Furniture makers nail it with centuries-old details

If you lived in a comfortable home in 17th-century France or 19th-century England, your chairs might have been embellished with nail-head trim. It was a clever way to secure materials to upholstered furniture.

Another old fastener, the rivet, also was commonplace in manufacturing and shipbuilding centuries ago.

Now, both nail-heads and rivets are having a moment in contemporary décor. On some pieces, they reinforce traditional elegance. On others, they offer an urban, edgier aesthetic.

“We’re seeing nail-head trim — this 400-year-old detail — in lots of new applications, creating bold looks,” says Seattle designer Timothy De Clue.

Lisa Ferguson, an interior designer in Toronto, trimmed a pair of armless coral chairs with a decorative, antique-brass nail-head design along the skirt. She says both brass and warm satin detailing evoke classic glamour.

But be mindful of inexpensive trims if you want a luxe look, she adds.

“Attention to detail and craftsmanship is what differentiates the good from the best. Pay special attention to the scale and spacing of the nail heads in relation to the piece of furniture, and always go for metal individual heads over rows of plastic if it is in your budget,” she says.

Designer Jonathan Adler is also a fan of the nail. His Channing screen, named after Bette Davis’ character in the movie “All About Eve,” is a white lacquered room divider studded with polished nickel nail heads. He also plays with the motif in an irreverent tabletop confection: a clear acrylic obelisk filled with construction nails.