Company furnishes famous homes

April 21, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

Furniture made at Niermann Weeks, the Annapolis company owned by Joe Niermann and Mike Weeks, sits in the palaces of the Saudi Arabian royal family and in the homes of such Hollywood celebrities as Tom Hanks, Natalie Cole and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Their pieces have also appeared in Kim Basinger's "The Real McCoy" and Harrison Ford's "Regarding Henry."

Together, Mr. Niermann, a painter, and Mr. Weeks, a metalsmith, reproduce Art Deco consoles, 18th-century chandeliers and tole beds.

Yet few local people know about the company. The only identifying mark at the Annapolis shop is its address. There is no sign bearing the company name. No logos. Nothing.

"We're probably better known in London than in Annapolis," said Mr. Niermann, who first sought out Mr. Weeks to help repair an 18th-century chandelier.

The company started in 1978 in Memphis, Tenn., and moved here in 1983. It has grown from about four employees to 60 and has two sites. The wives and children of Mr. Weeks and Mr. Niermann also work in the business.

In May, Niermann Weeks will consolidate its operations at a site in Millersville. But for the recession, the location would have become a shopping center.

The company sold almost $300,000 worth of pieces in its first year. Last year, retail sales were $7.8 million, said Mr. Niermann.

A drapery fitting could cost as little as $54 or as much as $252. The cheapest sconce the company makes costs $580. Its most expensive chandelier cost $7,440. A cabinet can cost $24,000 or more, depending on what the customer wants, said Mr. Niermann.

"Original pieces from the 18th-century are few and far between," said his wife, Eleanor McKay. "There just wasn't that much made."

The company's staff takes care to make sure their replicas are exact.

"You put the mother and the daughter together, and if you can tell the difference, you start all over," said Ms. McKay, who grew up in Catonsville and studied 18th-century history and library science in college.

The company also tries to give its pieces the look of furniture that has been handed down through generations, right down to the scratch marks.

But Niermann Weeks does more than make reproductions. The partners also come up with original designs. They have, for example, taken a part of an 18th-century candelabra, believed to be from Northern Italy, and used a cardboard model to help create their own design.

The company mostly deals with designers in search of items for their clients and does not do retail sales.

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