How to collect: Vintage French school furniture
The Period: Mid 20th century The Source: France The Appeal: Practical vintage school furniture to add a retro accent to a room, great for storage and display
The French don’t prize retro furnishings in the same way as we Brits do, so many unwanted pieces make their way over here. The design principles embraced by the French government from the 1950s onwards were straightforward – school furniture should be simple, sturdy and functional. Perhaps the best-known design was made of tubular steel for the frame, topped with plywood or oak for the seat or desk. One of the chief suppliers was Delagrave Paris, who produced a Mobilier Scolaire Modèles Dèposés range. To identify furniture from this maker, look for a signature brown and red label on the underside of chairs and desks. Stackable bentwood chairs in this style can be found from £30 to £200, depending on size, condition and where you shop – bargains are more easily found on Etsy and eBay than anywhere else. The desks are more expensive, think £200 plus, and come in a variety of styles – some with drawers and cupboards, then there are the small double desks with integral chairs made for primary school children. Due to its popularity, the blueprint tubular steel and bentwood furniture continued to be made into the 1960s and beyond.