Leading furniture designer finds inspiration at Gratnells

Best known for our iconic tray and storage solutions, Gratnells has been working with furniture design expert Chris Dolan for five years and in that time the collaboration has produced a number of innovative and award-winning products.  

We manufacturer products which are popular in areas as diverse as education, healthcare, automotive, local government and museums. We have built a strong reputation for employing industry thought-leaders within the business, especially those who share our vision for development and progress.

Chris Dolan was born in Birmingham and grew up in a home that was self-built by his father and surrounded with family and friends involved in various trades. With easy access to an abundance of building materials, Chris developed a passion for construction projects such as box go-karts and bike modifications. Fascinated with how things were assembled and repaired, he paid close attention to his neighbour who was restoring an Austin 7 and would often shadow his father on building sites during school holidays. 

Gifted at woodwork, Chris was encouraged by his school to study design. Aged just 17, he produced a sophisticated dining table with a Formica surface to allow placement of hot serving dishes and central slide sections that opened to reveal cutlery stored within. Originally created for A-Level course work, the piece was chosen to represent Design Education in Birmingham at an educational show at Wembley Arena in 1985. It is still used today by Chris’s parents, in the family home his father built in the 1970's. 

Chris continued on his path of academic achievement with a Foundation Art and Design course at Solihull College before graduating with a BA (Hons) Degree in Furniture and Related Product Design from Ravensbourne College. After leaving University, he embarked on a career as a Furniture Designer with Specialised Banking Furniture International, focused primarily in furniture and space planning projects for major financial institutions.

He would later work as a Product Designer for Hollington Associates on projects spanning multiple industries such as Herman Miller, CWC, Lloyd Loom of Spalding, Kodak, Parker Pens, Imperial Bathrooms and London Science Museum. It was at the London Science Museum that Chris would be photographed talking to the Queen about the Who Am I? gallery, after being heavily involved in the design development of the Bloids, (large metal sculptures devised by Casson Mann to house interactive exhibits).

In 2003, Chris co-founded reVerb, a specialist industrial design company that works collaboratively with leading manufacturers to develop distinctive and innovative new products. Chris now extends his expertise across a number of industries such as furniture, packaging and products for industry; with the aim of applying rigour and imagination to each stage of a development process, from initial concept through to 3D-CAD and Design for Manufacture.

It was this thoughtful and analytical approach that appealed to Gratnells when we originally commissioned Chris’s talents as a Design Consultant in 2013 on the now much-lauded Callero range.

Specially designed to work flexibly as either standalone units or in combinations, the Gratnells Callero range brings flexibility to any environment requiring modular storage. The MakerSpace trolley, one of the most recent members of the Callero family, won a prestigious Worlddidac Award this year and is now a permanent feature at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Likewise, PowerTray is a multi-device USB charging station designed as a revolutionary piece of mobile furniture, to provide intelligent charging for up to 10 devices simultaneously and with an optimum charge rate for each device.

Chris Dolan says, “Callero was conceived as a modular classroom storage system that was safe enough for primary school classrooms. It had to be totally flat packed and put together using simple tools. Following the success of Callero, other related projects were developed and added to the range, along with two versions of the PowerTray. Working with Gratnells has also seen the launch of new school table ranges as well as an ongoing workbench project.”

Richard Picking, International Marketing Director for Gratnells, says “We are delighted to have achieved recognition for the success of our furniture designs in partnership with Chris, whose credentials speak for themselves. Here at Gratnells we pride ourselves on our ability to support the industry, combining historic experience with technological advancement. Our strong relationships and ongoing work with leading design consultants like Chris will allow us to continue producing the innovative furniture solutions the market has come to expect.” 

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