I have a new mid century obsession! And much like my interest in Aussie MCM, its one that requires a little bit of effort on my part to research it….
….And by effort, I mean that I need to do a bit more Googling than usual as there is no Wikipedia page on the subject that I am currently fixated with.
Anyway, my latest MCM obsession is Arkana furniture!
Anyone heard of it?
Not me, until recently anyway!
Let me explain how this all started. I was googling how much an Eero Saarinen Tulip table would cost. I have always liked the look of them and quite fancy one myself. Designed around 1955 these stylish tables and chairs are associated with the 60’s space age era and a design classic.
Eero Saarinen tulip table and chairs. Image from madaboutthehouse.com
Eero Saarinen tulip table and chairs. Image from chinaadyea.com
Obviously I cannot afford a vintage or current Tulip table made by a licensed manufacturer, so a
knock off cheap and nasty, plastic, reproduction would be my only option.
But then I came across various Arkana dining tables and chairs listed on Ebay. From what I can gather, it seems that Arkana were a British manufacturer in the 1960’s and 1970’s that basically ripped off Saarinen’s Tulip designs. So there is a chance that I might be able to afford a genuine
knock-off vintage piece from the era!
Arkana table and chairs. Image from bullet.org.uk
Arkana table and chairs. Image from haussmith.com
Now I don’t condone copying in any shape or form, especially when it comes to MCM design* – has anyone else noticed the amount of fugly chairs out there with Eames shells, but with different legs? Yuck! Just no really, please stop messing with perfection!
But for some reason this furniture does not offend me. Maybe its because its British (the factory was in Falkirk, Scotland and the head office in Bath) and was designed by someone called Maurice Burke? I mean, can you get a more British and seventies and un-designer-like sounding name than Maurice Burke?!!
Or maybe its because Arkana seem to be a bit of an underdog in the history of MCM British furniture design that have been almost forgotten about?
To be honest, I think I slightly prefer the four legged look of the Arkana Tulip chairs rather than the original Saarrinen designed Tulip base. But that’s just me. And I do love both designs!
For now, this post contains all the information that I can find on the company and its pieces. I am guessing that back in the day they made relatively high end, expensive furniture. My guess was made only because not a lot of people owned their pieces (or rather, there is is not a lot of it around today) and Arkana are not as well known as other furniture manufacturers of the same era, like G Plan or Ercol.
What pieces I have found on the internet are pretty swish. They are of the era and they scream 1960’s/1970’s, but thats what I love about them. You can just imagine people sitting around them in polo necks, with huge framed glasses, interesting facial hair, eating fondue and talking rubbish drinking mass produced cheap white wine all night long. And doing the same thing back in the 70’s too! Boom boom!!!**
Image from Pinterest via firstdibs.com
Also designed by Maurice Burke in the 60’s is the Mushroom table and chairs. Which I was not super keen on at first, but it has grown on me more and more. A bit like a fungi. (Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself!)
Image from pamono.com
Image from Pinterest (sorry not sure of original source)
Image from theguardian.com
And we have the Safari or Chelsea chair.
Image from firstdibs.com
We also have this chair designed by Geoffrey Harcourt and manufactured by Arkana in the 70’s. Not to my taste, but I can appreciate its design appeal and retro factor.
Image from modernism.com
P.S I consulted my collection of MCM design books and the only mention of Maurice Burke or Arkana that I could find was a credit in a photo for the table top in a home tour on page 501 in Mid Century Modern Complete by Dominic Bradbury.
P.P.S I found a Facebook appreciation page with a grand total of 47 likes!
*I will make an exception for pretty milk glass cake stands though!
**Sorry, its far too easy to make fun of hipsters!