Thursday, 24 September 2015

Robin Day - Chair Man To Modern Design

Robin Day is recognisably one of the most influential furniture designers of the 20th century. In 2015 he would have celebrated his 100th birthday, and with a remarkable career spanning almost seven decades it is almost impossible not to be aware of, or have sat on one of his designs. Most globally known is Day's 1963 polypropylene stacking chair, seen in almost every school or office worldwide.

Born 25 May 1915, Day grew up in High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, known for its furniture making. He attended the High Wycombe Technical Institute and had close links with the local furniture industry. Being gifted at drawing, Day progressed to High Wycombe School of Art in 1931 and won a scholarship to study design at the Royal College of Art in 1934.

On graduating the Royal College of Art in 1938, there were no suitable openings in the furniture industry, so he made architectural models and took a teaching post at Beckenham School of Art, where he developed an innovative, groundbreaking course in 3D design, where he also met fellow design lecturer Clive Lamiter. Day's 'big break' came when he, together with Lamiter, won first prize in the 1948 International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design organised by the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA). Their ingenious concept for a range of multi-purpose storage units, composed from a tube of preformed moulded plywood, received international acclaim. This led to the start of a world acclaimed career in furniture design and to his collaboration with the London furniture manufacture Hille.

1963 Polypropylene chair. Image from

In 1951, Day was approached and commissioned by the Festival of Britain to design all the seating for London's Royal Festival Hall. His prolific work for Hille included 1950s ranges in moulded plywood and the incredible polypropylene chair created in 1963, which to date has sold in tens of millions. Designs for other clients included seating for the Barbican centre, televisions and radios for British company Pye, and the interiors for aircrafts for the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).

To celebrate his centenary year, the Victoria and Albert Museum is showcasing a display dedicated to Robin Day during the London Design Festival 2015 with the Day In London exhibition, a series of events all across the capital.

Robin Day display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

At Alfies we are hosting our own London Design Festival event throughout Thursday, 24 September, from 10am to 6pm, and we are fortunate enough to have an original Robin Day 'Leo Chair' offered by Matt Mitchell of Matt Mitchell London. The 'Leo Chair' was designed in 1965 and famously used by Sean Connery in the 1967 James Bond film 'You Only Live Twice'. The chair and matching footstool are in complete original condition with two sets of different feet and upholstered in quality black leather.

1965 'Leo Chair' by Robin Day, offered by Matt Mitchell London

During the London Design Festival, Alfies hosts talks, workshops and displays including Thirteen Interiors Tin Tin CollectablesPaola & Iaia - The Originals, and Matt Mitchell London

Clockwise from top left: Matt Mitchell London, Tin Tin Collectables, The Originals and Thirteen Interiors

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