McIntosh of Kirkcaldy furniture from 1960s +1970s

McIntosh of Kirkcaldy in Scotland along with G Plan of High Wycombe were the 2 main makers of British contemporary dining furniture in the 1960s and 70s . We have 4 of the McIntosh brochures/catalogues the earliest being 1962 , and the latest 1975 . It’s interesting to chart the changes over those years , and see how McIntosh developed . We also have a History of the firm that was published in 1995 , and written by Ann Watters .

Ann Watters says that McIntosh of Kirkcaldy was founded in 1869 by Alexander Henry McIntosh ( 1835-1919 ) , but the 1962 catalogue we have says that the firm was founded in 1821 ! There is still a large McIntosh presence in Kirkcaldy , but today they no longer make domestic furniture . In the mid 1980s McIntosh was in deep financial trouble , competitors like White + Newton had already gone into liquidation ( 1984 ) , and even G Plan was struggling . Cheap imported furniture had taken a growing slice of the market since the early 1970s . Traditional cabinet making was no longer financially viable for mid-market furniture manufacturing . Following takeovers  , McIntosh went into Educational and Contract Furniture in the mid to late 1980s .

In 1960 McIntosh like many other long established furniture makers were still producing standard traditional style dining and bedroom furniture in the Queen Anne style , and the 1962 catalogue we have is 50% traditional and 50% contemporary . At this time there were around 300-350 people working in the firm , far less than G Plan , but similar in number to White + Newton of Portsmouth . G Plan had moved away from traditional designs in the mid 1950s and others like A Younger followed suit .

By 1970 Mcintosh were employing around 500 people and by 1980 employment peaked at about 650 . The main reason for  this success was one model of sideboard the Dunvegan which was made from about 1961 for some 20 years ! An amazingly long period for a piece of furniture . Over recent years it’s a model we’ve had many times , the oldest one we’ve knowingly had was bought in 1962 for £43 16 shillings and 6 pence ( in todays money about £900 ) . The newest one we found must have been from the early 1980s and had plastic drawers inside , but otherwise looked identical to the 1962 one . The design team in 1960 was Tom Robertson ( design director ) and Val Rossi who later moved to Beithcraft . Between them they altered the course of McIntosh from traditional to contemporary in the early 1960s . It was a good  move at the time as was shown by the growth in the workforce during the 1960s and 1970s .

Over time tastes change , and by the late 1970s teak was no longer so fashionable . Traditional and antique pieces were having a revival and McIntosh didn’t move with the times . They were various reasons for the decline in sales for McIntosh and other similar companies , some economic , some political and others to do with a change in attitude to buying quality furniture that would last a lifetime .

McIntosh in the early to mid 1960s made not only dining furniture , but also bedroom suites . The dining furniture was so successful by the late 1960s that bedroom furniture was dropped as McIntosh and others couldn’t keep up with demand . At a time when it took 6 years to train a cabinet maker , it wasn’t easy to grow production quickly when pieces were still being made using traditional techniques .

Over the years we’ve had some really unusual and special pieces that were made by McIntosh in very small numbers , some of them must have been considerably more expensive than their standard ranges . In the 1960s , a McIntosh sideboard that was 10% more expensive than their standard range would have sold in much smaller numbers . It seems strange today that a price difference of as little as 10% would effect sales that much , but it appears that it did . In 1968 a Dunvegan would cost just over £54 , whereas the now very sought after Glengarry cost just over £62 . In the last 6 or 7 years we’ve had 3 Glengarry sideboards , and probably nearly 100 Dunvegans ! The Glengarry  that in 1968 cost about 12% more than the Dunvegan now sells for around twice as much .

Some of the nicest McIntosh pieces we’ve had have been in rosewood , but we’ve also had some stunning pieces in teak . Many of these pieces are not shown in any of the catalogues we’ve so far found . We guess that many will date to the early 1960s like the pair of teak chairs shown below . By 1968 higher earners were being taxed much more heavily and had less to spend , whereas those on lower incomes were paying less tax and were much better off . This affected demand greatly , G Plan stopped selling their more expensive Danish Design pieces c 1967 , and in 1968 A Younger moved slightly down market and rationalised their range of products . McIntosh must have also changed and removed many of their more expensive pieces in favour of the growing demand for more standard pieces like the Dunvegan sideboard and the various dining tables and chairs that they sold with them .