Mary’s M’s cherry dining furniture (shown above) was made in Vermont (a relatively humid place, especially in the summer) and shipped to the desert of Arizona. Since we ship a lot of Vermont made wood furniture to desert locales in California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and elsewhere, I thought I’d post a few tips on humidity and climate control.
Wood Furniture Moves in Response to Changes in Humidity
When wood is part of a living tree, water moves up the trunk, from the ground and through the pores and fibers of the wood, as it travels out to the leaves. After a tree is cut and sawn into lumber, water continues to move back and forth through the wood fibers until the wood’s moisture level reaches equilibrium with its environment.
The job of woodworkers is to design and build furniture with a thorough understanding of the characteristics of wood movement. But in spite of their advanced knowledge and skills, no woodworker is able to create wood furniture that is completely unresponsive to temperature and humidity in your home. So here are a few climate control tips from our Furniture Care section to ensure that your wood furniture will remain beautiful and structurally sound for generations of enjoyment.
Climate Control Tips
Keep your home around 70°F-72°F with a relative humidity of about 50-55%
This often requires a humidifier in winter and an air conditioner in summer
Place your furniture away from heat sources such as radiators, heat runs or fireplaces
Store table leaves as close as possible to the table so they adjust to the same humidity conditions
Use a dehumidifier during wet, rainy times and in damp rooms to remove excess moisture from the air
For wood furniture with an oil finish, re-oil it frequently to create and maintain a patina. A rule of thumb is to oil your furniture:
Immediately upon receipt
Once/week during the first month
Once/month during the first year
Once or twice/year after that
Normally if you’re comfortable with the temperature and humidity in your home, your wood furniture will be comfortable as well. It’s designed to be durable and to accommodate normal changes in climate so most homeowners need not worry. Relax and enjoy it. Given reasonably good care your wood furniture will last for generations.
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.
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:
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.