I was fortunate to be given a Howard and Son’s sofa to restore very early on in my career. That sofa is the reason I am doing what I am doing today.

I remember the moment of discovery as I removed the threadbare fabric – the quality of the artistry and craftmanship that went into its design, manufacture and upholstery was astonishing. The highest quality materials still stood the test of time, as it was as comfortable to sit in as it ever had been.

It was then that I made a connection with the long-forgotten ‘philosophy’ of my predecessors – that art and craft in equal measure produces the finest furniture.

Since that moment there was no turning back, no second best or second place. I felt that I had rediscovered the Holy Grail of furniture making and was committed there and then to acquiring the same knowledge, skills and experience to breathe new life into these remarkable pieces of furniture.

I’d like to think that there are two significant events in the ‘life’ of a historic sofa or chair – the day it was made and the day I restored it.

Back down to earth! Back to basics! Back to brass tacks!

Traditional upholsterer at work

I completed a traditional apprenticeship, primarily in ‘Howard specialist techniques’ such as double webbing pattern, soft stitched edges and hand stitched finishes. These methods maintain the look and feel of the original, while avoiding the common mistake of over-restoration (that can result in loss of the softness for which Howard is famous).

I have spent a third of my life looking and working on pieces by the great makers Howard, Hindley, Holland, Hamptons and the designs of the Regency makers. I know their work from the inside out.

I enjoy sourcing traditional materials from all over the UK and Europe; including Italian hides, which I personally hand tint and antique to mimic the aging process.

I love what you can do with leather; for example, pleated and ruched leather borders, hand pressed leather buttons, strips and trims, burnished edges and tufted and deep buttoned finishes.

Following in their footsteps…

Working on pieces created by others got me thinking about how it must feel to create contemporary classics myself.

What could I create that could accompany the wonderful sofas and chairs I restore and suit both period and modern settings?

Although tailor-made, it would have to have heritage; it would have to require the age-old combination of craftsmanship and artistry to create it. And above all, each piece would have to be unique.

So, I became the latest in a long line of craftsman to reinvent the Ottoman and, paying tribute to those English craftsmen of the Regency, Victorian and Edwardian periods, I called it The English Ottoman.

Made from components taken from my collection of antique artefacts, traditional materials sourced from the UK and Europe and time-earned knowledge and skills, The English Ottoman is to me the embodiment of my craft.  It is my part in telling a story that starts centuries ago.

Marcus Spencer is a curator and restorer of fine antique English sofas and chairs

sourced for customers and his own private collection from all over the United Kingdom.

A traditionally trained upholsterer Marcus is also maker of The English Ottoman Series

a limited edition project of one hundred unique catalogued ottoman stools.


Hallidays Mill  Chalford  Gloucestershire  gl68nr  England

07960 057525