Collection

Durlston table mirror

Collection: When modernism goes bad

Category: Metal

Date: Circa 1960s

Designer: Owen F Thomas/Robert Welch

Nationality of Designer: British

Manufacturer: Durlston Designs Ltd

Manufacturers Location: Hersham, Surrey (U.K)

Material: Brass, mirror

Dimensions: Diameter 36cm x Height 46cm

Purchase Price: £5

Abstract:

Circular mirror, comprising brushed steel surround onto a weighted brushed steel circular base with semi-circular hinge.

Provenance:

A second hand shop 

Adaptions/renovations:

None, excellent condition

Why it's in the Collection:

Durlston Designs' mirrors are by far their most popular product today, and are viewed as classics of cool sixties modernism. They cast back to the penchant for nautical architecture and design from the inter-war years by recalling the shape and material of a porthole. If the functionalism of an ocean liner was aspired to by the pioneers of the International Style in Britain between the wars, products like Durlston's mirrors made it a reality to the mass market once peace returned and high quality material became available.

These mirrors were renowned for their reliable quality and although the bases came in double horizontal stands, tripods, and circular variants, they were consistently well designed. Mirror designs by Owen F Thomas for Durlston are just one example of British makers drawing inspiration from Scandinavian modernism and pre-war function, but collectively this trend opens the door to a general softening of modern design eventually epitomised by brands like Ikea. 

This is one of 3 Durlston mirrors at Lawson Park. 

About the Designer/Maker:

Little is known of Owen F Thomas, but Robert Welch (1929 – 2000) is a major figure of post-war British design and is occasionally named as a co-designer for Durlston's mirrors. Welch established his studios in Chipping Camden (in the old Guild of Handicrafts building) after training as a silversmith at the Birmingham School of Art under Ralph Baxendale and Cyril Shiner. From 1952 to 1955 he was at the Royal College of Art, London, after which he was appointed as design consultant to J. J. Wiggin of Sheffield, manufacturers of stainless-steel tableware.

He quickly established a production and design reputation, being a cornerstone of the Design Council endorsed style and working extensively with stainless steel and Staybrite pioneers Old Hall. With Old Hall he designed a wide range of tableware. In 1958 Welch was commissioned to design the tableware for the Orient liner SS Oriana. The collection was designed and manufactured as part of a wider commissioning program led by the chairman of the Orient Line Sir Colin Anderson who initiated a forward looking design policy, employing some of the most experimental designers and architects of the day to construct and fit out it’s ships. Welch was particularly remarkable as an importer and populariser of Scandinavian style.

About the Manufacturer:

Durlston Designs, based in Herlsham Surrey, are now best known for their mirrors. There is little information available on the company but their work from the 1960s is considered classic modern British design. Blending influences of Scandinavian modernism with solid build-quality, often in brushed or polished steel, Durlston's spherical lamp or cantilevered magazine rack typify an image of smooth cool domestic style popular in the sixties.