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We've only got Kendall for a few more days before he ditches us at Vermont Woods Studios and goes back to college after a nice long winter break.  That's pretty sad because he's been cranking out the website work these last few weeks– stuff that none of the rest of us (except Manjula, of course) know how to do.

 

 

 

Anyway, Kendall's becoming a Facebook genie and he's set up a "Staff Picks" tab.  This week he's featuring Shannon's favorite furniture, the Modern American Dining Set.  It's a beautiful solid cherry table and benches– very simple but very elegant too. 

 

 

 

 

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Here it is all dressed up by our favorite set designer, Erica Ell.  If you love it as much as Shannon does, fan us on Facebook and get an extra 5% off.

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.

Shaker-furniture

 

Shaker Furniture conjures up images of traditional New England style tables, chairs and bedroom furniture designed way back in the late 1700s by members of the The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, otherwise known as the Shakers.  It's really the only style of furniture that's widely agreed upon as quintessentially American and it's changed only in subtle ways over the last few hundred years.

Vermont furniture makers are perhaps the world's most diverse group of Shaker furniture makers.  Most furniture coming out of Vermont reflects Shaker values in one way or another (highest quality craftsmanship, simple functional design, elegant straight lines, finely crafted joinery such as mortise and tenon and dovetails) but each furniture maker has a unique signature on their furniture.

We've been working with Copeland Furniture recently, as we've added their bedroom furniture, TV-Entertainment furniture and home office furniture to our website.  It's interesting to see how they've evolved from building traditional Shaker Furniture (Sarah Collection) 30 years ago to ever increasingly modern furniture today. Their Berkeley collection is a fusion of Arts and Crafts, modern Japanese and Shaker style.

 

 

 

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Check out these and other new collections and see how you like this modernization of Shaker style furniture.  As far as I can see, the addition of Copeland furniture to our website gives Vermont Woods Studios the most expansive and diverse selection of high end Shaker style furniture on the Internet.

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 color
Our Contemporary Craftsman bed that has darkened over time to a rich golden red.

Big box furniture stores have tricked us into thinking natural cherry wood is a different color-we’re here to set the record straight.

I was working with one of our Vermont Woods Studios customers yesterday who was looking for a natural cherry bed to match existing cherry furniture in his bedroom.  He’s had the existing furniture for about 10 years and now it’s a lovely, rich reddish brown color.

natural cherry wood color
Our Cherry Moon Bedroom set is a nice rich reddish brown tone from being exposed to light over time.

The problem is that natural cherry starts out a much lighter wood, usually with a color similar to this Cherry Moon Bed and it takes time to darken as it is exposed to light.  The length of time to go from this light color to the darker color above varies with the amount of light in the room and can take anywhere from a few months to a number of years.  Most customers, however report that their furniture darkens within 6-12 months.

natural cherry wood color
Our Raised Panel Carriage Bed in natural cherry wood. You can see on the footboard one panel slightly lighter than the others to show the variation in tone of natural cherry wood.

Customers often ask if there is a way to speed up the process and the consensus among our craftspeople is that the best solution is just to expose the furniture to as much light as possible. Adding a dark stain is also a possibility but woodworkers always plead with us to have patience and wait it out instead.  For most customers, the result truly is worth waiting for, especially since our furniture is purchased for a lifetime of use. Check out more photos of our natural cherry furniture in the Cherry Moon Collection, Vermont-Made Shaker Collection and throughout our website.

natural cherry wood

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.

Bob-gasperetti-furnitureSo far, in an effort to define "fine furniture" we've discussed craftsmanship and the type of wood used, so now let's talk about finish.  One thing most people are surprised to learn is that even though a piece of fine furniture is crafted and assembled it's a long way from being finished. 

I like the way Vermont furniture maker, Bob Gasperetti of Mount Tabor puts it:  "The saying that it takes 90% of the time to accomplish the last 10% of the work couldn't be more true than in handmade furniture."

He is right!  I wish you could run your hand across one of Bob's table tops right now.  After a piece is built, Bob sands the surface to 320 grit (this requires multiple sandings with increasingly fine sandpaper).  That takes forever but there is no substitute if you're looking for the kind of smooth, supple feeling you get when touching Bob's furniture.

After sanding, Bob applies multiple coats of a non-toxic, environmentally-friendly oil until the surface of his furniture feels as smooth and soft as a baby's skin.

Some people would opine that an oil finish is the only option for "fine furniture" but as someone who doesn't like to take the time to maintain (aka re-oil and it's really no big deal, but I'm lazy) an oil finish  I'll say oil is not the only option.  Vermont furniture makers offer dozens of other choices, including a blend of oil and beeswax, non-toxic lacquers and even an eco-friendly clear finish made out of whey (a byproduct of our Vermont dairy industry).  Copeland Furniture is once again leading the green furniture industry in the research and application of eco-friendly water=based lacquer finishes.  I'll write about them next time when we wrap up this disucssion of fine furniture definitions with the topic of sustainability and karma.

Anyway, no study of fine furniture finishes would be complete without a visit to the workshops of a few fine furniture makers where you can run your hands over the furniture and compare the sensations from different finishes.  Information and driving directions to the shops I've talked about (and many more) are available in the Vermont Forest Heritage brochure.  If you're coming in from Boston or New York to go skiing, you'll pass by a number of them.  So if there's no snow, or it's too cold to ski or if you're just too tired… take a day off and treat yourself to a tour of some of the world's best fine furniture workshops.

Vermont Woods Studios Fine 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, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

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.

 

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.