Title: At last - British door furniture gets co - ordinated
Pages: 32 - 36
Author: Peter Whitworth
The variety of assembly arrangements is part of the interest of the Modric range. The severity of the form is consistent throughout and consequently assemblies for different functions relate logically.
At last British door furniture gets co - ordinated
by Peter Whitworth
Crystal gazing in DESIGN three years ago (DESIGN 179/48-55), the author spied developments in British door furniture. Now, forecasts have become facts in three new ranges which should delight architects, interior designers and discriminating householders. Peter Whitworth was formerly on the industrial staff of the ColD.
Door furniture in 1963 presented a rather gloomy prospect. Overall design standards were low, and it was almost impossible to fit a single front door without resorting to the mismatched products of three or four rival firms.
There were, however, indications that the situation was changing. The original survey suggested that "designers are beginning to make contact with the problem; manufacturers and customers are looking forward rather than sideways, and progress looks likely in several directions". Referring to specialist suppliers of door furniture, the report went on to say that "some factors are now sufficiently well established to commission their own patterns, and the implications of such organisations employing their own designers are enormous; further development in this direction could make effective co-ordination a reality".
The makers and distributors of door furniture, notably those of the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers, seem to have taken criticisms of their industry in the right spirit, for they are now showing both new heart and face to their customers. New products are always interesting, particularly in a field where continental thinking has dominated in recent years.
The right spirit The guild's group display of door furniture at the Building Exhibition last November was an excellent example of trade co - operation for, while each member had his own individual stand, by agreement no individual piece was duplicated. All the items shown were eligible for the guild's design competition, which was judged by a panel of architects and designers. Some of the entries were of a very high order, and among those selected by the judges were three 'family suites' of door furniture. These are now examined in detail.
Three new co - ordinated ranges of door furniture is an achievement in itself, but coming from completely different firms it represents a considerable contribution and a change in the overall design standard in this field. Rather surprisingly, each of these collections features a new door knob - which suggests that the supremacy of the lever handle may be facing a challenge after 30 years.
While none of these ranges represents marked new thinking in the mechanics of door closure and fastening, they all to differing degrees contribute towards solving the traditional problem of operating a mortice latch. The interest lies in the designs themselves, in the way in which they have been produced, and in the fact that they acknowledge the contribution to be made in this complex industry by the consultant designer.
The Modric range by G. & S. Allgood Ltd. designed by Holscher and Tye, is a remarkably versatile system of components in silver anodised aluminium that can be assembled in a variety of ways to provide a large number of different fittings. The basic components are two lever handles, a knob, a series of pull handles and an insert escutcheon, all of which may be combined with back plates dimensioned on a three inch module.
The system is increased further in flexibility by the addition of a range of related window furniture, letter plates, bolts, hinges, small knobs and doorstops and other accessories; particularly valuable too is the provision for relating electrical switches, bell pushes, etc. into the system. The logical use of extrusions to make different items from similar sections, and the production of an almost unlimited number of fittings from the basic components, is commendable not only in terms of production, but also in reinforcing a coherent design image.
The actual shapes employed are bold and simple, and the honest acceptance of the fixing screws accentuates the blunt design statement. Technically, no very new ground is broken: the lever handles follow the continental practice of being unsprung, and while this allows an extremely neat fixing, it does require the use of what to us in Britain is a special latch mechanism. Nylon bushes take the thrust, and a simple patented fixing ensures that the pull on the furniture is transferred direct to the spindle, thus eliminating the possibility of the furniture pulling off the door.
Interesting innovations The Myron range by Henry Hope and Sons Ltd. designed by Kenneth Grange, is on first impression less spectacular, but it reveals a considerable amount of innovation in its detailing. It includes what many designers may consider to be the most successful individual piece of any of the ranges - a ball knob that can only be described as a skilful redesign of the completely traditional 'Pitts knob'.
The reversible plastics lever handle is also an authoritative solution. The range contains, in fact, various well thought out ideas: even the semi - matt finish on the aluminium is an interesting change from the more usual silver anodising.
The basic range comprises levers, knobs, pushes and pulls. There are four lever handles, each of a quite different, restrained character: three in aluminium and one in Delrin. These handles and the two aluminium knobs can be mounted on concealed structural back plate assemblies in polypropylene, which are covered by snap on cover plates in aluminium or Delrin. This allows a choice of 18 different arrangements. The range includes pull handles in polystyrene or aluminium, either with a semi - matt finish or nylon coated, and door pushes in aluminium or aluminium and wood. A feature of the pushes is their concealed fixing and neat cover plate at the top.
The Delrin door handle relates to the window fittings on the Hope Module 4 standard windows. It is planned to extend the whole range to include many other items, but one of the first new additions will be related window fittings in grey Delrin for wooden casements.
The practical aspects have been well considered: if a screwdriver slips, for example, it cannot mar the fitting, and there is no excuse for paint smudged cover plates as they can easily be removed. Handles and knobs can be sprung or unsprung as required. The fixing of the handle to the spindle appears simple and secure.
Myron represents a considerable advance in the use of plastics in door furniture. The Delrin handle in particular would be a contribution to housing. The range provides the architect with a choice not only of character but of price, and it is likely to be accepted at both cost extremes.
The simple geometry of the round knob and escutcheon is typical of the elegant assemblies possible with the Modric range. The honest acceptance of the fixing is a further attractive feature.
The aluminium ball knob in the Myron range might be described as the star item in the collection. It is shown here on the elongated aluminium back plate.
An exploded view of components in the Myron range reveals considerable attention to fundamental problems of door furniture. The polypropylene back plate contains the spring loaded bush which returns the spindle, and the knob locks on to the spindle with the retaining clip. The cover plate, in plastics or aluminium, snaps on to the back plate.
One of the three aluminium lever handles from the Myron range is illustrated here.
Designed to relate The Sadler range designed by Kenneth Sadler for B. Lilly and Sons Ltd. although highly commended in the guilds competition, cannot fairly be compared with the others for it neither aspires to compete with nor reaches the standard of the other two. However, it is interesting in that it consists of a knob or lever on long or short back plates, an escutcheon, an indicator bolt, door pull and letter plate, which are all designed to relate. But its innovation is limited and even its use of a nylon thrust washer seems apologetic, for it is skilfully camouflaged to look like aluminium.
Technically the range is orthodox in that it relies on screws holding the fittings to the doors, but the strong steel back plate makes very adequate fixing possible and the cover plates can be snapped on and off without special tools. The letter plate is very successful and has provision for bolt or screw fixing. The indicating bolt is neat and has the advantage of a concealed emergency release under its removable cover plate, but it is spoiled by delicate lettering rather than bold colour coding. The door knob is unremarkable. The lever, while comfortable and adroitly styled, seems to have drawn too closely on the motor industry for inspiration, and the near-rectangular boss reveals some curious shapes as it is turned. All the pieces, however, have a unity and will undoubtedly be popular.
The close relationship between marketing and design is apparent in all these ranges.
Modric is designed by and for modern architects. It is an uncompromisingly modern design and utilises to good effect its modular discipline. It is without doubt a commercial proposition aimed straight at the large contract market: although it could have a domestic application, it is not likely to be a contender in this field.
This range highlights the importance of the market knowledge gained by the specialist due to his close liaison with architects. It is an 'exclusive' to Allgoods, and although made under contract for them by one of the leading manufacturers, it can only be supplied by Allgoods branches in London, Birmingham and Cambridge. Its promotion, presentation and image is progressive, and its excellent A4 catalogue by Dewar Mills Associates, with its price list (fixed until 1970!) and its silver covers, is very much in keeping with this vigorous company.
The Hope Myron looks conservative in comparison but in some ways is more ambitious. It too is backed by a first class catalogue, naturally A4, by Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes/Gill, which is complete with published prices, and a list of appointed agents throughout the country who will be jointly the only distributors. The range, while at the moment short of letter plates, bolts, small knobs and so on, looks likely to succeed and certainly deserves to. It will have an appeal to architects of widely different outlooks.
Sadler, though limited, is an orthodox builders' merchant line and will be distributed through the normal trade channel. Its unpriced leaflet is A5, and its simplicity and legibility make it a satisfactory addition to merchants' literature. The range will be specified by architects and bought by builders, and has all the indications of being highly successful.
These new products from three very different firms all set out to solve similar problems in their own way. They are significant in that they show a determination by a specialised industry not only to keep out the continental competition but to fight it on equal terms. While the long term judgement must depend to some extent on the makers' ability to beat the bogey of hand finishing - which all these designs still require in differing extents - the three ranges certainly represent a praiseworthy effort. They help to give a modern image to an industry whose products at one time looked very outdated.
When the Sadler lever is turned it shows an unnecessarily clumsy shape behind.
The Sadler range has a good 'family' image, but the actual shapes look self conscious and contrived. Fixing is made easy by the fact that the cover plates can be snapped on and off by hand.
The basic module is clearly shown in the Modric catalogue, opposite page. It enables special assemblies to be quickly and easily selected. Excellent photographs give further information about the individual items. The SadIer leaflet, left, is well laid out, but it is rather unfortunate that the prices have not been included. The catalogue for the Myron range contains both photographs and detailed drawings as well as fully explanatory text. The first page, shown above, gives, at a glance, a good idea of the items in the range.