Our History

Our History

Once Upon a Time…

In 1948, Jane and Max Howell began The Century House as a pottery studio in an old, circa 1850s sandstone building on Madison’s west side. They specialized in producing personalized dishes, wedding plates, coffee mugs and baby sets. For 15 years they created and designed special pieces for their loyal customers. We have collected and proudly display some of these early creations, some of which we have “bought back” on e-Bay!

In the early 60s growth and expansion led Max and Jane to offer a wider variety of gifts, artwork, and home accessories. Slowly they began to use imported Scandinavian tables and sideboards to display their products. This furniture found its own market in a customer base that appreciated quality and unique, contemporary design. Their path was clear, and a larger commitment to the Scandinavian furniture industry was born.


Importing furniture in 1960 was a new venture. Pieces were individually crated and shipped from Denmark through an importer in Racine, Wisconsin. Tables, chairs, sofas, buffets and desks in teak and rosewood were among the first items offered. The Howells expanded their building and acquired adjacent properties over the next 30 years to accommodate business growth.

Today, container loads of furniture from throughout Europe are shipped from Denmark and delivered to our on-site warehouse. Buying trips, both domestic and foreign keep us in touch with new designs from over 150 vendors. True to tradition, we still sell a J.L. Mollers dining chair today, that has been produced since 1945, and a rocking chair designed by Hans Wegner from 1944. Good design is surely timeless.

Moving Forward…

What’s next? New suppliers, new finishes and new buyers on staff with a fresh eye for good design will direct our future. Manufacturers from around the world tempt us with great products, large and small. Today, classic Danish Teak furniture mixes with the newest in glass and metal design from Italy. It’s all here, mixed together in room settings that invite your involvement.

Our gift shop continues to delight in the original stone building. Here you will find an ever-changing array of tempting jewelry, leather handbags, toys, dinnerware, candles and table linens. Handcrafted treasures and stylish designs await you at every turn. The endless selection in the rooms of the former Howell household is always inspiring.

Our newest venture is The Century House-Home & Office just across the street from our original location. Here we have expanded into a beautiful new showroom with room to truly feature some of our favorite lines. This new store houses our Ekornes showroom the wonderful collection of motion furniture from Norway. These popular Stressless recliners have been one of our best seller for decades.  Additionally, it is here where you will see great products from Jesper Office and the amazing American Leather Comfort Sleepers, amongst others. This vibrant extension of The Century House vision is also an exceptional new way to find high quality furnishings for your home and small office. Additionally, our expanded reach has enabled us to serve all of WI and surrounding states. With regular deliveries to Milwaukee WI, Janesville, WI and Chicago – plus shipment options for the rest of the lower 48 as well.

At The Century House expect to see furniture that runs from the simple to the sublime. Sculptural pieces and hardworking surfaces are the norm here. You can’t help but admire the workmanship, innovation and sense of design that are inherent in Scandinavian textiles, lighting and furnishings. We delight in leather and wool upholstery and the unending beauty of wood. Quality in materials and design creates what we consider to be The Century House style. Here we admire simple, elegant and creative interior furnishings that are classic and modern at the same time.

We hope that you will enjoy your visit to The Century House. We have certainly enjoyed getting ready for you. See you soon.