Noble Designs: A Visit with the Ninth Earl Spencer


On a crisp autumn day in early September, Hurlbutt Designs in Kennebunk felt even more regal than usual thanks to a visit from Charles, the Ninth Earl Spencer. The earl, who is the younger brother of the late Princess Diana, made the leap into the world of home décor three years ago when he partnered with reproduction furniture specialists Theodore Alexander to offer a collection based in part on the furnishings of Althorp, the Spencer family’s 500-year-old estate in central England. Today, the “Althorp Living History” collection features 300 items from the 100-room, 14,000-acre estate.


Hurlbutt Designs owner Louise Hurlbutt greets Earl Spencer and his associates. The earl went out of his way to drop by Hurlbutt Designs (the only store in Maine that currently carries the Althorp line) while on his ten-day, 18-stop promotional tour of the United States.

“I think of myself as a custodian of Althorp,” Spencer told the crowd who had gathered at Hurlbutt Designs. He noted that his decision to launch the furniture line was based in part on the exorbitant costs associated with keeping up the estate.

“We’ve had the collection for nearly a year now,” says Hurlbutt, “and devoted nearly half of our showroom to it.” While the oldest piece reproduced for the collection is based on a high back chair from the 1600s, the majority of the furniture line is based upon furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Earl Spencer took the time to autograph several pieces at Hurlbutt Designs. He noted that personal favorites in the collection include a Louis XVI mahogany and brass mounted cylinder writing desk (circa 1786) that Princess Di often used, and a large oak chest that generations of Spencers have simply called the “Washington Chest,” as it once belonged to the ancestors of George Washington. “These designs are just so classic that they’re still very relevant today,” says Earl Spencer.

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