Fine-wood-furnitureSimilar to the term American Made Furniture, there's no standard definition for "fine furniture".  But a customer brought this up yesterday so I thought I'd take a shot at it.  At Vermont Woods Studios we specialize in fine wood furniture, rather than upholstered furniture so I'll keep the discussion confined to that. 

This may seem odd, but I'm going to put style aside for another subject because I think each creative woodworker has his or her own ideas about style.  Naturally there has to be a strategic blending of form and function, but making a judgement about that is personal and subjective– you could write a library of books about it and still not reach a conclusion.  I'm not sure style belongs in a definition for fine furniture.

So for now I'll stick to tangible perameters like craftsmanship, uniqueness, joinery, type of wood, type of finish, sustainability and durability– plus one intangible which I'll call karma.  Today let's look at the type of wood a piece of furniture is made with first– then we can consider the other characteristics in the next few posts.

Fine-wood-custom-furnitureFine wood furniture starts with hardwood (like cherry, maple, walnut and oak) as opposed to soft wood (like pine and other coniferous woods).  Furthermore, in today's world (by my definition anyway) those hardwoods are grown sustainably in America as opposed to imported woods that are clear cut from the world's rapidly disappearing rainforests (like ipe, rubberwood, mahogany, jatoba and teak–this ties into a karma discussion).  You can learn more about American hardwood species here:  cherry wood, maple wood, walnut wood, oak wood.

It's not just the wood species that sets fine wood furniture apart.  Once a species is selected, fine woodworkers go to greath lengths to carefully select each board that goes into a piece of furniture, depending on where the board is being placed (like in a drawer front, part of a table top, an accent piece or part of the frame). 

Woodworkers select boards based on things like grain, color, texture, shape, character and whether it's part of the tree's heartwood (inner circles of the tree and dark in color) or sapwood (outer circles of the tree and light in color).  There are different levels of attention to detail in wood selection and they are reflected in the price of a piece of furniture. Many of our woodworkers in Vermont are aligned with the philosophy of George Nakishima who felt that wood selection is an almost sacred art that honors The Soul of a Tree. Others are more practical but both philosophies on wood selection can be the foundation of a great piece of "fine furniture" depending on what the customer is looking for.

Later we'll talk about how craftsmanship, origin and sustainability add to the definition of fine furniture.

 

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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.

Charlie-shackleton-furnitureI can't believe it's leaf-peeping season already… an annual outdoor extravaganza that comes with great ambivalence among Vermonters.  Most of us are not really ready to think about the winter ahead yet, but on the other hand, Fall is pretty spectacular up here in New England. 

 

Over the last decade a popular new stop on the Vermont Foliage Tour has emerged and that's the Fine Furniture Festival in Woodstock, VT

 

It's an annual gathering of Vermont's fine furniture makers— undoubtedly some of the best, most meticulous craftspeople in the world.  Here you'll get to see, feel and sit in beautiful, handcrafted solid wood furniture that's unlike anything you've seen in the stores.  You'll get to chat with craftsepople whose pieces live in luxurious penthouses and mansions around the world.  And you'll find that they are approachable, down to earth and passionate about the integrity of their work.

 

Bill-laberge-furniture Honestly, if you're interested in furniture with authentic old world craftsmanship and/or creative modern style, Woodstock is the place to be.  And acquiring this kind of heirloom furniture is not out of reach– not when you're shopping in Vermont. 

 

OK, it's a totally different product than what you'll find in "luxury furniture stores" like Restoration Hardware or Crate and Barrel.  It's American made with sustainably harvested wood and it's made (and usually guaranteed) to last a lifetime so naturally the price will be higher than the imported furniture you're used to seeing in stores. 

 

 

But if you're looking for value, you won't find a better opportunity than this.  You'll be purchasing direct from the furniture makers and your solid wood furniture will be made to order just for you.  Shipping is no problem either.  These professionals have been shipping their work around the globe for years and they know how to do it right.

Shackleton-furniture So… designers, architects, homeowners- we'll hope to see you in Woodstock this weekend.  It will be a highlight of your foliage tour I promise!

 

Photos:

Shackleton Thomas Furniture

Bill Laberge Furniture

Shackleton Thomas Furniture

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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.

Vermont-antique-furnitureVermont furniture lovers take note:  this Saturday, August 13, one of the largest known collections of Vermont-made antiques is going on the auction block at Skinner, Inc. in Marlborough, Mass.  Bob and Barbara Levine of Greenwich, CT amassed this elegant collection over 35 years and are retired and downsizing.  So now is your big chance!

Odds are, because of the economy, there will be some once-in-a-lifetime bargains.  Check out this Classical Carved Mahogany and Mahogany Veneer Sofa.  It is presumed to be made by Nahum Parker in Middlebury, Vermont nearly 200 years ago– around 1825.  What an incredible piece!  And there are about 50 other stunning pieces in the collection.  Preview and bidding can be done online as well as in person.  The Bennington Banner has details.

 

 

Fainting-couch-steve-holman For all you fine furniture afficionados, isn't it great to know that this same level of craftsmanship continues to be practiced in Vermont today?  Have a look at this gorgeous fainting couch created by Steve Holman.  Who said they're not making things like they used to?  Whoever did needs to visit us in Vermont.

Check out more extraordinary custom artisan furniture pieces made by the world's finest furniture makers.  Vermont truly is the Fine Furniture Capital of America!

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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.

Solid-cherry-wood-bedroom Furniture made of solid cherry wood is considered some of the finest furniture available in the world today.  That’s because cherry is a beautiful, stable hardwood that develops a rich reddish brown patina over the years and just keeps getting more gorgeous as time goes by.

I’m always saddened when customers tell us they’ve been searching in their local areas and online for solid cherry furniture and they haven’t been able to find the real thing.

What’s happened is that the larger furniture companies have opted for low-price over quality in their furniture designs.  They typically use cheaper, lower quality woods, stain them and then call them “cherry”.  The worst part is that the stains don’t even remotely look like real cherry wood, but this cheap furniture is so plentiful that people often think that stain is the actual color of cherry.  At Vermont Woods Studios Furniture it breaks our craftsmans’ hearts when people ask them to stain solid cherry furniture to make it match existing fake “cherry” furniture that’s in their homes.

Solid-cherry-wood bookcase Here are some examples of solid cherry wood furniture.  You’ll notice there are varying degrees of color.  Natural cherry wood starts out a light pinkish color and darkens over time with exposure to light.  Eventually it ripens to a stunning reddish brown.  You can hasten the darkening process by oiling the wood often.

If you’re shopping for cherry furniture and you have any doubts about the wood, be sure to ask the salesperson if it’s authentic cherry wood.  Ask where it’s from too.  The best cherry in the world is grown in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and because we don’t have much cherry in Vermont, that’s where we get ours from.  More on cherry wood furniture here.

 

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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.

natural cherry wood
Our American Shaker Large Sideboard in natural cherry wood.

Let’s talk about natural cherry wood furniture.

Today I wanted to provide some detail about naturally occurring mineral deposits that are a characteristic of cherry.

In cherry wood small black flecks occur in the grain where tiny amounts of sap were stored in the cherry tree.

natural cherry wood
You can see on these panels the little pockets where sap once lived.

Mineral deposits (or pitch pockets) are natural and randomly occurring.  They do not diminish the strength or quality of your furniture.  As we say: they add to its uniqueness.

The frequency of mineral deposits in our furniture varies with each tree utilized but it is largely reflected in the product photos here and throughout our website.  Like any other fine furniture maker we cannot guarantee the absence of mineral deposits in our cherry wood furniture and we cannot consider the presence of mineral deposits a reason for furniture returns, per our lifetime guarantee policy.

natural cherry wood
Our Loft Bedroom Collection in natural cherry wood. Note the mineral deposits on the two bottom left drawers of the dresser.

Looking for Cherry Furniture with Virtually No Mineral Deposits?

Most of our furniture makers are reluctant to offer cherry furniture without mineral deposits for a couple reasons. First, it is against our sustainable forestry principles.  Up to five times the number of trees need to be harvested to produce furniture with virtually no mineral deposits.  Second, the presence of mineral deposits in cherry wood can be a matter of opinion.  What one customer might feel was mineral-deposit free furniture may not be the same for another customer.

If mineral deposits are an issue for you, give us a call.  We’ll work something out… although I should mention that the price of a “virtually mineral deposit-free” piece is generally about twice that of the regular piece.

natural cherry wood

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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.