Douglas Snelling

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Douglas Burrage Snelling (1916–1985) was an Australian architect and furniture designer.

He was born in 1916 in Gravesend, Kent, England Douglas Snelling arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, with his parents in 1926.As a teenager, began his own graphic arts and shop window design business in Wanganui. In 1937 he travelled to Hollywood, where he freelanced making sketches, and began to emulate Errol Flynn's style. He returned to New Zealand in 1938 and became a writer, broadcaster and publicist of new movies and stars from 1938 to 1940.[1]

He moved to Sydney in 1940 and worked as a publicist and in a munitions factory during the beginning of World War II. In 1945 he married NZ heiress Nancy Springhall. With her money he opened a business designing shop windows and furniture. His chairs featured parachute webbing and modernist design and according to the Powerhouse Museum, were "Australia's first popular, mass produced range of furniture sold widely through the major department stores from the late 1940s to the mid 1950s."[2] He and his wife travelled to America where Snelling was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's work. When they returned to Australia in 1948, Snelling met a US architect, Harry Seidler, and began designing houses. He became a registered architect in 1952.[1] He built modernist houses, apartment buildings, and office buildings.[3] One of his designs won the 1955 House of the Year Award from Architecture and Arts magazine.[4]

He and his wife divorced in 1959 and the next year he married Patricia Gale (daughter of a wealthy Sydney property developer and grazier), with whom he raised three sons and her daughter by a previous marriage. In the mid-1960s they travelled to Cambodia, which started a long interest in that country that led him to friendship Prince Sihanouk, an appointment as an honorary consul (1970-75), and a hobby of collecting and trading Khmer antiquities.[1]

After Patricia's death in 1976, he moved with his teenage sons to Honolulu, where he married Swedish artist Marianne Sparre in the early 1980s. In 1985, he was concerned enough about his failing health to suddenly book a flight back to Sydney, where he died several days later of a brain aneurism.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Davina Jackson, Snelling, Douglas Burrage (1916–1985), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. First published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012]
  2. ^ Powerhouse Museum. 'Parachute' webbing arm chair by Douglas Snelling, 1942 - 1952 Page accessed June 25, 2015
  3. ^ Davinia Jackson. Our Hero Page accessed June 25, 2015
  4. ^ Docomomo Australia/Icomos 27 March 2014 Talk/Sydney: Jackson On Douglas Snelling, 27.3.14

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