Robin Day is a designer who has featured in my life at many points in many different ways. I’ve written before about how sitting on his bright yellow plastic Polo chairs is a vivid memory of my childhood meal times and my relationship with his designs was strengthened when that blog post won me a 675 chair from Case Furniture which I still sit on every day.
The iconic designs of Robin & his wife Lucienne featured again in my life last weekend when Alys Bryan, a local designer and a good friend, laid on an expertly organised event about their lives at the Novium museum in Chichester. It turns out that as well as Robin’s designs following me through life, we’ve also followed a similar geographic path, both spending time living in Beckenham and now Chichester.
The aptly named Days In Sussex was hosted by Peter Murray a charismatic and esteemed architect with an impressive CV. The panel he chaired was made up of Paula Day, Geraldine Hemingway and Charlie Fowler of John Lewis. The evening was fascinating in so many respects. We were there to learn a little of the lives of Robin and his textile designer wife, Lucienne, but there were other fascinating insights too.
I couldn’t help but look around me at the inspiring collection of local creatives who had gathered under one roof for the event. So many effortlessly chic middle aged individuals with funky glasses and grey (or bald!) heads. Chichester is often thought of as being rather traditional and plodding, but the faces at the event proved otherwise!
Robin & Lucienne’s daughter Paula gave us an insight into her designer parents lives and their career paths, although I did feel a little sad when responding to a question from the audience she had to admit she’d never been allowed to be hands on in their studio herself as she often been “upstairs with the nanny”.
During the evening there was also discussion about the enduring appeal of mid-century furniture and the change in legislation in 2020 which will prohibit the unauthorised reproduction of that era’s furniture. Paula Day told us the story of how she rather stumbled into the formation of the Robin & Lucienne Day foundation as a way of protecting her parents designs and it was enlightening to learn about how Case Furniture has worked with the foundation to produce authentic reproductions of Robin’s designs, which was something I had not fully appreciated.
The event finished with some wonderful local canapes and a display of the duo’s designs. I thought I was relatively unfamiliar with Lucienne’s textile work until I actually saw it and instantly recognised it. It was wonderful to see so many of their creations still in production and although some of their designs are quite expensive (the beautiful reclining chair is just shy of £2000) there are others which are still incredibly affordable including the John Lewis cushion you can see above which is currently in the sale for £28.
Although I was too shy to stick my hand up at question time the one thing I was curious to know was what Robin had thought about Ikea, a brand which in many ways popularised his idea for democratic furniture. Fortunately my curiosity was satisfied by another bolder audience member who asked the question of Paula over a glass of wine. Her answer? He only went to the store once, but he thought the Poang was “quite well designed”.