Once the mainstay of sprawling country houses or old-school gentlemen’s clubs, the club fender is back. “We have turned more to entertaining at home, creating comfortable rooms full of pattern,” says Nicole Salvesen of Salvesen Graham. “Club fenders give extra seating and are another surface to add pattern to.” The good news is: you no longer need a grand lounge to accommodate one. Even the cosiest sitting room can now take a club fender. “They are brilliant in providing extra seating in a room because they take up less space than a chair,” explains interior designer Katharine Paravicini, “as well as providing a cosy seat by the fire.”
For an item that typically needs such a small amount of upholstery, the club fender can make a huge impact. It was traditionally covered in leather, but designers are embracing the opportunity to bring wild accents into even the most genteel of settings. “We often use fenders as a way to add texture (for example, with studding) and inject an element of colour to a room,” says Emma Sims-Hilditch of interior design firm Sims Hilditch. “Our preference for a fender is to use a really fabulous and fun fabric,” adds Nicole. “You don’t need very much, so cost isn’t an issue and it is a great opportunity to be really brave with pattern – we love an animal print or ikat.”
If you are keen, there are a few factors to think about. First, the room’s proportions should be assessed to keep the fender to scale. “A standard fender is approximately 500mm height and 180mm for the seat,” says Emma. “However, always measure your fireplace first and work out the dimensions which best suit your room.” Secondly, consider the actual fireplace. If you are installing a new one, make sure it is designed with a fender in mind. William Rollo, owner of Acres Farm – a family business that has been making fenders in Berkshire for over 40 years – suggests consulting your manufacturer before the hearth is fitted and the fireplace is built, to ensure you get the proportions right. “There is a certain aesthetic to having a fender, so be mindful of the design of the fireplace and ensure that it is in keeping with the period of your home,” advises Emma. With an existing fireplace, the state it’s in is a factor, but not a game-changer. “Sometimes a fender can disguise a less-than-lovely fireplace,” says Nicole. “If your basket is not very nice, think about getting a fender that goes straight across rather than having a dip.” Remember too: you don’t need a working fireplace to install a fender; it can be a lovely addition regardless.
The type of metalwork you use will determine the look. Brass with a square dip gives a softer, more contemporary look, and square rods are another effective design element to bring your fender up to date. “One hundred per cent stainless steel is a good option for formed bases,” says Emma. “It is very durable, but be mindful not to plate stainless steel with a brass finish because it will chip and rust over time.” For the base of a fender, Katharine favours brushed steel or unlacquered brass, or combining different metals.
When it comes to the upholstery, it’s simple: there are no rules. “Leather works because it’s flexible and resilient to heat, and it lasts well,” says William. “But ultimately you can use any upholstery fabric, even an old Persian rug, as long as it’s not too thick to stitch together.” Patterned wool works well for a country look and woven prints will bring this piece bang up to date. While any fabric can be used, it would need to be fire treated and, in some cases, it is suggested to put a metal plate on the edge facing the fire to protect the fabric,” explains Nikki Maraviglia of Fig London. “Upholstery-grade fabric is the best choice as it will be sat on.”
By choosing a made-to-measure fender, you know it will be the perfect fit and deliver a smarter look. Expect to pay from £995 plus VAT for a 5ft fender from Acres Farm. If that’s over budget, scour antiques markets. “You can pick up inexpensive adjustable fenders from auctions and antique markets that can be fitted to most sizes,” says Nicole. “It is also possible to get slips fitted between the metal base and your stone hearth. However, the fender can’t be wider than your chimney breast.”
So forget its old reputation as a traditional, fusty fireplace addition. A fender is a multipurpose item that suits almost any size of room and any design scheme. In fact, it could be just the vehicle to give your boldest fabric choice a place in your home.
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