Howard & Sons was established in 1820 by John Howard and the family business became an iconic name in Victorian England. Their beautiful pieces are still recognised as leading examples of upholstered furniture today and have inspired many bespoke copies.
Howard & Sons was curated for the top end of the market, satisfying demand that was not being met by other upholstered furniture at the time. The company's enduring popularity, resilient throughout the furniture depression of the early 20th Century, testifies to the excellence of their furniture.
Howard & Sons through the ages
Today, we exalt them for their armchairs and sofas. However, Howard & Sons started out as a cabinetry company, operating out of workshops in the Whitechapel area. John Howard's first venture into upholstered furniture started with a workshop on Red Lion St.
The company's most famous residence was at Berners Street in London, where they would eventually occupy numbers 25, 26 and 27. Many of their pieces are therefore signed, 'Howard & Sons, Berners Street.' They became a limited company in 1899 and won their first royal warrant in 1901.
The company began gathering accolades which raised their profile and secured them private clients. They won a prize at the prestigious Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1862 for their suite of library furniture. Their success was not only at home, winning two golds and a silver at the Paris exhibition of 1900.
Their warrant allowed them to supply royal residences with upholstered furniture, alongside other grand venues such as The Savoy Hotel. They also collaborated with Gillows, who were seen as leading cabinet makers in Victorian England.
Howard & Sons ceased trading for a period in 1947. Seven years later, the house decorators Lenygon and Morant Ltd described themselves as 'Makers of Howard Chairs and Sofas.' The Howard name fell silent once more, but the branding carried such power that Howard Chairs Ltd was established in 1967. Today, Howard Chairs Ltd is based on Lyme Street in London, producing furniture following the original patents and designs.
The Howard & Sons name quickly became synonymous with durability, comfort, and beautiful design. The names attributed to their furniture models, such as the Bridgewater and Portarlington, still incite longing today.
These pieces are so coveted, regardless of their exterior condition, because of the renowned craftsmanship and timelessness of their designs. The most iconic Howard & Sons pieces are deep-seated and low, the cushions filled with a feather and down mix.
In 1866, George Howard patented the 'Elastic Seat', which revolutionised upholstered furniture. The coil springs allow for movement up and down as well as side to side, making for a much more comfortable seat.
Howard & Sons used the siège de duvet upholstery scheme, giving their easy armchairs and sofas a supreme comfort that was simply not being matched by competitors.
These cherished pieces have distinctive and elegant arms, which are much shorter than the length of the seat. Their original 'H&S' monogrammed ticking is the most classic, but original Howard pieces feature an array of patterns.
The only way to be sure you have an authentic Howard & Sons piece is a signature. Look out for an Ivorine label on the hessian, or name or number stamps on the castors or inside back leg.
Howard pieces perform consistently well on the market. Their value goes up year on year as we desire their rare comfort and luxury. Should reupholstery be necessary, you have the freedom to choose a fabric that reflects your taste. Acquiring a Howard armchair is always a good investment.
Many furniture companies offer bespoke reproductions of Howard & Sons pieces, or a restoration service. The Howard & Sons name has resonated throughout the interior design industry since its conception, with designers choosing their pieces to elevate a diverse range of interiors.
Choose pristine or newly reupholstered pieces in bright patterning to add a dash of colour to an otherwise minimalist, contemporary scheme. Howard & Sons pieces have a very fresh feel that compliments a range of decorative schemes.
On the other hand, the more 'shabby chic' look of some original pieces will bring charm and comfort to a country home, as well as a trusted furniture model.
Here at Lorfords Antiques, you will find a selection of Howard & Sons sofas and armchairs. We cherish this upholstered furniture for its quality and longevity and continue to source pieces to preserve that legacy.
Lorfords Contemporary produces upholstered furniture in the style of Howard & Sons. Back in 2015, Marco Pierre White asked us to help furnish a historic hotel renovation in Singapore. This began our journey of making bespoke copies of Howard pieces, and we've never looked back.
Inspired by the Howard approach, we prioritise luxury and comfort and use traditional methods and materials as much as we can. Browse sofas, armchairs, headboards, ottomans, and more, which have all been hand-crafted in our Contemporary workshop.
Visit our lookbook, Quintessential upholstery, to browse our collection of beautiful antique Howard pieces. Find the perfect sofa or chair for your home.