American Made Furniture vs Imports
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 their operations overseas and superior quality became a thing of the past (along with hundreds of thousands of 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.
Forest conservation is at the heart of our mission at Vermont Woods Studios and we’re always trying to raise awareness about where your wood furniture comes from. If you’re committed to buying American made furniture– no worries. Chances are it’s made from legal wood, sustainably harvested from well-managed forests right here in North America.
But if you’re buying imported wood furniture (and according to a Washington Post article 70% of furniture sold in America is imported) then: Houston, we have a problem.
A recent Washington Post article by Brad Plumer entitled Organized Crime is Getting Rich Cutting Down the Rainforest describes how the illegal logging trade has become just as lucrative (and far more destructive) than the drug-trafficking industry. 50 to 90 percent of forestry in tropical areas is now controlled by criminal groups! “A great deal of logging simply takes place illegally — much of it in tropical areas such as the Amazon Basin, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia.” (ref: United Nations and Interpol)
The U.N. estimates that illicit logging is now worth between $30 billion to $100 billion, or up to 30 percent of the global wood trade. That illegal wood is often shipped from pristine rainforests to China, Vietnam and other third world countries where it’s fabricated into low quality furniture which is sold to US consumers. We’ve written quite a bit about the links between rainforest destruction, global warming and the furniture and flooring you choose for your home:
- Blog posts on rainforest conservation and protection of endangered species of the forest
- Tiger Conservation, Rainforest Preservation and Your Furniture
- Forest Conservation is About More than Trees
- Saving The Rainforest: Why Green Consumerism Is Key
- And lots more
If you’re considering buying furniture at IKEA, Home Depot or any big box store… ask where the lumber originates and let us know what you find on our Facebook or in the comments section below. Then re-discover sustainable, American made wood furniture and join us in feeling good about your furniture and your green home.
We’re in the middle of a Shaker furniture sale and I can’t help but notice that almost all the pieces customers have bought have been of a single wood species. We offer a choice of four woods on most of our furniture: maple, cherry, oak and walnut. Which one do you think is the favorite?
Back in the 19 century, the original Shakers built their furniture with woods harvested from their own land. According to Nancy Fischer of BuildDirectBlog, “In the east, this included pine, maple, ash, birch, cherry, hickory and butternut. In the west, walnut, cherry, beech and poplar were used”.
Today’s most popular wood (amongst our customers, anyway) for Shaker furniture is indeed one of those nine woods used 150 years ago. Hint: it’s the wood shown in the photo. OK, it’s cherry wood. I’m not sure why cherry has stormed itself to the top of the best seller list so forcefully but it is a beautiful wood. Woodworkers love it because it’s easy to work with, stains and finishes well with natural oil, and ages beautifully.
Customers love cherry’s clean grain and reddish-brown color that develops a rich patina over time. The fact that cherry wood lasts forever (as demonstrated by some of the valuable antique Shaker furniture originating in Vermont and New England) doesn’t hurt either.
Which wood do you like best for Shaker style furniture? Let us know on our Facebook or comment below.
Our sustainable furniture company was founded in 2005 on a mission of forest conservation. I had been studying rainforest conservation for years and wanted to see if I could do something to help change this startling statistic:
Every second of every minute of every day…
We lose over 1 acre of rainforest. Permanently.
Several years prior to starting Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture I had formed a non-profit corporation with the same mission (rainforest conservation) but I was never really able to get the funding I needed to lift it off the ground. So our wood furniture company was built as a for-profit corporation to help accomplish the same goals.
It’s not always easy to explain why a Vermont based fine furniture company is so committed to rainforest conservation. When I saw this info-graphic, Forests and the Green Economy (courtesy of The Nature Conservancy) I thought it might help. Here are a few rainforest facts that might surprise you:
- More than half of the planet’s species live in the rainforest even though the rainforest only occupies about 2% of the earth’s surface
- Many of our favorite iconic species are critically endangered due to deforestation, including all species of big cats and all species of big apes
- An estimated 137 species of plants and animals are driven into extinction every day due to deforestation
- Rainforest deforestation contributes as much to global warming as the sum of all the cars, trains and planes in the world
- Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface; now they cover <6%
- If deforestation continues at this rate, the rainforests could be gone in < 40 years and once they’re gone, they are gone forever. Rainforests do not regenerate the way our Northern temperate forests do
The Nature Conservancy summarizes this and other compelling facts about the rainforest in their info-graphic. Along with the World Wildlife Fund they are among the world’s best hopes for saving the rainforest. Check out their info-graphic and learn about ways you can help everyday through your choices of food, paper, furniture, flooring and other forest products.
At Vermont Woods Studios we donate $1 for every sale to the Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees project and run occasional benefits to support non-profits that work to save the rainforest and it’s inhabitants. Learn more about our work in the Mission section of our blog and website.
Storewide Hardwood Furniture Sale
Storewide year-end sales are commonly associated with large clearance discounts because the products do not pass a necessary quality check. Another reason stores have sales at the end of the year is because they need to clear out their merchandise to make room for next year’s style.
The Vermont Woods Studios Winter Holiday Storewide Sale is a little different from your average year end sale. We are not putting our furniture on sale because they are “seconds.” From January 1 to December 31 each year, we sell heirloom quality wood furniture that is crafted to last for generations of use (backed by a lifetime guarantee). That being said, we also aren’t trying to make room in a warehouse for next years style. We actually don’t have a warehouse, because each piece of furniture you buy is crafted just for you! As for style, Vermont fine furniture is timeless. It is naturally beautiful, and will never go out of style.
Discounts, Discounts, Discounts
As our holiday gift to you, we are giving you 12 days to save on our solid hardwood furniture. You work hard all year long, and this is the time to treat yourself to the furniture you’ve been longing for. Save up to 20% on your purchase during our Winter Holiday Sale. This is a storewide sale, so you can find furniture for your bedroom, dining room, living room, or home office! Whether you are buying just one piece of wood furniture, or furnishing an entire room, you are getting a great deal. Take 10% off one piece, 15% off two pieces, or 20% off three or more pieces of our real wood furniture (plus free shipping)!
Your new hardwood furniture is crafted right here in Vermont just for you, so your furniture can be crafted in your choice of natural Cherry, Walnut, Maple, or Oak woods. Customize your furniture to fit your needs by using the drop down options in our online gallery.
You can securely, easily, and conveniently shop our online gallery 24 hours a day, but don’t wait until the last minute! This discount is only offered for 12 days!
If you need any assistance during our Winter Holiday Storewide Sale, our Vermont fine furniture specialists are available to help. You can contact them by phone (888-390-5571), by email, or by live chat (located in the top right corner of our gallery).
This sale ends on Sunday, December 30th at midnight!
*Copeland Furniture and Polywood Outdoor Furniture pieces are not included in this sale, but they do carry a low-price guarantee. Custom artisan and reclaimed barnwood items are also excluded.
I’ve been looking for a widely accepted definition of “solid wood furniture“. I’m finding the same thing as when I looked for a definition of “American made furniture”. Anything goes. Here’s an example of what I found on a popular reference website (About.com),
”Solid walnut wood furniture means that all exposed parts of the piece are walnut. But the frame and inner parts may be of other, less-costly wood. Thin layers of fine, decorative wood can be bonded to the face of low cost wood pieces. This is called veneering.”
Now does that sound like solid wood furniture to you? I don’t think so. If you’re shopping for high quality furniture and solid wood construction is important to you, try asking your salesperson these 5 questions to help clarify things:
Is This Real Solid Wood Furniture or Veneered?
When you take a look at the edge of a solid wood tabletop you can see if the graining on the top carries through on the edge – the way marbling does in a piece of steak. If this is not the case, you are looking at the “banding” on a veneered piece. Another way to tell solid wood is to look at the underside of the piece. Does the grain look like the same as the wood on the table top? If not, then it’s probably veneered.
Is this Furniture Made Of Hardwood of Softwood?
In North America, typically the best quality solid wood furniture is made of native hardwoods, such as cherry, walnut, maple, oak, ash and birch. Although hardwood is more expensive than softwood, it has a higher density and is therefore usually harder and heavier. Hardwood grain is closed, tight and non-resinous as opposed to softwood grain that’s loose and resinous, thus it splits easy.
Is the Craftsmanship Top Quality?
You can buy plenty of solid wood furniture that’s of poor quality. For example, I just searched for “solid hardwood furniture high quality” and Google shopper’s first result was a solid wood bed for $68.98. What good does it do to have solid wood construction when poor workmanship is going to limit the life of a piece to a couple years? Check for solid craftsmanship, top quality joinery and meticulous finishes in your furniture. A salesperson should be able to show and tell you about construction details such as mortise and tenon joints, dovetails, miter joints, finger joints, splines, biscuits, dowels, butts, dados, rabbets, tongue and groove and more. Durable, robust joinery is critical to the life and usefulness of a piece.
Finish is important too. Most imported furniture is finished with cheap coatings that contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene) which can cause asthma and allergies especially in young children. Ask your salesperson to explain what’s in the finish and how many coats have been applied to protect the furniture over time.
Is This American Made or Imported Furniture?
Are you wondering why imported furniture is so much cheaper than American made furniture? It’s not just that Chinese wages are about 1/10 of American wages. It’s about where the raw materials come from. In the USA, wood furniture is made from sustainably harvested wood that comes from well managed American forests. With imported furniture, the wood is typically clear cut from the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests. Although imported furniture often carries labels that it’s made of American cherry, walnut, oak or maple woods, that is rarely the case. These labels are trade names used to describe woods of suspicious origin that are stained to look like familiar American woods such as cherry and walnut.
Am I Getting The Best Value and Price?
Top quality solid wood furniture is inherently expensive, so you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the best value and price. Find a local craftsman or retailer you can trust. Try to purchase your furniture as a set, rather than piece by piece if possible. Purchasing furniture sets not only creates efficiency in the craftsman’s workshop, it also saves money in shipping and delivery.
For more tips on purchasing top quality solid wood furniture with the best value and price, visit our Facebook and join the conversation.
The northeast is the birthplace of Shaker style furniture in the United States. For over two centuries the Shaker style has been admired for it’s simplistic aesthetics and sturdy design. It has become an inspiration to many contemporary furniture designs, and has become our most popular style.
Vermont Woods Studios offers six Shaker furniture
collections to include over 200 pieces of Shaker influenced furniture, ranging from traditional designs to Shaker style furniture with a modern flair. Our traditional Shaker style furniture can be found in the New England Shaker Furniture, Classic Shaker Furniture, and Renfrew Shaker Furniture collections, while our more modern designs are included in the Modern Shaker Furniture, Vermont Shaker Furniture, and American Shaker Furniture collections. However, all of the furniture features simple, clean lines similar to the original pieces in the late 1700′s.
Our Annual Fall Shaker Sale begins today! Save 10% on one piece, 15% on two pieces, and 20% on three or more pieces (plus free shipping)! Your fine wood furniture will also be backed by a lifetime guarantee! Start shopping today conveniently from our online gallery. This sale ends on Tuesday, October 2nd at midnight.
Labor Day was created to honor the achievements of American
workers. This national holiday is a
perfect time to celebrate the hard work that Americans do every day.
At Vermont Woods Studios, we are constantly amazed at the
dedication and hard work that goes into handcrafting fine wood furniture. It is a skill that has been handed down to
Vermonter's for over 200 years, and for many of our craftsmen, the technique is virtually unchanged. The furniture
at Vermont Woods Studios is 100% American made furniture with sustainably
harvested American hardwoods. Our furniture makers carefully select only the
finest solid cherry, maple, walnut, and oak woods to ensure that they make the
highest quality furniture that is intended to last for many generations. It is even backed by a lifetime guarantee.
For Labor Day we are putting our gifted furniture maker's
pieces on sale, so that you can honor these American craftsmen, too. With a lot
of Labor Day events, we know that this is a busy weekend. So, we're having our
Labor Day furniture sale run five days, from Friday, August 31st until Tuesday,
September 4th. This allows you the time to fit in fun and relaxation, plus take
advantage of our holiday sale. During our Labor Day furniture sale, you can
save 15% storewide (plus free shipping), and conveniently shop 24 hours a day on our
Whether you're traveling, socializing, shopping or relaxing we hope
that you have a wonderful weekend!
the recent cooler nights and the realization that Labor Day is less than 2
weeks away, we're beginning to feel that summer's end is near…well, at least
in Vermont. While we know that Labor Day doesn't technically signal
the end of summer, for many it's a symbolic end as minds begin shifting to the fall.
Before we know it, the feasting holidays will soon be here! If you're
like most, this can be the time of year where you might find yourself doing a
lot of hosting, especially in the dining room. So, perhaps it's time to think
about how to make your home feast-ready for the holidays, and it's also a good
time to consider other home improvement projects.
Since dining room furniture gets
the most use and attention during the feasting holidays, this room may be a
primary focus. In between choosing, crafting, and delivering fine wood
furniture, many weeks can slip by. Crafting fine furnishings takes time, so
planning for Thanksgiving at the end of August is actually the perfect amount
While your furniture is being
crafted perhaps there are other things that you would like to do to get your dining
room ready. For instance, painting, refinishing floors or replacing carpet,
makes sense to do before your new furniture arrives.
So we at Vermont
Woods Studios Furniture have decided to put our fine wood dining room furniture on sale now
through August 30th! If it’s high quality, American Made, real wood furniture
you are considering then the next week is the best time to buy and save up to
20% (plus Free Shipping)! Our heirloom quality furniture features timeless
styling and sturdy construction which you can enjoy holiday after holiday with
your family for generations. Browse our online dining furniture gallery to see our
large selection of wood dining tables, dining chairs, sideboards, hutches and
buffets. Ordering now will ensure delivery before Thanksgiving and allow you
time to enjoy it before the crowds arrive!