Tag Archives: Britain Can Make It

Design Heroes: Ernest Race

Ernest Race, a prolific British furniture designer who managed to combine Victorian and Modernist styles with enormous success.

Race trained as interior designer at Bartlett’s School of Architecture and was later snapped by a lighting company which allowed him to meet his great contemporaries like Walter Gropius or Isokon’s Jack Pritchard.

Later on he spent some time in India helping his missionary aunt to run a weaving community which resulted in opening a textile and carpet shop in London, all of which he designed himself. The shop closed its door in 1939.

He spent the war serving bombed London as a fireman.

After the war he started to design furniture which was very challenging due to the Utility Scheme and lack of material. For the V&A’s 1946 exhibition ‘Britain Can Make It’ he designed clever, easy to transport, simple in design aluminium BA3 dining chairs and tables. These were hugely popular and massive orders soon followed.

BA3 chair

Bigger success was to come in 1951 at the Festival of Britain where Race’s most famous designs were exhibited: the Springbok and Antelope chairs.

Antelope chairs

Springbok chairs

I always wanted the Antelope chairs and bench, they are so elegant and cheerful, no wonder they were a huge post-war success.

Race was contracted by many companies including P&O to design deck chairs for their upmarket cruise liners.

The Neptune deck chair

His other designs included stylish simple coffee and dining tables.

Rocking chair.

Beautiful Unicorn chairs.

Heron chair.

And the Penguin Donkey which I would so love to have with all the vintage Penguin books.