The Crittall comeback
The industrial invention used on the Titanic is now in vogue again. Tory Kingdon explores the latest looks ‘You can zone things without locking them away’
The most common feature of modern property design in recent years has undoubtedly been the open-plan layout: the desire for large multi-functional spaces flooded with light rather than smaller, separate rooms. There is, however, a limit to the number of walls that can be demolished before your home starts appearing like the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Appealingly spacious? Yes. Liveable in? Perhaps not.
This is why traditional Crittall is staging a comeback – and not just as windows, but as walls and doors too. Developers, designers and canny home owners are using these steelframed partitions to create floor plans that feel both light and inclusive but retain an element of separation.
The sturdy, slim-profile frames, as well as looking rather good, tap into the current trend for all things industrial. The manufacturing technique was introduced in the mid-19th century when Sir Henry Bessemer developed a process for hot-rolling steel. It was in 1860 that Francis Henry Crittall, an ironmonger in Essex, first used this method to create steel-framed windows. Crittall was trademarked and continued to expand into manufacturing in the United States, China and Europe.
The strength and durability of the metal frames trumped traditional wooden ones for industrial buildings. The malleability of the alloy also meant that, by the Thirties, Crittall was being used in a variety of different buildings, adapting to more innovative art deco and cubist designs.
Crittall was used on the Titanic and can still be found in the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London.