Sitting Pretty

Steven Swift is Keeping Handcrafted Furniture Alive on Nantucket

For forty years, the name Stephen Swift has been synonymous with exquisite, custom-built furniture. Now in the capable, creative hands of Brad Fair, this island institution located at 23 Federal Street is continuing the tradition of gorgeous woodworking done right here on Nantucket. In the age of IKEA, Stephen Swift is one of the last bastions of fine, handcrafted furniture.

“If you can draw it, I can build it,” Brad Fair says. These days, thirty percent of the furniture coming out of his workshop is done through collaborations with local interior designers who want custom furniture to match their custom spaces. “There’s simply no comparison between what we do and what even our contemporaries do,” Fair says of his techniques. He spends four days applying coat after coat of oil-based polyurethane by hand to cherry, mahogany, maple, walnut and ash. “Nobody does that anymore,” he says. The results of this painstaking approach, Fair says, you need to feel to believe. This custom built high chair (right), for instance, was hewn from big leaf maple and stands as proof that fine crafts- manship will never go out of style.

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