Chester County, PA
Chester County Pheasants
Watercolour by my dad,
Samuel Potter Brown III
Scenes from my shop.....
My furniture is hand made in my small shop in rural Virginia.
I grew up on a tree farm in Chester County, PA (Sam Brown Nursery in Willistown) and served a two year apprenticeship with E. Townsend Moore, a cabinetmaker who had been a curator at Dupont's Wintertur Estate and Museum outside Wilmington, Delaware. He learned from Robert Treat Hogg who was part of the two centuries long legacy of Chester County fine furniture makers. Chester County furniture developed a unique style that stemmed largely from the 17th century Welsh Quaker settlers. Certain design features include use of line and berry holly inlay. Cherry and walnut were abundant local hardwoods. The Philadelphia makers, two hours ride to the East, were producing some of the finest furniture in the world, and that was another strong influence.
I've been making and learning about period furniture for over 30 years. My pieces have been selected for museums and historic sites, including James Madison's Montpelior and Historic Jamestown. Rather than exact precise duplications, I prefer to make what I call 'historically informed' pieces. Unless requested by a museum, my furniture is not an exact reproduction, but will incorporate design elements and joinery that would have been common at the time. I continue to scour museum archives and study originals for ideas: patterns, moldings, inlay designs, proportions. I enjoy sketching details of the Chester County pieces I see in homes and exhibits in my home area. I think that one develops a trained eye. So that's how I make a piece; the result is representative of what an 18th century maker would produce but each piece will be my own and truly one of a kind.
It can take 6 months or more to make a piece, depending on the complexity and amount of carving, etc. My prices are determined by a simple process: I take the price of the corresponding originals and divide by 5 to 10 (if the original examples are over $200,000, I divide by 10). I also calculate the hours spent making the piece and multiply by $4 an hour. I charge whichever is the lower price.
50% deposit prior to starting; 30% prior to finish application (can take up to 2 weeks for a proper finish, curing, hand rubbing, etc.), remainder due upon completion before deliver or pick-up.
Except for museum & historic site reproductions, where exact copies are desired, my furniture is one of kind, based on traditional design elements.
William Francis Brown