Brent Karner and ClearLake Furniture

Last updated on March 13th, 2019 at 04:00 pm

Vermont Woodworker of the Year: Brent Karner
Congratulations to Vermont Woodworker of the Year, Brent Karner of Clear Lake Furniture for his innovative design of high end stacking chairs for the University of Vermont’s Memorial Lounge.

Congratulations to Brent Karner of ClearLake Furniture in Ludlow for being selected Vermont Woodworker of the Year.  The award was presented to Brent last Friday by Mike Rainville, President of the Vermont Wood Manufacturing Association, VWMA. It was in recognition of his work in designing and crafting 150 eco-friendly, stackable cherry wood chairs for the University of Vermont’s Memorial Lounge on UVM’s Burlington campus.

Have you ever noticed that chairs in auditoriums are rarely handcrafted of solid wood and rarely comfortable?  Well it seems that Richard Cate, UVM Vice president for finance and administration decided to change that.  He insisted on finding a competitive bid for beautiful, comfy, high quality, Vermont made STACKABLE chairs and Brent Karner’s proposal fit the bill.

Brent, his brother and two of their craftsmen at Clear Lake Furniture spent 3 months designing and building the chairs.  Each chair contains 41 separate pieces.  Sheahan and Sons Lumber in Weatherfield transformed 400 local, sustainably harvested logs from Bethel, VT into 6,150 pieces of wood designed to Brent’s specs.  The seats were crafted by Don Heaton Upholstery in Chester, VT.  Everything from A to Z was locally made in Vermont!

Isn’t it great to see another example of Vermonters leading the way in the American Made manufacturing movement?

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Pine Top: Signs of a Lost Ski Area

Last updated on November 10th, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Pine Top Ski Area
Our future fine furniture showroom has many previous lives, incuding that of a Southern Vermont ski area called Pine Top. We found these old Pine Top signs in the rafters of the workshop. When was the last time you got to ski for $1.25?

Winter has come to Vermont! The air at Stonehurst is… well let’s say “crisp”. OK, it was -3F this morning. Ken and I were huddling in the workshop next to the wood stove and we spied these old Pine Top Ski Area signs in the rafters. All day skiing for $1.25? Count me in!

We decided to clean up these great artifacts and display them once renovations are complete and our new fine furniture showroom is open. By any chance, did you ever ski at Pine Top during it’s heyday (the 1940s-1960s)? If so I hope you’ll stop by our shop or connect with us on Facebook to share your memories of back in the day.

For example, how is it that the skier in this old Pine Top Ski Area sign isn’t bundled up in a Michelin Man suit? We didn’t have high tech outdoor clothing back then so did people just suck it up and freeze out there on the slopes? I was looking at old photos of Pine Top skiers yesterday and the people do indeed look just like the guy in the sign’s silhouette. No down parkas, no Gore Tex. Just your basic wool sweaters and coats.

I started skiing in the late 60s and I remember being pretty well bundled myself. Maybe in the decades preceding that people only skied on nice days? Or maybe they were tougher and more determined than we are? Got any answers or theories? Share them below or on Facebook. And if you’re wanting to stop by and do a little skiing yourself, let me know. There’s presently nowhere to park because construction vehicles are everywhere but hopefully renovations will be complete before the end of the season. I’ll keep you updated here on the blog.

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

High Quality Wood Furniture: Tips For Finding the Best Craftsmanship

Last updated on August 3rd, 2018 at 01:27 pm

High Quality WoHardwood Furnitureod Bedroom Furniture | Cherry Moon Bed
This high quality wood furniture is part of our Cherry Moon Bedroom Collection.  It’s handmade with real, solid cherry wood and topped with a hand-rubbed natural oil finish.

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.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Stonehurst: Building A Strong Foundation

Stonehurst: Vermont Fine Furniture Showroom Takes Shape
Stonehurst: Vermont’s new Fine Furniture Showroom is Taking Shape.  Heather Barrett snaps a photo of Scott Strong and his crew from American Construction as they pour concrete footings for this 200 year old section of Stonehurst.

It seems like we’ve been talking and planning renovations at Stonehurst (our circa 1800 Vermont farmhouse and future fine furniture showroom) for a very long time.  But now that Bob Furlone’s American Construction and Karey Tyler’s Excavation crews have arrived on site, things are beginning to move and shake (literally).

Digging out for a Foundation at Stonehurst
Digging out for a Foundation at Stonehurst.  Karey Tyler is making Ken and the other guys very jealous, with all his fancy Tonka trucks.  We decided Karey is the answer to every little boy’s dream of “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

The past few weeks have been filled with activity.  The middle section of the Stonehurst buildings (what we call the barn) has been unfinished for many years.  In order to renovate, the guys had to dig underneath it and create a stable  foundation where formerly there was just dirt and rocks.  Then Carroll Concrete came in and poured a cement foundation.

This is why they've called it Stonehurst for 200 years
I guess this is why the name Stonehurst had lasted at the property for some 200 years.  But huge as they are, these boulders were no match for Karey and his excavators.

In order to connect the middle section to the apartment building, we had to dig some more because the apartment floor was 2 feet higher that the barn floor.  Since we want to make the property wheelchair accessible, we need to make all the floors the same height.

Digging the View at Stonehurst
Digging the View at Stonehurst.  From left:  Martha Ratcliffe of American Construction, Scott Strong of American Construction, Ken, Jeremy Coleman of J Coleman Architects and Bob Furlone of American construction.

So progress is going well at Stonehurst, even though we’re up against winter’s elements.  Today we had a snowstorm but still the crews from Tyler Excavation and American Construction were onsite and working in a tent they built for the occasion.  Follow their work and the evolution of Stonehurst on our Facebook.  Once it’s complete we hope you’ll join us for an open house!

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Neville Brings a Bit of Australia to Vermont

Last updated on March 13th, 2019 at 03:35 pm

Neville Kerr, Website Developer at Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture Store
We welcome Neville Kerr, Website Developer Extraordinaire to Vermont Woods Studios (shown here relaxing in Jaco, Costa Rica).  Can one develop a website for a fine furniture store in Vermont, while on vacation in the rainforest?

Please help us welcome our newest staff member, Neville Kerr to the Vermont Woods Studios family.  Neville answered our call for a webmaster/developer/programmer/jack of all tech trades last December.  We didn’t know he would also be bringing additional skills we hadn’t even asked for (like cooking and travel advice) but we’re glad he did.

Neville comes to us from Down Under.  His background includes ecommerce consulting, extensive service in the Royal Australian Air Force and many interesting experiences in between.  One of his passions appears to be travel.  And oddly enough rainforest countries have been high on his list of destinations.  How interesting since Vermont Woods Studios was founded on a mission of rainforest conservation.

The photo above was taken in Jaco, Costa Rica, a place Ken and I and the boys passed through two years ago on a trip to Manuel Antonio, while volunteering for the Eco Preservation Society.   I discovered yesterday that Neville and his wife Carol also visited another of my favorite rainforest countries in their travels, Belize.

I don’t remember mentioning anything about the rainforest in our ad for a web developer so maybe it’s just good karma that brought this world traveler and his talents to our doorstep in tiny Vernon, Vermont.  At any rate, we’re grateful for his help and looking forward to the many improvements he has in mind for our fine furniture website.  Follow Neville’s work on our Facebook and let us know how  you like our website improvements as they evolve over the next couple months.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Top Quality Bedroom Furniture Sets: How to Get the Best Price

Last updated on August 14th, 2018 at 03:55 pm

Top Quality Solid HardWood Bedroom Furniture Sets | Best Prices
This Contemporary Craftsman Bedroom Furniture Set is handmade of real, solid hardwood by Vermont craftspeople.  Customers can get a 20% discount on this top quality bed, dresser, chest and night stand when purchasing 3 or more pieces together.

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.

Copeland bedroom sets are excluded from the 20% discount as they already carry a low price guarantee every day in our store.

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Stonehurst Former Life: Pine Top Ski Area

Last updated on February 27th, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Pine Top Memorabilia
We came across a treasure trove of  Pine Top memorabilia in a trunk in the attic of the old dormitory at Stonehurst.  These are just a few of the flyers that were distributed throughout the Northeast.   Pine Top had a vertical drop of a whopping 400 feet, with 4 slopes and 3 rope tows.  It pioneered skiing for the entire family including “Tiny Tots”.

Life as a sustainable fine furniture showroom and nature center isn’t the first makeover for Vernon, Vermont’s iconic Stonehurst property.  In the early 1940s the circa 1800 Stonehurst farm was dubbed “Pine Top” and transformed into one of Vermont’s many small local ski areas (back in the day about 2/3 of Vermont’s towns had their own ski areas).  A couple from New Jersey, Elsie and Romey Racine, had moved to Vermont to pursue their dream and Stonehurst was the recipient of their ambition and hard work.

Stonehurst, with both rolling hills and steep mountainous terrain became a skiing mecca for Vernon townspeople and visitors alike.  Three rope tows were installed, powered originally by horse and later by car engines.  “Tobey Slope” was for expert skiers, “Pelley Hill” served intermediates and “Tiny Tot” kept the little ones occupied.  The whole family could enjoy skiing together, with kids as young as 3 becoming experts on the gentle slope closest to the farmhouse.

The Racines promoted Pine Top to visitors from New Jersey, New York, Boston and beyond.  They also attracted the families of students at nearby boarding schools like Deerfield Academy and Northfield Mount Hermon.  Visitors could board at Pine Top in winter, spring, summer or fall.  It had room to accommodate up to 26 guests and was often rented out to large groups for family reunions.

The Vernon Historians created a DVD featuring Pine Top along with other Vernon landmarks.  Copies and further information can be obtained at the Town Hall, Library or from Barbara Moseley, the town historian (and former staffer at Pine Top).  There is also a book by Jeremy K Davis, Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont which provides Pine Top history and a companion website, New England Lost Ski Areas Project NELSAP.

If you ever skied at Pine Top, let us know in the comments section or on our Facebook.  And stay tuned for an open house this summer, once renovations are complete.  We’re hoping to get a Pine Top reunion going.  Are you game?

 

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Wooden Furniture and Rainforest Conservation

Last updated on June 22nd, 2022 at 09:54 am

Saving the Rainforest | Sustainable Wooden Furniture and Flooring | What's the Connection?
Global rainforest destruction continues to proceed at a rate of > 1 acre per second.  It’s the greatest extinction in the history of the earth.  Once the rainforest is gone, it’s gone forever.  It doesn’t regenerate like our northern temperate forests.  Interested in conserving the rainforest and preserving the iconic species who’ve lived there for millions of years?  Learn how your choices for furniture, flooring and other forest products can help.

Where Does Your Wooden Furniture Come From?

Ever wonder where your wooden furniture comes from?  Seven years ago I founded Vermont Woods Studios because I didn’t like the answer to that question.  And the answer is:  if you didn’t  purchase American made furniture, yours may well have originated in a beautiful tropical rainforest that was being plundered by illegal logging activities.

One Acre of Rainforest Disappears Every Second

I spent the first few years at Vermont Woods Studios trying to raise awareness about rainforest devastation and how it’s driven by the wood furniture and flooring industries.  Did you know that the rainforest is disappearing at the rate of >1 acre every second?  It sounds unbelievable and sensationalist, doesn’t it?  I mean that’s over 4000 football fields every hour of every.  But it’s true and that fact is why we continue to work so hard to offer sustainable, locally made furniture at this Vermont furniture store.

You and I Have the Power to Save the Rainforest

Consumers of wood furniture, flooring and other forest products are the key to saving the rainforest.  If you’re taking the trouble to learn about sustainable wooden furniture and how you, as a consumer, can be part of the global solution, we want to help.  I’ll be writing a series of blogs over the next few months to provide some background information regarding the past, present and future of the rainforest and how we consumers can do our part to save it.  Have any rainforest references or stories you’d like to share?  Join the conversation on our Facebook.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Stonehurst Update: All Permits Good to Go!

Last updated on December 3rd, 2018 at 02:18 pm

Stonehurst Act 250 Permit ready
The state of Vermont has cleared the way for renovations to begin at Stonehurst (our sustainable furniture showroom and nature center) by issuing an environmental (Act 250) permit, a water and wastewater permit and a building permit.  Together with supporting documentation, the 3 permits create a stack of paper about a foot high.

Act 250, Water and Building Permits Good to Go

Woohoo!  After 5 months of working through engineering and architectural plans for our sustainable Vermont furniture showplace, we have finally been approved by the state of Vermont to begin renovations at Stonehurst.  YAY!  It’s really not so easy renovating an historic property for commercial use in Vermont but we think it’s worth the trouble.

Vermont requires three permits for this kind of endeavor:  a detailed environmental assessment called the Act 250 permit, a water and wastewater permit and a building permit.  Together with supporting documentation, the three permits create a stack of paper about a foot high, requiring an army of expert consultants to complete them.  And we’re not done.  There are many caveats and contingencies that will have to be satisfied as we progress.  Ken and I never imagined this extreme when we purchased the building.  It was our architect, Jeremy Coleman who walked us through the maze of bureaucracy and red tape and patiently explained the codes and our compliance options.

Vermont’s Complex Building Regulations

At first we were in disbelief at the overwhelming extent of requirements and expense to comply with Vermont’s complex codes.  There are several government agencies to deal with and get approval from.  Sometimes they are at odds with each other.  But as we finally get to a point where our plans have been approved and renovations can begin I guess we are beginning to see some method to the madness.

Stonehurst is Worth the Trouble

After all Vermont is a very special place for nature lovers and we want it to always stay that way.  Detailed environmental and building regulations help to ensure that.  Like many Vermont businesses, Vermont Woods Studios is built on a green mission.  Ours is forest conservation and environmental preservation, so (in spite of the high cost of regulations) I can’t imagine finding a more suitable home for it than Stonehurst in Vernon, Vermont.

Stay tuned for more updates on our sustainable furniture showroom over the next couple months and plan to visit us for an open house in the early summer.  Till then keep updated by subscribing to this blog or visiting our Facebook.

See you at the Grand Opening (TBA)!

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Sean Henry: Welcome To The Woods!

Last updated on May 12th, 2022 at 04:18 pm

Sean Henry - Welcome to the Woods!
Please help me welcome Sean Henry to Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture. He’s becoming a great Sales and Customer Service Representative. Liz and Heather are supposed to be training him but in the back of her mind (or front?)  Liz thinks we hired Sean to get her coffee and shine her shoes.   What’s up with that?

I can’t believe how lucky we’ve been at Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture this year.  Somehow we’ve been able to find 6 new staff members, all extraordinary in their capabilities and drive, not to mention passion for our green mission.  If you’ve ever owned or worked at a small company, you know it’s not easy to find just the right professionals to bring on board.  Small businesses need people who can work under pressure but go with the flow, leap tall buildings in a single bound and take out the trash, be friendly to customers and co-workers but clam up and put their nose to the grindstone when it’s time to crank out the work.  Already Sean seems to be juggling those things with finesse.

He’s working for Douglas alongside Liz and Heather G as a Sales and Customer Service Representative.  I’ll try to give you some inside scoop on him, so you can surprise him if he answers the phone next time you call.  Let’s see.  Before Sean came to us, he owned and operated his family business–one of Brattleboro’s favorite restaurants, the SteakOut.  Owning a restaurant?  That was our first clue that he knew how to work hard.

Sean holds a BS degree in Business Administration from the University of Vermont where he studied financial and office management. While working his way through school, he sold Cutco knives.  Now I love Cutco products (they’re made in America, by the way) but they’re not exactly an easy sell.  When was the last time you happily welcomed a door-to-door salesman into your home?  Right.  So anyone who can sell anything door to door gets my respect.

Liz and Heather have been trying to dig up some dirt on Sean (it’s so competitive around here) but at this point– still nothing.  It’s early though so stay tuned.  They’ll manage to unearth something good.

And speaking of Liz… could it be that she actually believed Douglas when he said we were interviewing for a personal assistant for her?  Hmmm.  That could explain why she keeps asking Sean to get her coffee and shine her shoes.

Stay up to date on Sean’s adventures with Liz, Heather and other enigmatic personalities at Vermont Woods Studios by visiting our Facebook now and then.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.