If you’re shopping for high quality wood furniture, you’re seeking craftsmanship that will be beautiful, remarkable and make your investment last a lifetime, right? It isn’t necessarily hard to find quality craftsmanship, but you’ll have to veer off the beaten big box path and steer over to the local furniture makers in your neighborhood.
Now before you get nervous about price, know that with high quality wood furniture (and most other things, I suppose), you truly do get what you pay for. A good craftsman will save you money in the long run because quality wood furniture lasts a lifetime. It’s something you can hand down to your children and grandchildren.
As you’re shopping for this investment, here are a few things to look for:
Real Solid HardWood Throughout
Top quality hardwoods that are grown in America and suitable for high end furniture include black cherry wood, black walnut wood, oak, maple, ash and birch. These wood species have high densities and tight, non-resinous grains. Plus they sand well and polish to a silky smooth and supple finish.
Hand Made in America
Furniture that’s hand made in America gets an immediate gold star for integrity, just for the fact that the wood is legally and sustainably harvested (this is often not the case with imported furniture). You can also feel good that USA made furniture is creating American jobs and sustainable economies. Another benefit: no worries about toxic finishes and glues (common in imported furniture) that might offgas in your home or be ingested by small children.
Drawers Made of Solid Wood with Dovetail Joinery and Robust Drawer Slides
Drawers and Doors provide perhaps the quickest and easiest quality check on craftsmanship. Make sure they are well fitted and adjusted properly. Drawers and doors should close easily and be flush with the cabinet front. The hardware should be substantial and adjustable in case of jostling during shipping and moving processes be sure to have your delivery crew make any necessary adjustments before they leave your home).
Smooth and Supple Furniture Finish
When you run your hand over a piece of high quality wood furniture, it should be as soft and smooth as a person’s skin. Fine wood furniture is sanded many times and eventually with a very fine grit sandpaper. The finish is typically a traditional hand-rubbed oil finish or a lacquer.
High Quality Wood Furniture Deserves A Lifetime Guarantee
I can’t imaging getting a lifetime guarantee in a big box store but most local craftsmen are happy to give a lifetime guarantee on their handmade wood furniture.
For more tips and advice on spying good craftsmanship in high quality wood furniture, visit the Hardwood Furniture section of our blog.
Vermont’s Home to Some of Today’s Best Craftsman Furniture
Around the turn of the 20 century, Gustav Stickley was perhaps the most famous maker of craftsman furniture. But in contemporary times, you’ll find some of the best Craftsman style designers building high end furniture right here in Vermont.
Today’s Craftsman furniture retains the robust solid wood architecture and attention to detail of the originals by Stickley, Greene and Greene and others. But it often incorporates lighter, modern elements adapted from Asian furniture styles. The Contemporary Craftsman furniture shown above is handcrafted in Burlington, Vermont of solid maple wood with black walnut accents.
I think the gentle curves in the legs and drawer pulls change the personality of Craftsman furniture from HEAVY and strong to light and cheerful. This photo is one a customer kindly submitted (thanks Neil!). The pretty floral print (and adorable puppy) really tops off the modern craftsman style they’ve created for their bedroom, don’t you think?
The Cherry Moon Furniture Collection
Here’s another customer photo of what I’ll call Vermont Craftsman furniture. It’s our Cherry Moon bedroom, handmade in Montpelier, VT. This bedroom set is made of all solid cherry wood with black walnut accents (drawer pulls). Here the curves are still graceful, but in different places. This cherry wood furniture is a couple years old, so it has darkened to a rich reddish brown color. If it’s hard to see the details and craftsmanship, check out our Cherry Moon collection and click on the photos for larger images. Robin’s attention to detail creates a beautiful result: timeless furniture to enjoy for the rest of your life.
More Vermont Craftsman Furniture
We have a number of other craftsman and mission style furniture collections on our website. All can be customized with two toned wood combinations (maple and black walnut, cherry and black walnut) like those you see here. We also carry the Frank Lloyd Wright Furniture collection by Copeland Furniture and custom Craftsman Collection by Chad Woodruff of Vernon, VT.
To learn more about Craftsman Furniture, visit our showroom or check out our Vermont Furniture Encyclopedia.
Labor Day seems to be a good time to talk about American Made Furniture. At Vermont Woods Studios Furniture, we were excited this week to read that Maine’s struggling Moosehead Furniture company has been rescued from extinction and bankruptcy by Maine businesswoman, Louise M. Jonaitis. This 60 year old company, the largest privately owned furniture company in New England provided jobs for 250 workers in 2002 but was shut down in 2007 leaving the residents of Monson ME jobless and with little hope.
Moosehead is just one of the hundreds of small furniture makers across American that have been driven out of business by cheap furniture imports. Why care? I don’t think many customers realize this, but most of the furniture you see in the USA is made in China and other third world countries. Even furniture that’s specifically labeled, “Made in America” typically has only about 30% American parts in it.
So why has the US furniture industry collapsed over the last 30 years? It’s sad, but globalization has enabled the “lowest price” to trump all other facets of furniture shopping, particularly quality. Think about it. In China labor costs are about 20 cents/hour and there’s no health care cost added to that. And there’s no regulatory costs. So almost all the big companies that used to build American Made furniture (like Thomasville, Basset, Lane and even Ethan Allen) have moved their operations overseas. Because these companies save so much money in labor and they often obtain their lumber illegally, their main costs are shipping, warehousing and marketing. Cheap furniture–FAST is the way they’ve characterized “American Made” furniture.
At Vermont Woods Studios we’ve chosen a different path. We know there are plenty of people out there who still value quality and wish to buy furniture that will last a lifetime– something they can proudly hand down to their children and grandchildren. And the benefits of buying American made furniture go far beyond your own home and into the homes of American craftsmen: your decision to buy our USA made furniture means that local Vermont communities have sustainable economies and… the tradition of high quality American craftsmanship lives on. I think it’s a win-win for all involved. What’s your opinion?