Jonathan Charles Fine Furniture devotes incredible attention to crafting beautifully 18th and 19th century styled furniture. The collections that Jonathan Charles manufacturers are primarily based on famous antiques from stately homes. It’s no wonder they’re so sophisticated and elegant.
“We try to use the same techniques as the way the original antiques were made,” Jonathan Sowter, Jonathan Charles Fine Furniture Founder said. “It’s easier to look like an antique if we’re doing it the same way the antique was done.” He continued to say that they were lucky to have the skilled craftsmen it requires to create such expertly crafted and unique pieces of furniture.
“The carvers at Jonathan Charles are probably the most skilled people in our factory. Carving is an art, and really the skills speak for themselves. If you look at a piece of furniture, [you’ll see that] our carving is fantastic.”
There’s a wow factor that you can’t find anywhere else because the skills you must possess aren’t around anymore. Here are just a few of the ways that Jonathan Charles Fine Furniture sets itself apart.
Marquetry is an incredible technique. It’s basically as highly skilled as painting. The only difference is that the medium is veneer.
“I’m a cabinet maker. I’ve been making furniture since I was 12 years old, and with marquetry, it takes so much patience to sit down and get every detail right,” Sowter said.
Sowter said the patience it requires to complete a marquetry piece is astounding even with his life-long furniture construction experience. “A lot of the pieces that have incredibly fine marquetry, people make the mistake of thinking it’s painted on — it’s not. It’s genuine, hand-cut marquetry.”
“Trying to find good hardware for furniture is very, very difficult,” Sowter said, “So, I decided, let’s try making our own hardware. From basically that day on, we’ve made everything.”
Now, skilled craftsmen cast intricately carved wax dies, which are used to form concrete molds in the hardware creation process. This wax casting looks much like the creation process that jewelry makers use to create rings and other various elegantly detailed jewelry.
“You have to start off by carving from a block of wax — by carving the original the way you want it,” he said. “The real artisan is the wax carver who carves the original.”
“Having our own foundry allows us to design hardware for each individual piece of furniture. So, we’ve got a unique handle for that one piece, and we’ve got a unique hinge on that one piece,” he said. “It means the attention to detail on each individual piece can be limitless.”
“This is where the detail side of what we do really does stand out. We can have a marquetry detail inlay on the drawer front and handle that matches that … Nobody’s paying that much attention to detail.”
Paint & Églomisé
“It amazes some people that some of the details in our furniture are actually painted by hand,” he said. People speculate wondering if the pieces are created with decoupage or if they’re printed, but not one of Jonathan Charles pieces is decoupaged or printed. They’re all hand painted and pristine.
Another process this fine furniture manufacturer uses, which is quite sophisticated, is églomisé. “The process that we’re following for églomisé is the exact same process that was [used] hundreds of years ago.”
Basically, it’s reverse painting on the back of the glass, which is very finely done using gold leaf, shading, etching and engraving techniques. Then we use genuine silver leaf to put a mirrored background to that painting. It’s a very difficult process, very few people know how to do it.
“If you take a piece of furniture and finish it fantastically, people could imagine it’s an antique,” he said. That’s why it’s critical to understand how to finish and destress a piece of furniture so it looks like it’s lived longer and possesses all of the natural “bangs” and “knocks” that a true antique would.
“It’s all in the finish. Even something as simple as … shading around the handle. Because when you clean an antique for years, you’re not getting into those corners perfectly.”
“It’s great to be making something that you know is going to be around in someone’s home,” he said in conclusion. “I like to think that what we’re doing really is [creating] heirloom furniture. It’s furniture that is of a quality that will last forever and a style that is going to be around forever … handed down from generation to generation.”
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