An article in the February 1961 edition of House Beautiful
described Frank Guille as a designer who ‘deplores
the growing tendency in this country to stress appearance
at the expense of utility.’ His belief in function
within form illustrates the simplicity and directness for
which Guille’s design work has become known. Ironically,
it is this quality of Guille’s work that led him to
be somewhat overlooked in favour of more ‘fashionable’
In the early 1940s, Frank Guille trained under both Robin
Day and John Cole at the Beckenham School of Art. After
serving with the Royal Navy, he studied Furniture Design
at the Royal College of Art under Gordon Russell. In 1950,
Guille received a travelling sponsorship to the Kunst Akadamiet
in Copenhagen where, under Kaare Klint, he gained the understanding
of form that would shape his design work throughout this
career. From 1960 to 1992, Guille took on posts at the Royal
College of Art, as Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and, finally,
Head of Furniture Design.
In 1953, following two years as assistant to the Modernist
architect Wells Coates, Guille set up his own design practice.
Among such clients as Heal and Sons, West of Scotland and
Austinsuite, one commission led to the strongest body of
Guille’s work. Kandya Ltd asked Guille to restyle
a stacking side chair; the project led to his placement
as their consultant designer, a position he held until 1976.
The Jason chair – a seat constructed of single sheet
beech laminate mounted on a tapered four-legged beech base
– had been designed by Carl Jacobs in 1950. Guille
replaced the Jason chair’s wooden legs with a steel-rod
base and introduced painted or part-painted seat options,
introducing greater colour choice and individuality into
the range. This elegant yet functional approach to design
set the standard of Guille’s work.
Following the war, the leaning towards stability within
established design meant a certain resistance to change.
Frank Guille, however, was at the forefront of the movement
who sought to move design forward. In 1956, Guille designed
a range of kitchen units that were not only of exceptionally
high build quality for factory-produced furniture, but also
introduced the idea of modular units, which could be incorporated
into any number of layouts – an idea that informs
the fitted kitchen as we know it today. The four-cupboard
base units had sliding wooden doors at the bottom, with
one glass sliding door and three wooden drawers above. Taller
units housed four further cupboards, the middle section
having one large pull-down door. Single level cupboards
with double sliding doors could be mounted to the wall.
The skirting for the units were painted grey, providing
uniformity, whilst the option of coloured laminate for the
doors allowed visual style. The refined lines of the Trimma
units, when placed together, provided an intelligently thought
out wall of form and colour.
Guille’s quiet and refined approach to design has
in many ways been a victim of its own success. Though there
are a few of his kitchens in their original sites, the 1980s
saw many units thrown out. This rarity has lead to a greater
appreciation amongst collectors.