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Wells Wintemute Coates (1895—1958) architect and industrial designer

Serge Chermayeff (1900—1996) designer and architect

Oliver Percy Bernard (1881—1939) architect and designer



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(Practical Equipment Ltd.)

(established 1931)

This British furniture company was known for its tubular steel furniture in the 1930s, reflecting a growing interest in Modernism on the part of a number of manufacturers, enlightened patrons such as the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), and projects such as Wells Coates's Embassy Court apartment block (1935) in Brighton and Serge Chermayeff's De La Warr Pavilion (1935) at Bexhill‐on‐Sea. The company's origins lay in the activities of steel tube company conglomerate Tube Investments, particularly its Ackles & Pollock subsidiary, which set up a department for the manufacture of tubular steel furniture in 1929. However, stimulated by examples of Thonet tubular steel furniture designs imported into Britain, Tube Investments established a new company, Practical Equipment Ltd. (soon afterwards contracted to PEL), in 1931 with Oliver Bernard as consultant designer, a post he held until 1933. An important early tubular steel furniture commission for PEL was for the BBC's Broadcasting House in London (1931–2) and was soon followed by the production of a PEL Catalogue (designed by design writer Noel Carrington) with a full range of designs. The company also exhibited its furniture at the highly popular Ideal Home Exhibition of 1932 and soon the company's products were in demand from many British avant‐garde designers, fashionable hotels such as the Savoy, Claridge's, and the Berkeley, and retailers such as Heal's and Harrods. PEL also managed to penetrate the mass market with a number of designs, most notably its RP6 stacking chair, first put into production in 1932. PEL designs were to be found increasingly in schools, hospitals, canteens, and other public spaces. The company survived the Second World War through a number of Admiralty contracts and continued in production afterwards.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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