The Estate of Max Clendinning & Ralph Adron

The Estate of Max Clendinning & Ralph Adron

An Unbreakable Bond Forged in Creativity

Sworders Design department is delighted to present the extraordinary collection of Messrs Max Clendinning and Ralph Adron. Throughout their remarkable life together, they were both pivotal contributors to their respective fields of architecture, design and theatre. 

20 June 2024



Clendinning’s legacy includes the iconic ‘Maxima’ series of furniture, a staple of British 1960s design, interiors he created for Christian Dior, and the iconic Oxford Road Station in Manchester. Adron’s extensive career saw him produce set and costume designs for celebrated productions across theatre, ballet and children’s theatre. Their respective creative prowess has enshrined them in design history, with their works residing in numerous institutions around the world, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, RIBA, Ulster Museum and National Museums of Scotland.

The collection encompasses their individual passions for Arts and Crafts and Postmodernism, two seemingly diametrical opposites which successfully coexisted within their Islington residence, to which they moved in 1972.  

Explore the collection and witness the legacy of two of the most creative minds of our age. This collection - curated over half a century - is a testament to their unwavering dedication and shared passions...

The Estate of Max Clendinning and Ralph Adron.

 The Estate of Max Clendinning and Ralph Adron.

An Unbreakable Bond Forged in Creativity


In the smoky ambience of a London nightclub in 1960, a serendipitous encounter sparked a relationship that would be as enduring as it was creative. Ralph, then a student at the Slade School of Fine Art, met Max, already an acclaimed architect and designer. Ralph often reflected on that moment, saying they met at exactly the right second and never looked back. This chance meeting would evolve into a lifelong partnership that saw them creating and curating an eclectic and vibrant collection of art, furniture, and design objects.


A Journey Through Spaces and Places


Max and Ralph’s journey together began in a rented flat on Eaton Terrace, soon moving to a house in Canonbury, and eventually settling in Islington. Max also maintained a glamorous attic flat in Belfast. The 1980s brought another dimension to their lives as they began establishing homes in the serene landscape of Umbria, Italy.

Their shared passion for collecting saw them scouring junk shops, markets and antique dealers across the UK and Europe. Ralph’s penchant for Victorian objects and Max’s keen eye for unique furniture and paintings led to a diverse and treasured collection. Notable acquisitions included William De Morgan tiles Ralph purchased in the 1950s for a mere sixpence each, and a Duncan Grant painting Max found on the Fulham Road in 1974. Max’s thoughtful nature shone through when he chose not to buy both available Grant paintings, leaving one for another admirer.

Italy became a significant influence on their aesthetic, with Max’s first visit, in 1953 on a British Council scholarship, profoundly impacting his design philosophy. This love for Italian design was reflected in their Italian homes, where they sourced local pieces to complement their curated spaces.



The Estate of Max Clendinning and Ralph Adron.

The Estate of Max Clendinning and Ralph Adron.


A Home Like No Other


Their Islington home was a testament to their unique approach to design, described by one newspaper as ‘miximalist’— a deliberate mix of decorative, playful and colourful elements, designed to uplift and cheer their guests. The house was a personal and expressive canvas, where ‘Memphis’ pieces mingled with William Morris designs and Picasso artworks. Few surfaces were left undecorated, giving the home a magical quality.

Max’s openness to new ideas and Ralph’s deep knowledge of Victorian design created a dynamic and ever-evolving living space. Clocks were a recurring motif throughout the house, with Ralph’s room featuring multiple timepieces alongside a mix of Aesthetic Movement furniture, paintings and ceramics.

Their Italian home, in contrast, was simpler and more pared down, reflecting a different facet of their design ethos. Yet, in both homes, the joy of creating and rearranging was a constant, with Max and Ralph always laughing and collaborating on new designs.


Cherished Pieces and Personal Stories


Among their favourite pieces were whimsical items like a surrealist coffee pot by Gaetano Pesce, which Max kept in his upstairs studio. This sense of humour permeated their collection, making their home a place of fun and delight. The Picasso plates held special significance, with the black Picasso example prominently displayed in their dining room.

Max’s furniture designs, ever-changing and innovative, were a staple of their living spaces. Ralph’s designs, like his large yellow mirror and grey clock, added a theatrical and surreal touch. His custom-made cabinet for his classical music CDs, inspired by John Marston’s play ‘The Malcontent,’ showcased his skill and creativity in set and prop design.

Their collaborations were marked by a shared sense of joy and creativity, always resulting in laughter and innovative ideas. The influence of mentors like Nicholas Georgiadis, Ralph’s tutor at the Slade, added depth to their work and life together.



▲ Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) and ▲ Ettore Sottsass (Italian, 1917-2007)


Left - Lot 80 - ▲  Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) Right - Lot 33 - ▲ Ettore Sottsass (Italian, 1917-2007)

A Legacy of Design


Over the decades, their homes and collections were celebrated in numerous magazines and journals, from ‘The Studio Yearbook’ in 1967, to ‘Financial Time’ in 2022. Each publication highlighted different aspects of their eclectic and vibrant world.

Despite the eventual dismantling of their Islington home, Max and Ralph’s legacy lives on in the stories, designs and collections they left behind. Their home was not just a physical space, but a reflection of their devoted relationship and shared passion for design. As Ralph poignantly noted, it wouldn’t be the same without the love and laughter of them and their friends in it.

In remembering Max and Ralph, we celebrate a partnership that transcended the ordinary, turning every moment and every piece into a part of their extraordinary narrative. Their legacy reminds us that true creativity knows no bounds and that the most beautiful homes are those filled with affection and joy.




Tuesday 9 July | 10am | 01279 817778









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