Famous name that sits comfortably whether outdoors or in
THE first glimmer of sunshine peeped through my window this morning and I dared to allow myself the brief hope that warmer weather might be on its way. It’s been a long old winter and the prospect of a bit of sun sent me near giddy with excitement. It obviously doesn’t take much.
One of the best things about the arrival of spring is the chance to think about getting back outside, enjoying the garden and snatching a few quick cups of tea al fresco before the heavens invariably open again. It’s also the time of year when you do a stock-check of your garden or conservatory furniture and realise that it’s time you chucked out that horrible plastic set and treated yourself to something altogether smarter.
In the process of leafing through endless homes and garden magazines (oh, the chore of it) it’s struck me that one British furniture company is enjoying something of a comeback. You can barely turn of page these days without stumbling upon a Lloyd Loom chair or sofa, whether it’s dressing an elegant courtyard or bunched around a kitchen table.
The history of the company is fascinating. Lloyd Loom furniture is made from “paper wicker”, a process in which paper is tightly twisted around a steel wire. The idea, which emerged at the beginning of the 20th century, came from the enterprising and energetic American inventor Marshall Burns Lloyd who initially used his new Lloyd Loom weave to make upmarket baby prams for smart Edwardian mums.
Marshall soon saw the potential for paper wicker furniture and in 1919 he offered the manufacturing patent for sale in Europe. A London merchant, William Lusty, applied for the UK patent and his son Frank was packed off to learn the secrets of the business. A successful deal was brokered and Frank returned to set up a UK furniture operation in 1921.
The public remained to be convinced, however. They loved the Lloyd Loom baby carriages but couldn’t get to grips with the idea of paper wicker furniture; after only five years the factory was on the verge of collapse.
Salvation came in the unlikely form of London North Eastern Railways, when they began to use Lloyd Loom furniture in its hotels. Finally demand took off and soon Lloyd Loom furniture was gracing both the interiors of royal yachts, ocean liners and the royal boxes at all the major sporting events. Tea-rooms, restaurants, hotels and finally people’s homes soon followed suit. As with all good stories, dark times were ahead. In 1940 disaster struck. The factory in Bow in East London took a direct hit from a German Luftwaffe raid and was destroyed. No-one was injured, fortunately, but the bombing spelt the end of large scale Lloyd Loom furniture manufacture in the UK. Until recently.
The fortunes of Lloyd Loom furniture took a turn for the better in 1985 thanks to Lincolnshire furniture maker, David Breese. David had already been supplying a growing demand for reconditioned prewar Lloyd Loom pieces and, after painstaking research of the old techniques, David was soon experimenting with his first prototypes recreating the original designs.
Fortunately, in the intervening years the popularity of Lloyd Loom furniture doesn’t seem to have waned. The new company, now rather grandly called Lloyd Loom of Spalding (www. lloydloom.com), has been an unmitigated success, exporting to far flung corners of the world and picking up awards.
Jill Atkinson, who sells Lloyd Loom furniture in her Olive Branch shops, has witnessed for herself the resurgence of interest in this British classic. “Lloyd Loom is a vanguard of British timeless durability and style,” she explains. “Their furniture looks amazing in either a modern or traditional setting – it used to be only suitable for indoor use but they’ve developed a new highly durable range of outdoor tables and seating.”
And who knows, you might just be buying an antique of the future. Original antique Lloyd Loom pieces now command eye-watering prices – hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.
You can find Lloyd Loom of Spalding furniture in the Olive Branch, Main Street, Addingham 01943 830123 and Market Place, Easingwold 01347 823402.
COMEBACK: Lloyd Loom furniture has been revived.