Three piece Bedroom Suite by Sir Ambrose Heal (attributed), c.1917-1922

This bedroom set, design attributed to Sir Ambrose Heal, dates from around 1917. It was in the same year that The Mansard Gallery opened in the Heal’s store.

The gallery was intended to showcase innovative art and design within the store on Tottenham Court Road – attracting a younger cutting edge audience, such as The Bloomsbury Group who visited frequently.

Bedroom suite, by Heal and sons
Cabinet by Ambrose Heal

A similar range from 1917, seen here, was hand painted by “Miss Dibbs and Miss Dix” (who we are unfortunately yet to discover much about) [1]. Painted furniture became a more common site during and after the war when extravagant materials were harder to obtain. Pine, for instance, has been used here – hand cut dovetails at joints.

The set extended beyond a wardrobe, dressing table and bedside table – larger dressers, posted beds, sideboards and bookcases were also made in this style.


“[Ambrose Heal] turned increasingly to painted and decorated furniture from this period onwards, so it is no surprise to find after the First World War the bedroom displayed at the British Institute of Industrial Art exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1922 described as flaunting colours of green and yellow, the furniture painted with the inevitable pattern of small bright flowers. […] Although not a great deal of this painted and decorated furniture was sold, at least one interior was carried out in 1922 that included a blue painted fourposter bed and chest of drawers as well as a painted drawing room table for Lord Beaverbrook’s house in Putney” [2]

Bedroom set by Ambrose Heal
Josef Hoffmann interior

The colours and motifs used by Heal at this time were undoubtedly influenced by the Vienna Secession:

Josef Hoffmann’s interior for Primavesi Country House (1913-1914) uses ‘Folk-Art’ within the Wiener Werkstätte discipline, decorating the house with painted motifs in the furniture and soft furnishings. This would seem the same for Heal and this series of furniture – hand painted flowers sat within the borders of the each piece of furniture.

Gustav Klimt postcard

Gustav Klimt’s Postcard No. 3 (1908) shares almost exactly the same stylized flowers as the Heal’s bedroom furniture in red with green foliage, outlined in black. It further illustrates how Heal was keen to integrate all elements of art, much like the Secessionists.



‘Pre-War Heal’s’, Jeremy Cooper, Victorian and Edwardian Furniture and Interiors, Thames and Hudson, 1987, p. 243

[2] , pg 89


‘Fashion – Accessories – Small Art Objects – Graphic Design’, Gabriele Fahr-Becker, Wiener Werkstätte, Taschen, 1995, p. 208