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Q & A with Nathanael Chown, Chown Hardware

Founded in 1879, Chown Hardware is a premium hardware, lighting, and plumbing company built on the trust and expertise you can expect from a local, family-owned business. Step into one of Chown’s showrooms (in Portland and Bellevue, Washington), and you’ll understand why it is a design industry leader as well as a preferred purveyor for interior designers and home renovators alike. From elegant crystal faucet handles to hand-etched bronze door treatments, Chown offers a wide range of high-end products for every style. We sat down with Regional Sales Director Nathanael Chown to talk about the history of his family’s business and why they’re trusted to provide the highest-quality fixtures in home renovation.

The current Chown collection is very luxurious and eclectic. Is that how you started 140 years ago?

Chown Hardware was founded in 1879 by my great-great-grandfather F. R. Chown in Portland. Back then, Chown was known for supplying typical hardware items such as tools, tinware, and cutlery. The one constant from our genesis until now has been door hardware and Chown remains the industry’s oldest family-owned business in North America.

How did Chown transition to focus on interior design?

We began to shift into the world of design in the 1970s thanks to my grandmother Eleanor Chown. As Eleanor traveled the world with my grandfather, she collected antiques and home décor. With the decision to open a new division of the company, Chown Showcase, she was able to offer designers resources that could be found only in San Francisco or New York at the time. It took several decades for us to fully transition out of tools and machinery, but we credit Eleanor’s affinity for design as the reason why Chown is now known for its premium artisan products.

How does global inspiration impact Chown’s collection today?

We’ve taken a page out of Eleanor’s book and travel the world to bring our customers unique international products such as Fantini fixtures from Italy and FSB hardware from Germany. Many of our pieces are inspired by different parts of the world. I believe that Chown’s elite products and industry experience have made us one of the most trusted design companies in the Pacific Northwest.

What is the future of Chown?

No matter how we’ve changed, one thing that remains is the importance of our family legacy. All the members of my generation continue to play prominent roles in the company, so I think that the Chown name will live on for at least another century, and so will our passion for top-of-the-line design.


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