Company Profile: Morgan Furniture

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    In 1978, I was teaching in Art College in Lancashire, and brought a group of art students to London on the traditional provincial art college weeklong jaunt to look at galleries. I gave it twist by timing the visit for the then top interior’s show, IDI. We also visited a leading interior practice, so we were not just looking at great art but at great design too (and they got to stand in Downing Street and chat to Jim Callaghan, then the Prime Minister, who they roundly booed but also shook hands with when he came unescorted across the road to talk to us all).

    Among the designs they enthused about was a modern range of furniture from a company called Morgan Furniture, then leading the way with adventurous modern design. As a designer I specified much from the Morgan’s ranges, but in the late 1980’s they, along with many other companies in our industry, struggled to cope with a Lamont created financial recession. Interest rates rose to unsustainable levels (5% above base meant 19% at one time!) and much of the UK manufacturing economy disintegrated under the pressures.
    Seizing the opportunity Rodney McMahon and Katerina Zacharides bought Morgan Furniture and have over the last twenty years rebuilt it into a company whose products students would be delighted to see in a similar show today. Rodney is the financial and organisational genius whilst Katerina, initially an architect but then RCA trained furniture designer brought her design ability and passion to the business. Today this remarkable team continue to drive forward a company where some employees can still boast of forty years service to a company, which can boast of twenty years of growth, including during the recent recession.

    Company focus remains on production of Katerina’s designs, but focus has sharpened as Rodney seeks to drive the company to almost complete self-sufficiency. Whilst they don’t grow their own trees, they are increasingly encouraging UK growers and sourcing timber within the UK. This is difficult says Rodney as the supply is not large, waving his arm at a stack of newly delivered UK grown beech as he shows me around the production floor. Production methods have changed since my last visit some six or seven years ago, and have become both more efficient and also more involving of a workforce both proud of and loyal to the company.

    Rodney explained that they have for a number of years worked with local schools and provided apprenticeships to train and grow their own workforce. Gradually the factory has expanded and Katerina has an established design team that produce their own annual collections as Morgan Studio (award winning in fact with a 2010 Design Guild Mark for the City Collection). They were scurrying around in the background photographing new products as we talked. All photography is done in house in their own studio/showroom at the factory in Emsworth, in the Hampshire countryside.

    Daniel Fountain / 08.05.2011

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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