About Dennis Shanoff
Dennis moved from Connecticut to south western New Hampshire 12 years ago to be closer to the outdoor recreational opportunities northern New England offers. His hobbies include regional travel, motorcycling, hiking, camping & woodworking. Dennis' main inspiration for writing is to share the great
things he discovers about northern New England while out exploring the small cities & countryside.
Posts by Dennis
The 2011 Solar Decathalon final judging results are in and Vermont's own Middlebury College Team came in Fourth overall in a world-class line up of contestants.
Congratulations from all of us at Vermont Woods Studios!
The team cam in FIRST place in the areas of Communications, Home Entertainment, and Market Appeal. Learn more about the brilliant, hardworking students who made it happen.
The sustainable, energy-efficient home Middlebury students designed and built was filled with Vermont made furniture and accessories, including the Cherry Moon Dovetail Bed we donated. Great job guys!
By Dennis Shanoff
Here at Vermont Woods Studios, we have always (and only) sold 100% USA made wood furniture. Vermont made furniture to be more precise. And the reasons this matters are many and compelling. Let’s start with superb, lasting quality and built from a natural and sustainable material. Well that’s good for your wallet and very good for the planet. And when you factor in the US jobs it creates and the local economies it helps support, well to me that’s when it becomes very compelling. Our product and service choices really do matter and can make a difference.
This past year ABC news ran some Made in America feature stories. You may have seen all or part of these week long series specials on the nightly news. They did a great job of raising awareness of how little we have in our homes that was produced in this country. And the obvious “reason this matters” drawn from these segments was how it has impacted the US economy and our jobs market.
So it did get me thinking that maybe I could shift at least some of my buying to US made goods (as challenging as that sounds). I would do my part plus I certainly have been experiencing some quality issues with my offshore made products, especially tools. Why is my father’s power drill from the 1950’s still working while I am on at least my 5th one!
And my next thought was that I couldn’t be alone in this thinking and that sooner or later a “Buy American” movement would begin. If ABC news couldn’t push this movement, no one can! Well the whole ABC coverage did inspire and encourage me to think more about this and ponder what a small movement with “spreading potential” could do? When could we make a really big difference? How about the time of year when we really ramp up our spending? What would be an easy to adopt theme? And then it hit me, holiday shopping is right around the corner. How many Secret Santa office parties will there be? How many school children will be partaking in a holiday gift exchange? And how many families and friends will be having an old fashion Yankee Swap! So why not an American Made theme holiday gift party this year? And that’s just what we are going to do here in our Vermont Woods Studios office and that’s what I am going to do when it comes to my family and friend gift buying.
In the coming weeks I will be posting on this blog the results of my findings and ideas. So if you are curious as to what I find or if you want to share your thoughts or findings please come back and post your comments here (or even better– on our Facebook page).
Now imagine if a million holiday gatherings follow this Buy American theme this season… well that will really matter! Join us and pledge to Buy American this holiday season.
By Dennis Shanoff
Vermont Woods Studios has been showcasing Vermont’s finest wood furniture for over 5 years now. And as word of the Vermont furniture style and superb Vermont craftsmanship spreads outside the northeast we find ourselves hearing more and more lately from distant interior design and architectural firms.
A few months ago we were contacted by Susan Jay Design, a Los Angeles, CA based interior designer and space planning firm. For this particular client project Susan was looking for some modern and unique solid wood dining chairs and our Modern High Back Chairs caught her eye. Susan had an interesting vision for these chairs. She wanted both light and dark wood colors and the seats would be upholstered with a custom bold pattern fabric. The contrasted toned chairs would be alternated around the large rectangular dining table. After reviewing some wood samples we sent, Susan chose to have a half dozen chairs crafted in natural cherry and another half dozen to be finished with a custom walnut stain. She then supplied us with the fabric for the seats and our craftsman went to work. Susan was gracious enough to share a photo with us. We think it looks stunning and are happy to report that both designer and client are very happy with the finished product!
Vermont Woods Studios is happy to work with design firms; we offer a 20% discount to the trade. Any design trade professionals interested in working with us can learn more by visiting our Designer Corner or by calling 1-888-390-5571. We look forward to working with you and helping you and your client achieve their vision!
By Dennis Shanoff
For those of you that live in four seasons land you may agree with me when I say fall is in the air. Here in Vermont you can find some leaves already changing color and you just may be taking the screens out and closing the windows at sunset. And not to mention the shorter daylight hours… So this just may be the time you shift your thoughts towards those indoor projects.
Well if updating some of your home furnishings are on your ‘to do” list and you appreciate the beauty and timeless styling of Shaker Furniture we just may have what you are looking for? If that is the case then you will be glad to hear that starting today all of our Vermont Made Shaker Style Furniture collections and pieces are on Sale.
So if you are interested please browse our online gallery where you will find 6 Shaker Style Furniture collections which include dozens of finely crafted Shaker inspired pieces for every room in the home. And all our Shaker furniture is traditionally handcrafted in Vermont and is available in Cherry, Walnut and Maple hardwoods. And did I mention every piece is delivered for free and backed with a lifetime guarantee!
We welcome you to visit our online “Finest of Vermont” Shaker Furniture Gallery! Hope you enjoy your visit and please get in touch with us if there is anything we can assist you with. Thanks for visiting us today!
And also those of you who might be interested in getting a new dining room set delivered by Thanksgiving (and save a bundle!) should check out our "Dining Furniture Sets" Sale. Just order by September 30th to ensure Thanksgiving delivery. Get all the details on our sale page.
By Dennis Shanoff
Each year it seems that the next holiday’s items are available in the store earlier and earlier. For instance most of us are probably not thinking about Halloween right now but I’ll bet you can find plenty of Halloween merchandise on many store shelves right now.
So it’s possible that you are not quite thinking about Thanksgiving just yet? But perhaps it’s your turn to host the big Thanksgiving dinner this year? Or maybe relatives or friends are coming in for the holidays? But if your old dining room table or other dining room pieces are no longer up to the task then it is really not too soon to start thinking about getting some new furniture.
And as it takes some time for fine furniture to be built and delivered, thinking about buying new dining room furniture now, over 12 weeks out from the Holiday is actually a really good idea. After all, the highest demand placed on a dining room certainly has to be Thanksgiving and Christmas. And getting it all in place well ahead of time should prevent unnecessary stress. Industry statistics show that most consumers think of and begin their new dining room furniture search & shopping in November. Now that may work if one is willing to take the floor or popular in stock models but if it is more distinctive furniture you are after then putting much more decision and purchase time on your side makes sense. So we at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture have decided to put all our fine wood dining room furniture on sale now through September 6th! If it’s high quality, American Made, real wood furniture you are considering then the next two weeks is the best time to buy and save up to 15% (plus Free Shipping)! And with its timeless styling and sturdy construction this is furniture you can enjoy holiday after holiday and share with your family for generations. You can hop over to our online dining furniture gallery to see our large selection of wood dining tables, dining chairs, sideboards, hutches and buffets. And ordering now will ensure delivery before Thanksgiving and allow you time to enjoy it before the crowds arrive!
By Dennis Shanoff
If you are now on your second “big box store” office desk and looking to replace this wobbly one once and for all you might want to consider a real wood desk (one that you can use and enjoy for many carefree years). Same goes for that TV entertainment center. Are the door hinges just barely hanging on? Or maybe your bookcase shelves are bowing under the weight of your book collection? And how would you like your new real wood desk or entertainment center to arrive fully assembled (our Vermont made furniture arrives assembled). We probably all have purchased one of those big box store desks, bookcases or entertainment centers that come in a giant heavy box filled with dozens of screws, nuts and bolts. Which one goes where? And after a few frustrating hours of assembly you have some furniture that at best is functional. Well for the time being!
And of course nothing can match the beauty, styling and sturdiness of real wood. Beautiful and interesting wood grain can never be simulated and stains or dyes could never match the natural color of real wood. Sure real wood, crafted in America furniture costs more but when you consider you will never have to buy it again it suddenly becomes the real bargain!
So starting today our Vermont, American made real wood living room and home office furniture is on sale. From now through August 23rd you can save up to 15% plus receive free shipping! And you may also be happy to know that along with getting a great value and beautifying your home you are supporting a local US economy plus helping preserve our natural resources by buying lasting furniture made with domestic, sustainably harvested woods. Oh, one last note! If you visit our online furniture galley and do not see exactly what you want, most of our pieces can be modified in size and configuration. Or if you just want to chat more about real wood furniture just drop us a line!
By Dennis Shanoff
Earlier this month I wrote a post regarding Middlebury College’s participation in a solar powered home design, build competition sponsored by the US Department of Energy. Well the Middlebury College team recently put the finishing touches on their energy efficient entry and celebrated the event with a housewarming this week. This was a great opportunity for friends, family, fans, and supporters to get an up close look at the team’s solar home before it has to be dismantled and shipped down to Washington, DC for the 2011 Solar Decathlon Event.
As a project supporter, we at Vermont Woods Studios were anxious not only to see the students hard work, but how the bed we contributed for the master bedroom fit in. So I made the scenic trek up to the Middlebury campus to attend the housewarming to get a firsthand look. And with a “finished” square footage competition maximum of only 1000 SF I was definitely curious to see how the design team would handle the layout. (especially as it was designed for a family of four) What I found was really efficient use of space in an open, yet still cozy arrangement. The interior had a very modern, clean and upscale look.
So we at Vermont Woods Studios certainly felt privileged to be chosen to provide the centerpiece of the master bedroom. And the cherry moon platform bed looked fantastic in the room and worked perfect in the space. The team had us craft the bed in natural maple and its color and it's strong yet simple design absolutely fit in with the light color and airy feeling of the home. Spend some time in this home and one may just start to rethink the need for larger homes. (and larger energy expenses!)
The next step for the team is to get the house down to the National Malls West Potomac Park in Washington DC for the September 23 through October 2 event. The event is free so if you are in the area I think you will find this to be a very interesting and educational event. We think the Middlebury team has a really good chance so stay tuned and we will let you know how they make out! Go Middlebury SD!
An irony of our love of the outdoors and our great appreciation of nature and natural environments is that we at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture spend quite a bit of time each day indoors in front of a computer! That’s just the nature of a web business I suppose. We sure do need to be “hard wired” or “connected” for a lot of our eCommerce business functions.
Manjula, Kendall and Dennis on a Walk and Talk by The Brown Farm on West Road in Vernon
But for a lot of us these days, our work days are much less physical then they use to be. Some days it just seems that you could spend the entire day in your chair as everything you need either comes in or goes out via the computer. We don’t even have to get up out of our chair to send or receive faxes anymore! But then what about times where you don’t need the computer like meetings and discussions? Times when we can work unplugged? Just everyone roll your chairs a little closer together?
Well we have found a better alternative that works great for us and gets us up, out & about! You see in our office we have taken to walking meetings, or what we like to call our “Walk & Talks”. Near our office we have the luxury of having some great scenic, and quiet rural roads. So most days of the week we take to the streets and conduct our “non computer” work during our walk. Just a quick divided road crossing and then under the railroad bridge to the right and we are in perfect walking territory!
Dennis, Peggy and Manjula at Annette's Malhanna Farm on Pond Road in Vernon
These quiet tree lined streets lead us past dairy & horse farms, corn fields, and into some nice residential neighborhoods. Ringing phones replaced by singing birds and rustling leaves! Moving more then just your hands and fingers! And if we time it right the cows will be by the fence waiting for us or my favorite black & white pony will be in view. It seems most of our best ideas and problem solving takes place out on these walks. We hope you work in an area that provides a quiet and safe walking area. If so give walking meetings a try! It just feels great to get some fresh air, real light, stretch the legs and just be up, out & about!
I’m not sure what the official count of craftspeople & artisans (making some or all of their income from their crafts) in the state of Vermont is but if I had to guess I would say it is easily in the thousands? Vermont certainly has to be one of the top states for high quality, fine arts & crafts work. Studios, workshops, and galleries can be found in practically every Vermont city and town. I suppose it could take months to visit even half of them. The diversity of the media choice these talented artisans choose is equally overwhelming! Clay, fiber, paper, wood, glass, jewelry, and metal works are all well represented. And expect to find not only traditional type works but plenty of one of a kind pieces. Saying one could build a vast and eclectic collection of Vermont art pieces is absolutely an understatement.
So from now through the fall is about the time we start to see the larger organized craft festivals and open studio weekends in Vermont. I will highlight a few popular August ones below and no doubt a quick web search would yield many more.
The first weekend in August brings the very popular Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival held at the historical Hildene's Meadow in Manchester, VT (Hildene, as shown here was the summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln and his wife Mary Harlan Lincoln– Robert was the eldest son of President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln). At the Hildene festival you will be able to meet and see the work of 150 artisans plus take in some great food and music. This long running juried festival is a must attend for the arts & crafts aficionado.
Moving up to the middle of the state and the middle of the month (Aug 13 & 14) is an “Art in the Park” event hosted by the Chaffee Art Center in Rutland, VT. Fifty years running, this event brings in juried, high quality craftsman as well as fine art, great food and live music. The estimated 7000 – 9000 attendees suggests that this event is worth the trip!
The following Saturday (August 20th) and just down the street from Rutland in Ludlow, VT is the Fletcher Farm School Annual Arts & Crafts Festival. Over 90 fine artist and craftsman will be exhibiting top quality works across all medias. And if seeing all this beautiful handiwork inspires your creative side you are in the right place! The Fletcher Farm just happens to be a school for the arts and crafts. Their course program covers just about every type of art or craft!
And if you can’t make these dates you can always visit one or more of the Vermont State Craft Centers. Open year round, these centers are state approved and they showcase exclusively Vermont made works that meet high quality, uniqueness and variety standards.
We at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture hope you get the chance to travel to and discover the incredible Vermont arts & craft scene soon. We know you will find something you just can’t live without! And so you know, our connection to the Vermont artisan scene is our representation and marketing of the works of over 20 highly skilled and acclaimed fine wood furniture makers. We like to think of these craftsman as creators of functional art!
Looking for things to do in Vermont this July? There are always a bunch of fun summer things to do in Vermont but if you are looking for some organized themed events let me run some of the more “tasty” ones by you!
The first event on tap (pun intended!) brings the Vermont’s Brewers Festival. Here you will find 40 craft beer brewers not only from Vermont but from New York, New Hampshire, Mass, Maine, California, Ottawa and Quebec as well. Each summer and fall New England hosts dozens of brew festivals but this one up in Burlington is tops. And here’s some interesting Vermont beer trivia… MSNBC listed Burlington, VT as the best city in the US for beer lovers and according to the Brewers Association’s Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state!
Ok, here we go again… well it seems that Vermont is also the premium artisanal cheese state with the highest number of cheesemakers per capita: over 40 of them! Who knew! So now you must be wondering when the Cheese fesitval is and this one is hard to resist! Check out the Vermont Cheesmakers Festival held at Shelburne Farms. And it’s not just cheese, but also 20 of Vermonts breweries and wineries plus 15 artisan food producers. This farm is an ideal setting for the event where additional activities include walking trails, wagon rides and a farmyard for children. A big part of Vermont Woods Studios reason for exsistance and our main mission is forest conservation. So we would like to point out that Shelburne Farms manages about 400 acres of woodlands filled with all types of beneficial trees. Their sustainable forest provides heating fuel for their buildings, lumber for wood products and habitat for wildlife. We applaud their "green forestry" practices and environmental stewardship!
How about dessert? There is always room for dessert, right? Head up to the Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival. This is a 10 day event starting in late July with dozens of “Blue” themed events across the area. In addition to all things blueberry there will be vintage cars, music and plenty of great food. Head over to the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce in Wilmington to see all the fun happenings.
If you are looking for an “all under one roof” type of event (and in this case under a big tent!) The Taste of Stowe Arts Festival is a unique event which offers a market for artisan crafts, original art, music, and an array of gourmet eats. It’s one of Vermont’s many excellent handcrafts events. There is plenty to see at this festival and it’s a great way to support local handcrafted products.
So that’s a rundown of some of the main Vermont events this July. We hope you get to experience and enjoy some of the sights, sounds, and tastes of Vermont this summer!
Vermont Vacation photo courtesy of WilloughVale Inn and Cottages
Vermont Brewers Festival Illustration courtesy of The Vermont Brewer's Association
Vermont Artisan Cheese photo courtesy of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese