Home is where the hearth is, as the saying goes, and New Canaan retired banker turned entrepreneur Peter Hovey has created new ways to entice us to sit by the fire, bringing family and friends together by designing a line of fireside benches called “Club Fenders,” a name that harks back to the 18th and early 19th Century benches which graced the hearths of landed gentry and royalty in England.
Recalling the elegance of the Georgian era, his benches — or “fenders” — are made in Connecticut with custom wrought iron bases, locally forged, and seats upholstered in the finest leather or in a client’s choice of designer fabrics. Ideal for both formal and informal settings, they reflect a classic sophistication that is in harmony with both traditional and contemporary furnishings.
Club Fenders design features can be customized to complement a room’s décor and to fit any size fireplace, mantel and hearth. Since WWII, England has mainly made fenders using machine fabrication and brass instead of the original wrought iron. In Edwardian England, the traditional use of the fender was in the “club room” — the library or billiards room, including the hearths of exclusive clubs and castle hotels catering to affluent sportsmen. They were also popular in the Normandy area of France in the l9th Century. Traditionally considered luxury pieces, the original club fenders were expensive, weighty and prohibitively costly to ship long distances, but at the turn of the 19th Century, a few made their way to America to the homes of American industrialists and bankers such as the Astors, Whitneys, Phipps, Hitchcocks, Mellons, and Morgans.
Hovey recalls first seeing classic club fenders in Old Westbury, Long Island where he grew up and says the design stayed “subliminally in the back of my mind.” When he retired from the banking world, he wanted to start a business “to keep me energized, but it had to be something really different, creative, fun and potentially successful. I was always interested in home design and used to enjoy designing houses,” he said. “I wanted to make something unique, both artistic, functional and lasting.
He also wanted to use U.S. materials and labor, seeking a business model that required minimal startup capital, but was readily expandable. Having always admired truly old club fenders, he researched this little known furniture genre and found that these are still virtually all made in England and never really marketed in America. “The fender is really unique. It’s not a chair or sofa, but it adds seats, provides a focal point and makes tending the fire easier and safer.”
Hovey is looking to develop advisory relationships with interior designers, architects, realtors and community groups seeking fresh ideas in fund-raising. He isalso interested in loaning club fenders for special events such as fund-raisers or weddings. Currently some of his fenders are on view in Waveny House, the Sacred Heart School in Greenwich and the Lillian August Norwalk showroom. He offers free in-home consultations and free “loaners” so potential buyers can experience the design possibilities in their own homes. More info: 203-966-8733, or ClubFenders.US