Jonathan Sainsbury, New Life For Old Masters

by Becky Hoh in Bespoke stories

The Classical furniture designs of the 18th and 19th Century can seem a little removed from everyday interiors and often considered something that must be bought as an antique piece rather than custom made or bought new.

Jonathan Sainsbury is one furniture company  who is changing those ideas, and changing them in style.

“It has long been thought impossible to emulate the magnificent pieces designed and crafted by the great masters of furniture making, such as, Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale,” explains Jonathan Sainsbury, Managing Director at Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd.

“But we specialise in hand making period fine furniture and mirrors, creating objects for the interior that no one else is able to. We never say ‘no’ to anything however difficult or complicated it maybe.”

The Dorset based workshop was born from four generations of antique dealers and experts. Jonathan’s great grandfather, Daniel Sainsbury, founded the family cabinet making and antiques business, Sainsbury’s Antiques, in Bournemouth in 1918. And Jonathan’s own father, Thomas Sainsbury,  worked in the antiques business most of his life, providing huge inspiration and influence for him.

“He has an incredible wealth of knowledge and a marvellous eye for detail,” describes Jonathan. “From as early as I can remember, my father carted me around magnificent English country houses to look at the interiors. By the age of eight I was able to identify Queen Anne and Georgian furniture and by the time I left school all I wanted to do was create wonderful things and furnish beautiful houses.”

Bespoke work is a large part of what they do, offering a full advisory and custom manufacturing service, which also includes the all important finer details such as water gilding, specialist aged paint finishing, all of which are discussed and chosen by the client  right to the end brush stroke.

Jonathan Sainbury is actually an amalgamation of the family businesses, which included the English Looking Glass Company, so much of what they do involves the hand carving and hand gilding of large scale mirrors as well the furniture and architectural fittings they are known for.

Restoration and replication are also a common ask, from interior designers and architects as well as directly from private clients. With such a passion and feeling for the furniture of the last 250 years, the team have gained a great reputation for this type of work, sensitively copying or breathing life back with carving and brass-work, which also lends itself to table lamps and door furniture. Their skills see them being called upon by the National Trust on a regular basis and even a slot on the BBC’s To the Manor Reborn’ a programme where designers and historical experts renovated Avebury Manor in Wiltshire.

Sainsbury’s wildest commission to date has been an “enormous centre table with a glass top supported by a stylised craved wood dragon inspired by a design in the Brighton Pavilion.” But he and the team clearly relish a challenge and take huge pride in realising someone else’s dream piece of furniture. Sainsbury does emphasise that those wishing to commission a piece should remember to not try and cut corners with the cost, stating “that the last ten per cent makes one hundred per cent of the difference.” Wise words.

The team also run a permanent range alongside the custom work and are about to launch a brand new collection, entitled Decadence, at this year’s Decorex 2013 show. It contains over 50 pieces and will feature, bold statement objects that include the Brightling Park Table, the Adam Irish Oval Mirror and the Witchampton Bergere, all inspired by and authentic to the style of the Great Masters from the end of the 18th century.

To tie-in with this year’s central show theme at Decorex, the Silk Route, Jonathan Sainsbury will also be showing other pieces from the company’s back catalogue that have been influenced by the Orient. The Nostell Priory Mirror is carved in the Chinese aesthetic, surmounted with a pagoda and carved HoHo birds.  The Chinese Chippendale Chair and Fret Table reflect the Chinese style with intricate carved latticework.

The new collection will be displayed to their effect at Decorex, with the stand designed in the style of a lavish English country house drawing room.  Great attention has been given to create a distinctive classic English interior even down to the inclusion of port and cigars –  Certainly one not to be missed!

Jonathan Sainsbury –

Recommended Editorials