David Nicholls - Designs with a story to tell

Designs with a story to tell

As featured in edition magazine

Portrait - David Nicholls

David Nicholls

Design Editor, The Telegraph

The revival of iconic designs brings new interest to furniture provenance says The Telegraph's Design Editor

Over the past few years, 'provenance' has become something of a watchword in the consumer arena, as we increasingly expect to know more about an item than its price before handing over our money. It makes sense: in these straitened times, said money is harder to come by.

In the interiors world, one of the ways that this interest in provenance is taking shape is in the rediscovery and revival of designs from the mid-20th century. Refocusing on this period – regarded as the golden age of modern design – has seen iconic pieces such as the Eames Lounger (1956) and Castiglioni's Arco light (1962) find a new generation of fans. It has also meant less familiar designs have been rooted out of the archives and put into production.


... provenance and narrative are not confined to pieces of furniture with a long and distinguished history

Treviso desk

Treviso desk, £999
Matthew Hilton for Ercol


That's what is happening this September with three pieces by the late Danish designer Hans Wegner, a key figure of the 1940s and 1950s Scandinavian design movement. Wegner designed over 500 chairs in his lifetime, including the 1949 Wishbone chair and the Butterfly chair from 1977. This September, the Butterfly chair, U chair and his timeless round dining table will go back into production and will be available exclusively at John Lewis. For design fans, this is something to get excited about.

But provenance and narrative are not confined to pieces of furniture with a long and distinguished history. As new generations of designers evolve, new names begin to emerge as the ones to watch, and their designs have their own stories to tell.

Funnily enough, Wegner's Butterfly chair was a source of inspiration for designer Oliver Hrubiak. His Finn chair won him the John Lewis Retail Award at New Designers last July, the biggest graduate design show in Britain. His elegant creation, along with a table, are in production and, by September, will be sold alongside designs by names including Matthew Hilton and Bethan Gray as part of the John Lewis Design Collective.

With pieces such as Wegner's Butterfly chair, Hrubiak's Finn chair, or any other design with a narrative beyond its aesthetic value, we have the chance to create interiors that have layers of interest and meaning. And, for a growing number of design fans, it's a way to show off their appreciation, knowledge and – arguably – their participation in the evolution of modern design.



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