Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

By Elizabeth Talbot


The next Modern Design auction at Diss Auction Rooms is to take place on Tuesday 28 March. This is a popular, flagship sale for TW Gaze and is guaranteed to be the source of some stunning 20th Century cutting-edge design, not to mention some post-war rarities, that can set the pulse of many an aficionado racing.


The current consignment is no exception and will not disappoint. Within the beautifully-displayed 460 or so lots of multi-coloured glass, dynamic ceramics and uniquely-crafted pots, jewellery, light-fittings, fabrics and fine art, is a stunning example of what is called a “Cloud” coffee table. It stands out from its angular contemporaries because, as its name suggests, it is cloud-shaped, beautifully engineered, and, as it happens, is in superb condition.


James Bassam, Modern Design expert and specialist valuer at the East Anglian firm of auctioneers, was keen to comment. “This is only the second example of a “Cloud” coffee table I have seen in my sales here in over 20 years. The last one sold about 15 years ago, and  despite the top being in a very sorry state, it made about £200. Since then, appreciation has grown and the market has strengthened, so I expect this one to sell for £600 – 800.”

The “Cloud” coffee table was designed by Neil Morris for Morris & Co, Glasgow in 1947. It exploits the design possibilities of laminated wood by combining French polished Honduras mahogany and Canadian Betula, the chamfered edging exposing the different layers to great effect.

Neil Morris was son of the founder of H. Morris & Co, Harris Morris. The firm was originally founded in 1884, but seems to have been rejuvenated between 1904 and 1906. (Not to be confused with the Arts & Crafts Movement manufacturer and retailer Morris & Co, founded in the mid-19th Century by the artist and designer William Morris with friends from the Pre-Raphaelite School).


By the early 1920’s H. Morris & Co  had acquired premises at Milton Street, Glasgow. Its reputation for quality and design grew steadily. They became reputable manufacturers and suppliers of furniture for ocean liners, cinemas, offices and domestic settings. The company became an innovator in wood technology and design, especially in pioneering laminated wood to shape chairs and tables. At the same time (and for similar reasons) they played an important role in the manufacture of goods for the Second World War, making, amongst other things, rifle butts and helicopter blades. As the century progressed they excelled at producing pieces which turned the shortage of raw materials and the rationing system, which impacted everything after World war II, into a cultural positive. Then they became master designers, famed for creating high-quality craftsman-built furniture with enduring appeal during the mid-century post-war era.


The Morris Group bought the licence to supply G-Plan Cabinets and Morris won contracts to supply British Embassies with desks and cabinets, so continuing their great heritage in office furniture. In 1955 Morris Furniture produced Wurlitzer juke boxes for export to the USA to support the boom in music boxes.


Proof that Morris & Co had entered the luxury market came with the commission for them to make a bedroom suite for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip; later they were commissioned to contribute to the refit of the QE2 for the Royal Family, plus the fitting out of the luxury liners the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. They supplied fittings and furniture for the Cunard ocean liners and by this time they were also producing durable, quality and luxury household furniture with a distinctive look, such as their “Cumrae” range, and Neil Morris’s award-winning “Bambi” chair design and the iconic “Cloud” coffee table.


By the 1990’s the firm had become known as Morris Furniture Co Ltd and it remained as a privately-owned third-generation family firm until 2015, when Robert Morris was forced to sell it due to competition from cheaper international suppliers. This was a sad and disappointing end to the dynasty, but with such a pedigree, as an investment the “Cloud” coffee table can be seen to have a silver lining.


Fully illustrated catalogue and further details: twgaze.co.uk. Modern Design valuations and professional advice: j.bassam@twgaze.co.uk.

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