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Obituary of Geoffrey Dunn – Daily Telegraph 8 January 1998

 

 

Furniture-shop owner with a taste for new design and old cars

 

GEOFFREY DUNN, who has died aged 88, promoted new design through his natural good taste and strong commercial flair.

 

Dunn's main interest was in modern furniture; he ran a successful retail furniture business and encouraged many young designers. He also collected thoroughbred motorcars.

 

Geoffrey Dunn was a handsome man with a striking profile who was always impeccably dressed. He was a brilliant raconteur.

 

The campaign for good design, which Dunn supported, came into its own during the Festival of Britain in 1951. He served on the Council of Industrial Design (which became the Design Council) and the Duke of Edinburgh's Design Award. He was also a life fellow and gold medallist of the Royal Society of Arts.

 

Geoffrey Edward Dunn was born at Bromley, Kent, on July 20 1909 and educated at Woodbridge, Suffolk. His father, Edward, was the proprietor of Dunn's of Bromley, a family business which had traded in the Market Square since 1710. In the late 1930s Dunn's was a modest shop selling traditional furniture in a mock Tudor building. Edward Dunn kept a tight rein on the business and did not easily indulge "Mr Geoffrey's" taste for modern furniture.

 

During the war, the Dunn's building was set on fire by an incendiary bomb. Geoffrey Dunn is supposed to have shouted: "Let it burn!"

 

The destruction of the building gave him the opportunity he needed to change the character of the shop and accommodate a new attitude to design.

 

After wartime service on minesweepers, Dunn rebuilt the business in new premises designed by his friend, the modernist architect Bertram Carter. The building was praised by Nikolaus Pevsner, the architectural critic, for its intricate and fascinating interior.

 

The success of the business allowed Dunn to pursue his love for fine motor cars. His collection, now dispersed, included a 3┬Ělitre Bentley, a Type 57C Bugatti, a 1930 1750 Alfa Romeo, a 300SL Mercedes gull wing roadster and a Ferrari Dino 246.

 

With no family to carry on the business, Dunn asked Heals to take over upon his retirement in 1976, hoping the standards he had set would be preserved. Heals eventually had to sell off the Bromley shop, even though it was still trading successfully. During the 1980s, Bertram Carter's building was occupied by a branch of Brentford Nylons.

 

Geoffrey Dunn's wife Vida, whom he married in 1934, died in 1994.