Architectural Accents makes attention to detail an art form


Fashions will change, but traditional materials and superior craftsmanship remain the hallmarks of Architectural Accents.

For Charles Nevinson, founder and owner, artisanal attention to detail and quality go hand in glove with old-world designs to create timeless accoutrements for the home—all with European charm.

“From the very beginning, I wanted to have a reputation for having the best craftsmen and the best outcomes,” says the London-born Nevinson, who opened the business in 1981. “You name it, and we can do it. We employ 12 to 14 people, most of whom have been here 30 years or more. We also have a perimeter group that likes to work for themselves, like our cabinetmaker, who is from Bavaria. We’re not a mass production operation. Everything has to be done meticulously or not at all.”

Architectural Accents’ 30,000-square-foot showroom harbors thousands of antiques restored by its staff of craftspeople and architects. The company specializes in 18th- to 20th-century British and French doors, mantels, ironwork, light fixtures and mirrors, though its catalog also includes columns, finials, door fixtures and even plumbing equipment. The firm also produces some reproduction mantels, light fixtures, iron fireplace tools and screens, and cast stone garden items.

Period styles are extensive: Georgian, Beaux-Arts, Federalist, Regency, Queen Anne, rocaille, art deco, art nouveau and more. Architectural Accents’ emphasis is exclusively on European traditions, though not limited to British and French. It also embraces Italian, Spanish, Scandinavian and other Continental styles.

As the 1980s dawned, Nevinson, an architectural designer, was handling capital development in Central London for the managed house division of Grand Metropolitan (now Diageo), a diversified British conglomerate. At one point, he was offered the opportunity to do a job in Faneuil Hall in Boston. And a light switched on.

“I was also asked to go look for more sites for development in Baltimore and Atlanta,” he says. “It occurred to me at the time that I should do something on my own. Not having to deal with the politics and obtaining permission was appealing, though to be fair, the managing director and chairman really let me do what I pleased.”

Confident he could go back to Grand Metropolitan if the new venture did not work out, Nevinson decided to give it a go. It didn’t take long for Architectural Accents to gain traction and hit its stride.

“My first local job was probably within a month or two. The next job was in California. When I started this thing, the idea was that I thought I’d be doing commercial work,” Nevinson explains. “With Grand Met, I had worked primarily in the area of restaurants and bars. And I did a bit of commercial work with Architectural Accents in the beginning. But for the main part, it’s always been residential business. I knew the materials and the techniques quite well. The most important factor for me was knowing I could carry out the architectural side from start to finish.”

His original concept had been that of a salvage business, but the operation soon evolved into a hub for sourcing bespoke European architectural antiques. Today, it is precisely that, though salvaging is still involved.

“I did not want to do a typical salvage business,” says Nevinson, who was educated at the Ludgrove School and at Eton. “The initial idea was to buy these things to use on my own projects, and what I didn’t use could be sold to other architects and designers. But people started coming in and buying objects before I had a chance to use them, which led to my finding more and more inventory. Now our inventory is huge.”

Forty-two years on, business is as steady as ever for what Nevinson calls a family affair. Today, the company takes the pieces it salvages back to square one before renovation.

“I also wanted to have carpenters and glassmakers on staff,” he says. “That’s what makes us different. We can take it all the way to the point of installation. Ours is a one-stop shop, with everything being done in-house, which means I can control the quality. I am very hands-on, and having learned from all the craftsmen over time, I know lots of tricks of the trade and how to do these projects. I know what is involved, and I can teach people on-site how to do it. Most of what I do is European in style, and I only buy what I like.”

Traditional building methods are Nevinson’s preferred approach. While he says he admires some contemporary objects and styles, when he does something, he expects it to last hundreds of years. This is especially notable in an era when many time-honored crafts have begun to disappear.

In addition to its work with antiques, Architectural Accents designs and distributes reproductions inspired by classic European styles. Other services include technical consultation and drafting for residential, commercial and landscape projects.

Although the company’s focus is 90% residential, its clientele also includes architects, interior designers, decorators and production designers for film and television. The company has designed offices, gardens, hotels and restaurants as well as houses. Yet these in aggregate are chiefly a sideline.

“We are also a door and cabinet hardware source, with a reputation for being very efficient in supplying all the well-made international brands of hardware and having a workshop in house to adapt anything,” Nevinson says.

He continues to enjoy not only the freedom of running his own business in the States but having long ago shed the yoke of corporate expectations.

“When I was doing these things in London commercially, I was also responsible for the profitability of every job I performed,” he explains. “Not only doing all these alterations but running the jobs and judging each one on its own merits. I knew the percentages and what I had to do in order to make it work.”

At the same time, Nevinson also knew how to run a company and make it profitable.

“From that point of view, that training made it much easier for me in the new business than it would be for many people,” he says. *

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