In her fashion, designer Margaret Howell is on a constant quest for functional simplicity, quality of craftsmanship and exquisite attention to detail. It is not surprising then that she finds her furniture equivalent in the timeless, modernist designs of the 20th century, and in British brands such as Anglepoise and Ercol, which she sells in her London shop alongside her clothing lines,
This month, the designer expands on this furniture passion, hosting an exhibition that celebrates modern design through the collection of Ken Stradling, patron of contemporary design and collector, who championed arts and design in Britain since joining the Bristol Guild of Applied Arts in 1948.
Fifty pieces from the Ken Stradling Collection will be on display at Howell's Wigmore Street store, complementing the designer's aesthetics while offering an overview of mid-century design in the country. The pieces on display will include glass and ceramics pieces as well as furniture, with an extraordinary group of designs by Bauhaus master Marcel Breuer, created for the home of Bristol furniture manufacturer Crofton Gane in the 1930s.
'The Ken Stradling Collection is as extraordinary as the man himself,' says Howell, who personally hand-picked the selection on display. 'A collector with an open mind and personal eye, his collection is open to all of us to see and even to handle – aware that feeling shape and texture are essential to fully enjoying the aesthetic of a piece of skilfully blown glass or hand thrown ceramic.'
Other items from the collection, now on display at Howell's space, include glass by Erik Hoglund and Per Lutken and pottery by James Tower, David Leach and Betty Blandino. Other pieces of furniture were chosen to show the incredible breadth and quality of Stradling's collection, which includes everyday objects such as Robert Welch hand-milled steel tea set from 1962 and dressing table mirrors designed by Colin Beales and Peter Cudden in 1960.
'For our exhibition the selection of pieces reflects my own aesthetic, choosing objects to compliment both the new and vintage products we source to sell in our shops. But for those who visit Bristol you will see much more,' explains Howell. 'The collection is unusually varied, eclectic and personal – often Ken’s sense of humour and whimsy creeps in.'