Vermont Woods Studios Handmade Furniture

Author: Michelle Rooks

Michelle Rooks

Michelle is originally from the Great Plains state of South Dakota, making her a true “Flatlander” by Vermont standards despite having lived in Vermont for many years. After a long career in the publishing industry she feels she has found her true calling in working for a company that promotes sustainability and customer satisfaction. She enjoys performing in theatrical productions with her family and hopes to initiate a “Bring Your Dog to Work” policy as she lives within easy walking distance of Vermont Woods Studios.

Posts by Michelle

Escape Winter with the New England Grows Show & Boston Flower Show!

February 7th, 2014 by Michelle Rooks

Some things to help you think Spring: New England Grows, Boston Flower & Garden, Polywood Furniture and Peggy’s decorative touch!

One of the things I enjoy most about working at Stonehurst are the flowers Peggy places all over the showroom. You can almost fool yourself into thinking winter is a distant memory – as long as you don’t peek out the windows or make a run to the mailbox.

This time of year is when gardeners start planning for nicer weather. There are two big events that take place in nearby Boston (two hours counts as nearby, doesn’t it?). They are the New England Grows Show and the Boston Flower & Garden Show.

The New England Grows Show is aimed at green industry professionals. If you want to get the latest news in tree care, landscape architecture and design, lawn care, etc. you’ll find the information you need at this trade show. Each year the show draws over 13,000 people. This year’s show is at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center this week, February 5-7. Today is your last chance to catch this great event until next year!

The Boston Flower & Garden Show is held each year at the Seaport World Trade Center. This year the show is March 12-16 and the theme is Romance in the Garden. This show draws more than 65,000 visitors and vendors include suppliers of seeds, bulbs, plants and flowers and the tools to care for them all. There is also décor, artwork and accessories. More than 20 display gardens are set up for inspiring ideas of your own backyard oasis.

So turn your back on the cold and start planning for long days of sunshine. While perusing images of years past I couldn’t help but notice what was missing were some of our durable, recycled plastic Polywood pieces!

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios.  Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

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Winter Decorating – After the holidays

January 10th, 2014 by Michelle Rooks

Embrace the ice! Bring the outdoors in with black and white photos (thank you to my very talented friend Kathleen Johnson), a clever string
of lights with mirrored garland, bare branches in jars of sand, silver and white throw pillows or ornaments in the same hues in glass jars.

If you’re like me there’s a little feeling of sadness as the holidays wind down. You’ve put away the decorations and it’s too cold to really enjoy the outdoors. What to do…

Rather than cursing the winter frost, why not embrace it? While the old saying is “Don’t wear white after Labor Day” the same doesn’t need to hold true for your home décor. Try these simple and inexpensive ideas to bring a touch of frost to your home.

  • Treat yourself to beautiful white flowers in containers throughout the house. Intersperse them with sprigs of pine or twigs painted white and silver. If you really want that frosty feel, add some glitter to the arrangement.
  • Get yourself some white sand, pour it into a tall glass container and place some small bare branches in it. Or, replace the branches with white candles…Wintry and romantic.
  • Keep one or two strings of white lights out when packing away the holiday decorations. Place them in large jars or old lanterns on mantles or shelves. You could add white and silver ornaments to the jar as well.
  • Take crystals or inexpensive dangly rhinestone earrings and hang them from your sconces or the chandelier in your dining room. You can also add them to the twigs or arrangements.
  • Buy or make yourself throw pillows in shades of light gray, winter white and silver and place them on chairs, couches and beds.
  • Get outside and channel your inner Ansel Adams. It’s amazing what a different look you can get with photos simply by converting them from color to grayscale. If you don’t think you have what it takes, every community has a photographer or two in their midst that would love to help you. A black and white photo with a nice white mat and black frame can feel wintry even if the image isn’t snow-covered.

Many of these ideas are a great way to reuse and recycle. You can be a trend-setter… and green! Here’s another thought. If you were to order Vermont-made hardwood furniture now, about the time you’ve had just about enough of the snow and ice, you could be enjoying your new table or bed.

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American Made and Affordable Gifts – Candles!

December 24th, 2013 by Michelle Rooks

This coffee table with reclaimed wood top and steel legs is protected from any overheating of the glass candle jar with a slate coaster. Both the table and the coasters are available for purchase in our showroom!

We in southern Vermont are very lucky in that we live very close to several popular candle makers. Half an hour away is the Yankee Candle flagship store in S. Deerfield, MA and in less than fifteen minutes you can get to Kringle Candle in Bernardston, MA. Vermont is full of smaller artisan candle makers. Wilmington Candle Company makes soy based candles and Vermont Honey Lights specializes in beeswax candles.

You can find candles in bright colors or bright white, tiny tea lights to massive multi-wicks. They are used for aromatherapy or setting a mood, come with subtle scents of botanicals, bold tones of aftershave, your favorite foods or no scent at all. The best part of all is that they’re made right here in New England. And you can’t beat candles for an affordable, Made In America holiday gift perfect for teachers or as hostess gifts.

While candles are very popular, they can also be very dangerous. No matter what sort of candle you like, there are certain rules you should always follow when burning:

  • Always trim the wick to a height of approximately ¼” – make sure to remove any of the wick debris from the wax pool. Trimming helps keep it from flickering and smoking, which can cause soot buildup on the container
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended
  • Make sure the candle is sitting on an even surface that won’t be damaged if the container should get too hot – we’d hate to see your beautiful Vermont made hardwood furniture marred!
  • Keep away from any flammable objects
  • Keep out of reach of pets and children

For a full list of tips, visit the National Candle Association web site.

Here’s one more tip: If your candle is nearing the bottom of its container and you don’t want to throw the container away, simply place it in your freezer for about 20 minutes, take it out and shake out the leftover wax. This only works if the sides of the container are straight, not contoured. Now you can reuse it!

A candle reflects serenely in this beautiful stained glass window — one of the many features that make Vermont Woods Studios such a unique shopping experience.

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Thanksgiving is NOT about sales

November 25th, 2013 by Michelle Rooks

Sometimes Thanksgiving gets lost in all of the Christmas shopping hoopla. Let us take a moment to reflect just what it is we are thankful for.

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, it’s important to remember that this holiday was not originally intended to promote Christmas sales. More and more we see “Black Friday” move into Thanksgiving Day. I thought it would be nice to reach out to some of our customers, craftsmen, and Vermont Woods Studios staff to see what they are thankful for this year.

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I’m thankful for my home and awesome new dog!      -Kelsey, VWS Marketing Assistant

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I am thankful for my incredibly supportive husband and my crazy little 2 year old. I love that I have the opportunity to stay home and care for our son – I am one lucky mom (on most days anyway!).      -Lisa, Customer, Maplewood, NJ

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I am thankful to live in a country where violence and terror are not the norms for resolving political differences. I am thankful for the men and women of the Armed Forces, emergency service workers and other public service members who are separated from friends and family during Thanksgiving because they are providing for the defense and safety of our communities, whether they be in war zones or here on American soil. I am thankful for those who put themselves in harm’s way to give me the freedom that I often take for granted. It is because of them that I have the ability to spend time at home with friends and family.      -Loryn, VWS Sales

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Health, Family & Friends!      -Cheryl, Craftsman

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I am thankful for my family and getting to spend Thanksgiving with them and not having to cook!      -Sean, VWS Sales

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I don’t want to sound too schmaltzy, but I am thankful for my family: that my wife and I are still committed to each other; that my kids are happy, successfully launched and making their way in the world; that I have an extended family whom I love and who love me. Beyond my blood family, I am grateful for the friends and community that make me feel like I’m a part of something larger than myself.

Except for a few people, in the end the great bulk of us are remembered only for how well we loved others and how well they loved us. I am thankful to have so many people to love.

Happy Thanksgiving.      -Steve, Craftsman

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This being my first year at Vermont Woods Studios, I am thankful to be working with such a great team doing work I enjoy, while helping the environment and supporting our local craftspeople!      -Martin, VWS Webmaster

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In a nutshell—I am thankful for my wonderful family, for health and for peace!      -Cheryl, Customer, McLean, VA

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I am thankful for our friendly, witty, quirky, dedicated staff members at Vermont Woods Studios that make our customers feel like family!      -Peggy, Founder and VWS Visionary

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This is my first Thanksgiving at Vermont Woods Studios. Having been part of a company downsizing a little over a year ago, I can’t believe how lucky I am to now be working with a group of like-minded people and so close to my own home. And, so my family doesn’t think I don’t appreciate them, I will give a shout out to my amazing daughters and my very patient husband. I would also be remiss if I omitted my theater and church family members!      -Michelle, VWS Sales

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Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Vermont Woods Studios!

 

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A Vermont Winter “Forecast”

November 12th, 2013 by Michelle Rooks

Some indicators of the severity of the coming winter are: the thickness of a walnut’s husk; the ratio of brown to black segments on a Woolly Bear; the number of acorns an oak tree drops.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking with my family when I observed the little fellow in the above image making his way across our path. I had heard that Woolly Bears are prominent in folklore as predictors of winter. I thought I’d poke around and see what other indicators we have. Here’s what I found.

Woolly Bears (the larvae of Isabella Tiger Moths): the longer the middle brown band, the milder and shorter the coming winter; the shorter the brown band, the longer and more severe winter will be. The woolly has 13 segments to the length of his body–the same number of weeks there are of winter. From what I can tell of this picture, my little friend only has four solid-brown segments with a couple that are both black and white. Uh, oh.

Black Walnut trees: The thicker the green husk on the Black Walnuts the snowier the winter, because nature knows when the walnut needs more protection from the elements.

Onion skins: If thin, a mild winter is coming.

Corn: Husks are thick and tight and the silks are heavy — these are indicators of a bad winter.

Apple skins: If tough, winter may be as well.

Oak trees: If the ground of your yard, driveway, or porch is covered with acorns, folklore predicts that these same surfaces may be blanketed by snow this winter. This one makes me feel a little bit better about what my Woolly Bear friend told me. Some years we can hear the acorns pinging off the metal roof of our storage shed. This year I haven’t heard any.

The Month of August: For every fog there will be a snowfall. If the first week is unusually warm, the coming winter will be snowy and long. If a cold August follows a hot July, it foretells a winter hard and dry. We’re not far from the Connecticut River and a small area of beaver-created wetlands so fog is not unusual.

Spiders: Spinning larger than usual webs

Honey Bees: will store honey in mass in preparation for a severe winter

Yellow Jackets: build nests either high in trees or in the ground depending on what the coming winter has in store.

Squirrels: If tails are very bushy and/or if they’re more active than usual, a severe winter is on its way. Hmmm, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an INactive squirrel.

Ant Hills: If they are unusually high in July, it will be cold and snowy. Darn, forgot to measure them last summer.

Thanksgiving Goose: If the breast bone of the Thanksgiving goose is red or has many spots, expect a cold and stormy winter; but if only a few spots are visible, expect a mild winter.

If the first snowfall lands on unfrozen ground, the winter will be mild.

Final assessment: I have no idea what the winter will bring us in Southern Vermont. I’m just grateful I’m only a short walk from Stonehurst!

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Rockin’ the Rocker!

November 2nd, 2013 by Michelle Rooks

A Rocker rockin’ a Rocker! Our first “celebrity” endorsement.

One of the most unique pieces of furniture we have in our showroom and one that gets a lot of attention at the Vermont Welcome Center is the Custom Quilted Vermont Rocking Chair. This is really a chair that needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. It is available on our web site in Natural Cherry, Birdseye Maple or Natural Walnut.

A Jacob’s Ladder toy.

The first time I saw it I was reminded of the child’s toy Jacob’s Ladder. The Quilted Rocker is made up of dozens of smooth wood pieces strung together with nylon rope. The look is unique but the comfort is amazing. I had a knitter friend come to visit the showroom and her eyes lit up when she sat in it. “I could see myself doing a lot of knitting in this chair!”

Well, she wasn’t alone. On Halloween we had a visitor stop by just at closing time. “Gene Simmons” was equally impressed though he doesn’t really strike me as a knitter. Actually, that’s my usually mild-mannered husband, Chris, in one of his favorite costumes. And yes, he made it himself…er, the costume, not the chair.

Stop by and try the Custom Quilted Vermont Rocking Chair for yourself. We think you’ll agree it’s not only a conversation piece, it’s a place of comfort.

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Bookcases – Not just for books

October 21st, 2013 by Michelle Rooks

 

Make your bookcase display visually interesting. Express yourself. Mix and match objects and books.

When you do put your books on a shelf, try not to be too uniform. Instinct may tell you to arrange books by size but it’s much more visually interesting if you mix it up a bit – not only by size but by color, texture and age as well. It’s OK to put your faded classic novels next to your book of contemporary art with the bright, shiny dust jacket.  

  Here are just a few ideas for making your bookcase into a statement:

  • You can also use small stacks of books as bookends for other books or as display stands for small artistic pieces.
  • If you use your shelves to display collectibles, don’t put out your entire collection. Think of your bookcase as your own personal art gallery. Galleries don’t put out their entire inventory on display at once. They rotate pieces out periodically. You want items to have space around them so they can be appreciated. Otherwise they may look cluttered and can overwhelm.
  • Rather than putting another hole in the wall to display pictures, place it on a shelf. Make it interesting and group different sizes, shapes and colors of frames.
  • Another way to have your own gallery feel is to consider a bookcase that has glass doors and shelves and LED lights inside.

Don’t skimp on your bookcase. It should be as much a show piece as the items it displays. Our solid wood bookcases are on sale until Thursday during our Home Office and Living Room Sale. Find the bookcase that’s perfect for you. You can go traditional with a Shaker or Cherry Moon style or something more contemporary like the ladder or New York styles. Most of our bookcases can be customized to your exact dimensions or you can add doors, lighting or extra shelves.

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Table Setting 101: Casual to Fine Dining

October 5th, 2013 by Michelle Rooks

1) The Vermont Tavern Table says “Family”   2) The Cherry Moon Dining Table—for having friends over   3) The Vermont-Made Shaker Dining Table: perfect for a formal dinner party

I’m about to out myself as an old-timer. When I was in Junior High most girls took a class called Home Economics. We learned cooking and sewing skills and actually got tested on the proper way to set a table. I have never forgotten the basics of casual dining place setting: Fork on the napkin to the left of the plate, knife and spoon to the right of the plate, with the knife closest and its blade facing the plate. A drinking glass would be above and to the right of the dinner plate. I admit I don’t often practice these skills. In our house we pretty much grab a handful of knives and forks and divvy them up at the table. I picture the Vermont Tavern Table as the perfect place for the family to gather and talk about their day.

If you want to invite a couple of friends to join you for dinner, you may want to kick it up a notch. That brings us to the informal place setting. In addition to the items found in casual dining place setting you may find a bread plate, an additional glass, a salad fork, and possibly a soup spoon. I think the Cherry Moon dining table would be the just the thing for a gathering of close friends.

For a more formal gathering, place setting can be much more involved. There are water and wine glasses and, for truly elegant dinner parties, enough silverware to ready a small army. These can include fish, dinner, salad, cake and cocktail forks, dinner and butter knives, teaspoon, soup and dessert spoons. Add to all of that a charger (a decorative plate slightly larger than a dinner plate), dinner, salad and bread plates and you’re going to need a lot of real estate to hold it all. My choice would be the Vermont-Made Shaker with a boat top. It just gives a vibe of elegance to me.

Place setting has become a bit of an art form. While there are “standard” placements for items, these days you can be much more creative. Add a favor for each guest, create your own napkin rings and place cards or learn napkin folding techniques. Add different levels of candles and some flowers, gourds, or other seasonal items to make an aesthetically pleasing centerpiece. Your table should be a reflection of your own style.

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Fashion On a Budget — And Supporting a Great Cause

September 11th, 2013 by Michelle Rooks

Created in loving memory of Jessica Bolognani, Jessica’s Closet is dedicated to helping young women build confidence & self esteem as well as to promote good health & hygiene (after all, beauty begins on the inside!).

I love a good bargain. Being a family on a budget with two fashion-conscious daughters, it can be tough to be budget-smart and keep up with fashion trends. Enter the women at Jessica’s Closet in Wilmington, VT and their lovely dresses available for rent. I first heard of this gem when Douglas’ daughter found her prom dress there. Our turn came when we were invited to a wedding this summer at the Harvard Club in Boston. None of the women of the family was happy with the dresses she already had. We made the journey to Wilmington and were very impressed with the boutique we found there. More than 1200 dresses, long and short, in any color imaginable…and all the accessories to go with them. The cost? A donation of $10 is suggested to cover dry cleaning costs.

Jessica, daughter of founder, Debbie Bolognani, was an active young woman “with a smile that could light more than a room.” She died in a tragic accident in 2010. “She LOVED to dress up and was always willing to share her closet with others.” In her honor Debbie and her friends established Jessica’s Closet as well as a a scholarship fund and Jessica’s Locker which is dedicated to providing sports equipment to the youth of their community.

Just two of our selections for the big event.

The mission of Jessica’s Closet is to build confidence and self-esteem in young women.  They provide formal and semi-formal dresses to those who otherwise would not be able to attend homecoming, prom or other special events. If you have gently worn formal wear—donations of dresses, purses, shoes, and accessories are welcome!

My daughters and I spent about an hour at Jessica’s Closet. We had our own “stylist” and every dress was beautiful. It was difficult to make a decision and in the end, we took home more than we needed. The price was so reasonable and we didn’t buy dresses that may never be worn again. That is true sustainability.

While Vermont Woods Studios is known for beautiful, American-made furniture crafted from carefully harvested wood, we also believe in recognizing other individuals and organizations who have a mission and make a difference in their community. Debbie and her friends have done an amazing job of fulfilling Jessica’s legacy for helping others …because every girl deserves to feel like a Princess.  

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Gratuity: From Pizza to Fine Furniture

August 26th, 2013 by Michelle Rooks

Tipping your white glove shipper-gratuity

Another happy customer enjoying her beautiful maple bedroom set.

What do pizza delivery people, airport shuttle drivers, hotel room maids and Vermont Woods Studios furniture shippers have in common? All involve people in the service industry making your dining, travel or purchase experience less stressful and as comfortable as possible.

We at Vermont Woods Studios do not have our own drivers, but we have taken great care in selecting shipping companies that we trust. We like to think that our drivers treat the American-made, fine hardwood furniture our customers order as if it were their own!

Prior to working here I had never thought about the fact that, while our shippers are paid by Vermont Woods Studios, they frequently go above and beyond when it comes to making sure our customer’s fine wood furniture orders are delivered in perfect condition. “White Glove Shipping” was a new term for me. Did you know that before they leave our craftsmen’s shops, our shippers personally inspect each piece, then blanket-wrap it and upon delivery place it in the room of the customer’s choice? They also do whatever assembly is necessary and remove any residual packaging… leaving no work left for the customer!

Here’s a question. Do you give a gratuity to the pizza delivery person? What about your airport shuttle driver? Hotel maids? Why not consider your furniture delivery person? By no means should you feel obligated, it really just comes down to your comfort level. One person I know uses the price of a nice dinner for each delivery person as her guide for what she feels is appropriate. Gratuity is greatly appreciated—it’s a way of saying thanks for a job well done!

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