Last week I managed to escape from the office and take a road trip. The excuse (er… purpose) was to visit Vermont’s top luxury home decor businesses. Maybe this won’t surprise you — it turns out that in addition to being the fine furniture capital of America, Vermont is second to none in many other types of authentic, handmade home decor. The Green Mountain State hosts hand blown glass blower Simon Pearce, hand forged lighting manufacturer, Hubbardton Forge, hand loomed artisanal fabrics maker, Anichini and handcrafted furniture and pottery maker, Shackleton Thomas.
We felt these companies should be featured at Stonehurst, making it a complete showroom for Vermont’s best, high quality, handcrafted home goods. So I was chosen as the lucky one to make the rounds and pitch the idea. I was met with nothing but kindness and enthusiasm. Wendy Fannin at Hubbardton Forge, Heather Carey at Anichini, Maria Parrado at Simon Pearce, Charlie Shackleton and Miranda Thomas were all very supportive of our plans (thanks guys!).
Over the next few months we’ll be hard at work, adding these new products to our showroom. A nice selection of items will also be added to our online store. Stay tuned for more details as they unfold!
“Report on Economic Value of Vermont’s Forestry Industry Released.”
The Addison Eagle recently covered the official report on the Economic Value of Vermont’s Forestry Industry. The article highlighted the importance of this industry to Vermont’s economy, and proved to us that the work we are doing is really benefiting our community. This report confirms that approximately 80% of Vermont’s forests are owned by real families and real people, so when you buy Vermont wood products and Vermont furniture, you are helping to put a meal on these people’s tables and helping their kids go through school. Buying furniture from Vermont contributes to the 21,000 jobs that are impacted by the Vermont forestry industry– it puts American’s back to work, and helps keep us on the map as leaders in wood manufacturing. With recent disappointing news about the prospects of the American Made Furniture industry, this report gives us real proof that what we (and you as our friends and customers) are doing is really working.
“Rutland — The NEFA, the North East State Foresters Association and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation have released a report detailing the economic Importance of Vermont’s forest-based economy. The report highlights the various sectors of Vermont’s economy that depend on wood, forests, and trees.
The total economic value of Vermont’s forest economy is pegged at over $3.4 billion dollars for 2012.
“Forest-based manufacturing and forest-related recreation and tourism are significant drivers for our economy,” said Vermont State Forester Steven Sinclair. Sinclair lists some products and services we enjoy: firewood, lumber, fine furniture, maple syrup and Christmas trees are chief among the products. Forests also yield “ecosystem services” such as providing clean water, carbon storage, and wildlife habitat. Vermont’s forests are the vital backdrop to recreation and tourism here.
The NEFA report shows that nearly 21,000 jobs in all sectors are directly impacted by Vermont’s forests. While manufacturing jobs in Vermont’s wood products businesses have declined over the past decade, the harvest of timber from Vermont has stayed relatively stable.
Sinclair told news reporters that most of Vermont’s wood is coming from family forests.
“About 80 percent of Vermont’s forested lands are owned by individuals and families. So, when you buy Vermont wood, you really are buying local. The NEFA report supports the Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative to stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors,” he said.”
Michelle and I are the only ones who’ve made it in to work today. Snow is falling ever so gently, but it’s persistent! We’ve got about 6″ and the forecast is for 6 more. So I thought it would a good time to reprint this article that was recently published on Sotheby’s Vermont Country Properties blog. We are grateful to President and Principal Broker Lisa Coneeny and Office Manager Melissa Olson for posting it.
What to Do with a Lost Ski Area?
Jeremy Davis, author of “Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont” estimates there were 119 ski areas in the Green Mountain state during the mid 20th century. It seems that 2/3 of Vermont’s towns had their own ski area! Of course they were a far cry from today’s luxury resorts like Mount Snow, Stratton, Killington and Stowe. But back in the day, they were the center of winter activity in the communities they served. Now what has become of them?
A group of local enthusiasts at Vermont Woods Studios has recently transformed the former Pine Top ski area in Vernon, Vermont into a showcase for Vermont’s handcrafted, fine furniture and home décor products. The 220 year old farmhouse that used to welcome Nordic and alpine skiers has been lovingly restored. Known as “Stonehurst” since c1870 when it was sold to Lucretia Kendall for a sum of $2000, it is now home to a high end interior design gallery.
“With all it’s rich history we thought Stonehurst would be the perfect place to showcase the high quality home décor products coming out of Vermont”, said Peggy Farabaugh, new owner of the property. “The homestead is situated on a hundred acre wood with beautiful views of the mountains, forests and Connecticut River Valley. Customers can look out our windows and see Vermont’s sustainable working lands in action. Stonehurst gives us a way to show and tell the story of Vermont’s high quality, handcrafted products: where they come from and how they’re made.”
The gallery features a revolving selection of fine furniture from Vermont’s iconic brands including Copeland, Lyndon and many custom and specialty furniture makers. Original artwork by Linda Marcille, Susan Osgood, Donna Scully, Georgie Runkle and other local artists accents the furniture and is offered for sale.
“We’re adding new products daily and hope to soon have a consummate collection of Vermont home goods with glassware by Simon Pearce, lighting by Hubbardton Forge, kitchen accessories by JK Adams, pottery by Laura Zindel and a creative selection of specialty handmade items from the area’s top craftspeople,” said Farabaugh.
Visitors are warmly welcomed at Stonehurst. Hours of operation are 9am-5pm, Mon-Sat. Details and directions to the gallery on Huckle Hill Road in Vernon can be found on our website. Be sure to bring your sled, skis or snowshoes!
Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome our newest team member, Nina Narkiw to Vermont Woods Studios. As a professional photographer, Nina will be working with Dennis and Kelsey in our Marketing department. Her focus will be on conveying the beauty and quality of Vermont’s fine furniture to those who are unable to visit our Stonehurst showroom and see it in person.
A graduate of Johnson State College with a BA in Studio Art and a concentration in photography, Nina made the Presidents List and graduated magna cum laude. She owns White Blossom Art, a small business that offers wedding photography, fine art photography and paintings. In her “spare time” Nina helps in the family’s floral business Checkerberry Hill, which specializes in custom floral designs for weddings and other special events.
For Nina, “art is a way of life and not just a hobby”. At Vermont Woods Studios we feel very lucky to have her caliber of talent and drive on our team. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Nina on our Facebook!
Who put this Vermont Big Tree Society 2004 calendar on my desk over the weekend? What a pleasant surprise to see while un-bundling (that’s winter outerwear not cable TV or software programs) on this icy cold Monday morning. Whoever the Big Tree Elf is, he or she left the calendar open to the August 2004 month where a beautiful photo of our Stonehurst champion Sassafras tree was featured in all it’s glory.
Well we happen to think it’s glorious, anyway. To others it might look a little nerdy and decrepit but it’s still a beloved old tree and the largest of it’s species in all of Vermont. I learned from the calendar that the Sassafras is an intolerant (of shade) tree which is common as a pioneer (a hardy species that’s the first to colonize previously disrupted or damaged ecosystems, beginning a chain of ecological succession that ultimately leads to a more biodiverse steady-state ecosystem, ref: wikipedia). It’s one of only a few tree species whose leaves come in 3 different shapes. Plus it’s fragrant and the roots can be used to make sassafras tea!
Are you surprised to see how much Vermonters love their trees? As furniture makers, working with sustainably harvested wood we are especially interested in Vermont’s big trees and the issue of sustainable forestry throughout the Green Mountain State (and beyond). Vermont Woods Studios was founded on the principles of forest conservation. Last year we received a $100,000 grant from the states Working Lands Initiative to further our efforts in promoting sustainable forests and the eco-friendly Vermont made furniture produced from them.
Fellow treehuggers– stop by Stonehurst to see Vermont’s biggest sassafras tree. Then come in and enjoy a cup of tea or hot cider as you browse through the gallery of fine furniture that Vermonter’s are making out of sustainably harvested New England wood.
And whoever the Big Tree elf is, I am sending a million thanks out to you. Please reveal your identity on our Facebook!
Marlin was always venturing into exotic places like the African savannah or the Amazon rainforest, filming wild animals in their natural habitats. Orangutans, gorillas, kangaroos, pythons, lions, tigers, bears… the whole shebang. He would be holding a chimp and talking about conservation and… oh how I wanted to be him! Cuddling up with a tiger cub, rescuing a couple orphaned bear cubs — what could be better?
Although I didn’t end up majoring in zoology or doing research for Jane Goodall, my passion for wildlife conservation has stayed with me. Like most people I went for a “more practical career” and decided to pursue my passion as a hobby. I visited zoos and natural history museums whenever I could. I studied wildlife news in National Geographic, World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club and other green publications. I poured my support into wildlife conservation non-profits.
But the real fun didn’t start along until Kendall and Riley came along. How convenient? It seems little boys love wildlife! We camped out in local beaver ponds and vernal pools getting to know the resident turtles, frogs, salamanders, snakes and such. We made trips to the rainforest, adopted snakes and started a non-profit called Kids Saving the Planet. Our adventures in Vermont’s forests and in the Central American rainforests eventually led to the creation of Vermont Woods Studios Sustainable Furniture. More about that in my next post.
* and the Wonderful World of Disney and Ed Sullivan Show, of course
One of the hallmarks of Vermont furniture is the finely sanded wood and hand rubbed finish. When you run your hands along the top of these chests or the foot board of this shaker bed, it almost feels like skin– very soft and smooth. So we spend a lot of time talking with customers about how to maintain that beautiful finish after your furniture arrives at home. Like a fine wine, a hand rubbed finish will improve with age. Here are a few tips to care for it.
Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions for Re-oiling
When you receive your furniture it may be tacky from the oil finish we have applied in the studio. The entire piece should be wiped with a clean, soft, lint-free cotton cloth. Do not use commercially available polishes or waxes. Wood remains a live medium and can tend to dry out over time. For maintenance– pure, non-toxic linseed oil (such as this Tried and True finish) or any high quality furniture oil (without petroleum dryers or thinners) should be applied immediately after delivery and again every 3-12 months*. Regular oiling will deepen the hand rubbed finish while enhancing the natural beauty of the wood. It will also restore the finish over scratches. Good quality oil products are widely available in better hardware stores. With minor care, this furniture will be enjoyed for years and likely generations to come. More furniture care instructions here.
Whether your wood furniture has a hand rubbed oil finish, a lacquer or poly, routine cleaning will keep it looking good. With an oil finish, it’s especially important to clean up spills quickly before the liquid penetrates into the fibers of the wood. Learn more about dusting (damp cloth or dry?), polishing and cleaning up spills on our furniture care website.
Humidity and Lighting
Wood is sensitive to changes in relative humidity. As the weather changes, so does the relative humidity in your home and in the moisture content of the wood in your furniture. This means that furniture is constantly expanding and contracting. Most furniture makers recommend conditions of around 70°F-72°F and a relative humidity of about 50-55% to keep your furniture looking good and lasting a long time.
Many woods, especially cherry are sensitive to light and will change colors when exposed to high intensity light or even sunlight for long periods of time. Here are some tips for controlling light exposure and humidity on the furniture care page of our website.
* How often should you re-apply an oil finish? The furniture aficionado’s rule of thumb is: once upon arrival into your home, then once/week for a month, then once/month for a year, then once per year thereafter. Sounds like a lot of oiling but you’ll end up with the most beautiful patina you can imagine!
Editors note: OK, this is really me (Peggy) but I found this old photo of our Marketing Manager Dennis Shanoff and it got me wondering how we ever survived the early days of start-up.
Eight years ago I started this online furniture store. I had no experience with ecommerce— or any sort of business for that matter. I am a chemist by education and a teacher by trade. I had recently lost my job, I was approaching my 50th birthday and I decided my next career was going to be my last. Thirty years after graduating from high school I would finally take the advice my guidance counselor offered: “follow your passion”.
Fast forward a few years after (a slow) start-up. I’ve just hired a “Marketing Manager”, Dennis Shanoff. It’s his first day on the job. I’m imagining this conversation he’s texting to his wife:
Dennis Shanoff: My boss is a cat
Dennis: sends selfie (above)
Dennis: I’m sitting at a desk in this lady’s spare bedroom trying to figure out how I’m going to build a furniture brand around her passion
Susan: which is?
Dennis: saving the rainforest
Susan: from Vermont?
Dennis: most furniture is made from rainforest woods. Peggy’s trying to raise awareness about that and promote sustainable Vermont made furniture instead
Susan: OK so it’s a stretch. Don’t panic
Luckily Dennis didn’t panic. Four years after what must have been an unnerving first day at work, Dennis Shanoff has helped transform a fledgling start-up that no one believed would ever get off the ground, into a small business with a reasonable chance of long-term survival.
I don’t think our story is that atypical for small businesses in Vermont or throughout America for that matter. It’s full of hopes and dreams and absurdity. Luck, misfortune and determination. But more than anything it’s a story of how a small group of disparate entrepreneurs managed to leverage their differences in an effort to change the world.
My friend Annette thinks I should start reflecting on this unorthodox journey with Vermont Woods Studios and share my memories here and on Medium.com. Maybe others with a passion to make the world a better place will find or offer encouragement. Think? Let me know (on Facebook or in the comments section below) if you’d be interested to read more start-up stories about Dennis, Douglas, Ken and the gang.
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This is for Sally, Pam, Ellen, Annette, Mo and all our friends from the South and West who have escaped this year’s good old fashioned Vermont winter. Today’s storm took a break this morning just in time for me to snap this photo of the furniture showroom and art gallery we call Stonehurst. It was 5F when I got to work today but warm and toasty inside.
Plenty of toboggans and sleds are out on the back porch, ready for action. But where are our young, hearty, adventurous riders? No need for a membership to Outer Limits this winter, Sean. Just bring your boots to work and trade your lunch for a couple good runs down the ski slopes. I’ll go too and we’ll share the prize for biggest loser in the 2014 weight loss challenge. Any teasing from Liz, Michelle and Loryn will surely cease and desist when we walk in all strong and fit.
Much has happened to our little Vermont furniture store in 2013. Most notably, we’re no longer housed at George’s Mill, adjacent to the Vernon post office. 2013 brought continued growth that gave us enough confidence to expand into a permanent location.
Stonehurst is our new home– a 200 year old farmhouse sited on Pine Top, a former ski area in Southeastern Vermont. Citing our furniture showroom on a scenic 100 acre forested lot helps us raise awareness about our mission of forest conservation and show customers where their furniture comes from. It was this concept that the state of Vermont supported through a $100,000 competitively awarded 2013 Working Lands grant that helped us complete Stonehurst renovations 2 years ahead of schedule.
Other progress in 2013 included adding a fine art gallery to our offerings. In addition to expanding our Vermont made furniture selection, we’re proud to offer original artwork by many important Vermont artists including Susan Osgood, Linda Marcille, Georgie Runkle, Donna Scully and Janet Picard.
Another 2013 showroom (and website) addition was Vermont made home decor. We now carry handcrafted ceramics by Brattleboro artist Laura Zindel and Vernon potter Bronna Zlochiver, kitchen accessories by JK Adams of Dorset, textiles by Donna Tosi of Vernon and Cricket Radio of Shelburne and hand-turned pens by Micah Ranquist of West Brattleboro. New artisans are joining us frequently to increase the variety of Vermont made home decor accessories we can make available at Stonehurst.
2013 also brought many important upgrades to our website, thanks to Neville and Martin up in our genius room. As a new employee in 2013 Martin, was joined by Michelle (in Sales and Customer Service) and Kelsey and Nina (in Marketing). We feel very lucky to have them join the Vermont Woods Studios family!
After 8 years of building this sustainable furniture business– in 2013 we are finally in a space that’s truly worthy of the beautiful handcrafted furniture Vermont is so famous for. With customers journeying here from all across the country, we can finally say “Come to Stonehurst. It’s worth the trip”.
We are immensely grateful to our creative and hard-working staff for making this 2013 progress possible. Although we’ve come a long way, we know that in many ways our efforts have just begun. In 2013 we built it. In 2014 we have to make sure they come. Please help us spread the word! Join us on Facebook or in the comments section below. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Vermont’s sustainable furniture and/or the Stonehurst experience.
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