BEST OF BRITISH DESIGN - WILLIAM PLUNKETT
I phoned Mr Plunkett up once to ask if he ever had designed a coffee table that was the opposite to his coulsden table and ended up talking to him for an hour, he was a lovely man and very interesting. He no longer makes furniture and now only does sculptures, but he has left a legacy, which I feel makes him one of Britians best Modern furniture designers.
William Plunkett was a gunner with 12 years of army service behind him; now he is an internationally known designer and maker of modern furniture and the winner of two ColD Design Awards in one year. Appropriately enough, the award winning Reigate rocking chair- now something of a classic-formed the basis of the first range of furniture marketed by Mr Plunkett and, with its twin award-winning Coulsdon table, typifies his approach to the design of furniture.
The first rocking chair was produced as a result of a Kennedy-inspired request from Mr Plunkett's father-in-law, and was designed and developed in the way that the designer still works. After sketching out some basic ideas Mr Plunkett used his own mastery of metal-working to make two or three prototypes. After thus perfecting the method of construction and ensuring that the chair was comfortable, Mr Plunkett himself made the first few chairs to meet orders from friends. Later, the frames were bought from a sub-contractor, with the designer keeping a very close check on quality. All his furniture is still designed and made in this way, with assembly, finishing and checking being done by the designer's own staff.
With the rocking chair Mr Plunkett took special care to make sure that the centre of gravity was placed so that the chair can be rocked or kept at a particular comfortable angle. The thinness of the cushions belies the comfort of the chair, for Pirelli webbing provides a great deal of the necessary give; back support is particularly good. Made by William Plunkett Limited, Croydon. Designed by William Plunkett, MSIA.
Mr Plunkett's design career began slowly; "I spent six months after leaving the army turning down all the usual kind of jobs offered by the army resettlement office.. Then one day I said I liked drawing and was promptly sent to the Council of Industrial Design. The ColD recommended a design course, and I went to the Kingston School of Art to study basic design and, later, furniture design and sculpture. I then worked for a time as a designer with A. and R. Duckworth Ltd." William Plunkett Ltd was founded in January 1963.
This high-backed version of the Reigate rocking chair has won the award. It has a steel frame finished in dark grey nylon coating and the seat and back supports are polished and anodised aluminium alloy. Upholstery is to the customer's orders; the polyether foam cushions are thin because Pirelli webbing provides the necessary give. The upholstery fabric is secured internally to prevent rucking. The whole chair is carefully balanced so that it can be rocked or kept at a comfortable angle.
This 1966 design is part of a system of similarly-designed items that can be used separately or as super-cool modular items (should you have a long wall to fill), this one featuring a high back, anodised aluminium legs and upholstered foam 'barrels' for that distinctive shape and comfort. if that's a bit too simple, armrests are available as an option