Designer of Utility Furniture
Gordon Russell (1892 – 1980) was a British Furniture Maker and Designer.
He began working at his father’s modest antiques restoration workshop in 1908, where he learned various crafts and oversaw repairs. In 1910, he began designing furniture. After World War I, he manufactured furniture in the style of Ernest Gimson. By 1926, his company had adopted Modernism’s beliefs and concepts to integrate the best of the Arts and Crafts tradition with the efficiency of mechanised production. He was a founding member of the Design and Industries Association and a member of the Art-Workers’ Guild.
Established business in London
In 1929, he opened a business with Nikolaus Pevsner at 24 Wigmore Street in London. His visit to Gunner Asplund’s Stockholm Exhibition in 1930 was eye-opening. He relocated to a spacious store constructed by Geoffrey Jellicoe just a few doors away from his previous accommodations in 1935. Russell, his brother R.D. Russell, and the firm’s other designers W.H. Russell (no relation) and Eden Minns, started developing furniture in a basic Modern style without adornment in the early 1930s.
From 1931, the company began making radio cabinets for Murphy Radio in Welwyn Garden City, designed by R.D. Russell. These were strikingly modern, influenced by both the International Style and the Arts and Crafts movement.
Nikolaus Pevsner worked as a buyer for Gordon Russell from 1935 to 1939. The Good Furniture Group was founded in 1938 by Russell, Crofton Gane (of Gane’s in Bristol), and Geoffrey Dunn (of Dunn’s of Bromley) to promote mass-production furniture. With the onset of World War II, this practice was phased out.
Russell’s involvement with the Utility Scheme, which began in 1939, impacted British domestic furnishings. In 1940, he quit as managing director and was replaced by R.H. Bee. From 1943 until 1947, he was the chairman of the Board of Trade Design Panel, which was in charge of creating Utility furniture.
In 1940, he was named Royal Designer for Industry and a Fellow of the Society of Arts; from 1948 to 1949, he taught furniture design at the Royal College of Art in London.
Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.
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