BEAUTY IN THE EYE OF THE UPHOLDER
There aren’t many companies that can trace their history back to the 1700s. But the story behind Fleming & Howland began circa 1780 when Solomon Howland turned his hand from cordwainer to upholder (archaic term for upholsterer). At the time, changing professions was not an unusual move. What was unusual, was the application of an antiquated colouring technique formulated for shoes, ingeniously transferred across to the patination of leather chairs.
Solomon’s vision, over 200 years ago, was beautifully simple. The fashion houses of London were turning their attention to larger, more luxurious articles for their private clubs and households. And if a hand-made bespoke pair of shoes was popular amongst the up and coming bourgeois, why not apply the same principle to a chair? These values still exist today. What makes Fleming & Howland entirely unique is their belief that a chair or sofa should be tailored to a client’s height, weight and taste. Their bespoke service includes modifying the frame, the cushion interiors and decorative detail to ensure the article is a long-term investment, not an off-the-shelf purchase.
In addition to his vision, Solomon plundered his previous trade for skills that would make his chairs unique. He introduced a method of hand colouring hides to give his leather chairs a distinctively rich patina. That method, unique to Fleming & Howland, is still used today.
COLOURED BY HAND
A chair is only as good as the materials it’s made from. Hides are individually select for their size and quality. Still in their natural, cream coloured state the hides are cut, stitched and sewn before the real magic begins. The antiquer applies the dyes by hand, followed by multiple layers of polish and wax over a two week period. Each layer adds to the rich and luxurious patina so distinctive of Fleming & Howland furniture.
GOOD THINGS FOR THOSE WHO WAIT
In a world of fast fashion and flat pack furniture, buying from Fleming & Howland is an experience that goes against the grain. As most furniture is made to order, each piece takes at least 40 hours to build. Given the international appeal of this work, waiting lists are at least two months long. For quality made to last for life, the wait is worth it.
The real beauty of making furniture by hand is the ability to customise. Designing with Fleming & Howland is a journey, with your input invited at every step. It starts by sending you swatches of material for approval, and then we get into the design. How tall are you? How do you sit? Do you like your cushions hard or soft? Once built, a ‘working prototype’ will be delivered to your home. If any additional changes are needed within the first 60 days, cushion comfort adjustments are made until it’s the perfect match.
BUILT FOR LIFE
What is quite astonishing throughout the whole design and build process is that, apart from the compressor and button-making press, the entire procedure is done by hand. When you buy a Fleming & Howland, you’re buying a piece of furniture made to stay with you for life.
QUALITY IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES
It’s not all bespoke of course. Fleming & Howland’s standard collection of sofas and chairs will suit most buyers and the same attention to detail applies. Recent innovations have included a departure from leather into wool, linen and velvet, reinterpretations of classic furniture shapes using brightly coloured leathers, and new pieces inspired by the company’s vast archive of designs.
To view the collections, a good starting point is to request a Designer Pack.