Yesterday we were discussing the different types of furniture that people call "custom wood furniture". My last post was about Made To Order Wood Furniture and Customized Wood Furniture. Today I wanted to distinguish these from true custom wood furniture and ultra luxury custom artisan furniture. Here are my thoughts:
- True Custom Wood Furniture is unique furniture that's made more deliberately and artfully than customized furniture. Usually, you'll want to work directly with the furniture maker if you're purchasing custom wood furniture because it's born from a collaboration between you, the customer and the furniture maker. Custom furniture is more expensive than customized furniture and for many good reasons. Design of custom furniture can take enormous amounts of time and several iterations before the furniture maker even progresses from the drawing board into the studio. Wood selection is also a time-intensive process with the woodworker hand-selecting each board for the proper grain, color, match, size and shape. Building a custom piece– well, it just takes, time, time, time. It's all about detail and custom pieces haven't been done exactly like this before (they're unique) so every step along the way is a little challenging. But the result with a custom piece is perfection, or near perfection anyway. And each piece is signed by its creator. If you're someone who truly understands and appreciates the fine detail of a custom piece, this is the way to go. It's not unusual for the price of a custom piece to be twice as much or more than a similar "made to order" or customized piece but the cost is a worthy investment for those who understand its enduring value.
- Custom Artisan Wood Furniture– well this is yet another notch up from true custom wood furniture. It's an ultra luxury. It's a piece of functional art. It's museum quality furniture that is a privilege to own. Lucky for us, Vermont is home to some of the world's most talented custom furniture artisans like Steve Holman, Dan Mosheim, Kit Clark and others, many of whom belong to the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers. Check out their websites and their blogs to understand how truly special and unique their furniture is. We work with these master craftspeople on a referral basis. When customers come to us looking to invest substantially and commission custom artisan furniture we help them find the artisan who is best suited to their needs. Usually it's based mainly on their style preference and the specific types of expertise and equipment needed to achieve their vision. But often other factors enter the decision including time constraints, budget, wood species, FSC or LEED criteria and such. We also take into account the personalities involved to make sure the experience is enjoyable, stress-free and enriching for both the customer and the artisan. Lastly, we negotiate a fair price so both parties achieve a win. Vermont Woods Studios was actually started as a company that would focus almost exclusively on marketing this important part of Vermont's heritage and culture.
So I hope this helps to better define "custom wood furniture" and draw a distinction between: made to order wood furniture, customized wood furniture, true custom wood furniture and ultra luxury custom artisan furniture. Customers often ask why the price of one of our pieces may be drastically different from another, when the two pieces look similar at first glance. The answer lies in the amount of time and expertise involved as well as the quality of the wood and hardware. At Vermont Woods Studios we're always happy to discuss these details and refer customers directly to our furniture makers when we've reached the limit of our own expertise. Learn more about commissioning custom wood furniture here.
Over the last 30 years, almost all the big American furniture manufacturers (including La-Z-Boy, Vaughan-Bassett, Broyhill, Drexel Heritage, Henredon, Hickory Chair, Lane, Thomasville, Ethan Allen and so on) have moved their operations overseas to China, Vietnam and other third world countries. The result has been cheaper prices, lower quality and the emergence of what we call "curbside furniture".
But there are still many companies that make high quality fine furniture right here in the USA and Vermont has more than it's share of them. That's why we call Vermont the Fine Furniture Capital of America. Throughout the off-shoring movement, only one Vermont furniture company I know of moved it's operations overseas. The rest stayed here in Vermont remaining true to their values of quality, integrity, sustainability and community.
We've profiled a number of these great American furniture makers including Vermont companies like Copeland Furniture and Lyndon Furniture as well as many small, custom, fine furniture makers including Steve Holman, Dan Mosheim, Chad Woodruff and Greg Goodman.
Today I wanted to highlight the work of Kit Clark, a consumate craftsman who specializes in luxury custom rocking chairs. "Furniture that fits you" is Kit's mantra and he makes custom rockers much like a tailor would make a custom suit. Each rocker is designed specifically to fit its owner. Kit studies a customer's posture, records their measurements and interviews them to understand any subtleties that could be used to enhance the comfort of their rocker. Then he goes back to the shop and eventually emerges with masterpiece in hand. Stop by Kit's shop in Ferrisburgh, VT if you get a chance. I can't think of a more luxurious Made in America Christmas present than a Kit Clark Rocker.