“PIEFF FURNITURE” was a range of avant-garde furniture designed and produced in Cradley Heath near Birmingham from 1970 until 1983. The company was formed as Production Facilities Limited in 1953 by Frederick Bates and son David, and produced contract furniture for hospitals, coffee bars and canteens, and other commercial uses.
Tim Bates, David’s younger brother, joined the company in 1966, and in 1969 they introduced a new range of modern up–market contract furniture. Tim had studied design and gained experience by working in the factory, so was appointed to lead the Design and Development of this new product range. The new range was introduced to the trade at the Decor Furniture Exhibition in May 1970, and around this time the company changed its name to Pieff Furniture. Publicity photographs - created by marketing man Peter Donnelly and his company, Donnelly Burn - showed the new furniture against a background of Lamborghini supercars, and following this Italian connection the first two model ranges were named Eleganza and Suntuoso.
Although the Pieff range was originally aimed at up-market contract buyers, it was soon extended to appeal to retail customers and within two years was stocked by the leading retailers across the UK including Harrods, Heals, Waring & Gillow, John Lewis, House of Fraser and many more, and regular exports were also being made to customers in North America, the Gulf States, Australia and Hong Kong.
By the early 1970s the management team comprised Fred Bates as Chairman, Managing Director David Bates, Tim Bates heading Marketing and Design, Brian Murray as head of Finance, and Trevor Moseley in charge of Production. Many of the company’s later products were designed by designer Hilary Birkbeck under Tim’s supervision.
By the mid-1970s Pieff Furniture could be seen on television programmes such as “This Is Your Life”, “Blake's Seven”, “The Good Life” and many more, and the British government’s Property Services Agency was buying Pieff Furniture for use in prestige locations in government offices and British Embassies around the world.
During this expansionary period Tim Bates worked with Bob Cooper of Tetrad Furniture, and together Pieff and Tetrad carried out many successful joint marketing projects including product launches in Cannes in the South of France and also in Fez in Morocco.
By 1979 Pieff had around 150 staff working in three factories and on outside sales; but inflation was running at over 20%, export orders were disappearing because of the high pound exchange rate, and sales of furniture in UK retail shops were falling dramatically.
Although we didn’t realise it at the time, the UK was entering the most severe industrial recession for over 40 years, and in May 1983 the company went into receivership and the Pieff product range and stock was sold to a local company, PEL Ltd of Oldbury, which had been making metal contract furniture since the Bauhaus days of the 1930s.
The Pieff name has changed hands at least once since those days and now belongs to P.F.Collections Limited of Long Eaton, Nottingham.
Frederick Bates died in November 1979, Trevor Moseley in the 1990s, and Timothy S Bates in January 2012.
David Bates set up a new family company - Woodsetton Designworks - with his wife Gill, and they were later joined by their daughter, Lorraine. Brian Murray set up an office and contract furniture company in 1983 - Boss Design - based in Dudley. Hilary Birkbeck is now running his interior design company - 61-54 Interiors - based in Warwickshire. You can find links to all of these companies and also to some of our other favourites websites on our Links page here.
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