250 Years of Woodworking and Furniture Making in Vermont
Last year we had so much interest from customers about the history of Vermont made furniture, we started an encyclopedia of sorts. Did you know that Vermont furniture making history can be traced back to the 17th century? And by the 18th century almost every town in Vermont had woodworkers making furniture, tools and utensils.
Wood products became the single most important manufacturing industry in Vermont during the 19th century. It was then that Vermont made furniture and wood products began their long history of export to customers all over the U.S. and abroad. Wood furniture, wooden cutting boards and bowls, bowling pins, baskets, drumsticks, toys, musical instruments, golf tees, cheese boxes, wooden dolls, gun racks, Scrabble tiles, snowshoes, clothes pins, and wooden shipping boxes were (and continue to be) all products of a thriving Vermont woodworking industry.
Forest To Furniture
Perhaps the biggest contributor to a growing fine furniture industry was the Green Mountain Forest which covered 90% of Vermont in the 1760s. In the 1700s Vermont contained extensive forests of various tree species that were 6 feet in diameter and as high as thirteen-story buildings; some more than 300 years old. Wood created an identity for many Vermont towns that became known for logging, lumber mills, and a continuous succession of wood products manufacturers.
Woodworking Built Many Vermont Communities
In some towns, the Vermont made furniture and wood industries provided income for the majority of the population. Technology and products changed with the times to increase production and efficiency, meet market demand, and capitalize on popular trends and tastes. Owners of the mills and factories became community leaders who took responsibility for the commercial and civic growth of their towns.
Notable Vermont Woodworkers and Furniture Makers
Craftsmen hailing from Wilmington, Norwich, Middlebury, Shaftsbury, Rutland, Charlotte, Putney and Bennington were among the master craftsmen of 18th and 19th century Vermont. Some prominent luxury, custom furniture makers of the time include: George Stedman of Norwich, Vermont, c. 1800-20, Asahel (b. 1759) and Martin (1778-c. 1830) Cheney of Putney, Vermont, 1798-1803, Hastings Warren (1779-1845), of Middlebury, Vermont and Levi Pitkin (1774-1854) of Montpelier, Vermont, c. 1800. Their work adorned the homes and offices of the world’s rich and famous.
H.T. Cushman Furniture in North Bennington, VT was one of the most prominent furniture companies in America, opening their colonial furniture business in 1892 and exporting from Vermont to the rest of the United States and overseas.
Where To View or Purchase Vermont Antique Furniture
Antique dealers throughout the Green Mountain State display relics of the early Vermont furniture industry. The Shelburne Museum, Bennington Museum and Skinner Auctioneers have recently showcased Vermont made furniture collections and pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries. Check out the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association website for further information about the history of woodworking in Vermont.
Pieces like Copeland’s Catalina Walnut TV & Media Wall Unit make me think two things: how cool and when would anyone ever need that. Well the point is, you don’t need a TV Media Unit. Heck, you don’t even need a TV- any one can just grab a pencil and paper and scrawl away listening to the nearest radio frequency for entertainment. But even coming from a girl who enjoys spinning a vinyl on a Sunday morning- I want that TV and I want it on that entertainment unit.
Apparently another woman had the same thought this week- which is what brought my attention here in the first place. She loved the piece but… well there were a few changes she wanted to see.
Combination pieces, like our TV Media Units, might be a bit of luxury but they’re well worth it. Along with offering organization (especially for those pesky AV wires and extra remotes), they are beautiful works of art with the added bonus of the purpose they serve (who wants to watch TV on the floor?). Better yet, they can be crafted to match your own artistic vision. If this post has inspired you to dream up your perfect media unit- give us a call! We’d be happy to help make that dream a reality.
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.
We have over 70 beds in our online gallery with countless option choices. This gives our customers the ability to customize their bed to fit their bedroom style. The heart of a bedroom is, of course, the bed. Learn about the variety of bed styles we offer in our online gallery.
Slat beds have wide wood boards (slats) that are evenly spaced on the headboard and footboard. The straight slats make clean lines, creating a traditional style bed. Slat boards paired with subtle curves (as seen on the Patti Smith Wide-Slat Bed shown below) gives the bed an artistic flair.
Spindle beds can be identified by the thin pieces of wood evenly spaced on the headboard and footboard. Our online gallery features spindle beds that have footboards, and spindle beds without footboards. The spindles create a light, airy look to the bed. It is a great option for people who love the minimalistic look, but want a little bit of the arts and crafts style too. Spindle beds work both in contemporary and traditional homes.
Platform beds have a low profile because there is no need for a box spring. Stylistically, platform beds are extremely minimalistic. These modern beds have simple headboards, and most platform beds do not have footboards. These beds are perfect for a contemporary or modern home.
Sleigh beds are named exactly for how they look- like a sleigh. They are identified by the elegant slanted headboard and footboard. Our online gallery has modern sleigh beds, like the Castleton Incline Sleigh Bed and the Copeland Sarah Sleigh Beds. More traditional sleigh bed styles in our gallery include the Vermont Shaker Sleigh Bed and the Classic Sleigh Bed. The difference between our modern and our traditional sleigh beds is that the traditional sleigh beds have more dramatic curves.
Panel beds are sturdily constructed, and feature a robust styled look. Our online gallery features two types of panel beds: flat panel and raised panel. The flat panel beds feature level wood panels on the headboard and footboard. Raised panel beds feature headboards and footboards with beveled panels, creating a more 3-dimensional look. These traditional style beds are perfect for those who enjoy solid headboards and footboards.
Poster beds are identified by their distinct tall columns, and in history have been associated with royalty or wealth. We have two different four-poster beds in our online gallery: Renfrew Pencil Post Bed and Vermont Shaker Four Poster Bed. The Renfrew features slender, fluted posts that can be connected by a fabric canopy. The Vermont Shaker features clean lines with a canopy frame. The frame, unlike the Renfrew, is connected at the top. Poster beds are perfect for Colonial homes.
Beds with storage offer convenient, inconspicuous storage. The under bed storage can save some floor space in your bedroom by eliminating a dresser or chest, or the extra storage can free up a portion of your jam-packed closet. We covered storage beds in more detail in a previous blog post.
Our Bedroom Furniture Sale starts today. Choose from over 70 Vermont made beds in your choice of real Cherry, Walnut, Maple, or Oak woods. We have hundreds of solid wood bedroom furniture pieces in our online gallery, so you can mix and match the ones you like best to create the perfect bedroom set. Save 10% on one piece, 15% on two pieces, and 20% on three or more pieces of bedroom furniture.
You can securely, easily, and conveniently shop our online gallery 24 hours a day. If you need any assistance, our Vermont fine furniture specialists are available to help. You can contact them by phone (888-390-5571), by email, or by live chat. Our bedroom furniture sale ends on Thursday, January 31st at midnight.
*This sale excludes Copeland and Artisan furniture. However, Copeland Furniture carries a low price guarantee.
Tips for Buying Fine Quality Wooden Furniture
If you’re shopping for top quality bedroom furniture sets, I’m sure you’ve noticed they’re priced considerably higher than the run of the mill sets you’ll find at Jordan’s or Bernie and Phyls. But if you want timeless, real hardwood furniture you’ll have for a lifetime, (something you’ll never have to replace) then what you’re really interested in is getting the best value, not the lowest price, right? My suggestion: first find the best quality furniture you can afford (here’s a solid wood furniture buying guide to help with that) in the style and wood species you love.
American Made or Imported?
Second, check to see where it’s made. If it’s imported furniture, you probably want to keep shopping. Honestly, I rarely hear complaints about the quality of virtually any American made, solid hardwood furniture (and the more local you buy, the better chance you have of getting the craftsperson or manufacturer to stand behind the product over it’s lifetime). On the other hand, there are dozens of consumer review sites filled with complaints about the imported furniture products found at big box stores like Ikea, Ashley and Bob’s. Quality can be quite poor and there’s little chance of getting satisfactory customer service.
How to Get the Best Furniture Value
Once you’ve found your favorite top quality, American made bedroom furniture, crafted of real solid hardwood, then start to work with the craftsman or retailer to get their best discount price. Remember however that American furniture involves using real, legal, sustainably harvested wood and American craftsmanship. Furthermore, US furniture makers don’t typically “mark up to mark down” so you’re unlikely to find “discounts up to 80%”. But often there is room for some negotiation.
Buy Top Quality Furniture in Sets to Get a Volume Discount
At Vermont Woods Studios for instance, we have a standing discount of 20% on bedroom sets* plus we offer a discount on full service white glove shipping and delivery when customers are buying 3 or more pieces. Like many online retailers, we offer a coupon code (BEDROOMSET20) for customers who prefer to purchase fine furniture online (be sure to “update cart” to get the discount). Otherwise customers can give us a call or stop by our showroom to receive the discount.
So my advice, if you’re shopping for the best price on high quality, real solid wood beds, chests, dressers, armoires, night stands, mirrors, blanket boxes and such is to focus on quality and style first. Find the American made bedroom furniture you love that will last a lifetime and then negotiate on price afterwards. My sense is that in doing the research you’ll find most USA made fine furniture is honestly priced and retailers are looking to give both you and the craftsman a fair deal.
With a new year comes new designs, fashions and ideas. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be cover different trends that we’ve seen coming up for this year. First up for your 2013 Interior Design Trends: furniture!
In 2013, I think we are going to see many furniture pieces featuring simple lines and functions, much like furniture of the mid 20th century. We’ll have many retro styles making a comeback, such as metal detailing, splayed leg designs and futuristic, modular furniture. Our Moduluxe, Astrid and Contemporary Cable collections are good starting points for this look.
Unique Artisan Designs
Sometimes the best trend is not following a trend at all. Creative, one-of-a-kind designs will be big this year as people start to “de-commercialize” their lives. Whether you’re going for a modern look or a simple shaker style, artisan work is the way to go. Give us a call to discuss some custom options for your home.
Whatever look you decide to go for, make it a green one. Sustainability is starting to become a consumer standard in most industries, including food and fiber, and furniture is no different. Choose pieces that are made from sustained, American forests rather than endangered rainforest lumber. Learn more abut our sustainability standard and what we do to protect our rainforests.
Since the late 1700′s Shaker has been a popular furniture style. Originally, most pieces of Shaker furniture were either painted or stained to make the piece of furniture more attractive, and as a way to protect the wood. Today, painting shaker furniture is a rarity; however, the wood species remain the same. Cherry Shaker furniture is one of the most sought after designs in the furniture industry. Like the original Shaker furniture designs, we wouldn’t dream of importing exotic wood, like mahogany, for furniture. Vermont Woods Studios’ Shaker furniture is made from sustainably harvested American woods, with cherry being the most popular. Natural cherry wood is one of the most prized hardwoods in the United States, and is excellent wood for furniture. Many would no longer dream of painting such a distinct, fine wood. Instead, a clear finish is applied to the furniture offering optimal protection for the wood. A clear finish helps enhance the natural beauty of the cherry wood, instead of covering it up by paint.
If you’re looking to add a piece of cherry Shaker furniture to your home, now is the time. Right now we are having a Winter Shaker Style Furniture Sale. We offer over 200 pieces of Shaker influenced furniture, ranging from traditional styles to a more contemporary style. Save 10% on one piece, 15% on two pieces, or 20% on three or more pieces of Shaker style furniture. Each of our Shaker furniture pieces are backed by a lifetime guarantee and come with free shipping!
Shop for your new cherry Shaker furniture securely, easily, and conveniently from our online gallery. Our furniture specialists are also available to assist you through our Live Chat option (located in the top right corner of our online gallery), by phone (888-390-5571), or by email.
This sale ends on Thursday, January 17 at midnight.
*Sale excludes Copeland Furniture
Vermont Made Furniture Is Thriving
Vermont furniture seems to be getting famous these days. During a down economy when housing sales (traditionally the driver for furniture sales) are in the ditch, Vermont made furniture continues to increase in popularity. As a company that sells exclusively Vermont made furniture, we chat daily with customers who inquire about all the details of our state’s signature craft.
So I’ve begun to compile the essence of these conversations into what we’re loosely calling a Vermont Furniture Encyclopedia. It’s posted on our website and includes topics like the History of Vermont Made Furniture, Vermont Furniture Makers, Vermont Furniture Styles, Sustainability and Vermont Made Furniture, Woods Used in Vermont Furniture Making, Education and Training, Vermont Furniture Quality and Craftsmanship, and How to Find and Purchase Vermont Made Furniture.
Some Vermont Furniture History
Check it out. You may be surprised to learn that Vermonters have been crafting wood furniture for over 250 years. Back in the 18th century, wood furniture, cutting boards, bowls, bowling pins, baskets, drumsticks, toys, musical instruments, golf tees, cheese boxes, dolls, gun racks, Scrabble tiles, snowshoes, clothes pins, and wooden shipping boxes were (and continue to be) all products of a thriving Vermont woodworking industry.
And in modern times, during the last half century, when furniture companies from across America began outsourcing top American brands (including Ethan Allen, Bassett, Broyhill, Thomasville, La-Z-Boy and Lane) to Asia, Vermont companies stayed home, remaining true to their values of quality, community and local economies. You’ll find a list of notable contemporary Vermont furniture makers, sorted by size and specialty in the encyclopedia. Plus learn fun facts like which state ranks #1 in furniture makers per capita.
We’ll consider the encyclopedia a work in progress and I invite others in the Vermont Furniture World to contribute. Send comments in the section below, on our Facebook or by emailing me at peggy@VermontWoodsStudios.com.
A number of customers have phoned and emailed us recently asking what happened to Copeland Furniture in our online shopping store. Not to worry, it’s still here. We apologize. We’ve had a couple issues with the Copeland section of our website and we’re working as fast as we can to get them corrected. If you’re looking to shop online for Vermont made furniture and can’t find what you need on our website, please give us a call.
Thanks for your continued support of our work at Vermont Woods Studios.