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Ernest Race was one the most important figures in British post-war design. After studying interior design, Race began his career with the lighting manufacturer Troughton & Young. During World War II Race served with the auxiliary fire service, after which he founded Race Furniture Ltd in Clapham, South London. Race realised that redundant wartime materials could be recycled, so he designed his furniture to utilise discarded aluminium and ex-RAF upholstery fabrics. In 1946 Race showed the BA chair at the ‘Britain Can Make It’ exhibition. Made from recast aluminium, this design epitomised the post-war spirit and set new standards within industrial design. Race established himself at the forefront of the modern design movement, producing some of the most innovative furniture of the 1950s. In 1961, Race designed the Isokon Penguin Donkey Mark 2 and became the company’s design consultant, a position he held until his death in 1964. The Neptune stacking and folding deck chair of 1953 – one of a number of pieces specially commissioned for the liners of P&O’s Orient Line – was one of Race’s most original designs. Only two moulds were required to manufacture this chair: one for the plywood seat and back and another for the beech laminate legs. The assembly was extremely simple and was supported by two webbing straps when the chair was unfolded. When folded, the one-piece seat and back cushion was easily removed for storage. This chair was cost effective, space saving, comfortable and elegant; it illustrates Race’s forward-thinking yet practical approach to design.

BA3 dining chair for Race Furniture Ltd, 1945 – stove-enamelled cast aluminium frame, cut aluminium upholstered seat and back

BC dining table for Race Furniture Ltd, 1945 – stove-enamelled cast aluminium frame with mahogany veneered Holoplast top

BD1 sideboard for Race Furniture Ltd, 1945–46 – stove-enamelled cast aluminium frame supporting mahogany veneered Holoplast panels

BB21 occasional table, 1945–46 – stove-enamelled cast and sheet aluminium, plywood and plastic laminate

DA1 armchair for Race Furniture Ltd, 1946 – welded lightweight steel-rod frame, stove-enamelled cast aluminium legs, coil-sprung seat, hair and latex foam covered in upholstery fabric

Rocking Chair for Race Furniture Ltd, 1948 – stove-enamelled frame, mahogany armrests, removable seat and back cushion

Antelope stacking armchair for Race Furniture Ltd, 1949–50 – stove-enamelled frame, painted plywood seat

Kangaroo rocking chair for Race Furniture Ltd, 1952 – painted steel-rod frame and steel strips

Neptune stacking and folding deck chair for Race Furniture Ltd, 1953 – seat and back of pre-formed plywood, leg structures of pre-formed beech laminates, removable one piece seat and back cushion

R57 settee for Race Furniture Ltd, 1956 – tubular steel subframe, plywood frame covered in leather and vinyl, beech legs, removable seat and back cushions

Unicorn stacking side chair for Race Furniture Ltd, 1957 – painted steel-rod, plywood seat and back, plastic ferrules

Penguin Donkey Mark 2 for Isokon, 1963 – painted plywood knock-down storage unit on wooden legs