GERALD SUMMERS ISOKON TROLLEY

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Object Description

This design by Gerald Summers is his only documented contribution to Isokon and the only known period example. It was exhibited at the Bent Wood and Metal Furniture exhibition in the US which travelled to nine institutions over two years. In his accompanying book Derek Ostergard describes it “with a simple sheet of plywood bent into a dynamic S-shaped configuration, Summers partially disguised that form by incorporating three parallel boards into the cart to serve as shelves.” ‘That form’ refers to the latest development in domestic furniture. The household staff upon whom the upper classes had relied for generations were, following WWI, no longer available and adaptations were required to maintain standards of service to guests. Lightweight plywood ‘bar carts’, ‘tea trolleys’ or ‘dinner wagons’ were the ideal solution to assist the host lacking a butler.

In the 1930’s, Gerald Summers (founder of Makers of Simple Furniture) and Jack Pritchard (founder of Isokon) were leading the British Modernist design movement and they were linked by a common material; the Baltic birch plywood which Pritchard was marketing in Britain and which was the preferred material of both companies. Gerald Summers designed all the furniture for his company and Pritchard recognised the genius of others, importing Alvar Aalto’s work and employing emigrĂ©s such as Marcel Breuer to design for Isokon. Furniture by these designers, including this trolley, were incorporated in the most iconic Modernist building in London, the Lawn Road Flats (or Isokon building) in Hampstead, in which both Pritchard and Breuer lived.

Object History

Barry Friedman Ltd, New York, U.S.
Private Collection, Michigan, U.S.

Object Literature

Bent Wood and Metal Furniture: 1850 – 1946, Derek Ostergard pg. 107 illustrates this example
The Pritchard Papers, University of East Anglia

Object Details

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London, UK