Tucked in the midst of Chadds Ford’s antiques mecca is SpringHouse Furnishings, a combination shop, showroom and studio. The exterior, reminiscent of a cottage in the English countryside, is as cheerful as the name suggests. Inside, you’re presented with both the old and the new. From a decades-old couch that has been freshly upholstered to a newly made kitchen cabinet built from salvaged 18th-century wood, each novel piece shows a peek at the past.
Owner Anne Joyce uses her passion for preservation, love of antiquities and design skills to give furniture, textiles and other materials new life. “It feels so good to restore a beautiful piece back to use, and then help find it a new home,” she says.
Anne was introduced to antique furniture and decorative arts nearly 40 years ago. Her father, John, retired and opened a flea market in the basement of what is now the Pennsbury Antiques Mall. He’d drag Anne and her sister, Karen, to auctions and estate sales, where they’d gather goods to sell in the space he named the ANKA Gallery, a combination of the girls’ names.
While most teenagers would find this boring, Anne was intrigued. “I developed a new respect for objects and art that had been handed down and cherished for so many years,” she says. “Sometimes I felt sad that the pieces no longer had a home. From the emotional connection, I was able to feel my way through the restoration part, with the guidance of my father.”
In 1979, Anne moved to Manhattan to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, while John moved the ANKA Gallery to its current location on Baltimore Pike. He focused on oriental rugs and fine furniture, often sending some of the best pieces to New York City, where Anne would handle his sales at the Auction houses of Sotheby’s and Christie’s. She planned to study fashion and marketing, but found herself drawn to the preservation side of the industry. At the time, Ralph Lauren was making a name for himself in fashion by using antique quilts to create high-end couture. This caused an outrage in the antiques community, as members feared the loss of precious American textiles to the frivolity of the fashion market. “That sparked my interest in preserving textiles,” Anne says.
Anne came home in 1984 to run the business with her father. She continued to fuel her passion for conservation by taking courses at the University of Delaware in conjunction with Winterthur Museum. “As students, we were given access to the amazing ‘gloves-on’ experience of the incredible collection in our backyard,” Anne says.
When she wasn’t in class, Anne was learning restoration and upholstery techniques from her dad and his friends in the antiques community. “It was a wondrous time when the most unusual things and people would pass through our doors.”
A turning point in Anne’s life came in 1989. John passed away, and SpringHouse Furnishings was born. It was tough to move forward without him, but she wanted to continue the journey they’d started.
A fresh start meant a fresh name. “SpringHouse,” was the brainchild of Anne’s niece, who was 6 years old at the time. “She asked lots of questions and my answer was always, ‘Maybe in the spring.’ When I was having a tough time coming up with a name, she just matter-of-factly quipped, ‘Call it Springhouse.’ And that was that.” Anne says.
By the early 1990s, styles had changed and the demand for serious antiques was on the wane. New customers would visit the shop asking for furniture that felt antique but was serviceable for an active family. They were seeking quality, but also comfort.
Since these customers couldn’t afford the beautiful period pieces they loved, Anne began making furniture from salvaged antique wood. It started with farm tables, and as demand for the tables grew, so did SpringHouse. Anne and her team adapted their skills to include custom-designed kitchens, bathroom vanities, flooring, chairs, beds and benches.
As with the antiques Anne started to collect years ago, she tries to preserve the history of the wood used to make the furniture. “I hope to be able to retell the story of its past—what the building was, who built it and its purpose,” she says. “I’m so happy that the concept of reclaiming and repurposing caught on. This is one way we’ve been able to contribute to a sustainable future and be respectful of our resources in a useful and beautiful way.”
Countless residences, restaurants and unique spaces—both locally and across the country—carry pieces from SpringHouse Furnishings. When Marc Vetri, chef and owner of Vetri and Osteria in Philadelphia, stumbled on Anne’s work, he asked her to make tables, custom serving cabinets and chairs for his restaurants. Soon after, Aimee Olexy asked her to create a collection of chairs for her “table” dinners at Talula’s Table in Kennett Square.
Later, when Aimee opened Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Daily in Philadelphia, Anne created unique and whimsical furnishings for the restaurants—chairs, an antique butcher block, an original 19th-century pastry case, painted furniture, custom plate racks, and textiles. Anne’s work can also be seen at Longwood Gardens, in Jamie Wyeth’s studio, at Little Nonnas and Manayunk Brewing Company in Philadelphia, and at El Vez in New York City.
SpringHouse Furnishings just celebrated its 30th anniversary. And as business continues to grow, Anne’s goal remains the same: “To make pieces that have a sense of quiet charm and a peek at our past—things of quality that you want to keep, cherish and pass along.”