All across the USA, craftspeople and those who love their work are celebrating American Craft Week October 4-13. In Vermont we extend our celebration to the whole month of October which the Governor has proclaimed American Craft Month.
Our friend Greg Worden at Vermont Artisans Designs on Main Street in Brattleboro was influential in making that happen. He’s also one of the founders of Craft Retailers & Artists for Tomorrow (CRAFT), the non-profit organization that sponsors Craft Week. Members of CRAFT are dedicated to presenting artistic work with one common characteristic– it’s handmade in the USA:
“American Craft enriches our homes, wardrobes, offices and public spaces. It contributes to our nation’s economy, our balance of trade, and the fabric of our national history. It is original, beautiful and enduring, so let’s tell the world!”
This seems like a good opportunity to publicly thank Greg for his leadership and tireless efforts in promoting the top artists and craftspeople in Vermont and throughout New England. If you love high end crafts and fine art but you haven’t already been to Greg’s Vermont Artisans Designs– put it on your to do list! Here’s a short video of Greg’s gallery. It’s worth a trip, as testified on his website by art lovers from across America.
Looking for top quality, craftsman furniture that’s American made? Why not start your search in Vermont? We’ve gathered up an encyclopedia of facts about Vermont craftsmanship and state’s 200+ year history as a maker of high quality, solid wood furniture. Here’s an exceprt:
Vermont is the Fine Furniture Capital of America. The Green Mountain State is increasingly recognized as the country’s leader in high quality, handmade wood furniture. Vermont boasts over 1000 furniture companies plus 2000 independent woodworkers operating out of small shops, barns and garages. They produce a diverse collection of wood furnishings for every taste and budget and together they have earned a world-wide reputation for integrity, authenticity and green design.
Originally, mission and craftsman furniture was characterized by rectilinear design, simple, straight construction, heavy proportion and exposed joinery, often using medium or dark stained oak. Drawer pulls were usually simple round brass rings or rectangular back plates of solid brass with canted corners and an oval bail handle. But like all things, craftsman furniture has evolved.
Today’s Vermont made mission, craftsman and arts & crafts style furniture ranges from the traditional American Mission Furniture Collection to our Cherry Moon Furniture Collection which incorporates subtle curves in an Asian design to the modern Contemporary Craftsman furniture, also somewhat curvy but still simple and elegant. Rather than fancy, ornate scrolling or carving, craftsman furniture emphasizes fine workmanship in the form of refined style, perfect proportions, exposed joinery and top quality wood selection.
Need some ideas for how to put together your own unique craftsman style home decor? Check out this Pinterest craftsman board, or browse through Arts and Crafts. And if you’re looking for craftsman style lighting to complement your furniture, Vermont’s own Hubbardton Forge is the authority on that subject. Here’s a Pinterest board with some great lighting ideas.
While we’ve watched the price of most home decor items skyrocket over the last 30 years, have you noticed that the price of furniture has actually tumbled? It’s true. For a couple centuries we Americans prided ourselves on making high quality, natural wood furniture that was coveted around the world. North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont and other New England states were leaders in the fine furniture industry.
But in the 1960’s and 70’s many of America’s big furniture makers (like Ethan Allen, Broyhill, Thomasville and Lane) started to move operations overseas and quality took a hit (along with American jobs). Prices fell dramatically. Instead of preserving our grandparents heirloom quality wooden furniture for our homes, we began buying cheap, trendy furniture imports and replacing them frequently as breakage occured.
Natural Furniture for the Healthy Home
Fast forward to 2013 when home owners are getting tired of cheap imported furniture that ends up on the curbside in 5 years. And they’re worried about the health effects of toxic flame retardants and formaldehyde that come standard with imports. Especially in households with children, it is simply not worth the risk.
Families are coming back to American made natural wood furniture with non-toxic finishes. Yes the furniture is more expensive up front, primarily because the American worker is paid a livable wage (as compared to wages that often amount to just a few dollars/day in Asia). But the high quality and environmental integrity of American made furniture is winning customers over. In fact, many brands are offered with a lifetime guarantee, indicative of the superior value of American made furniture over time.
What kind of furniture is in your home? Where was it made? Is it time to rediscover the real thing? Learn more about American made, natural wood furniture on the sustainability section of our website.
Back in January we got a phone call from a journalist, Nina Patel who was writing an article about American made furniture for USA Today’s Home magazine. Nina had come across our website while researching USA made furniture and home decor. She become interested in our green mission as well as our promotion of American made products through the Christmas Shopping Challenge we’ve been sponsoring the last couple years. We chatted back and forth for a week or so and Nina gathered lots of information about Vermont Woods Studios. I wasn’t sure which aspects would fit into her article, so we’ve been eagerly awaiting it’s publication to see what she found most newsworthy.
It turns out that Nina did highlight information about our sustainable forestry mission as well as our efforts to raise awareness about where your furniture comes from. We are grateful to her for discussing the value of American made, high quality, sustainable furniture in such a high visibility venue. The movement is catching on!
If you’re shopping for top quality bedroom furniture sets, I’m sure you’ve noticed they’re priced considerably higher than the run of the mill sets you’ll find at Jordan’s or Bernie and Phyls. But if you want timeless, real hardwood furniture you’ll have for a lifetime, (something you’ll never have to replace) then what you’re really interested in is getting the best value, not the lowest price, right? My suggestion: first find the best quality furniture you can afford (here’s a solid wood furniture buying guide to help with that) in the style and wood species you love.
American Made or Imported?
Second, check to see where it’s made. If it’s imported furniture, you probably want to keep shopping. Honestly, I rarely hear complaints about the quality of virtually any American made, solid hardwood furniture (and the more local you buy, the better chance you have of getting the craftsperson or manufacturer to stand behind the product over it’s lifetime). On the other hand, there are dozens of consumer review sites filled with complaints about the imported furniture products found at big box stores like Ikea, Ashley and Bob’s. Quality can be quite poor and there’s little chance of getting satisfactory customer service.
How to Get the Best Furniture Value
Once you’ve found your favorite top quality, American made bedroom furniture, crafted of real solid hardwood, then start to work with the craftsman or retailer to get their best discount price. Remember however that American furniture involves using real, legal, sustainably harvested wood and American craftsmanship. Furthermore, US furniture makers don’t typically “mark up to mark down” so you’re unlikely to find “discounts up to 80%”. But often there is room for some negotiation.
Buy Top Quality Furniture in Sets to Get a Volume Discount
At Vermont Woods Studios for instance, we have a standing discount of 20% on bedroom sets* plus we offer a discount on full service white glove shipping and delivery when customers are buying 3 or more pieces. Like many online retailers, we offer a coupon code (BEDROOMSET20) for customers who prefer to purchase fine furniture online (be sure to “update cart” to get the discount). Otherwise customers can give us a call or stop by our showroom to receive the discount.
So my advice, if you’re shopping for the best price on high quality, real solid wood beds, chests, dressers, armoires, night stands, mirrors, blanket boxes and such is to focus on quality and style first. Find the American made bedroom furniture you love that will last a lifetime and then negotiate on price afterwards. My sense is that in doing the research you’ll find most USA made fine furniture is honestly priced and retailers are looking to give both you and the craftsman a fair deal.