30 Aug An insiders guide to Club Fenders with Acres Farm
When it comes to Georgian and Regency properties and interiors, the club fender, a seat that surrounds the fireplace is an iconic, show stopping piece. It’s still very much in demand today, as they work well with both traditional and more modern Georgian style interiors.
At Latham Interiors we work with leading specialist Acres Farm, a family run business that has been making club fenders for over 30 years in their thatched barns located in the heart of Berkshire.
Acres Farm make fenders for customers all over the world, including the general public as well as the top interior designers. Acres Farm Club Fenders can be found in palaces to bijou country cottages, elegant town houses and even flats. Each club fender is hand made at Acres Farm, enabling total control over the manufacturing process and the flexibility to be able to create truly bespoke designs.
I spoke with William Rollo from Acres Farm to find out more about the history of the Club Fender and his tips for designing a Club Fender today.
Where does the name club fender come from?
We believe because they probably originated in Gentlemen’s Clubs.
What is the history/purpose of a club fender?
Club Fenders are brilliant in that they take up no extra space, and in fact use up wasted space around the fireplace, and at the same time provided some warm seats in the days before central heating. They were never made for Drawing Rooms, only for the more masculine rooms, such as Libraries, Billiard Rooms, Gun rooms etc.
What are the pitfalls of sourcing a pre-made or antique club fender?
Everyone always hankers after antique fenders, but very often they are much too big for modern fireplaces and rooms. Also because they probably came from a Club, they tend to be very masculine and heavy and not suited to the lighter touch most people favour nowadays. Also many old fenders were very cheaply made, often using plated brass, and hollow uprights, so that they had to be artificially weighted at the back to make them stable. Finally these old fenders tended to be very high sometimes, 24” . We have often repaired old fenders and so know exactly how they were made, and do try to restore them.
What are the benefits of having a club fender made to order?
Well of course the obvious reason is that it will fit! However, it will also be in line with the wishes of the client. In particular with regard to the overall height, which we tend to recommend approx. 500mm. Sometimes the seats of fenders look best fitting around the fireplace, against the wall/chimney breast. On other occasions, we would make cutouts in the inner corners of the seats if for instance, there is no space for the entire seat next to the fireplace.
What are the constructional elements that make for a good quality club fender?
Solid uprights add natural weight to the construction, rather than hollow tubes. For added strength we always include a ‘collar’ at the base of each upright, as this spreads the weight from the seat over the base equally. The corners of the bases are welded across the mitres. The ends are capped. The metal is thick enough and does not need artificial weighting.
Surprisingly, the actual bases of some of the more modern fenders are not actually joined on the mitred corners, they are lined with a metal frame, and the joins just butt up against each other. Also where a fender is very long, we may need to use two lengths of base, and this is seamlessly welded together, so the join is invisible. Again we have seen some, which simply have a panel across the central line of the base – nothing is actually joined. Of course this type of shoddy workmanship would not be visible when a client ordered their club fender, as it would only be apparent upon delivery.
What styles of house does a club fender suit and why?
People tend to think that the house must be of a certain size, however this is not the case. They can be just as useful in a bothy, a small flat in a town, a grand town house or large Georgian or Regency country house as part of the Georgian or Regency interior design.
Club fenders are suitable for cold or warm climates, so long as the metal that the fender is made from is sympathetic to the general ambiance of the room, as there is no controlling factor. There need not even be a fire – just a mantelpiece with an electric fire beneath can be transformed into a useful seating area.
What styles of club fender do you recommend for a Georgian Country House interiors project?
Well again, it depends on the type of décor. I would never have a shiny brass fender in a room, unless there are lots of gilt picture frames to complement the gold colour. On the other hand, a bronzed or antiqued brass fender would blend in well. Also there is the consideration of practicality. Our painted bronze or gun metal fender would look perfect in a ‘tweedy’ type of room. The fender with a curved dip is the most traditional style, but of course it can be personalised by using some wonderful fabric, rather than leather for a Drawing Room for instance. A library, games or billiard room would normally be the perfect home for club fender with a leather seat – perhaps deep buttoned.
What styles of club fender would you recommend for a Georgian Townhouse interior?
The wonderful thing about modern life is the incredible gas fires now available in many quirky designs. This has transformed the fireplaces in rooms and of course there is not any dust from the wood or coal to make a mess. Originally fenders were never made for Drawing Rooms, they were purely for the more masculine rooms, but nowadays perhaps by using pretty fabrics, and making the fenders lower, than in past times, they look wonderful in Drawing and Sitting Rooms, and of course Living Rooms and Kitchens too. We have also made them for bedrooms, where they are useful to leave clothes on. I would usually suggest a brass fender with a curved dip in such a house, as the square dip design is much more contemporary.
What are the options worth considering to make a club fender more unique/useful/ authentic/beautiful?
Every fender we make is unique, in a way, as it is made to the exact spec. ordered. I would consider practicality probably. Leather upholstery is very hardwearing; suede is lovely but less practical. We always try to make the width of the opening between the seats the same as the width of the fire basket, as in this way the heat of the fire can come out into the room and is not in front of the seats. It is important not to have it too high, as then it becomes over powering. The fender should be totally unobtrusive and the best compliment we ever have is when a client says no one has noticed it when visiting. Therefore subtle upholstery is usually best. It is an additional guard to the fire, but of course a fireguard should always be used, and a lit fire should never be left unattended, particularly if there are children present.
When is a club fender not appropriate?
I suppose if a fender was to go around a hearthstone which was very high, but even then, we can make the fender onto a flat bar, rather than a formed base, and attach it to the hearthstone.
Not if it is to be used as a fire guard. Generally speaking a fender needs to have returns, but we have made straight ones too, which go across an inglenook and then is attached at each end.
For more information on Club Fenders from Acres Farm go to www.acresfarm.co.uk
For more information and ideas on Georgian interior design, contact Latham Interiors today.
Please note all images featured have been supplied courtesy of Acres Farm.