John Howard started making furniture around 1820 and later was joined by his son George in 1830, Howard and Sons invented modern techniques such as siege de duvet – (trapped cushions) and innovative frame designs (such as the “Bridgewater“) which revolutionised furniture making and are still copied by furniture makers today.
Based at their famous Berners Street headquarters in London between 1847 and 1935, Howard and Sons became the leading light of English furniture makers, receiving the Royal Warrant in 1901 and winning prizes across Europe at exhibitions in places like Paris and Antwerp.
Howard and Sons’ sofas and chairs adorned the drawing rooms of some of the finest country houses in England; including Antony House in Cornwall, Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, Elton Hall in Huntingdonshire and Stokesay Court in Shropshire.
Howard and Sons remained a family business until 1935, when it was sold to Lenygon and Morant, who promoted themselves as ‘Makers of Howard and Sons.’
Sadly, quality started to decline as money-saving techniques and materials were introduced, such as beech frames and legs rather than birch frames and walnut or mahogany legs.
In 1967, the company was resurrected as Howard Chairs and was renamed Howard and Sons London in 2019.
After the loss of so many craftsmen during the first and second world wars and the advent of mass production, the quality of Howard and Sons furniture and indeed English upholstery never returned to the level achieved by the Howard family. It is their sofas and chairs from that era that are the most sought after now.
When the company was family owned the quality of Howard and Sons frames, upholstery materials and workmanship was so good that even after a hundred years of use their sofas and chairs only require minimal maintenance and maybe just change of fabric.
Traditional high quality seating improves with age because the horsehair takes our body form and springs soften and the jute products relax, creating that unmistakable ‘caught and held’ feeling when you sit back and relax into ‘a cloud of comfort’.
For English furnituremakers a Royal Warrant remains one of the most widely respected and therefore sought-after endorsements. Queen Elizabeth II is reputed to own a large collection of Howard and Son’s furniture so do many of the UK’s stately homes.
Antique furniture experts, including those working for some of the UK’s most prestigious valuers and auction houses such as Christies in London and Lyon and Turnbull in Edinburgh, attribute Howard and Sons furniture with ‘’proportion and line that cannot be faulted’’.
All Howard’s are stamped on the back leg and castors with later items also bearing a fabric label to the base.
The Howard and Sons iconic blue and cream ticking as seen in older items was originally two tone green but the inks used faded to blue. The single tone green and white is seen in later years especially with modern reincarnations of the brand.
The distinctive Howards and Sons turned leg got slimmer over time and eventually became a modern tapered plain leg which has held its appeal.
Howard and Sons produced a wide range of sofas and chairs and their variants as well as bespoke options based on the specific requirements of customers.
The Bridgewater armchair and its siblings – including the Grafton, Ivor, Titchfield, and Harley are now the most popular icons of the brand.
Howard and Sons sofas are rarer and more sought after than other Howard and Sons items especially the large Siege de Duvet models such as the Beckett, Wimbourne and Portlington.
Marcus worked on his first Howard and Sons in 1990 helping reupholster a sofa for the well known Hare Antiques.
Captivated by their quality and design Marcus focussed his early career on restoring Howards and as word got around that a Howard expert was in the making more top Howard dealers promised their customers a Marcus Spencer restored Howard.
Nowadays Marcus sources, buys and restores Howard and sons armchairs and sofas supplying clients around the world.
“John and George Howard were understated as designers however it’s impossible to overstate their influence on modern seating.
They were the pioneers of relaxed lounge seating.”
Marcus Spencer – Chalford 2020
“Extremely nice restoration”
“World class things”
“Marcus knows about upholstery, cares about upholstery and is the best upholsterer we have ever used.”
“Thrilled with the stool.
Thank you very much.”
“Marcus has a fantastic array of beautiful and unusual upholstery. They offer so much sculpture and interest”