Nailhead trim remains a popular furniture decoration

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Trimming out the edges of furniture and accessory pieces with brass nailheads began in the 17th century in France and had a practical purpose. Furniture fabricators attached the silk or velvet to the chair or settee with brass tacks to keep the fabric tight and in place. The trim looked handsome and luxurious and so the furniture makers didn’t cover the straight lines of bright brass tacks with fabric. Soon, nailhead trim caught on all over Europe. Today, all countries apply nailhead trim as decorative detailing to all types of furniture and accessories from leather sofas (the most traditional use in England and America) to headboards, doors, mirror frames, dressers, bookcases, trays, dining chairs and tables, coffee tables, you name it.

Some of the best and most artistic examples of nailhead trim are available for viewing at Robb & Stucky International furniture gallery in Sarasota and designer Jacqueline Cantwell is a professional who knows all about the wide variety of nailhead trims and what designs will work best in your home or office.

“Brass is the traditional metal,” she said, “but today we’re seeing nailhead trim in silver, nickel, chrome or stainless steel and even jewels such as pearls or crystals. Nailhead trim in mirror pieces can be dazzling. And nailhead trim doesn’t have to be round anymore. Diamond, square and floral shapes are popular. I like to tell clients that nailhead trim is like jewelry for your furniture.”

In some cases, furniture manufacturers allow custom treatments designed by the homeowners or their design professional. This involves making a template of the original pattern and getting it to the fabricator. It’s a bit complicated, but if you really want your initials on the back of dining room chairs worked out in luminous pearl nailhead trim, go for it. You’ll end up with something unique.

For the DIY homeowner, doing nailhead trim on pieces of furniture you already own is possible. You buy the nailheads in strips. You need to measure carefully and have a good eye to keep the strip straight, but with practice it can be done. And again, you’ll have something original. Get your inspiration (and maybe your purchase) at Robb & Stucky International.

Robb & Stucky International, 7557 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Jacqueline Cantwell, 941-702-8416.

Marsha Fottler regularly contributes to local, regional and national publications with articles on residential, commercial and restaurant design as well as food.