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James Leonard and ESA furniture.

ESA was run by a larger than life character Jonny Appleton. In 1946 having just demobbed from the RAF and at the age of 42 James Leonard joins ESA as a designer and courts JA with his passion for modernist design and opens his eyes to the Scandinavian modernist design movement. The two of them head off on a whirl wind trip of the leading players of the time in Scandinavia, Artek etc and following JA’s design epiphany JL starts work on a new modernist collection for ESA. At this time there was much support for the use of new materials and ‘industrial production’ using some of the learnings from war production and JL champions the use of cast Aluminium and moulded plywood as key materials. ESA produced much of their range and had a factory in Stevenage which specialised in wood furniture production, we have an aerial photograph from 1928 (Courtesy of Britain from Above).

At some stage the brand name ‘Esavian’ was created, a mix of ESA and ‘Avian’, It was created as a brand to sell products within ESA and we have good evidence of JL products branded Esavian but at some stage ‘Esavian’ became a brand in itself and started to develop screens, initially for school partitions, which grew into sliding doors which grew into huge sliding/folding doors for aircraft hangers, the aircraft door opportunity really launching in 1971 when Nigel Jewers joined ESA with a considerable knowledge of the larger sliding door market and in 1987 Jewers acquired the Esavian door business from ESA. To this day Esavian doors is still part of the Jewson stable.

James Leonard appears to have worked at ESA until his retirement in 1982 and sadly ESA closed its doors on 11th February 1987.

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