Furniture | The Bespokesperson

Hand-finishing brings classics bang up to date

Classic furniture updated with fresh colours and design details

63e7a385-173b-4f0a-a7e6-f021fc8b40bc_sixty_square E4344999-784c-41e2-b726-6d5989c322c2_sixty_square Bf843499-77bd-4c4e-9eb0-fee8ecc16c06_sixty_square
Hand-finishing brings classics bang up to date

May 04 2011
Nicole Swengley

Chesterfield sofas are enjoying a revival as a new generation of homeowners discovers the comforts of this design classic. But where can you have a size-specific, custom-coloured sofa specially made for you? Try Fleming & Howland.

This family-run upholstery firm traces its pedigree back to 1780 with the current Flemings – father John (production), son Paul (MD) and daughters Sylvia (administration) and Belinda (design) – all involved. What’s barely changed over the centuries is the craftsmanship employed. Each deep-buttoned sofa is meticulously hand-crafted using hand-joined frames, hand-dyed leather hides and hand-sewn upholstery. It’s a laborious process: leather colouring alone takes a fortnight after one of the firm’s three master craftsmen hand-builds the piece from start to finish in the traditional way.

Bespoke hand-building means that individual requests are accommodated down to the last stud. “One client ordered a Chesterfield in a deep lush aubergine while another wanted one in ice-white leather with hand-sewn Swarovski crystals replacing the deep-buttoned leather caps,” says Paul. Similarly, brass arm studs can be “antiqued” or coloured to match the leather. Size-specific sofas are also requested, although the 12m-wide version created for a Paris restaurant was, perhaps, an intriguing one-off.

Having bought a sofa (third picture, top of the range, from £3,500), clients often want a wing chair (from £900) or footstool (from £400) too. “Our new colours – bone [first picture], parchment, powder blue and rose – bring the designs up to date and are attracting younger buyers,” says Paul. As are two new chairs (being launched at Clerkenwell Design Week from May 24) – the deco-style Tank (£1,450) and Belvedere (£1,195).

The company also makes traditional English desks (partners, £6,900; pedestal, second picture, £2,800), specialising in hand-finished veneers – mainly walnut, oak, mahogany and bird’s eye maple which, says Paul, “show the grain richly”. It seems like the perfect match for that classic Chesterfield.