oil and wax is relatively easy to apply, long lasting, gives excellent protection from most day -to-day hazards and produces a finish that looks great with plenty of “feel appeal”. The best commercially available product by far is Osmo High Solid Polyx Oil. I always suggest using the satin clear version (code 3032). This is used by many leading bespoke furniture makers.

Ercol 459 coffee table

Ercol 341 footstool

The Technique

So, if we are going to use Osmo, how do we apply it to get the finish that we want for our Ercol furniture restoration project? Many people will have their own ideas, but this is the system that I have used for many years and I haven’t found a better way yet.

  1. I am assuming that the piece that you want to finish has had all old lacquer finish removed and repairs have been made. You should sand to either 180 grit or 240 grit. I tend to go to 180 on chairs and 240 on large flat surfaces such as tabletops. There is no need to sand further as you will be using abrasive pads later.
  2. Apply a first coat of Osmo with a clean cotton rag (old sheets, T shirts etc work well or you can buy boxes of rags online). You want a generous but not excessive coat. Wipe to remove runs and blobs etc. Leave this coat for about 15 mins until it is tacky to the touch. This is very dependent on temperature and humidity. If it goes too far and becomes very sticky, don’t worry. Small pieces (such as a pebble table) can be tackled in one go. Larger and more fiddly pieces (a 203 armchair for example) are best divided into sections. As a guide I work on an Ercol 203 armchair in three sections (underneath, hoop back and sticks, seat frame and arms) – finish each section (steps 2 and 3) then move onto the next.
  3. Apply a second thin coat with a 320 grit abrasive pad (readily available online – https://www.axminstertools.com/mirka-mirlon-finishing-pads-ax851913). Use the pad as you would sandpaper, working with the grain. This coat loosens the first coat which has gone tacky. Immediately you have finished buff (polish vigorously) this coat. Buffing is hard work – it should make your arms tired. Use plenty of clean rags, turning them over frequently and discarding them when they are covered in Osmo. Stop when a clean rag stays clean. You will get through a lot of rags. This should leave you with a fine smooth finish.
  4. Leave for 8 hours minimum (there is no maximum).
  5. Repeat steps 2 and 3. Two coats is the minimum (three coats are better) to provide a good level of protection and should look very fine. In the workshop we apply multiple coats but that’s because we are perfectionists!
  6. Key facts – plenty of rags, buff hard, leave for 8 hours between coats, at least two coats.
  7. Never put wet rags or abrasive pads in the bin. Always leave them to dry flat and then dispose of them. Crumpled up, used rags can spontaneously combust.

I know that people will say “do this” or “don’t do that” – all I can say is that this system has served me (and many very fine craftsmen) extremely well for many years. And whilst it uses modern, environmentally friendly products it is based on very traditional methods of wood finishing.

I hope that you have found “Ercol furniture restoration – how we finish” a useful blog. As always I will do my best to reply to any questions that you might have. You can contact me using the contact form below.

 

Ercol 203 chair

What is an Ercol 203 chair – the video

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Some time ago I posted a short article about the Ercol 203 chair and how to differentiate it from some of its close relatives. This has been our most read blog by far.

Earlier this week I realised that we had some examples of these close relatives in the workshop, in various stages of restoration. – so this seemed to be an ideal time for a quick video that I hope will provide more information to anyone wanting to identify their Ercol armchair. The pieces I have used are the 203, 334, 335 and 204.

 

Ercol 335 armchair

 

In my original blog I went into some more detail about other Ercol Windsor armchairs and I also gave various dimensions to help with identification. You can have a look at that blog here

You can view the video on our new YouTube channel here

If you have any questions about the Ercol pieces that we have for sale, our restoration services and our Ercol recover service for cushions and covers you can contact us here or go to our home page and have a look around our website.

The Andrews Partnership is the UK’s leading restorer and re-upholsterer of Ercol furniture.

Ercol Dressing Table

Ercol Dressing Table – Model 482 – A design classic

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The Ercol Dressing Table – it’s not often that I write a blog about a single piece of furniture, but this is such a stand out piece that I think it warrants a few words.

 

Ercol Dressing Table It really is an astonishingly elegant piece – the trademark Ercol tapered legs really work with the slim drawers and the mirror seems to set make everything else come together. It’s also extremely practical – the top is large enough to be completely functional yet the overall size is small enough to fit into virtually any bedroom – so you don’t have to keep it in a field.

As you would expect from Ercol the top section and the mirror from made of elm and the legs and mirror supports are beech. There are elegant dovetail joints forming the corners of the top section. The dimensions are:-

Width – 115cm

Depth – 48.5 cm

Height (exc mirror) – 73cm

Height (inc mirror) – 123cm

We tend only to buy these piece to order but the one that features on this page is a dressing table that we bought along with a number of other pieces. It has now been fully restored and looks absolutely magnificent. It is currently on sale for £850.

As always, visitors are welcome at our workshop in East Sussex (where these lovely photographs were taken) – call or email first to make sure that we will be there.

For more information about this piece or any of our other work you can contact us here.

ercol furniture restoration - why we use a wax/oil finish

Ercol furniture restoration – why we use a wax/oil finish

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As the UK’s leading specialist restorer and reupholstered of Ercol furniture, a question we are often asked is, “why do you hand finish all your pieces with a wax/oil blend, rather than sprayed lacquer”. It’s a perfectly reasonable question that I have tried to answer in this blog “Ercol furniture restoration – why we use a wax/oil finish”. I think that the advantages of an oil/wax blended finish over lacquer become clear when you compare various aspects of the two finish.

Look and feel

Wax/oil finishes are dissolved in a solvent (white spirit in our case). When they are applied two things happen. The oils are absorbed into the wood and , as the solvent evaporates, a thin film of wax remains on the surface. This means that both the look and the feel of the wood are enhanced. In contrast, a lacquer finish puts a thick protective coat over the wood, reducing the “feel appeal”. If you run your hand over the piece you only feel the thick layer of lacquer.

Long term durability and repair

Both finishes will last a long time but there is a crucial difference. A wax/oil finish can be easily reapplied at any time. The piece can be “freshened up” and minor repairs can be effected – even many years after the finish was applied. In contrast, a lacquer finish can’t be effectively repaired. The only practical solution is to remove the finish entirely and start again.

Wear and tear

The protective coat of lacquer is undoubtedly hardwearing and provides good protection against most day to day hazards, including heat. However modern wax/oil combinations, using hard waxes, are also extremely durable and will cope with all the day-to-day hazards of normal home life.
So, if as seems clear there are considerable advantages in an oil/wax finish, why do manufacturers use lacquer finishes? The answer is simply one of cost and practicality. In a factory setting a lacquer finish can be applied very quickly to multiple pieces of furniture. Hand finishing by contract is time consuming and labour intensive. But nothing beats the beauty of hand finished furniture.
As always – if you have any questions or would like to discuss any aspect of Ercol furniture restoration, please get in touch – you can contact me here.
Ercol furniture

Ercol furniture – Our Latest Show Reel

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We are the UK’s leading specialist restorer and reupholsterer of Ercol furniture. We have published this blog to showcase some of our latest pieces – “Ercol furniture – our latest showreel” . Some are very traditional, and some are a bit more funky.

All of these Ercol pieces have now been delivered to happy customers across the UK. Many of these pieces are customer designs made to order for our customers. Each piece has been restored by hand to the highest possible standard in our workshop in East Sussex. Similarly, our hand made upholstery is finished to the most exacting standards.

 

ercol windsor 203 with footstool

Restoration Examples

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We often get asked for examples of the work that we have done to restore midcentury furniture. I have attached a selection of before and after photos here. I will expand this blog very shortly to include some more details about these pieces and the techniques that we employ for restoration.

Commission to restore and reupholster 2 x Ercol 203s, matching footstool and table

These two chairs and footstool had been in the same family for many years, having been passed down to a second generation. Whilst they were structurally sound the finish was in poor condition, the frames had been chewed by the dog, the webbing was old and both cushions and covers needed to be replaced. The finished articles, along with a new table that we supplied, look absolutely wonderful.

 

A commission to restore and reupholster an Italian desk chair from c 1950

This chair was handmade in northern Italy in the early 1950s. It was in very poor condition but, as the “after” picture shows, it was restored to its former glory. The old finish was removed and several loose joints were repaired. The upholstery was removed, the springs cleaned and the chair was fully upholstered in the traditional manner. A very pleasing result.

This is the chair before restoration

And this, the same chair after restoration

German Gothic revival dining chairs

These chairs were acquired by us in very poor, but sound condition. They were refinished and reupholstered in a more modern fabric and were quickly snapped up by a very happy customer.

Before restoration

And after restoration

Two commissions for Ercol 203s

The following two Ercol chairs were sent to us from different customers, both needing a complete refinishing and reupholstery. The finish was removed from both chairs (by hand, as always) and new finish (a blend of natural oils and waxes) was then applied. We discussed upholstery options with each customer, sending samples and looking at their existing decor. When completed, both chairs looked absolutely wonderful.

The two before restoration

And the two after restoration

And to finish. We don’t have any “before” pictures of these two chairs – we acquired them for a customer who wanted them for a holiday home. Both were completely refinished and reupholstered and are now very happy in their idyllic home on the north Devon coast.

 

Ercol Windsor Dining Chair

The Ercol Windsor Dining Chair – An expert’s guide

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Is there a more iconic chair in the Ercol range? The 203 armchair maybe? But the 203 dates from just 1953; whereas the chair that we know as the Ercol Windsor dining chair, the 400, dates from 1943 and it is fascinating to chart its progress over the years.

It all began during World War II. Raw materials were scarce, workshops and factories had their output redirected to help the war effort, yet there was still a need to product new furniture; people got married and needed to set up new homes, countless other homes had their contents destroyed by enemy bombs. The solution to this problem was the Utility Furniture Scheme, set up in 1942 under the control of The Board of Trade – with Gordon Russell in charge of design. The result was an initial set of 28 pieces of furniture which expanded to 60 or so pieces by the time the first catalogue was produced in 1943. And it was that catalogue that first brought to the attention of the world a chair called the Model 4a – priced at 14/3 (which is about 76p).

As the war ended and the availability of raw materials improved various manufacturers were approached by the government to ramp up production to meet the increasing need for furniture. One of these manufacturers was Lucian Ercolani who agreed that his factory would produce 100,000 dining chairs, based on the Model 4a. These chairs were produced from 1945 to 1953.

The design was amended in 1954 (the 100 Windsor Chair), the main difference being that the new version had 5, rather than 6, spindles at the back.

The final change brought about the 400 chair, which was in production from 1958 to 1985. And this chair again reduced the number of spindles, this time to 4.

The 400 became known as the Kitchen Chair and was mirrored for all of its life by the 370 Dining Chair, a very close relative but this time with 6 spindles. The 370 had a slightly lower seat but was both wider and deeper than the 400. In 1987 the seat width of the 370 was increased by about 3cm to accommodate the somewhat larger bottoms with which many of us were then blessed.

The 370 has made it into the current Ercol Originals range (now made from ash and known as the 1877) but, sadly, the 400 is now no more. Which is a shame as it is a classic and rather elegant piece with a great history.

If you want to know more, there is an excellent book, Ercol Furniture in the Making by Lesley Jackson (ISBN 978-0-9553741-9-7), which can help with identifying Ercol pieces. There is also an archive with some old brochures at http://www.ercol.com/about/archive/. Or you can contact me here – I am always happy to help.

 

How to Spot a Real Ercol Windsor Chair

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I think that the first thing to say is that there isn’t a market in fake Ercol. There are no devious manufacturers in China (or anywhere else) turning out fake Ercol furniture as they would a Gucci handbag or a Rolex watch. What we do see, however, are a lot of sellers (on all the main online sites) describing furniture as Ercol, or Ercol style, when it is nothing of the sort. In many cases these are genuine mistakes, but I suspect that some are deliberate attempts to mislead.

The Ercol range is huge, so to keep things reasonably concise I have limited this blog discussion to the Ercol Windsor range, which covers all the most popular mid-century pieces (c1955 to c1980) including armchairs, sofas, dining chairs, tables and sideboards.

So, how do you know that what you are buying really is Ercol? There are a number of things you can do to make sure that you end up with the genuine article:-

  1. Is there a label? Ercol labels have changed over the years but the ones that you are most likely to find are either small, square blue labels, printed on metallic paper or circular gold labels.The blue labels in particular tend to come off (and are not easy to replace) so, whilst a label is a clear indication that the piece is Ercol, don’t let anyone tell you that this increases the value. It doesn’t. And don’t be fooled by descriptions saying “Ercol Blue Label range” or anything similar. The blue label is not specific to a particular Ercol range, it is simply an indication of the date of manufacture. Very roughly, blue labels were used from 1954 to 1976 and the gold labels from 1977 to 1995.
  2. What is it made of? There are only two woods used by Ercol in the Windsor range during the mid-century period; beech and elm. Elm is used for solid seats (rocking chairs and dining chairs for example) and for the tops of tables. It is also used for the sideboards made during this period. Beech is used for table and sideboard legs and for all of the chairs, with the exception of the solid seats. Beech is a light wood which has a very noticeable fleck in the grain. Elm is somewhat darker, with an attractive swirly grain pattern.
  3. Chairs from the Ercol Windsor range have stick backs. The sticks are always round. Many “Ercol style” chairs have oval or squared off sticks.
  4. With the exceptions of chairs with a solid seat, virtually every Ercol chair from this period that you come across will be webbed (some very early chairs (1953 – 1955) used tension springs). The webbing patterns changed a number of times over the years. The traditional webbing is “Pirelli” webbing which has a canvas interior and rubber exterior.
  5. This causes much confusion. To be absolutely accurate, all Ercol Windsor chairs of this period, up to c1981 were finished in natural “light wood”; that is to say they were finished with a clear lacquer. Chairs from this period which are dark, and identical in shape, come from the Old Colonial range. From around 1982 Golden Dawn was introduced as an option and the Old Colonial dark finish became Traditional. Be careful when buying furniture. Golden Dawn is often wrongly used to describe natural “light” finishes; it is, in fact quite dark, albeit not as dark as Old Colonial/Traditional. Don’t be tempted to buy a piece with a dark finish in the hope that it can be made lighter. I have never seen this done successfully.

If you want to know more, there is an excellent book, Ercol Furniture in the Making by Lesley Jackson (ISBN 978-0-9553741-9-7), which can help with identifying Ercol pieces. There is also an archive with some old brochures at http://www.ercol.com/about/archive/. Or you can contact me (simon@theandrewspartnership.co.uk) – I am always happy to help. This blog was first published by the excellent online marketplace Layer Home.

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