About 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
Top o’ the morning to ya! Here’s to all you Irishmen who’ll be wearing green today and perhaps breaking some soda bread, corned beef and cabbage or better yet– a pint of Guinness. I miss celebrating St Patrick’s Day. Growing up in Plattsburgh NY, as a member of the O’Neil family (I think I was named after the old Irish song: Peggy O’Neil) and attending a small school known as “The Irish”, there was no shortage of celebrations on March 17th. In fact, they used to have to cancel classes at Plattsburgh State University on St Patrick’s Day because there was an unwritten rule that students had to be downtown at the Monopole or Goobers Ragtime Bar in time for 8am lessons on drinking green beer.
But that was a long time ago and although we’ll still manage to raise a pint of Guinness this year, the main theme of our St Patrick’s Day celebration at Vermont Woods Studios will be our green message of sustainability. Check out Kendall’s newly formatted environmental section of our website where you’ll find all sorts of fun facts about where your furniture comes from, how it’s made and why you would care about all that.
And if you’re looking to honor your favorite nature-loving Irishman on St Patrick’s Day, click on over to Defenders of Wildlife and make a symbolic adoption of someone green: a sea turtle, a red-eyed tree frog or a hummingbird would do the trick. St Patrick would be proud of you!
We’re in the middle of a Shaker furniture sale and I can’t help but notice that almost all the pieces customers have bought have been of a single wood species. We offer a choice of four woods on most of our furniture: maple, cherry, oak and walnut. Which one do you think is the favorite?
Back in the 19 century, the original Shakers built their furniture with woods harvested from their own land. According to Nancy Fischer of BuildDirectBlog, “In the east, this included pine, maple, ash, birch, cherry, hickory and butternut. In the west, walnut, cherry, beech and poplar were used”.
Today’s most popular wood (amongst our customers, anyway) for Shaker furniture is indeed one of those nine woods used 150 years ago. Hint: it’s the wood shown in the photo. OK, it’s cherry wood. I’m not sure why cherry has stormed itself to the top of the best seller list so forcefully but it is a beautiful wood. Woodworkers love it because it’s easy to work with, stains and finishes well with natural oil, and ages beautifully.
Customers love cherry’s clean grain and reddish-brown color that develops a rich patina over time. The fact that cherry wood lasts forever (as demonstrated by some of the valuable antique Shaker furniture originating in Vermont and New England) doesn’t hurt either.
Which wood do you like best for Shaker style furniture? Let us know on our Facebook or comment below.
What do you love best about Vermont? Our maple syrup? Organic cheese? Skiing or snowboarding? Mountain climbing? Our farm to plate restaurants? Chances are whatever your favorites are in Planet Vermont, they are here for you because of Vermont’s working landscape. That’s the term Vermonters are using to refer to the Green Mountain state’s pastoral forests and fields– and there’s a concerted effort afoot to ensure they will remain sustainable.
Last year our Legislature passed the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative which allocated $1Million to “stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurism, business development, and job creation.” A request for proposals to carry out the WL initiative was issued last year and yesterday was the deadline for submittals.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs from all across the state have offered ideas and projects that will eventually add up to a wave of renewed commitment and progress in sustaining our working lands. We at Vermont Woods Studios are among the group.
Our proposal seeks to use WL grant monies to close the final funding phase of renovating our Stonehurst Furniture Gallery and Nature Center. From a Working Lands perspective, one of the advantages of Stonehurst is that it tells the story of where Vermont made furniture comes from and how it’s made– sustainably.
Putting our Working Lands proposal together has been quite a process and regardless of whether we win an award, I think it’s been time well spent. I know the grant is highly competitive. It’s my understanding that the WL Board received some 268 proposals for a total request of over $12 million. They are working with only $1Million in funding, so the odds aren’t good.
But I feel our proposal answers an important need in providing a market for Vermont’s wood furniture and a destination that will attract customers from beyond our borders. We’ve been able to forge many new partnerships and collaborations as a result of the grant application process and that alone makes the effort worthwhile.
Decisions on grant awards are expected in April and we’ll keep you posted. Best of luck to everyone who has invested their time into this important project!
Who doesn’t love trees? As a purveyor of natural wood furniture, we are big tree lovers. Not surprisingly, forest conservation is a big part of our mission at Vermont Woods Studios. If we’re going to be providing solid wood furniture for generations into the future, we have to focus on forest conservation today.
This morning I was searching for a tree photo to help us show people how your furniture gets from the forest to your living room. I couldn’t believe how many spectacular tree photos are out there! It’s obvious we’re not the only tree fanatics on this planet.
Pinterest seems to be the keeper of some of the world’s favorite tree photos. The Pinterest “Trees” page contains boards on every tree topic you can think of, from “tree houses” to “roots”, “forests”, “tree life” and “tree tatoos”.
Then there’s another love afair with trees on a site called (pardon me) Tree Porn (somewhat akin to the website Kendall showed me called Food Porn– great food photos and recipes). 40 Nautrally Beautiful Photos of Trees is another web page showcasing amazing tree photos.
OK, now I have to get back to writing a post about how your furniture gets from the forest to your living room. But this was a fun digression.
Copeland’s Dominion bedroom furniture set was our best seller last week. I love this picture, but the cool thing about Dominion is that you can customize it online to look exactly like this (above) or give it a totally different style. The photo above shows this high end bedroom set in natural cherry wood, although you can change the color online and add one of 3 stains: cognac cherry, saddle cherry or smoke cherry. For example, here’s a photo of the same Dominion bedroom in saddle cherry, which is darker than natural cherry and looks similar to walnut wood.
You can also customize the Dominion bedroom set by changing the shape of the top of each chest or dresser. In the photo above the chest on the left has a top that’s flush with the sides of the case, whereas the chest on the right has an over-hanging top. It creates a whole different look!
Furthermore, if you choose small, round mushroom shaped drawer pulls along with the flush top (shown left), you’ve got a variation of traditional Shaker style furniture. But by selecting brushed nickle bars for drawer pulls and pairing them with the over-hanging top, you’ve created a much different, modern contemporary look for the same chest.
Dominion beds are also highly customizable. Copeland offers 4 main bed styles: the regular Dominion Bed (with choice of 4 different headboards), a storage bed version of it, the Dominion Bed with Leather Headboard (choose ebony, coffee or white colored leather) and a storage bed version of it.
Check it out! This is your chance to design your own bedroom furniture and have it handcrafted especially for you, by Vermont craftsmen. Copeland furniture is affordable too and offers a great value for your money, plus we guarantee it for a lifetime. So what are you waiting for?
In 2009 legislators in Montpelier passed a bill banning toxic flame retardant chemicals in Vermont furniture. Of course the natural wood furniture Vermont is so well known for, isn’t the target of this legislation as it has never had flame retardant chemicals applied to it. It’s upholstered furniture, shipping pallets and baby mattresses that are of biggest concern right now. Although we don’t make much upholstered furniture in Vermont, we need to guard our citizens against harmful substances in products brought in from other states and countries.
If you have babies or young children in your house, you might be interested in a recent study by the Center for Environmental Health which found over 90% of children’s nap mats, such as those used at child care centers, contain toxic, potentially carcinogenic flame retardant chemicals (this study included nap mats from nationwide retailers, including a sample from Vermont). Toxins from fire retardants move from nap mats and couches into dust and then into people’s bodies. This is why toddlers who play on the floor and pets who groom their fur have such high levels of flame retardant chemicals in their bodies.
Vermonters who wish to support bill (S.81) to expand the state’s 2009 ban on toxic flame retardant chemicals can learn more about it here and contact their legislators to voice their opinions.
In Vermont we still have plenty of snow on the ground, but judging from the sudden increase in outdoor furniture orders, other parts of the country must be starting to experience signs of Spring. Lucky you!
This year’s best selling outdoor furniture (so far) is the new Polywood Euro Dining Furniture Collection. Its a customizable, high end pool and patio set made in America with recycled plastic lumber and a powder-coated aluminum frame.
The Euro collection includes contemporary dining tables and chairs in three different sizes: dining height, counter height and bar height. You can customize the furniture with your choice of black, white or silver aluminum frames and bright vibrant colored polywood slats. Choose from blue, teak, tangerine, red, sand, mahogany, lime, lemon, green, black, aruba, slate grey or white. Something for everyone!
We’ll be using the Euro furniture and Polywood’s Adirondack furniture at Stonehurst this summer and are looking forward to getting them on display. Besides the beauty and comfort, what we like best about Polywood outdoor furniture is that it’s really durable and weather-resistant. No scraping and re-painting! Plus, we can leave Polywood outside during the winter, so no more lugging inside and out. And who wouldn’t want to sit down outside and capture a few rays of sun during a beautiful winter day in Vermont?
Have a look at this European style outdoor furniture for the patio and deck and let us know what you think in the comments section below or on our Facebook. It’s part of a new generation of light-weight outdoor dining furniture and we think you’re going to love it.
Our friends over at the Vermont Center for EcoStudies VCE and the Northern Woodlands have launched a contest for Naturalist of the Year. If you want to be in contention for the big prize (a subscription to The Northern Woodlands Magazine), you’d better get outside and TODAY. Look, I’m going to be honest with you. Judging from the response they’ve gotten so far you’re not likely to win this one. Birders are serious competitors! Have you seen that movie, “The Big Year” with Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin? Well these guys vying for Vermont Naturalist of the Year remind me of them. Great competitors! It’s not just about winning a contest, either. Actually it’s too complicated for me to understand what it’s about, but I think it might be pretty deep.
Anyway, even if you don’t win Naturalist of the Year, with a reasonable amount of luck you might win VCE’s monthly photo-observation contest. That would be a good stepping stone, right? So head outside and scour Vermont’s “fields and fens, mountains and meadows, lakes and lawns”. Take artistic, scientific or any kind of “wow” photos– maybe an amazing sighting, a neat behavior, or whatever catches your eye and email it to VCE. Their readers will select winning photographs by who gets the most votes.
Let us know if you won by sharing your winning photos on our Facebook. And while you’re over at VCE check out the amazing project that is the Vermont Atlas of Life. It’s a citizen science project cataloging all Vermont’s breeding birds, butterflies, bumble bees, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and more. You’ll be helping to save our endangered species from extinction and making the world a better place!
Dorset is one of the prettiest hamlets in all of Vermont, so Dennis and I were happy to make the trek to Dorset Custom Furniture last Friday. For us, the main attraction wasn’t the quaint New England Village architecture or the view of the Green Mountain Forest. It was to meet with Dan Mosheim and three more of Dorset’s famous custom furniture makers. I guess it’s no coincidence that four of the country’s finest craftsmen have set up shop in this idyllic spot. Dorset is quintessential Vermont at it’s finest and it’s natural beauty inspires artists and craftspeople from all walks of life.
Once we found our way to the slice of paradise that’s home to Dorset Custom Furniture we caught up with Dan, his wife Kit, and their sons Will and Sam. The whole family is involved in the arts, creating not only furniture but also jewelry, musical instruments and sculpture.
Dan had invited three other powerhouses in custom furniture to meet with us: Steve Holman of Holman Studios, Bob Gasperetti and Bill Laberge. We were brainstorming ways to collaborate in shining a light on Vermont’s long legacy of creating sustainable, high end, custom furniture. Dennis and I extended an invitation to the Dorset crowd to show their furniture at Stonehurst, our new fine furniture gallery so we will be working with them to make that happen before our grand opening this summer.
If you’re wandering around the world of Vermont arts and crafts before that, be sure to drop by Dorset and visit these fine furniture craftsmen in their studios. I think you’ll find that in commissioning a piece of their custom furniture, you are acquiring much more that a functional piece of art. I’m not sure how to describe but it has to do with getting in touch with a level of authenticity that is often missing in our lives. I think you’ll just have to go to Dorset and check it out for yourself. Then tell us about your experience on Facebook. Happy travels!
We work with fine furniture makers from all across the state of Vermont, representing their work for sale in our online furniture store as well as in our small Vernon, Vermont showroom. In getting to know these craftspeople and their work we’ve seen a unique “Vermont Style Furniture” emerge which is quite different from furniture made in North Carolina, Pennsylvania or any other furniture region of America.
I’ll take Vermont dining furniture for example, since it’s on sale this week. I think most furniture aficionados would categorize our dining furniture as belonging to one of these styles: Shaker, Mission, Arts and Crafts, Craftsman, Modern, Contemporary, Traditional or Transitional. In spite of the diversity of designs and the personalization that each craftsperson adds to their furniture, there are some commonalities that add up to the unique “Vermont style” that’s become so iconic.
First and foremost is the natural, wood character of the furniture. Vermont craftspeople tend to eschew the dark stains often seen on trendy furniture, preferring instead to focus on the natural beauty of the wood. Second is the embracement of simple, elegant styles such as the Shaker, craftsman and mission styles.
Whereas once fine Vermont made furniture was embellished with intricate hand-carvings, now the trend has been reversed. I think the advent of CNC routers was the main driver of this reversal. It became so inexpensive to produce carved detail with CNC machines in China that– in many customers’ minds– those details became less representative of fine craftsmanship and more indicative of mass production.
Vermont has always been about authentic craftsmanship and what we see here in the Green Mountain State is a consistent focus on quality, integrity and natural beauty. That’s what continues to set Vermont style furniture apart from products coming from other states and countries. What do you think of Vermont style furniture? We’d love to know. Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook.