Waring & Gillow

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Serge Chermayeff (1900—1996) designer and architect

British Empire Exhibition


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(established 1727)

The roots of this furniture‐making and retailing company are located in the 18th century when the Gillows firm was founded (in 1727) in Lancaster by Robert Gillows, a joiner. In order to market its products London showrooms and a warehouse were established, and a distinguished clientele built up. During the 19th century, although producing furniture in a variety of historical styles, the firm also commissioned furniture from well‐known contemporary designers, including T. E. Collcutt and B. J. Talbert. In 1897 Gillows was absorbed by Collinson and Lock, soon afterwards being amalgamated with S. J. Waring & Son to become Waring & Gillow.

In the early years of the 20th century the new company catered for a wealthy clientele through the kind of furniture seen in the Chinese Lacquer and Neo‐Georgian room settings at the British Empire Exhibition of 1924. From the later 1920s the company assumed a more progressive edge through its embrace of a more contemporary European aesthetic. This was brought about largely by the Russian emigré architect and designer, Serge Chermayeff who, after marrying into the controlling family, was appointed director of the firm's Modern Art Studios. He collaborated with the French designer Paul Follot to mount a large‐scale exhibition of Modern Art in Decoration and Furnishing in the London showrooms in 1928. It found particular favour in an editorial in the Architectural Review and, from this time until the outbreak of the Second World War, Waring & Gillow became recognized for its promotion of modern furniture design and interior decoration.

In the post‐war years the furniture trade became increasingly competitive with the advent of retailing concerns such as Habitat and the later proliferation of out‐of‐town warehouse outlets. In the light of such competition Waring & Gillow's position in the market place became increasingly problematic until its eventual demise in 1997.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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