Choosing second hand furniture can often be a daunting task. With so many different manufacturers, wood types and styles, it’s good to know what’s available before purchasing.
Ercol is a furniture brand which has been around for almost a century. Due to the quality materials and excellent design, many vintage and second hand Ercol furniture have stood the test of time and can be found on Preloved!
Ercol is a British furniture manufacturer which was established in the 1920s by Italian furniture maker Lucian Ercolani. During the Second World War, the company worked for the government largely making tent pegs. The rise of Ercol furniture began in post-war Britain, when the shortage of raw materials in the UK meant that all furniture must be strong and of high quality. In 1944, the company was commissioned to make 100,000 well-made chairs at low cost; thus, Ercol furniture was introduced into many homes around Britain.
What is its appeal?
The furniture-making techniques used by Lucian Ercolani and his sons were revolutionary. They used wood types which were previously thought to be unfit for furniture use. They also used a method called steam-bending to transform the wood into stunning, well-constructed furniture.
The Ercol Windsor and Originals collections are thought to be the most iconic, and the timeless design and quality manufacturing make Ercol furniture still extremely popular with modern-day homeowners.
Ercoloholics – those who have a passion for Ercol furniture with strong tendencies to buy, restore and love their Ercol chairs, tables, cabinets, loveseats… You name it, they’ll love it.
What Should I Look out for When Buying Second Hand Ercol?
If you’d like to identify your Preloved Ercol piece before purchasing, the Ercol catalogue archive is a great source of information, and includes digital versions of nearly every Ercol catalogue through the decades.This can be a way to ensure that your Ercol funriture is legitimate, and to check whether the piece has gone through any modifications by comparing it to an image of the original.
Sometimes, sellers list furniture as Ercol, even when it isn’t. It’s a great idea to use the catalogues to familiarise yourself with the signature features of the funrniture if you don’t know already. Naturally, the designs largely depend on which decade the piece was designed. Early Ercol furniture was chunky, with intricate carvings, and made of figured oak. Typically, however, when we think of Ercol, we think of the elegant style that around in the 1960’s; chairs with spindles on their backs and outward sloping chair legs. Variations of this classic style are still manufactured today, and there are plenty of chic Ercol pieces listed on Preloved.
Traditional materials used to make Ercol furniture were elm, beech or pine. However, some collections use different types of wood (ash, oak, walnut etc.), so do not be deterred if your Preloved Ercol piece is made from a type of wood that you don’t immediately associate with their furniture. One of the most striking things about Ercol, and the main reason why there are still many pieces around today, is the excellent quality and high manufacturing standard of each piece. Each piece typically feels sturdy and solid, but of course, this could alter with age.
If your second hand Ercol piece has suffered damage, it’s usually possible to restore it back to its original splendour. This can include making repairs, light sanding and re-finishing. Ercol pieces have different finishes depending on which type of timber it’s made from. Some have clear, light finishes, others are darker and more traditional. By visiting the Ercol catalogue archive you will fin which finish your item has for replication during the restoration process.
Over time, most wooden furniture changes colour slightly depending on the conditions it’s been kept in during its lifetime. Prolonged exposure to sunlight causes timber to loose its colour, and you should try to keep wooden furniture away from areas where it is exposed to direct rays. This is no different with Ercol furniture, and your Preloved Ercol piece may have adopted a different colour from its original over time.
“Over time natural timber will change it colour. You should avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight to minimise this. However, the timber will still naturally mellow over time, providing a beautiful tone.” – Ercol Manufacturer
Doors and Drawers
With any second hand or old furniture, it’s common for the doors and drawers of cupboards and cabinites to stick. Changes in temperature can cause wood to shrink or expand. Ercol furniture, especially pieces in more modern collections have adjustable screws on both their doors and drawers, allowing you to adjust the alignment to prevent sticking. Be sure to check for these features in your Preloved Ercol piece.
When looking for your Preloved Ercol piece, make sure to check for its Ercol markings. The stamps differ in design through the decades, but to be sure, hunt for Ercol-branded labels.
We got in touch with, Sarah, a member of the Ercol team, who said:
“All pieces of Ercol will have some sort of mark on them. These marks have varied over the years, and we have used stamps, labels and more recently, badges. A comprehensive list of these marks can be found in the book ‘Ercol Furniture in the Making‘ by Lesley Jackson.”
Of course, you should also keep an eye out for all of the things you usually would when buying second hand furniture, including signs of wear and tear, damage, scuffs, and the small holes which indicate the presence of woodworm. It’s a great idea to check out our tips on safe second hand before purchasing anything on the Preloved site.
There’s a huge selection of Ercol furniture on Preloved. From cupboards and sideboards, to stunning unmarked drop leaf dining tables, there’s undoubtedly some Ercol for everyone.
Let us know which second hand Ercol treasures you’ve found on the site by tweeting us @Preloved!