Sir Gordon Russell shaped the history of 20th-century British design, bridging the gap from the arts and crafts movement to a modern, minimalist aesthetic. Passionate about high standards of craftsmanship, he also accepted machinery as a means of reaching out to a wider market without compromising quality.
This combination of functionality with design made Sir Gordon Russell a pioneer in creating furniture to suit modern life. After WWII his furniture company successfully adapted and modernised to produce utilitarian items available to the masses, as well as bespoke pieces for special commissions.
The Gordon Russell furniture company received a number of commissions from high profile individuals, such as a ‘Snowshill’ chest of drawers commissioned
by Prime Minister David Lloyd
George to be made from a holly tree that had fallen in his garden. The piece includes a distinctive central drawer, which was designed to contain a top hat. Another prominent commission for the company came from Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The company created an occasional table displaying a map of the D-Day landings, which was presented to President Eisenhower during a state visit to the USA in 1957.
In addition, the company participated in large-scale projects to bring its modern designs to the public. In 1960 the Gordon Russell furniture company
collaborated with Basil Spence, the architect of the new Coventry Cathedral to create chairs suitable for the space. Required to be durable, to
simulate pews, to stack and to
link together, the design was revolutionary and hugely successful, with many of the original chairs still in use today. The design for these chairs was later used at Winchester, Wells, Southwark and Hereford Cathedrals and has recently gone back into production.