Modern British & Irish Art

The Revolutionary Firm That Nutures Young British Designers

By Natasza Wojcik

O n 13 September, as part of London’s wildly popular Made in Britain sale, Sotheby’s will present pieces from an important private collection featuring works by Britain’s top designers: Zaha Hadid, Barber & Osgerby and Amanda Levete. Each work was produced by Established & Sons, a revolutionary firm that has nurtured young British designers to develop and realise some of the most innovative design pieces to date.

"Our mission was to create a world-leading design company that would provide a successful trading platform for England," said Willis, the former CEO of Established & Sons. The joint aspiration of the designers is the highest quality and originality, but above all the technical innovation. Their mission is to promote UK designers, famous or emerging, to the world. Their products are refreshingly different, imaginative, effortless, and modern using only high quality materials and British manufacturers.

By giving freedom to the artists, Established & Sons transfers the pioneering ideas of Zaha Hadid, Barber & Osgerby and Amanda Levete into reality and these in turn have evolved into exceptional furniture collections. Established & Sons launched their collections for the first time in 2005 at the Milan Furniture Fair. One year later, they received the Design of the Future award at the Design Miami fair and the Red Dot Design Award.


The late Dame Zaha Hadid collaborated with Established & Sons to create a truly striking selection of work, including the ‘Nekton Stools’ included in the sale.  Part of the ‘Seamless’ collection, the interlocking set of four stools combines Hadid’s sculptural sensibility and mixes it with the powerful dynamism and energy so characteristic of her work. What makes Hadid’s style exceptional is her use of space. Known for spectacular building projects, such as London’s Aquatics Centre, her furniture mirrors the organic and curvilinear forms that dominate her architectural structures.  


Amanda Levete is the architect behind some of the UK’s most iconic contemporary buildings, from the Selfridges department store in Birmingham to the futuristic media centre at London’s Lords Cricket ground. The sculptural form of Levete’s Chester Sofa, produced by Established & Sons in 2006, recalls the curves of the female form.  Drawing inspiration from the traditional Chesterfield sofa, Levete expands the original model and presents a real work of art with the organic form covered with leather padding. Looking at Levete’s latest architectural masterpiece, the MAAT Museum in Lisbon, it is hard to deny that the Chester Sofa, with its soft, organic lines, was a predecessor of the project.


Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby founded a joint studio in 1996 after having studied architecture at the Royal College of Art, London. Determined to preserve the integrity of the design and the use of materials, while achieving the most modern creative structures, their creations are neither the expression of the superfluous nor the excessive.

The Zero-In table,  created in 2005, is a coffee table with an unconventional production process. A unique artists proof, Zero-In draws on the techniques used in car manufacturing. The cast frame has a double wall which gives the impression that the inside walls meet at a different angle than the outer walls. It is this impressive optical illusion that makes Zero-In a real conversation piece and a natural centre in the living room.

While Zero-In challenges the traditional conventions of production, their 2008 prototype Iris Table places colour and tonality at the centre of the design. Barber and Osgerby see colour as a ‘very important consideration in any designed object.’ They describe how ‘with almost all our projects we use colour charts at some stage in the design process, these can be fabric samples, paint charts, dye coatings or a Pantone book of printing inks. Whichever type of chart they are, they always look beautiful in their graphic layout and their diverse range of colours. The larger the colour range the more beautiful it is, as each colour is described through close hues and tones.’

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