WHO: Jake Dunning
LOCATION: Hunt Country, VA
OCCUPATION: Artisan and Owner of Throwleigh Club Fenders
THE HISTORY: On a horse farm in the Shenandoah Valley, Jake Dunning, owner of Throwleigh Fireplace Fenders, is carrying on a two-generation-old business using WWII-era machinery to craft a product invented in the early 1900s. According to Dunning, fireplace fenders first started showing up in gentlemen’s clubs and billiard rooms in England in the early twentieth century. The fenders, which offer seating next to a heat source and serve as a gathering space, soon made their way into English manors, and are found in most estate homes in England. They are becoming increasingly popular in American homes—and for good reason. “This once-forgotten accessory is an accent to the room’s focal point that is not only beautiful, but functional,” Dunning explains.
THE FAMILY BUSINESS: Dunning’s parents started making fenders after spotting one in a tiny English shop while traveling through Europe in the early 1990s. Combined with the shipping cost, the price tag was prohibitively expensive, but Dunning’s father turned what could have been a setback into a challenge. “My dad was convinced that he could learn to build fenders himself, and maybe even improve upon the ones he’d seen overseas,” Dunning says. Back at home, his parents initially designed and built fenders for themselves, family, and friends, but soon they had commissions coming from all over the country. Today, Dunning, along with a small sales team, is working with clients from all over to build one-of-a kind, custom fenders.
“With a fender, the area in front of the fireplace is no longer wasted space in a room—it is instead a gathering spot for the whole family.”
THE PROCESS: It takes approximately one month to design and build a fender, and Dunning’s team makes one at a time. The first step is a meeting with the client to discuss the space, or, if that’s not possible, the client will send photographs of the space along with measurements. “We work with them to build a statement piece that not only complements their interior, but in some cases captures the personality of the space or the client,” Dunning says. The client then chooses one of the four frame styles that Throwleigh offers (modifications can be made to the design if necessary), the frame materials, and design specifications.
THE DETAILS: Throwleigh is the only U.S. club fender company that works with both brass and steel. Their posts are solid, not welded together, and every piece is sculpted by hand. The base is welded into shape, much like crown molding, and the seats are upholstered with the highest quality leather—if the client wishes. When a client opts for something different, Dunning’s team rises to the occasion. “We use other seat coverings as well, from horsehair wool to pieces of a family’s heirloom oriental rug,” Dunning says. “Some clients request multiple seat covers so they can change up their fender to complement changes they make to their interior for various seasons.”
“It is these customized touches that allow us to give the client something one-of-a-kind and unique. Our fenders are designed and built at a level of quality not found anywhere else, and we love those projects that let us get creative with design and material.”
Standing in the workshop near the potbelly stove that keeps the space warm, surrounded by decades-old equipment many would consider obsolete, admiring the craftsmanship evident in Dunning’s latest project, it’s hard to not be transported to another time—and clear why this century-old British tradition is taking off stateside.
Throwleigh Club Fenders // Boyce, VA // 540.550.4253