About 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.

Hardwood Dining Table and Chairs | Cherry
This hardwood dining table, buffet and chair set is made of American black cherry wood.  Mortise and tenon joints are used as well as dovetails in the drawers of the buffet.

Shopping for top quality hardwood furniture? We encourage customers to take their time and learn to enjoy the details that make fine wood furniture an heirloom you family will cherish for generations. This short guide tells you what to look for in your fine wood furniture, including types of hardwoods, joinery and finishes.

America’s Top Hardwood Choices for Fine Furniture

The American Hardwood Information Center lists 23 different species of American hardwoods including alder, ash, aspen, basswood, beech, cottonwood, hickory, sassafras and elm.  The following are time tested favorites for American made hardwood furniture.

American Black Cherry

Cherry wood is a reddish brown hardwood with a smooth, fine grain.  It’s perhaps the most prized furniture hardwood in America. People are often surprised to learn that natural cherry wood furniture changes colors over time– quite a bit actually. It starts out as a light-toned wood and darkens as it is exposed to light.

Top Quality Hardwoods include American Cherry, Maple, Walnut, Oak
These top quality hardwoods are favorites in the world of American made furniture: Cherry, Maple, Walnut and Oak.

Sugar or Hard Maple

Sugar Maple Wood (aka: hard maple) is usually light reddish brown in the center or heartwood but sometimes considerably darker (dark maple is often mistaken for cherry wood). Maple sapwood is typically white with a slight reddish-brown tinge. Maple is heavy, strong, stiff, hard, and resistant to shock.  It has a fine, uniform texture with generally straight grain, but variations such as curly, wavy, rippled, birdseye, tiger, flame or fiddleback grain occur and are often selected for specialty custom artisan furniture.

Oak

Oak has been the wood of choice for many of America’s most beloved mission and craftsman-style furniture makers, like Gustav Stickley, Greene and Greene and Frank Lloyd Wright.  Oak is a solid, sturdy and very durable hardwood with generally uniform coarse texture and prominent rays in the grain.  Oak wood may darken slightly over time, taking on more amber tones however the change is very subtle, unlike the significant color change with cherry wood.

Black walnut is North America's only chocolate brown hardwood
This hardwood bed, night stand and chest set is made of black walnut wood.  Black walnut is North America’s only chocolate brown hardwood.  It’s relatively rare and typically carries a 20-40% price premium.

American Black Walnut

Black walnut wood is the only dark North American wood. It’s prized by woodworkers for it’s strength, grain and color which is a rich chocolate brown– with occasional purple tones. There are over 20 species of walnut trees but it is the Eastern Black Walnut tree (aka: American Walnut) that is native to North America and is used for our American made walnut furniture.

If real top quality American hardwoods are important to you, be aware that imposters are everywhere.  Much of the “maple”, “walnut”, “oak” and “real cherry furniture” on the market today is actually made from cheaper woods like rubberwood, poplar, alder or other fast-growing wood alternatives.  They are often illegally clear-cut from the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests, then bleached, texturized and stained to look like American hardwoods. When considering a purchase of wood furniture from large  “American furniture companies” like Bassett, Broyhill, Lane, Lazy Boy, Kincaid, Ethan Allan, Thomasville, Pennsylvania House, Drexel, Heritage, American Drew and Pottery Barn– be sure to ask what the wood species is and where it was grown.  You may be surprised by the response.

If you’re in the market for solid hardwood furniture, what’s your favorite wood?  Let us know on Facebook or in the comments section below.

Next up: Quality Hardwood Furniture Buyers Guide, Part II: all about fine furniture finishes, joinery & solid wood vs veneers.

 

 

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.

Buying new hardwood flooring? Tips for buying sustainably harvested wood.
Buying new hardwood flooring?  Ask if it’s made from legal sustainably harvested wood.  Watch tonight’s Global News documentary to see why.

As a sustainable wood furniture company, we don’t usually have much to say about hardwood flooring.  But recent news & events in this area are so compelling I thought our readers would be interested to hear a few details.

Hardwood Flooring, Lumber Liquidators and the Forest
A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reveals that Lumber Liquidators (America’s largest retailer of hardwood flooring) is under investigation by federal authorities for possible violations of the Lacey Act – a law banning the illegal harvest and trade of wood and timber products.

Hardwood Flooring and the Future of the Forest

Every year about 7.5 billion square feet of flooring is purchased in the USA (Freedonia).  If it takes roughly 1 acre of forest to produce 500 sq ft of flooring (UN Report by TimberGreen) then by my calculations it would take about 15 million acres to produce 7.5 billion sq ft of flooring (the amount sold annually in the USA).  By comparison, the state of Vermont is 5.9 million acres so each year an area of forest about 2.5 times the size of Vermont is logged to supply the American wood flooring industry.  Granted, my calculation is mushy and imprecise but even so, it begs the question: where is all that hardwood flooring come from?

Where Does Your Hardwood Flooring Come From?

We always encourage people to buy American made wood furniture because we know that environmental, health, safety and quality standards are high here in The States.  The same is true for American made wood flooring, but that integrity built into American made wood products makes them more expensive than imports.  So, not surprisingly about half of the hardwood flooring in America is imported (USITC Publication 4032).

The Siberian Tiger's Fate Rests with Lumber Liquidators?
The Siberian Tiger’s Fate Rests with you, the consumer and global timber companies like Lumber Liquidators.

The Trouble with Imported Wood

The imported wood products industry is now controlled to a large extent by organized crime.  A recent report Liquidating the Forests: Hardwood Flooring, Organized Crime, and the World’s Last Siberian Tigers reveals that “demand for hardwood flooring and furniture in the United States, European Union, Japan, and China is fueling corruption and making the world’s last temperate hardwood forests into a major epicenter for illegal logging… Organized criminal groups send out logging brigades to steal valuable hardwoods from protected areas” thus decimating the last remaining habitats for iconic species like the Siberian tiger (in fact all species of big cats are now critically endangered as are all species of big apes, such as gorillas, chimps and orangutans).

Consumers Will Ultimately Decide the Fate of the Forest

As consumers we need to ask ourselves whether we want to buy the cheapest wood products we can without regard to the legality or sustainability of their origins.  Think about it. How could it be that hardwood flooring from the rainforest of South America or the Russian Far East is half the price of local hardwood flooring?

There is a high price being paid for these bargains– we just don’t see it.  Check out this video to see what the real price is, in terms of irreparable environmental damage. I’m betting, it’s a price you’re not willing to pay.

What You Can Do To Help

Maybe you’re not in the market for hardwood furniture or flooring but you still want to help protect the forest and it’s inhabitants.  Join the folks at Sierra Club in signing this petition to enforce the Lacey Act which seeks to eliminate trafficking in illegal wood products and penalize those who import illegally harvested wood products and wildlife.  Sign it today!

References

  1. EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency), Liquidating the Forests: Hardwood Furniture & Flooring, Organized Crime, and the World’s Last Siberian Tigers
  2. Timber, a book by Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister
  3. TV Documentary, “Liquidating the Forests
  4. Global Tiger Day, Organized Crime and Timber (the New Heroin)
  5. IKEA Cuts Down 600 Year Old Trees, Suspended From FSC
  6. American Wood Furniture Is Linked To Global Forest Conservation
  7. Where Does Your Furniture Come From?
  8. Is Your Wood Furniture Brought to You by Organized Crime?
  9. Organized Crime Is Getting Rich By Cutting Down The Rainforest

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.

Real Cherry Wood | Bedroom Furniture
This Natural Vermont Spindle Bed is shown in real, natural cherry wood.  It’s pretty new in the photo so it’s light in color.  After a few months of exposure to sunlight, the furniture will darken to a rich reddish brown color.

If you’ve made your way to this post, chance are you’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to find real cherry wood furniture.  Why do you suppose real cherry is so hard to find?  Well, it’s kind of like trying to find real American made furniture right?  Both are relatively rare in this age of cheap imports and they can easily get obscured by the mass marketing of knock-offs.

Real Cherry Furniture 101

Real honest cherry furniture is still being handcrafted in Vermont and in fact, it is the wood of choice for over half of our customers.  As such we get asked a lot of questions about it.  The curiosity of our customers has made us experts in cherry wood and cherry furniture & we’re happy to share everything we’ve learned.  Here are a few articles you might be interested in:

  1. Natural Cherry Wood Furniture: What Color Is It… Really?
  2. Cherry fundamentals: heartwood, sapwood, color, grain and mineral deposits
  3. Solid Cherry Wood Furniture: Is it Real?
  4. Cherry Wood Furniture: Where Does It come From?
  5. Solid Cherry Wood Furniture: 3 Ways To Tell If It’s Real
  6. Natural Cherry Wood Furniture Characteristics: Grain Variations
  7. Natural Cherry Wood Furniture Characteristics: Color
  8. Natural Cherry Wood Furniture Characteristics: Mineral Deposits
  9. Solid Cherry Furniture: 18 American Made Collections From Vermont

Faux Cherry Furniture 101

What color is real cherry wood?
So you’re not sure what the color of real cherry is? Well, no wonder! When I just googled “real cherry wood” these images are what came up. Quite a variation, isn’t it?  Learn how to tell cherry from it’s imitators here.

Don’t be fooled by the plethora of stores that sell faux cherry knock offs and label them as “real cherry wood”.  What you’re buying at those stores is actually rubber wood, poplar, alder or any number of fast-growing wood alternatives.  They are often illegally clear-cut from the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests, then bleached, texturized and stained to look like cherry.  Why would companies like Wayfair, Crate and Barrel, Amazon, Walmart, Overstock, Macy’s, JC Penny’s risk their reputations by engaging in such false advertising?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or 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.

Eco Friendly Wood Furniture | Handmade in VT, USA
This Woodland Table and Modern Mission Dining Chairs are made from solid cherry wood, that was sustainably harvested in North America.

We started Vermont Woods Studios out of a passion for forest conservation.  It was this one astounding statistic that really lit a fire under me:

Every second an acre of rainforest is lost forever

Along with trees, some of my favorite iconic wildlife species that live in the rainforest are being lost.  For example, all the great cats (lions, tigers, leopards, cheetas, etc) are critically endangered as are all the great apes (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc).  Our planet is actually losing over 100 species/day.  The cause is habitat destruction.  Rainforest trees are being clearcut for timber to make cheap furniture and flooring.

Eco Friendly Wood Furniture: What It Is

So to me, eco friendly wood furniture is first and foremost, furniture that’s made from sustainably harvested wood.  More specifically, North American wood (recycled or newly milled) that’s been obtained through legitimate local partners, thus minimizing transport distances and helping regional economies (and greatly reducing fuel usage and carbon emissions).

Other aspects of eco friendly furniture relate to how a tree is transformed into, say… a table or a bed.  Vermont furniture makers use both traditional and modern methods to maximize the yield from each tree and minimize (or eliminate) wood waste. All wood processing by-products are put to some type of use here in Vermont. For example: sawdust is used by local farmers for animal bedding and wood chips are used for heating.

Non-toxic furniture finishes are also characteristic of eco friendly furniture.

Eco Friendly Wood Furniture: What It Is NOT

Unlike many large American furniture companies, we do not consider imported wood furniture eco friendly.  The global timber trade has been infiltrated by organized crime to the point where illegal wood (often clear cut from the rainforest) is pervasive throughout the imported wood furniture and flooring industry.  Much of it is accompanied by counterfeit documents labeling it as green certified by the Forest Stewardship Council FSC (here are a couple articles reporting on this: Liquidating the Forests and Corruption Stains the Global Timber Trade).

National Geographic recently reported on a UN study showing that the global environmental crime industry (with illegal logging being the primary component) has now surpassed the global drug trade in terms of estimated annual revenue.  “We have regulations, but we need to inform consumers,” said Indonesian official Budi Susanti, “if buyers won’t buy the products that aren’t sustainable, there won’t be demand.”

How to Know the Difference

A google search for “eco friendly wood furniture” turns up all sorts of  questionable results from big, multinational companies that pledge to use green certified wood.  Of course your best bet would be to find something made locally from local wood.  But if that’s not possible or practical for you, any furniture that’s truly 100% Made in America is likely to be an environmentally friendly choice.

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.

Autumn in Vermont's Woodlands
Check out VermontVacation.com’s Fall Foliage Forecaster to see where today’s most vibrant leaf peeping is.

Autumn is an exciting season in Vermont! Travelers from all over the world journey here to see our maple trees all dressed up in their most vibrant colors of red, yellow and orange.  What people don’t see is the behind the scenes activity of Vermont’s land-owners and forestry professionals that keeps Vermont’s woodlands healthy for future generations.

At Vermont Woods Studios our professional forester, Lynn Levine is the key person who helps us steward the 109 acres of woodland in our care.  Lynn is an environmental educator, tracker and a consulting forester.  She visited us yesterday to jump start a logging process that will thin out our woodlands, making healthier habitat for resident wildlife.  While here, Lynn dropped off a couple copies of her new book on tracking mammals in Vermont:

Lynn Levine - Managing Vermont's Woodlands
Lynn Levine, our professional consulting forester is also an environmental educator and author.  Her newest book is a waterproof pocket guide on Mammal Tracks and Scat.

Another professional who works behind the scenes to keep Vermont’s woodlands alive and healthy is Kathleen Wanner.  Kathleen is the Executive Director of the Vermont Woodlands Association and also of the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association.  She provides leadership and guidance in many of Vermont’s forest conservation programs including the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative.  Today we received our American Tree Farm Certification which was facilitated by Kathleen.  This is an independent third party testament to our application of 8 standards of sustainability on our land.

American Tree Farm Certification
American Tree Farm Certification is an independent third party testament to our application of 8 standards of sustainability on our land.

Vermont is lucky to have many dedicated forestry professionals and land owners who are passionate about conserving our woodlands for future generations.  It’s not an easy job, as unsustainable development is certainly tempting and lucrative in the short term.

So as you’re out enjoying the beautiful Fall colors of Vermont’s woodlands, keep in mind the connection between sustainable management of the forest and the wood products you may purchase.  Wood furniture, flooring, firewood, dimensional lumber, wood pellets, paper and maple syrup are all products that rely on sustainable forest management.  Support the efforts of Vermont’s sustainable forestry industry by asking vendors where your forest products come from and if they are certified as sustainable.

Next up: our Columbus Day Cherry Furniture Sale

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.