We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Vermont Life Magazine staff for including us in their fall issue! The article features several beautiful photos of our showroom, craftsmen, and furniture–as well as a compelling story that fits wonderfully with the rest of the magazine. We’re grateful to Jim Westphalen and Mary Hegarty Nowlan for their support of our green mission at Stonehurst, and we’re honored that they feel it fits into Vermont Life’s mission which “celebrates the unique heritage, countryside, traditions and people of Vermont and explores issues of contemporary interest to Vermonters and visitors to the state.”
We are excited to share our story with the world, and we hope you’re excited too! For information on subscriptions or information on how to pickup a copy of your own, visit www.vermontlife.com. If you’re local, feel free to stop by to take a look at our copy!
We don’t typically re-share articles from others, but when I read “The First American Modernists” by Lance Esplund, I knew I had to share it with our community of Shaker furniture lovers. Lance provides a thoughtful, interesting look at the Shakers and Shaker furniture, as inspired by an art exhibit at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine. The exhibition, titled “The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon to the World,” provided a historical overview of the Shakers and their simplistic, spiritual lifestyle; focusing on the craft of their now world recognized furniture.
While Shaker communities were once vibrant and thriving, there are now only 3 Shakers left. Brother Arnold Hadd and his two elderly sisters practice their faith at Sabbathday Lake’s Shaker Village in New Glouster Maine. It’s the worlds last active Shaker Community. Brother Arnold Spoke at the exhibit & covered topics such as the concept of “Shaker Style” (which he claims does not exist) and the inspiration behind their modest furniture design. According to Esplund, the exhibit was full of Shaker Furniture. He goes on to explain:
“That “classic” Shaker style is well represented here in strong, unassuming cupboards, tables, desks and chests of drawers; delicately crafted oval wooden nesting boxes; inviting, wide-mouthed wooden bowls; tightly woven rugs and baskets; and sprightly, no-nonsense ladder-back chairs. Made of chestnut, walnut, flame birch and bird’s-eye maple, these lightweight, sturdy chairs have rhythmically dynamic woven cane and checkerboard tape seats. They could be easily hung on wall pegs to allow for the ecstatic “shaking” dancing prayers for which the “Believers” became commonly known.”
While I haven’t had the opportunity to see the exhibit first hand, I have a deep appreciation for Shaker Furniture and it’s honest, unassuming design. Rich with history, Shaker Furniture has a legacy and heritage that we are proud to represent here at Vermont Woods Studios. If you’re interested in learning more about this Shaker exhibition, Esplund’s article is full of practical insight on the history and inspiration behind their furniture.
Mission Furniture Style, also sometimes referred to as “Arts & Crafts” or “American Mission” style is a revolutionary furniture & design movement that was created as a response to the industrial revolution and the way it devalued the individual furniture maker. This style of architecture, interior design, and decorative arts “became affordable to middle class homes built in the United States during the Arts and Crafts period between 1900 and 1930.”
The Significance of Mission Furniture
Many of the major players of the Mission Style movement including William Morris, John Ruskin, Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright, believed that the Craftsman was being lost to the mass produced, “soulless” furniture of the Victorian Era. Mission furniture was a complete departure from the over embellished and “glamorous” furniture that the Victorian Period was known for. In the Victorian Era, “A bare room was considered to be in poor taste, so every surface was filled with objects that reflected the owner’s interests and aspirations.” Reflecting a time in society when domesticity meant absolute privacy, and when the Bourgeois existence manifested into the interior space. The home was used as a curtained off retreat, wary of intrusion, and “opened only by invitation for viewing only on occasions such as parties or teas.” Basically, the Victorian Home was a manifestation of upper-class values (while still using overly adorned, low quality decor and furniture).
This is what The Mission Furniture Movement rebelled against, the highly “glamorous” ideals of the Victorian Era that weren’t inclusive of the real middle class. It represented an entire shift in cultural attitudes and values. Mission furniture aimed to represent the true American worker.
Mission Furniture Features
Mission furniture is bold yet simplistic, reminiscent of a traditional Rustic Farmhouse. It’s heavy in appearance and build, with emphasis on using clean lines and natural materials. Mission style typically incorporated locally handcrafted wood, glass, and metal work–bringing the artisan back into the picture and straying away from a mass produced look. Mission furniture is very sturdy, and found some inspiration from Shaker furniture with it’s aim to be usable as well as stylish. Mission style is a design that “emphasizes simple (horizontal and vertical) lines and flat panels that accentuate the grain of the wood.” This style intends to reveal the craft of woodworking and the skill & labor of the individual craftsman. It’s unpainted and unadorned, making it fitting furniture for practically any style of home!
Mission Furniture is important to us because it represents exactly why we are here, to promote the craft of fine artisan woodworking. Our culture has seen a revival of cheap, mass-produced furniture available online and in big box stores– and our furniture crafters are creating expert furniture designs with the same passion and integrity that sparked the Mission Style movement over a hundred years ago. If you’d like to see more of our collections of Mission furniture, please browse hundreds of our locally crafted and sourced pieces!
What do you think of Mission Furniture? Let us know in the comments or send us a Tweet.
Our friends at House Beautiful Magazine did a round up of their top 101 Tiny Tables, so we figured we would go ahead and do one of our own! All of our tiny tables (end tables, side tables, smaller than usual tables) are expertly handcrafted in Vermont and guaranteed for life. These aren’t style of the moment tables, they are timeless tiny tables that are guaranteed for life and will never go out of style. Whether you use them as a side table in your living room, a bedside table, a plant stand, or simply as an accent or accessory in any room– these 5 tables are sure to please.
1. The Classic Shaker Round End Table is handmade in Vermont using sustainably harvested wood. It is an eco-friendly piece that can be customized to meet your exact needs. The subtle arches in the legs give it a whimsical feel that can bring a feeling of elegance and femininity to any space!
2. This Cherry Moon end table is made to the highest standards, and meticulously handcrafted by skilled furniture makers. Shown in walnut wood, this ultra modern piece is versatile enough to fit practically any space. The unique styling and shape of the legs give it an eclectic charm. It’s the perfect tiny table for a craftsman style furniture lover.
3. Our modern Metropolitan End Table features a clear powder coated steel metal base, the result is a beautiful, solid wood end table perfect for a loft or city apartment. A modern, clean and simple design that looks great in any setting. This fusion of wood and metal makes it the most industrial of the tiny tables on this list.
4. This Modern Shaker Lamp Table can be used in almost any corner of your home or office. Use as an end table, cocktail table, lamp table, plant stand or to showcase that special work of art. Choose between a rounded or straight edge profile. eco-friendly non-toxic oil finish.
5. Our French Country Round End Table is ultra curvaceous, making it the most luxurious looking of the tiny tables on the list. It’s subtle, chic, and makes the perfect accent to any french country home.
Which of these tables do you like the best? Let us know in the comments section or send us a tweet!
It’s not that easy anymore, especially if you’re shopping online. I just googled the phrase “top quality wood furniture” and came up with products like a 5 piece dining set for $356 at Target and a twin bed complete with underbed storage at Walmart for $139. Those are not products that most of us would call “high quality”.
Checking Quality in the Showroom
At Vermont Woods Studios we’ve been working for 9 years to be able to provide a showroom (Stonehurst) where customers can come and experience the beauty and honesty of true high quality wood furniture. I’ve noticed that when customers visit us, often they split up in the store. One person chats with us about their needs and the style of their home, while the other person inspects the quality of our furniture. He/she opens drawers, looks underneath table tops, moves dressers around to see how the backs are attached and so on. This is an important part of the purchase process. But what if you’re shopping online?
How to Gauge Quality when Shopping Online
Online fine furniture stores must provide enough detail via photos and articles to enable customers to judge their quality. On our website, for example we post a “Construction Details” page for every furniture collection we offer. Here you’ll find details ranging from the natural characteristics of the wood, to the type of joinery used, to instructions for care & maintenance (which are dependent on the type of wood and finish selected).