How did you become a designer?
Harcourt: ‘‘I lived near a town called High Wycombe, which was then the centre of the Furniture industry in the UK. Because I had failed the exam to go to the Grammar School, I went to the Technical School instead, which had an emphasis on furniture and I made my first at 15! After Art School I won a place at the Royal College of Art and on graduating in 1960 I won a silver medal and a major travelling scholarship to the USA. When I came home I received a letter from Artifort. They had seen the chair that got me the silver medal and they asked me to come and do some designs for them."
Had you heard of the Dutch furniture company Artifort at that time?
"I had never heard of Artifort and it was a big surprise to me. I immediately thought it was a brilliant opportunity to meet and see what they were about. I was educated to think that the industry would brief me about what they would want me to make. When I first talked to the owner of Artifort, Harry Wagemans, he told me that he had no brief and that I should tell him what to make, as I was the designer. This was quite new to me. It was quite a challenge to go back to the drawing board and come up with new things. They already had work by Kho Liang Ie and Pierre Paulin in production, so I felt the pressure to come up with something new.’’