“The world is much bigger than the places we call home,” John Humphreys, founder of Texas Rover Company, told me over the phone. Humphreys, originally from East Texas, spent time in the early aughts traveling through South America, immersing himself in the local cultures, and found things far different than home. He met people that took pride in handmade goods; he found handmade textiles with intricate designs guided by centuries of tradition; he discovered his own love of quality-made products, and with this discovery, he started Texas Rover Company in 2011.
The first product developed by Texas Rover is the folding chair, reminiscent of camp chairs used by South African explorers in the 1800s. The butterfly-style folding chair took over a year to develop, and for Humphreys, the hurdle in design was finding the perfect intersection of beauty, functionality and comfort. He started by tweaking the dimensions of the original chair, and then settled on a hardwood to build the frame. Humphreys opted for reclaimed pecan wood — native to Texas — which is similar in strength to hickory, but more eye-catching when finished.
As he set about assembling the hand-sanded frame, he found that commercially available hardware options didn’t mesh with his vintage-inspired aesthetic. “The fasteners were the most tricky part,” he said. He tried every rivet he could find, but nothing quite satisfied. Finally, he found a brass sex bolt from Italy that was similar to what he wanted, and he designed a new bolt off that model. With the small number of machine shops in America, it was a stroke of luck that Humphreys found a guy in Texas willing to turn bars of brass into small, perfectly formed bolts.
Making the chair comfortable was the next puzzle teased out by Humphreys. The first prototypes, though great-looking, didn’t realize the comfort one would expect from a high-end chair. The leather stretched with time and the frame pressed against users’ legs. So, Humphreys sourced a full-grain leather that would keep its shape over time, and with it, devised a seat featuring a triple-reinforced bottom section and a belt for support. The result no longer sags; it cradles you like a personal hammock, free of pressure points.
The Humphrey Chair launched in June of 2015 and is available now for purchase online. Though the chair’s ancestors were glorified camp seats which were packed through foreign lands, this modern iteration comes with a $1,599 price tag that might espouse more indoor use. But, what you get with the large investment is a historical design revived in a handmade, American piece of furniture that will not only look great in your home, but may inspire a few adventures of your own.