Within the past few years, studies have shown that the average home size is decreasing. Towards the end of the 20th century, new homes were all about being bigger and better. Now, new homes are all about efficiency and economics. Homeowners want homes that are efficient in space and energy so they can save a bundle on their bills. While people are still buying bigger homes, trends show that as people move closer to cities for work, average home size will continue to go down as people purchase small apartments and condos. Here are a few furniture tips if you are looking for modest furniture for your modest space.
Made in America furniture companies are run by people you can trust.
When you shop online for furniture, or even shop around at stores, a fundamental for any trustworthy company is that it is run by honest, hardworking people. Buying furniture is a big investment, and rightfully so, as we spend so much of our lives enjoying it. Shopping American made usually ensures that your investment is a good one–giving you a great product, made by great people.
Many companies overseas are not transparent about who’s behind the company, what their goals are, how their workers are paid, and where they are sourcing their materials from. Made in America furniture companies, however, are held to a much higher standard.
You can be sure that when buying American made furniture, you are directly helping support the livelihoods of hardworking American people– from customer service to the talented craftsmen who pour hours of their time and energy into creating beautiful pieces of furniture for us to enjoy.
You can also be sure that made in America furniture companies are held to strict standards for workplace safety, so you can feel good knowing that you aren’t contributing to terrible factory environments that can result in real disasters (remember the tragedy at the textile factory in Bangladesh?)
It’s still important to ask questions.
While some Made in America furniture companies are still sourcing their wood from questionable sources, there are also many great companies that source their materials with care and ethical consideration. At Vermont Woods Studios, we work with a handful of wonderful craftsmen who are responsible in their choices of materials and are sure not to use anything that degrades the environment or destroys the habitats of humans and animals across the globe. It’s important to question the people you are buying from about where their woods and materials are sourced, because even despite being made in the USA, there are companies who will do anything to save a buck.
So, when you start shopping for furniture keep in mind that made in America furniture companies are almost always a better choice than the alternative. When in doubt, ask the hard questions–where is this made, who is behind it, where are the materials sourced, can I see the quality in person before I buy, could I speak to a previous customer, etc.
A truly trustworthy and responsible company will go above and beyond to ensure that you feel comfortable with your buying experience, and with such an important investment, we don’t believe you should have to settle for anything but the best.
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Remember that ABC World News series where Diane Sawyer and David Muir found a “typical American household” and inventoried everything in it to see what was made in the USA? Turns out nothing… except the fresh flowers on the table. Well that series inspired us to pour our energy into a Made in America campaign at Vermont Woods Studios. We’ve sponsored the Great American Made Gift Challenge every Christmas season for the past several years and of course we put a high priority on promoting Vermont made hardwood furniture.
One reason is that customers often come to us in total frustration after shopping everywhere to find furniture that’s actually 100% made in the USA. The companies we think of as quintessentially American (ie., Thomasville, Broyhill, Bassett, Ethan Allen, American Drew, Lane, Pennsylvania House, Drexel) aren’t so American anymore. Often they outsource the majority of their production to China, Vietnam, Honduras, Mexico and other third world countries. Then they import nearly finished furniture into the USA for a quick insertion of the final screw and call it “American made”. The trend ebbs and flows with changes in foreign wages and the cost of oil to ship overseas. When it’s cheaper to produce in the USA they come back, but there’s no long term commitment to the American worker or the American community.
Why Do Customers Care?
Here’s a recent illustration. Dennis and Douglas and I made a visit to Gardner Massachusetts last month to see our pal Leonard Curcio at Chair City Wayside Furniture. Gardner used to be “the furniture capital of New England” back in the 19th and 20th centuries. According to the “Greater Gardner Furniture History Documentary project”, there were over 50 furniture companies in the area. After over a century of furniture manufacturing, with nearly everyone in the community depending on the industry for support, many companies decided to move their operations overseas for cheaper production. The community collapsed. Families with several generations of skilled artisans and woodworkers were suddenly unemployed. Our friend Lenny was one of the few people able to salvage his business in a dying community but he is still suffering today, while trying to hang on.
Our customers want to support people like Lenny and acquire high quality, American made furniture that they will proudly cherish forever. Supporting American workers and American communities matters to them.
How to Buy 100% American Made Products
If you’re looking for high quality furniture that really is 100% made in the USA, have a look at this excellent article by Mary Efron. For American furniture and everything else that’s made in the USA, visit AmericansWorking.com or SourceMap . And maybe stay away from (or at least be suspicious of) the big box stores that make splashy videos about their “American made furniture” but don’t have much to deliver when it comes down to specifics.
Are you the kind of person who makes New Years resolutions? What are you determined to do differently in 2014? With all the work we do here at Vermont Woods Studios in promoting American Made Furniture, you can probably guess that one of my resolutions is to buy more American made products next year. I’m not alone. We surveyed our customers earlier this year to find out why buying American made is so important to them. Have a look at the results:
Top 5 Reasons to Buy American Made Furniture
Local Jobs and Local Economies – The American furniture maker has suffered over the past 5 decades as most large, quintessentially American furniture companies moved to China, Vietnam and other third world countries. Consumers are weary of seeing their communities struggle to recover from the loss of skilled jobs. Small manufacturers like Vermont’s Lyndon Furniture, Copeland Furniture and Pompanoosuc Mills remained in the USA during the age of outsourcing and maintained their commitment to local communities. Their loyalty and integrity has not gone unnoticed.
Quality and Craftsmanship – American made furniture is well known for it’s high quality and craftsmanship. States like Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, Pennsylvania and Ohio have a long tradition of making heirloom quality furniture from local wood. In Vermont, fine furniture making has been a part of our heritage for over 200 years and that translates to superior quality, sophisticated style and great values in handmade furniture.
Reliable Customer Service – Ever try getting a piece of furniture fixed after purchasing it from IKEA or Pottery Barn? Not. That furniture is more than likely going to head out to the curbside rather than get repaired. American made furniture companies stand behind their quality, with many companies offering a lifetime guarantee.
Sustainable Furniture from Well Managed American Forests – Where does your furniture come from anyway? Americans have become more aware of where their food comes from over the past couple decades. Now it’s time to learn where other things come from, including wood furniture and flooring. As consumers become more aware of the link between imported wood furniture and rainforest devestation, they are seeing the value of acquiring sustainable furniture for their homes.
Healthy, Natural Furniture with Non-Toxic Finishes – American furniture companies are subject to strict consumer protection laws and regulations governing product safety as well as safety and health for the craftspeople making furniture. Consumers don’t want to worry about lead based paint or formaldehyde in the coatings of the furniture. American companies are leading the way in the area of safe, non-toxic furniture finishes.
Good reasons– and not exclusive to furniture by any means. Let’s hope 2014 brings renewed commitment to the Made in American movement. What are your New Years resolutions? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments section below.
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2013, our first year at Stonehurst gave us another reason to study and analyze what our customers’ favorite American made furniture styles are. With limited space in our showroom, we wanted to display the very best selection of Vermont furniture, as defined by customer purchases. After looking through the sales statistics, we found these Top 3 American Furniture styles, which we’ll be featuring often at Stonehurst:
Shaker Style Furniture
This Vermont Shaker bed, nightstand and chest are pretty accurate reproductions of the original Shaker style furniture crafted by communities of the United Society of Believers starting in the late 1700’s. Born here in the Northeast, this American furniture style is a simple, utilitarian design characterized by straight tapered legs and mushroom-shaped wooden knobs. Vermont furniture makers have become today’s authority on Shaker furniture and customers seeking a simple elegant, solid wood design have grown to love their work. It’s our top seller and customers are customizing it in their choice of cherry, walnut, maple and oak woods (preference is in that order). Sometimes customers will choose two contrasting wood colors like cherry and walnut or maple and walnut to trick it out– if there is such a thing for “Shaker furniture”.
Craftsman Style Furniture
This Contemporary Craftsman Bedroom Furniture collection is a modern rendition of the American craftsman and “arts and crafts” furniture that became popular in the late 19th century and remained prevalent through the 1930s. It’s handmade of real solid cherry wood with contrasting drawer pulls in solid walnut wood and reflects the true craftsmanship of this period. The finish on this collection is a traditional hand-rubbed oil and wax. If you like this contemporary craftsman style furniture, learn more about the details and craftsmanship here.