PLATINUM blonde hair, side-parted and falling over the shoulders of her white mini-dress, white sling-back shoes, a glass of rose in one manicured hand and a filter-tip in the other, she's probably listening to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds on her new white stereo; or has she tuned in to 'wonderful Radio London' on her orange, snap-shut Brionvega radio (a design hotfoot from fashionable Milan)?

What's her name? Samantha would be a good bet: just the ticket for a prosperous mid-Sixties' chick taking it easy in her contemporary G-plan living room. The sofa she's sitting on (it cost pounds 100) shares her name. 'G-Plan's new Samantha Sofa. Such a beautiful incentive to live in harmony', says the slogan of the colour-supp ad in which our Sixties' swinger stars.

Look behind Sam. Leaning against an exposed brick wall are her LPs and Pelican paperbacks, stacked neatly in a G-Plan 'Form Five'. 'Form Five'? This is a veneered timber shelving system that, according to the same J Walter Thompson ad is 'so versatile, it can be a bookcase, writing bureau, drinks cabinet, record library and occasional seat.' No more, it can't. G-Plan, the Scandinavian-style modern furniture range - the first in Britain to be brand-labelled, like Omo or Steradent - has gone to the wall.

G-Plan (or more properly, E Gomme Ltd) went into receivership last week, putting 480 people out of work and bringing to an end an era of self-consciously modern, system-built, middle- class furniture. G-Plan, decidely up-market, was never a staple of ordinary high streets, but it was probably the most heavily advertised and best remembered furniture of its day. Its style was Scandinavian, the clean-limbed look from a land of prosperity and good modern taste; an aesthetic antidote to the fustiness of Victorian furniture that had held sway in the majority of British homes from the turn of the century to the Fifties.

Although its name sounded exciting - something like a cross between G-Man and Danger Man - G-Plan was never at the leading edge of modern furniture design. Instead, it offered modern-minded British professionals a functional and handsomely veneered look that went well with their new 'Span' house, glass-fibre Lotus, shag-pile carpets and lightweight acrylic clothes.

Launched in the mid-Fifties, G-Plan sold well early on, took a dive in the late Sixties when many of its buyers turned to Habitat, picked up again in the Seventies (when it sold successfully in the Middle East) and began its long decline from the recession of 1981-82.

By the time the economy boomed again, middle-class taste had moved on. G-Plan buyers had become Colefax & Fowler country squires. Country-house style ran alongside the matt-black, hi-tech look fostered by design and style magazines. And at the end of the Eighties, a romantic and often exotic contemporary look nurtured by Elle Decoration, completed the swing against clean-cut, Sixties' system furniture. G-Plan was on the way out, although the company blames the latest economic downturn for its demise rather than a change in design-conscious middle-class taste.

G-Plan might conjure up the Sixties, but the company itself dates back to the end of the 19th century. It was set up in High Wycombe by Ebenezer Gomme (the 'G' in G-Plan), a Primitive Methodist, in 1898. However it was only when the British economy moved out of the Utility era, after the final abolition of ration books in 1954, that Gomme's successors launched the G-Plan range.

Kitchens and bathrooms aside, it was possible to design and equip the interior of a complete home from a G-Plan catalogue. It was a highly co-ordinated range in the best possible contemporary taste. As the ads said at the time, 'It's G-Plan, or Nothing.' From last week, sadly or not, it's anything but.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments