The Ercol 203 Chair?
This may seem like a question with a rather obvious answer – surely everyone knows what the iconic Ercol 203 chair looks like. But do they?
First of all, it’s probably worth noting that Ercol product numbering is always far from straightforward and a plethora of variants and finishes helps to confuse matters even more. However, as far as the Ercol 203 chair is concerned the following should allow for a reasonably accurate identification.
The 203 was in production from 1953 to 1983. From 1983 to 1992 a variant, the 204 was produced (with some overlap). The 204 has a slightly higher seat and arms. And from 2012 there has been a 206, which is the same chair but in the new Ercol Originals range.
The 203 always has 10 back sticks (or 8 spindles and 2 forked struts for the pedants). There are no exceptions to this. It has curved arms. Very early chairs (1953 to 1955) used tensions springs rather than webbing. From 1955 to 1983 rubber webbing was always used. The 203 may have 6, 7, 8 or 9 webs depending on the vintage of the chair. Early chairs had webbing from side to side only, later chairs had lengthways webbing in addition. Finally the 203 was always in a light (natural finish) if it was a 203 Windsor chair and in a much darker finish if it was a 203 Old Colonial chair. As far as I can tell the 203 was never offered with the Golden Dawn finish (although this is available on the new 206). References in adverts for mid-century chairs that use the term Golden Dawn invariably mean that the chair comes from the Old Colonial range.
The 203 is 77.5cm (30.5in) high, 88.9cm (35in) deep and 69.8cm (27.5in) wide.
This is a classic 203 properly dressed…
…and just in underwear.
There are a number of chairs that seem to get confused with the 203, particularly when they are being sold. I am sure that in most cases this is simply genuine confusion (or a lack of knowledge) but there are occasions when less popular Ercol chairs are passed off as more valuable 203s. Examples of this confusion are:-
Ercol 252 – this is exactly the same as the 203, save that it has a Fleur de Lys back slat, rather than spindles. It lacks the simple grace of the 203 and is much less popular.
Ercol 204 – this was made from about 1983 to 1992 and overlapped for a time with the 203. The 204 looks very similar but the seat cushion on the 204 is not as deep as the 203 (55cm compared with 61cm) and it is higher (44cm compared with 38cm). I my view it is not as comfortable, or as good looking, as a 203.
Ercol 334 – made from 1956 to 1985, this is a lower, smaller chair than the 203, has flatter arms and 7 spindles. It is a very pleasant and somewhat underrated chair. As it is less popular than the 203, it is often quite a bit cheaper. The 334 features in our earlier blog – Mid Century affair…it started with a chair.
There are a number of other chairs that are sometimes also sold as 203s such as the 305 tub chair (its self a variant of the 249), the 317 grandfather tub chair and the 364 double bow easy chair.
I could go on, but I suspect that this is all getting a bit geeky. If you would like to know more, or if you have a question about Ercol chairs, please contact us here.
Note:- Research for this piece has come from a number of sources, most importantly an excellent book called Ercol Furniture in the Making by Lesly Jackson (ISBN 978-0 9553741-9-7) and the Ercol archives (http://www.ercol.com/about/archive/). Please feel free to leave a comment.