January 6th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
Kendall posted a new webpage the other day on the link between your furniture, rainforest conservation and a greener, more sustainable world. It's why we do what we do at Vermont Woods Studios Fine Wood Furniture.
Sometimes I feel like a nutcase– living in Vermont and talking about rainforest conservation all the time. But I can't help it. It's one of the Top 3 environmental problems of our time, yet few people seem to know about it.
Check out these rainforest facts and let me know if you too see this as a matter of great urgency.
1.5 acres of rainforest are lost every second (that equates to 50 million acres a year: an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland combined)
If you've managed to read this far, you rock! Leave a comment below or check in with us now and then on Facebook to see what we're doing to to help replant the rainforest with our Plant a Billion Trees project. Join us and together we can make a difference!
December 19th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
So 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.
December 17th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
The other day I noted that a customer asked us for a definition of "fine furniture" and since we could find no real consensus out there I decided to put out– well– yet another opinion, actually. My first post was about the type of wood used for fine furniture. I think the next aspect ought to be about craftsmanship.
I found this video by Brent and Derek Karner and their craftspeople at Clear Lake Furniture in Ludlow, VT. It's really a great illustration of both the human and machine-driven craftsmanship that defines fine furniture. In the video Brent shows the process of how fine wood furniture starts as trees, sustainably harvested from well managed forests. Then he brings you into his workshop where to see his craftsmanship up close: wood is rough sawn, planed, shaped, prepared for joinery and assembled. He explains different types of joinery, like dovetails, mortise and tenon, splines and how they are created.
I like Brent's discussion of craftsmanship in terms of man versus machine. He concludes that, done properly, both methods can have excellent results although he shows that in many cases it's a blend of man and machine that's optimal.
In Vermont we have several woodworking purists who focus almost exclusively on the use of traditional hand tools, and their craftsmanship is exquisite. One of my favorite companies working to preserve traditional handwork traditions is Shackleton-Thomas. But the majority of Vermont's fine furniture makers do employ high precision modern machinery which not only brings the price of furniture down, but sometimes produces a more exacting result.
The next aspect of fine furniture craftsmanship I want to mention is finish. But let's do that another day.
In the meantime, if you're in Vermont (which after all IS the Fine Furniture Capital of America) and you're looking to get a better understanding of fine craftsmanship, there are hundreds of small furniture makers who would be happy to introduce you to their craft. Check out this great Vermont Forest Heritage brochure which lists furniture makers all around the state and provides a map showing where each one is and what their hours of operation are. Clearlake furniture is on the map and is on your way to Okemo Mountain. It's open almost every day but call ahead for an appointment if you want to get a tour of their workshop and see their fine craftsmanship in motion.
December 13th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
Similar 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 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.
December 5th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
If I'm investing a lot of money in something– say a new car, I spend a significant amount of time researching my options. Then when I've made a decision on a particular car I continue to research everything about that model and the company that makes it.
Well, I figure the same is true for people when they're investing in high end, handmade furniture. But unfortunately not much performance data is available from furniture companies. Either they don't do customer satisfaction surveys or they choose not to publish their results. Why is that?
Although we're a small company, we've been surveying our customers since we started our business 6 years ago. I thought I would share some of our results and performance metrics with you over the next couple weeks. These results are taken from a survey of 130 customers who just received their new furniture over the last few months. We received 69 customer responses for a pretty decent response rate of 53%. The questions we asked them included:
Please rate our performance in the following areas
* Quality of furniture
* Ease of ordering
* Shipping and delivery
* Response of customer sevice personnel
* Would you purchase from Vermont Woods Studios Furniture again?
Here's the link to follow the results of our customer reviews, complaints and satisfaction survey as they emerge. Check back in now and then over the next few weeks to see what our customers are saying about their furniture.
November 19th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
by Dennis Shanoff
I feel the unseasonably warm weather this month in Vermont has lulled us into a false sense of distance from the holidays. But low and behold next week is indeed Thanksgiving! And all the chaos that seems to go with that. Traveling, preparing for guests & visitor’s and of course all that cooking… Oh yeah, and not to mention getting up at 5:00 am the next morning to be first in line for all those “Black Friday” deals! Retailers have really created such a sense of urgency and drastic savings around this event that you almost feel silly doing any holiday shopping on any day but “Black Friday”! But we now also have a “Cyber Monday” for those that prefer to skip the lines and traffic and do their bargain hunting online from the comfort of their home or office. So is this our second and final chance at big savings?
Well our idea for this years Black Friday savings event was to give you more time… more time to preview our fine wood furniture and more time to shop. To do this we have created a “Black Friday Plus” sales event and what is different about this event is that we are giving our customers 4 days to preview and 6 days to shop! The actual sale kicks off Wednesday November 23rd at 8:00 am and runs through midnight on Cyber Monday, November 28th. So that’s 6 days for you to save 20% on furniture storewide, plus free delivery!*
So you can take your time the next few days to browse our online fine furniture gallery and preview at your convenience (remember to bookmark your favorite pieces). Of course our online gallery is available 24/7 so when there’s a break in your potentially hectic schedule you can still easily catch the sale! If you happen to have questions and want to speak to our team, the only days the office will be closed will be Thanksgiving Day and the following Sunday– otherwise we are open 9am-5pm. But knowing our team I am sure someone will give at least a quick check into our emails those days! So welcome to our fine wood furniture store and Black Friday Plus event.
Here's wishing you and your family a relaxing Happy Holiday (to the extent that's possible)!
* Excludes our one of a kind custom artisan furniture and Everwood outdoor furniture which is always on sale with a low price guarantee
November 14th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
Copeland Furniture is now available at Vermont Woods Studios. Browse through our collection of:
Customize Copeland Furniture online or give us a call with your questions.
Customers have been asking us for a wider selection of sustainable Vermont made furniture so we've been travelling all around our state in search of the next furniture company to feature on our website. Last week Dennis and Douglas made a trip up to Bradford, VT to meet with Joann Phelps and the Copeland Furniture crew. We've been admiring the work of this family-owned company for many years and are proud to announce we will soon be carrying their full line of Vermont made furniture including the Frank Lloyd Wright® collection.
We're working on getting their fine furniture up on our website now and plan to have everything ready by the end of this year. In the meantime, we are already taking orders so feel free to call us and discuss your (100% American Made) Copeland Furniture needs. We thank Tim and Ben Copeland for including Vermont Woods Studios in the Copeland Furniture retailer family.
November 6th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
This Saturday, November 12 Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture Store will be running a fundraiser for The Nature Conservancy's Plant A Billion Trees campaign. 100% of our profits on that day will be donated to The Nature Conservancy.
Forest conservation has always been a fundamental part of our green mission. Although Vermont's forests are among the best managed in the world we realize that globally, deforestation is one of the top environmental problems facing the planet today.
In fact, the world’s tropical rainforests are disappearing at a rate of one football field every second! This deforestation pours carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and contributes more to air pollution and global climate change than exhaust from the entire transportation sector. Hard to believe isn't it? Furthermore, forest animals and plants are being lost at a rate of over 100 species/day due to deforestation.
So, if you're planning a fine furniture purchase or you know someone else who is, please consider buying your furniture this Saturday. Put your purchasing power to work and help us use green commerce to change the world!
September 21st, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
I 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.
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.
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.
March 27th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
Sometimes our customers at Vermont Woods Studios Online Furniture are understandably a little nervous plunking down thousands of dollars on fine furniture they've not been able to experience in person. We're adding new details and videos to our website all the time but I also wanted to give people an honest and candid sense of who we are and how we run our small business here in rural Vermont.
That's how Bare Naked Business came about. It's a behind the scenes look at the fabulous and crazy people who make Vermont Woods Studios the awesome company it is. I'm infinitely proud of this group and the super human things they keep achieving every new day. The best part is that we love doing it – we have a blast because we're working on projects and goals we feel are worthy of our time and talents.
Another reason I wanted to start Bare Naked Business is to create a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who are running (or thinking of starting) a small business on a shoestring. At Vermont Woods Studios we are living proof that this can be done, even during tough economic times and we believe that by collaborating with others, we can all benefit and at the same time – make the world a better place. Check out Bare Naked Business and let us know what you think about it. We're looking for feedback, suggestions, tips, advice and ideas about what you'd like to see in future episodes.