Fret Furniture’s name comes with an interesting story. “A local Philadelphia designer stopped by to pick up a table we had built for one of her clients,” says Brian Boland, owner/designer behind the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania company that started in 2016.
“As we were showing her the Montana dining table, she quietly mentioned that the brass inlay reminded her of frets and marker dots on stringed instruments. As a guitarist all my life, the word ‘fret’ resonated with me.”
Even though Fret Furniture is the realization of Brian’s desire to have his own line of furniture, this is far from his first foray into furniture making. “For the past 25 years, I have been building for architects and designers, creating and building many styles of furniture,” he says.
With a background as a guitarist, Brian’s life was forever changed when “one day I discovered authentic period furniture through some family members,” he says. Once he saw the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, he was hooked.
“I sought out an apprenticeship and was lucky to find a Welsh woodworker, Robert Allen Fellwock. I spent many years learning and building period reproduction work for projects that included The Winterthur Museum, Independence Hall, and Colonial Williamsburg,” Brian says. Throughout this time, Brian attended Philadelphia College of Arts at night and took design classes at Drexel University.
To Brian, what makes Fret Furniture unique is threefold: Their furnishings can be entirely customized, each piece is built one at a time, and the company uses over 90% solid wood.
“We start with raw, un-milled lumber and then build everything in-house. Hardware aside, none of our components are outsourced, which is unusual in today’s market,” Brian says. “We support local suppliers and are truly proud of the way we do business.”
Business of Creativity
According to Brian, the most important lesson he has learned is to build and maintain relationships—he has customers who have been returning for 20 years. “A close second is the importance of finding motivated, talented craftspeople to work in our shop.”
Brian keeps his creativity flowing by avoiding the internet, where he thinks there is too much noise, and instead lets museums and nature inspire his sketches. “Once I am relaxed, letting nature take over, the ideas start to bubble up,” he says. Fret Furniture’s process includes sketches, models, and the production of individual elements—all before a full-scale prototype is made.
For more, visit fretfurniture.com.