House + Home Q+A

Stuart Brown, owner of Tudor Woodworks

Updated: 2013-06-09T01:39:37Z

by ALICE THORSON

The Kansas City Star

Stuart Brown started Tudor Woodworks, an antiques restoration and custom furniture business, in the Crossroads in 2007 and then spent three years in the West Bottoms. Late last year he moved to a 2,500-square-foot space at 45th and Belleview near the Country Club Plaza, where he has added a showroom featuring English and early American antiques, works by local crafts artists and his own custom furniture.

How did you find this space near the Plaza?

I live six blocks away. The building had been empty for years and was in poor shape. Last year, we spent from mid-August to November getting it in halfway decent shape, but it’s an ongoing project. I want to wallpaper the showroom and put glass shelves in the windows.

Tell me about some of the antiques you have on display.

This diminutive tall case — a little grandfather clock — dates to the late 18th, early 19th century and is made of English mahogany. You wind it up and it runs for eight days. There’s an illustration above the clock face of two guys sitting at a table. Their arms move and they drink at the top of the hour. Everything’s original.

This 18th-century table looks round to the naked eye but it actually measures 45 by 43 inches. The wood was air dried, not kiln dried as it is today and over the years the table shrunk along the grain. It was cut as a circle, but if you see an 18th-century table that’s absolutely perfect all around, run. If it’s perfect, it’s not an 18th-century table.

And this large table in the center of the room?

It’s a dining table I made in the style of George Nakashima, the famous 20th-century furniture maker. It’s made of two slabs of red walnut, and I spent many hundreds of hours on it. It’s hand planed. The pillows down at the end are by Valerie Johnson. They’re hand-painted and hand stitched and can be washed in cold water. I wanted pillows that don’t have to be dry cleaned, but I made an exception for that soft brown one. It’s cashmere.

You have quite a selection of craft objects displayed in the showroom. Who did the wood bowls?

Steve Lenh makes the segmented turned bowls. The low one with the dark band around it is made of 145 pieces of maple and bloodwood. It took hours to make and it’s priced at $175. I try to carry works that are affordable.

Jim Ramsey did the organic-looking bandsaw boxes with drawers. Everything is cut with a bandsaw.

And this row of wood books?

It’s a jewelry box by Russ Amos designed to look like a row of books. The spines slide up to reveal the compartments. A woman came in who had been broken into and she purchased one. He also makes Shaker boxes and Japanese-style boxes.

You also feature ceramics.

We always have a changing array of ceramics from Red Star Studios.

Natalie Thomas made the pots that incorporate driftwood and ceramics. She’s based in Peculiar, Mo. The driftwood comes from Washington State. Jane Flanders from Lawrence did the soft green tapered cups with the depression on one side.

Current restoration projects?

I’m working on an English chest on stand from 1740. There’s a crack on the side. It’s missing some of its molding and veneer as well as a few handles and the back section is falling off. The client’s grandfather bought it. We will have to find a 200-year-old piece of oak in England and have it shipped. The oak the piece is made from is more than likely German. By the early 18th century, the English had chopped down their forests to build their navy, so they turned to German black forest oak for making furniture.

When we restore, we use the same methods that were used when the piece was built originally. It’s important to maintain the integrity of the piece.

I just finished this Empire chest of drawers. It was dull and dingy and the drawers were pushed back inside the frame. I cleaned and waxed it and put drawer stops in. I also added extra length to the feet because the only place in the client’s house it fits is over an air-conditioning vent.

What about custom jobs?

I have a client who wants a pair of demilune tables using this sycamore burl from her house in the country. I’m going to slice it into veneer. Burl grain goes all over, so we use it to do patterns. I’m going to use this burl veneer to create a fan design on the top of the table.

Do you ever refinish furniture?

You never refinish a piece if it has original finish and original color and original patina. You just clean and wax. If you do it at home, you can do too much and ruin the finish. The tripod 18th-century English mahogany table in the showroom has a perfect color. It’s made of Cuban mahogany. That’s the highest grade. It’s the densest. It’s a tilt top with a bird cage (device) underneath that makes it swivel.

Do you have any advice for decorating with antiques?

There’s no reason you can’t put antiques in a contemporary house. I saw a one where the owner put Philippe Starck’s transparent polycarbonate “Ghost Chairs” with an 18th-century oak drop leaf table. It was gorgeous. They showed each other off so well, contrasting and complementing.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4783 or send email to athorson@kcstar.com.

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