Vermont Woods Studios Handmade Furniture

Author: Peggy Farabaugh

Peggy Farabaugh

She is a CEO who brakes for salamanders, has bottle-fed rescued squirrels and spent her vacation building furniture for a rural school in Costa Rica. She believes in the future and in the people who will build it. A former distance-learning professor at Tulane University with a master’s in environmental health & safety, she turned an interest in forest conservation and endangered species into a growing, local business. She delivers rainforest statistics at breakneck speed, but knows how to slow down and appreciate the beauty of a newly finished piece of heirloom furniture.

Posts by Peggy

Nina Markiw: Welcome to the Woods

February 4th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

Nina Markiw | Welcome to Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture

Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome our newest team member, Nina Narkiw to Vermont Woods Studios.  As a professional photographer, Nina will be working with Dennis and Kelsey in our Marketing department.  Her focus will be on conveying the beauty and quality of Vermont’s fine furniture to those who are unable to visit our Stonehurst showroom and see it in person.

A graduate of Johnson State College with a BA in Studio Art and a concentration in photography, Nina made the Presidents List and graduated magna cum laude.  She owns White Blossom Art, a small business that offers wedding photography, fine art photography and paintings.  In her “spare time” Nina helps in the family’s floral business Checkerberry Hill, which specializes in custom floral designs for weddings and other special events.

Sheep | Nina Markiw | Vermont Fine Artist and Photographer

Here’s one of my favorite photos by Nina, as featured on her website White Blossom Art.

A babbling brook and autumn leaves by Nina Markiw

Photography isn’t her only expertise.  Nina also has a passion for painting.

For Nina, “art is a way of life and not just a hobby”.  At Vermont Woods Studios we feel very lucky to have her caliber of talent and drive on our team.  Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Nina on our Facebook!

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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The Mystery of the Big Tree Elf

January 27th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

Vermont Tree Society | Conserving Champion Trees in the Green Mountain State

 In doing some research, trying to figure out where this anonymous gift came from, I discovered a couple articles about Loona Brogan.  Loona’s a naturalist in Plainfield, responsible for starting the Vermont Big Tree Society.

Who put this Vermont Big Tree Society 2004 calendar on my desk over the weekend? What a pleasant surprise to see while un-bundling (that’s winter outerwear not cable TV or software programs) on this icy cold Monday morning.  Whoever the Big Tree Elf is, he or she left the calendar open to the August 2004 month where a beautiful photo of our Stonehurst champion Sassafras tree was featured in all it’s glory.

Well we happen to think it’s glorious, anyway.  To others it might look a little nerdy and decrepit but it’s still a beloved old tree and the largest of it’s species in all of Vermont.  I learned from the calendar that the Sassafras is an intolerant (of shade) tree which is common as a pioneer (a hardy species that’s the first to colonize previously disrupted or damaged ecosystems, beginning a chain of ecological succession that ultimately leads to a more biodiverse steady-state ecosystem, ref: wikipedia).    It’s one of only a few tree species who’s leaves come in 3 different shapes.  Plus it’s fragrant and the roots can be used to make sassafras tea!

Sassafras Tree | Vernon Vermont | Big Tree Champion

Last summer, our Windham County Forester Bill Guenther led the 20th Annual Big Tree Tour and stopped by to show his group of treehuggers our sassafras at Stonehurst.

Are you surprised to see how much Vermonters love their trees?  As furniture makers, working with sustainably harvested wood we are especially interested in Vermont’s big trees and the issue of sustainable forestry throughout the Green Mountain State (and beyond).  Vermont Woods Studios was founded on the principles of forest conservation.  Last year we received a $100,000 grant from the states Working Lands Initiative to further our efforts in promoting sustainable forests and the eco-friendly Vermont made furniture produced from them.

Fellow treehuggers– stop by Stonehurst to see Vermont’s biggest sassafras tree.  Then come in and enjoy a cup of tea or hot cider as you browse through the gallery of fine furniture that Vermonter’s are making out of sustainably harvested New England wood.

And whoever the Big Tree elf is, I am sending a million thanks out to you.  Please reveal your identity on our Facebook!

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, a 200 year old farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

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Unexpected Dinner Guests? Sturdy Wooden Benches to the Rescue

January 26th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

Cherry wood benches are the perfect solution for accommodating unexpected guests

Wooden benches are the perfect solution for accommodating unexpected guests.  These modern American benches are handcrafted in Vermont from solid natural cherry wood.  Which do you prefer… modern, mission or shaker benches (below)?

Shaker benches fit in with most any type of kitchen or dining room decor

Shaker benches fit in with most any type of kitchen or dining room decor.  Hide them under the table when not in use. But voila, they are at your service when you need them (Shaker benches shown in reclaimed barnwood and natural cherry woodMission style dining bench shown in natural cherry wood).

Have you ever sat down to eat just as the doorbell starts to ring?  You look outside hoping it’s a quick UPS delivery but instead it’s your son’s best friend or your neighbor who’s locked out of the house.  No fear– you can warmly welcome your unexpected guest by simply pulling out the wooden bench that sits humbly and discreetly under the table.

Sturdy, solid wood dining benches are perfect for small kitchens, breakfast nooks and dinner parties with lots of guests! Each wooden bench shown is thoughtfully designed and meticulously crafted to provide you and your guests with a comfortable dining experience.  Handcrafted in Vermont using real, solid woods that are sustainably harvested, they are carefully crafted to serve your family and guests for many years to come!

Need a custom size bench?  That’s easy!  Our high quality wooden benches are made to order to so we’re happy to modify the dimensions to meet your exact needs.  Give us a call or connect with us on Facebook and we’ll get started today.

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, a 200 year old farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

 

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Furniture: Who Cares if it’s Really Made in the USA?

January 24th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

USA Made Furniture | Handcrafted in Vermont

American made furniture has a great reputation for high quality and compliance with proper environmental, safety and health standards.  Customers  acquire pieces (like this Woodland Table) they can pass down through generations, while also supporting the American worker and American communities.

Made in America Campaign

Remember that ABC World News series where Diane Sawyer and David Muir found a “typical American household” and inventoried everything in it to see what was made in the USA?  Turns out nothing… except the fresh flowers on the table.  Well that series inspired us to pour our energy into a Made in America campaign at Vermont Woods Studios.  We’ve sponsored the Great American Made Gift Challenge every Christmas season for the past several years and of course we put a high priority on promoting Vermont made hardwood furniture.

One reason is that customers often come to us in total frustration after shopping everywhere to find furniture that’s actually 100% made in the USA.  The companies we think of as quintessentially American (ie., Thomasville, Broyhill, Bassett, Ethan Allen, American Drew, Lane, Pennsylvania House, Drexel) aren’t so American anymore.  Often they outsource the majority of their production to China, Vietnam, Honduras, Mexico and other third world countries.  Then they import nearly finished furniture into the USA for a quick insertion of the final screw and call it “American made”.  The trend ebbs and flows with changes in foreign wages and the cost of oil to ship overseas.  When it’s cheaper to produce in the USA they come back, but there’s no long term commitment to the American worker or the American community.

Why Do Customers Care?

Here’s a recent illustration.  Dennis and Douglas and I made a visit to Gardner Massachusetts last month to see our pal Leonard Curcio at Chair City Wayside Furniture.  Gardner used to be “the furniture capital of New England” back in the 19th and 20th centuries.  According to the “Greater Gardner Furniture History Documentary project”, there were over 50 furniture companies in the area.  After over a century of furniture manufacturing, with nearly everyone in the community depending on the industry for support, many companies decided to move their operations overseas for cheaper production.  The community collapsed.  Families with several generations of skilled artisans and woodworkers were suddenly unemployed. Our friend Lenny was one of the few people able to salvage his business in a dying community but he is still suffering today, while trying to hang on.

Our customers want to support people like Lenny and acquire high quality, American made furniture that they will proudly cherish forever.  Supporting American workers and American communities matters to them.

How to Buy 100% American Made Products

If you’re looking for high quality furniture that really is 100% made in the USA, have a look at this excellent article by Mary Efron.  For American furniture and everything else that’s made in the USA, visit AmericansWorking.com or SourceMap .  And maybe stay away from (or at least be suspicious of) the big box stores that make splashy videos about their “American made furniture” but don’t have much to deliver when it comes down to specifics.

Does Pottery Barn Really Have Furniture that's Made in the USA?

I found a beautifully filmed video about American made furniture on Pottery Barn’s website.  But when I searched their website for “furniture made in America”  the result was:  zero products.  If you’re looking for 100% American made products, check out AmericansWorking.com or Vermont Woods Studios for fine hardwood furniture.

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, a 200 year old farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

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All I Ever Wanted Was To Be Marlin Perkins

January 21st, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins

Marlin Perkins from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom was my childhood idol.  As a “larger than life” wildlife conservationist, he was succeeded by Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter.  But who is the voice of wildlife conservation today?

If you’re under 50 you probably don’t know who Marlin Perkins was.  When I was a kid, my whole family would sit in front of the TV on Sunday nights and watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom*.  Marlin Perkins was the host— kind of a 1960s version of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter.

Marlin was always venturing into exotic places like the African savannah or the Amazon rainforest, filming wild animals in their natural habitats.  Orangutans, gorillas, kangaroos, pythons, lions, tigers, bears… the whole shebang. He would be holding a chimp and talking about conservation and… oh how I wanted to be him!  Cuddling up with a tiger cub, rescuing a couple orphaned bear cubs — what could be better?

Although I didn’t end up majoring in zoology or doing research for Jane Goodall, my passion for wildlife conservation has stayed with me.  Like most people I went for a “more practical career” and decided to pursue my passion as a hobby.  I visited zoos and natural history museums whenever I could.  I studied wildlife news in National Geographic, World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club and other green publications. I poured my support into wildlife conservation non-profits.

But the real fun didn’t start along until Kendall and Riley came along.  How convenient?  It seems little boys love wildlife!  We camped out in local beaver ponds and vernal pools getting to know the resident turtles, frogs, salamanders, snakes and such.  We made trips to the rainforest, adopted snakes and started a non-profit called Kids Saving the Planet.  Our adventures in Vermont’s forests and in the Central American rainforests eventually led to the creation of Vermont Woods Studios Sustainable Furniture.   More about that in my next post.

 

* and the Wonderful World of Disney and Ed Sullivan Show, of course

The Vermont Furniture 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, a 200 year old farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

 

 

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Vermont Celebrates Martin Luther King Day

January 20th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

Vermont Celebrates Martin Luther King Day with African American Heritage Trail

Celebrate Martin Luther King Day with a tour of Vermont’s African American Heritage TrailLearn more and generate a google map with directions to the historical places that interest you.

Vermonters are celebrating Martin Luther King day in many ways and in many towns and villages across the Green Mountain state.  Here are a few of the many events you might be interested in.

  • The Making of A Peacemaker is sponsored by the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Clergy Association takes place tonight at the Centre Congregational Church on Main Street. A spagetti dinner at 6 will be followed by a celebration 7-8 pm with local choruses.
  • In Burlington the University of Vermont UVM is hosting an MLK birthday party, a civil rights film series, a speech by Julian Bond a special tribute to Nelson Mandela and many other events centered around the issues near and dear to Martin Luther King.
  • Yesterday Burlingtonians were treated to a speech by Sharon Robinson, the daughter of baseball great Jackie Robinson at the Unitarian Church.  Sharon shared memories of her father at a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.  She said while much has been written about her father’s career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he should be remembered for his ongoing fight for equal rights both in the baseball world and the world outside.

Did you know that Vermonters penned the first constitution in America prohibiting slavery?  The year was 1777, just one year after the American Revolution, and the place was a roadside tavern in Windsor. Preserved for visitors today, it is the Old Constitution House State Historic Site.  While a large part of Vermont’s role in our culture is widely known, it is the Green Mountain State’s place in African American history that is not as familiar to many.

Catherine Brooks of Vermont Tourism,  Curtiss Reed of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity and Jane Beck, former director of the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury are trying to change that with the African American Heritage Trail.  The Heritage Trail comprises 11 sites including nine museums with exhibits featuring video, audio, and guided, or self-guided tours. It celebrates the accomplishments of Vermont’s early African-American residents and historic places that chronicle eras, people, and events significant to the journey of all African-Americans.  Learn more at VermontVacation.com

The Vermont Furniture 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, a 200 year old farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

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Passion

January 19th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

What's Your Passion?

My friend Annette keeps telling me to stop writing about furniture and start writing about my passion… “why are you selling furniture anyway?” So in the next few posts I’ll talk about passion in general and then try to describe what mine is and how it drives Vermont Woods Studios.

Everyone has a passion, right?  Some of us have lots of passions.   Nelson Mandela’s passions were about freedom and equality.   Albert Einstein’s passions were about curiosity and science.  Julia Child was passionate about food. Elvis’ passion was music.

So what’s your passion?  And what are you doing about it?  Plenty of people are out there offering advice:

As a mother of two college students, the question of whether to follow your passion during the critical years of higher education is front and center at my house.   What advice should I give my children?  What advice did my parents give me?  Did I follow it?  What were the consequences?  While I try to get some answers together for another post, give me your advice and wisdom on Facebook or in the comments section below.

Doesn’t everyone deserve to follow their passion at some point in life?

The Vermont Furniture 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, a 200 year old farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

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Maintaining the Hand Rubbed Finish on Your Furniture

January 15th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

How to Maintain the Hand Rubbed Finish on Your Cherry Wood Furniture

The Vermont Shaker Moon bedroom set above is finished with hand rubbed linseed oil.  The craftsman recommends a few special care instructions to keep the wood soft and supple.

One of the hallmarks of Vermont furniture is the finely sanded wood and hand rubbed finish.  When you run your hands along the top of these chests or the foot board of this shaker bed, it almost feels like skin– very soft and smooth.  So we spend a lot of time talking with customers about how to maintain that beautiful finish after your furniture arrives at home.  Like a fine wine, a hand rubbed finish will improve with age.  Here are a few tips to care for it.

Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions for Re-oiling

First check with the furniture maker to see what oil was initially applied and what is recommended for maintenance.  For example, the Vermont Shaker Moon bedroom set above is finished with hand rubbed linseed oil.  The furniture maker recommends these special care instructions:

When you receive your furniture it may be tacky from the oil finish we have applied in the studio.  The entire piece should be wiped with a clean, soft, lint-free cotton cloth.  Do not use commercially available polishes or waxes.  Wood remains a live medium and can tend to dry out over time.  For maintenance– pure, non-toxic linseed oil (such as this Tried and True finish) or any high quality furniture oil (without petroleum dryers or thinners) should be applied immediately after delivery and again every 3-12 months*.  Regular oiling will deepen the hand rubbed finish while enhancing the natural beauty of the wood.  It will also restore the finish over scratches.  Good quality oil products are widely available in better hardware stores.  With minor care, this furniture will be enjoyed for years and likely generations to come. More furniture care instructions here.

Cherry Wood Dining Table | How to Maintain a Hand Rubbed Finish

This cherry wood dining table is finished with a blend of hand rubbed linseed oil and Poly gel. Regular cleaning is all that’s needed to maintain the finish.

Routine Cleaning

Whether your wood furniture has a hand rubbed oil finish, a lacquer or poly, routine cleaning will keep it looking good.  With an oil finish, it’s especially important to clean up spills quickly before the liquid penetrates into the fibers of the wood.  Learn more about dusting (damp cloth or dry?), polishing and cleaning up spills on our furniture care website.

Humidity and Lighting

Wood is sensitive to changes in relative humidity. As the weather changes, so does the relative humidity in your home and in the moisture content of the wood in your furniture.  This means that furniture is constantly expanding and contracting.  Most furniture makers recommend conditions of around 70°F-72°F and a relative humidity of about 50-55% to keep your furniture looking good and lasting a long time.

Many woods, especially cherry are sensitive to light and will change colors when exposed to high intensity light or even sunlight for long periods of time.  Here are some tips for controlling light exposure and humidity on the furniture care page of our website.

* How often should you re-apply an oil finish?  The furniture aficionado’s rule of thumb is: once upon arrival into your home, then once/week for a month, then once/month for a year, then once per year thereafter.  Sounds like a lot of oiling but you’ll end up with the most beautiful patina you can imagine!

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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My Boss is a Cat

January 14th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

My Boss is a Cat

She’s fat, bossy and demanding but when it comes to tough decisions –nobody puts Pepper in a corner.   Article originally posted on medium.com

Editors note: OK, this is really me (Peggy) but I found this old photo of our Marketing Manager Dennis Shanoff and it got me wondering how we ever survived the early days of start-up.

Eight years ago I started this online furniture store. I had no experience with ecommerce— or any sort of business for that matter. I am a chemist by education and a teacher by trade. I had recently lost my job, I was approaching my 50th birthday and I decided my next career was going to be my last. Thirty years after graduating from high school I would finally take the advice my guidance counselor offered: “follow your passion”.

Fast forward a few years after (a slow) start-up. I’ve just hired a “Marketing Manager”, Dennis Shanoff. It’s his first day on the job. I’m imagining this conversation he’s texting to his wife:

Dennis Shanoff: My boss is a cat

Susan: huh?

Dennis: sends selfie (above)

Susan: lol

Dennis: I’m sitting at a desk in this lady’s spare bedroom trying to figure out how I’m going to build a furniture brand around her passion

Susan: which is?

Dennis: saving the rainforest

Susan: from Vermont?

Dennis: most furniture is made from rainforest woods. Peggy’s trying to raise awareness about that and promote sustainable Vermont made furniture instead

Susan: OK so it’s a stretch. Don’t panic

Susan: Yet

Luckily Dennis didn’t panic. Four years after what must have been an unnerving first day at work, Dennis Shanoff has helped transform a fledgling start-up that no one believed would ever get off the ground, into a small business with a reasonable chance of long-term survival.

I don’t think our story is that atypical for small businesses in Vermont or throughout America for that matter. It’s full of hopes and dreams and absurdity. Luck, misfortune and determination. But more than anything it’s a story of how a small group of disparate entrepreneurs managed to leverage their differences in an effort to change the world.

My friend Annette thinks I should start reflecting on this unorthodox journey with Vermont Woods Studios and share my memories here and on Medium.com. Maybe others with a passion to make the world a better place will find or offer encouragement. Think?  Let me know (on Facebook or in the comments section below) if you’d be interested to read more start-up stories about Dennis, Douglas, Ken and the gang.

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The Vermont Center for EcoStudies VCE

January 11th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

Winter Scene | Kent McFarland | VCE

Co-founder of the Vermont Center for EcoStudios, Kent McFarland shares his 13 favorite nature photos from 2013 in this month’s VCE newsletter and on his blog, One Square Meter.

I just received my January 2014 edition of the VCE newsletter and wanted to share some highlights with you.  VCE is one of my favorite non-profits.  It’s a group of dedicated researchers and scientists working to promote conservation and biodiversity in the Green Mountains and beyond.

The hardworking naturalists at VCE have an amazing array of research and citizen science projects going on throughout Vermont.  I first learned about them when Kendall and Riley were little and we got involved with vernal pool mapping and spotted salamander crossing projects.  Over the years we’ve also participated in the development of a Vermont breeding bird atlas and surveys of Vermont’s butterflies and bumble bees.

Another project I follow is VCE’s Caribbean bird conservation which seeks to protect migratory birds that spend their summers in Vermont and winters in Central America and the Caribbean.  This project ties in to our mission of rainforest conservation at Vermont Woods Studios.

If you’re in Vermont or the Caribbean and looking to do some fun and interesting work in conservation, have a look at VCE’s website.  It includes a wealth of information and dozens of opportunities to volunteer with like-minded people who love nature and wildlife.  As noted on their website, VCE’s success is highly dependent on your help.  Their work “gathers strength from volunteers who monitor wildlife in the Northeast and from a network of professional partners that extends from Canada to South America. This approach is successful because conservation is as much about people as it is about science.  With a reach extending from northeastern Canada through the Caribbean to South America, our work in wildlife research and monitoring unites people and science for conservation.”

You can meet fascinating people, have some fun and make the world a better place by volunteering as a citizen scientist for VCE.  Why not give them a call today?

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