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Gerald Summers Bent Plywood Armchair


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Design, Ethnographic & Ancient Art

Gerald Summers Bent Plywood Armchair

Purchased new by the architect Wilfred Randolph Brown for his newly built Modernist home in 1935

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Gerald Summers Bent Plywood Armchair


Designed 1933

Designed by Gerald Summers (1899-1967)

Made by Makers of Simple Furniture (1931-1940)

Purchased new in 1935

Made from a single rectangle of birch plywood.

Gerald Summers was the most innovative British Modernist designer and in only ten years produced over a hundred furniture designs which capture the zeitgeist of the 1930's. He achieved with this Modernist masterpiece what his counterparts across Europe and Scandinavia had been striving for as it describes in the simplest terms the ideal unity of material, production, function and form.

At this time adhesives and jointing methods did not stand the strain of everyday use and some of both Alvar Aalto and Marcel Breuer’s plywood designs had to be modified with spliced pieces and bracing. This was alien to Summers’ beliefs, “In pure design we expect each part and member to pull its full weight in making the design suitable for its purpose. That is to say (taking a hypothetical case) if we use a brace only to strengthen two members the design is bad”.

Made from a single rectangle of ply, the seven 3 mm thick sheets with four lengthwise and 2 lateral cuts were placed on top of each other, sandwiched with glue and laid in the mould. After only eight hours the chair was removed and required only minimal finishing. Summers applied for registration of the design which was granted by the London Patent Office in early 1934.


The bent plywood armchair was purchased circa 1935 by Wilfred Randolph Brown who was a well-known architect and property developer in Liverpool during the 1920's and 30's. In 1935 he commissioned his son, Neville Montague Beresford, an architect by profession to design and build a country home - The Chase. It was built in the Art Deco style situated in twelve acres of land outside the village of Great Sutton on the Wirral. Although collectors of Far Eastern and European artefacts, Wilfred and his wife Francis Eliza chose to furnish the house in the contemporary style and it was at this time that the armchair was purchased.

Museums & Exhibitions:

Victoria & Albert Museum: The Bent Plywood Armchair is on permanent exhibition in the new 20th Century Furniture Galleries.

Museum of Modern Art, New York Exhibition 2014: The Magic of Plywood

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Vitra Design Museum

Thirties British Art and Design before the War organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain, London 1979

‘Constructivism in Art & Design’ Crafts Council Gallery, London 1988


The Design History Journal 1992 Vol.5 No.3 - precis of Masters' thesis by Martha Deese, Metropolitan Museum New York

Gerald Summers: Furniture For the Concrete Age Dunn and Mantz pub. 2012

1000 Chairs Charlotte and Peter Fiell, Cologne 2000 p.232

Design for Today 1934

100 Masterpieces Vitra Design Museum

Furnishing the small Home published London and New York 1930’s by the Studio Ltd.

A History of British Design 1839-1970 Fiona McCarthy pub. 1972

Bent Wood and Metal Furniture 1850-1946 University of Washington Press edited by Derek E. Ostergard

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