If you lived in a comfortable home in 17th-century France or 19th century England, your chairs might well have been embellished with nail-head trim. It was a clever, decorative way for craftsmen 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 decor. 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 interior 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.
“It almost always gives the perception of a more luxurious piece, while adding texture,” Ferguson says.
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. (www.lisafergusoninteriordesign.com)
Ballard Designs has a selection of tufted and untufted headboards that you can customize in different fabrics and then finish with brass or silver nail heads. (www.ballarddesigns.com)
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.
Nail-head trim works well with textured materials; Jayson Home’s Bretton shelf unit is covered in burlap and trimmed in brass nails. (www.jaysonhome.com)
Arhaus has a series of interesting chairs that combine recycled leather seats with backs upholstered in woven fabric; the materials meet at a nail-head border.
The Portsmouth chair and settee incorporate the deconstructed trend in furniture with a more refined, finished look.
Exposed framing along the backs and woven, grain-sack-textured upholstery are accented with nail trim.
Or evoke the early days of ship travel with the Colburn steamer trunk, crafted of chestnut leather and set with antique brass nail heads. (www.arhaus.com)
The Portsmouth chair is a deconstructed upholstered chair evoking the structure of old sailing vessels with nailhead trimmed upholstery.×
The Alex Sable chair evokes the lounge furniture of the 1930s with an interesting twist: leather and burlap are combined and trimmed with nailheads.×
Adler’s acrylic obelisk filled with nails is an irreverent twist on the decorative element.×