Theodore Alexander blends English furniture design with Vietnamese handcraftsmanship
Paul Maitland Smith has been well-known and respected in the home furnishings industry since 1957, when he earned a solid reputation as a London-based antiques dealer and purveyor of reproduction furniture. By 1979 he had emigrated to Hong Kong and began manufacturing furniture and decorative accessories under the name Maitland-Smith, sourcing product from Hong Kong, Thailand, China, and the Philippines.
Over time, he sold that company and founded Paul Maitland International, which manufactures occasional furniture and home accents. In 1996, his entrepreneurial spirit led to a new division: Theodore Alexander.
“The company is named for Paul’s grandfather and great uncle, who were English cabinetmakers and antiques dealers whom he greatly admired,” explains the company’s creative director Anthony Cox.
Theodore Alexander exemplifies the furniture design qualities and craftsmanship that its founder has long held dear. “In starting up the company, Paul recognized that there would always be a demand for finely crafted home furnishings that reflect the traditions of design and artisanship,” Cox states.
Lighting in particular has always been a favorite design medium for Paul, who at age 75 has retired from active duty at Theodore Alexander but remains a significant shareholder. He and Cox admire the expression and creativity that lamps, sconces, and chandeliers bring to a room and consider lighting to be an important personal statement by the homeowner.
“Paul has really built a highly skilled team that leads all aspects of the company and builds on the great traditions of English furniture design and Vietnamese craftsmanship,” Cox states. “We handcraft all of the lighting in our own manufacturing facilities.” The lampshades are also handmade and embroidered in the company’s factory and the firm even fashions its own hardware.
“We believe in using the most interesting materials for both function and beauty,” Cox explains. “This allows our craftspeople to create products that will not only last for generations, but also give distinction to homeowners’ favorite spaces. An exceptional eye for design and detail has become our style signature,” he adds.
When it comes to lighting, the category has been booming recently due to consumer demand. “There appears to be a void in well-made, high-end, and finely crafted lighting plus hand-made silk shades,” Cox notes, adding, “As we expand the Theodore Alexander lifestyle, categories such as lighting, accessories, and wall art will continue to grow. “
One of the most distinguishing features of its lighting products is the multi-step finishing process. “We excel in developing new and complex finishes for many materials that can be used in lighting,” Cox says. “The lighting is designed, created, and finished by our highly skilled team of designers and craftspeople. For example, the wooden bases are hand-carved by master carvers, in-house artists paint the decorative scenes, special finishes are delicately applied by hand, and the metalwork is forged in our own foundry,” he explains. “In addition, all of the embroidery and custom-made silk shades are hand-sewn to exacting specifications. These skills give us the capability to tailor finishes, bases, and shades – right down to the finials – for each item.”
Since buyers of Theodore Alexander products reside in 35 countries all over the world, the company’s designs feature a diverse mix of materials to create unique lighting products with global appeal.
“We like to think we are establishing leadership in our designs, not following trends,” Cox remarks. “We want our lighting to represent a personal statement for the home interior environment.” As the company’s Web site states: “Every piece has a story just waiting to be shared.”
At this month’s High Point Market, there will be more than 70 new luxury designs on display in the company’s new and expanded showroom on Russell Street.
Theodore Alexander also manufactures for the Althorp® Living History collection (with Earl Charles Spencer, brother of the late Diana, The Princess of Wales) and produces the Keno Bros™ furniture line for identical twin appraisers, Leigh and Leslie, from Antiques Roadshow.
Follow the QR Code for a Video on How Theodore Alexander makes their lamps or click the blue text.