Of all the different chairs that you will sit in throughout your life, there is one particular type that deserves a mention above all others…

By Razi Hassan

Remember the chair that supported you as a terrified three-year-old, when left with a group of total strangers for the first time? Or the one, you held your head in during that torturous exam? Or perhaps, the one that steadied you when the Dr. broke that news… That staple of schools and public institutions the world over was proudly made in Watford, and this is a brief history.

Ernő Goldfinger's Hille House on St Albans Road (1959)
Ernő Goldfinger’s Hille House on St Albans Road (1959)
Image credit:wikiwand.com/en/Hille_(furniture)

In 1961, the Hille furniture company, which renovated and reproduced eighteenth-century furniture opened its new offices and factory at the site of an old brewery on St Albans road. Designed by Hungarian-born modernist architect, Ernö Goldfinger (not the James Bond villain I am assured), the newly revamped Hille would focus on big public commissions, producing furniture made of new, lighter materials that were easy to stack and move around.

Robin Day at work

However, it was in 1963 when the award-winning designer, Robin Day, working with Hille, designed the first polypropylene chair, and a ‘British Design Classic’ was born.

Global success was the order of the day, and by the early 70s Hille became licensor and had licenses in 30 countries. But, it wasn’t until 1972 that Hille launched Day’s Series E range which was specifically launched for the education market. Featuring a range of five heights to suit all age ranges, the Series E would seal the design in the minds and lives of everyone.

E-series School chairs, 1971
Image credit: wikiwand.com/en/Robin_Day_(designer)

Sadly, Robin Day died aged 95 at home on November 9, 2010. His wife Lucienne Day died 9 months earlier on January 30, 2010 aged 93, their daughter survives them. To read more about his incredible life visit hille.co.uk/robin-day.

DID YOU KNOW: 14 million chairs based on Day’s polyprop designs have been sold and continue to be sold at a rate of 500,000 units a year!