Jim’s long enjoyed making, repairing, or installing things for himself and our friends. He does his best work when he’s helping someone else. But working for himself, he says, he sometimes just tries for “good enough.” That can leave him wondering if and when he’ll go back and redo his project the way he really wants it.
We recently enjoyed a special visit with friends in York, South Carolina, near the NC-SC border. We were traveling north from Florida. John and Susan Leake invited us to park our Airstream at their house on our way up. We’ve known John and Susan several years and like them a lot. We’d heard of their beautiful home and old fashioned Southern hospitality. But this post isn’t about what great hosts they are, what a great cook Susan is, or how much we like their home. They are, she is, and we really do. Read on and see what affected us so much on this visit!
Even with the high praise we’d heard for Leake’s Antiques we weren’t really prepared for what we found. John and one of his sons, Jay, are creating gorgeous furniture masterpieces, one at a time. Their signature piece, a cellaret, is pictured below (read about it in the Garden and Gun Magazine article, linked further below:)
Read what the Leakes say on their own website,
“John and Jay Leake hand make period reproduction furniture in the styles of William and Mary, Queen Anne, Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton. Using all solid wood, each piece is made to order using the finest mahogany, cherry, walnut and maple available. Not only is the wood of the finest quality but also our hardware and brass. Customers who identify quality and craftsmanship will especially appreciate our furniture.
John Leake and son Jay build fifteen to eighteen major pieces per year in their York, South Carolina shop, each with craftsmanship featuring hand carving, dovetailing, and pinned mortise and tenon joinery.
We don’t have a “line” of furniture. Pictured on our showroom page are some of our favorites. We often duplicate them but can also adapt or modify them for your needs, or build you a totally custom piece. We work on 1 piece at a time for 1 customer at a time. We welcome your inquiry, better still, a visit.”
Doesn’t that sound pretty special? We think so. The real thing’s even better and they’re receiving well-deserved recognition for it. A couple of years ago, Garden and Gun Magazine did a feature on John and Jay’s work. The link takes you to a wonderful article with nice photographs of the Leake’s shop, showroom, and the guys too.
Jim’s dad built furniture as a hobby. He instilled in Jim a love for woodworking and finishes. When Jim graduated from college he worked for years as a construction carpenter then ran a woodworking and cabinet shop. He did all the shop work and installations himself and learned what it takes to do good work. John and Jay don’t just do good work, they do beautiful work. Their craftsmanship is amazing.
This matters to the rest of us. Have we heard anyone complaining about how poorly things are made nowadays? Are our lives affected by cheap or inappropriate clutter? Does quality pay? Do beautiful things improve our lives? Does a job well-done improve our outlook? The answer to all five is, “YES.”
Competing priorities can confuse things. There’s only so much time and money and there are plenty of rationalizations:
“We’re leaving tomorrow and this needs to be safe and secure first;
We didn’t spend much on this because it’s just a trial and we might not like it;
I’ll do this better later when I have more time.” And you can think of some others, right?
We see there’s a new Dyson $399 handheld blow dryer on the market. Dyson reportedly stated his company has never designed “down to price.” He’s not interested in competing with companies offering lower-cost goods. He makes the best product he can and the buyers who want it will pay for it. If a buyer like his products and thinks they’re worth the price then everything’s copacetic. (ed. note: we don’t own any Dyson things :-)
The Leakes aren’t compromising on quality either. We’ve never seen better crafted furniture than John and Jay are making. The attention to detail and the joinery is superb. Jay hand cuts the beautiful visible dovetailed joints, and even the blind structural joints are dovetailed. Their furniture has perfect joints, flawless inlay, beautiful hardware, gorgeous finishes. They’re taking their time to do their very best work on every piece they build. The result is pleasing to the eye and soul.
We thank John and Jay for showing us how high quality work matters to them and to their customers. They create beautiful furniture. As John Keats wrote 200 years ago in his poem, Endymion “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Seeing the high quality work Leake’s Antiques turns out made all the difference to us. Why settle for less?
See you down the road,