What Your Space Says About You

Shaker Desk and Bookcase
Modern Shaker 2-Glass Door Bookcase and Campaign Desk both in Walnut)

Use Bookcases to Showcase More Than Just Your Encyclopedia Collection!

One of the things I love about visiting other people’s homes is seeing what statement they’re making about their personality. Are they sentimental, creative or conservative? Do they like to display a lot of personal items or keep things more uniform? The spaces I enjoy the most are the ones that tell a unique story. From the layout, color and material of the furniture to the number of pictures hanging on the wall, you want your space to represent you.

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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.

Modern Maple Furniture with Walnut Accents

Maple and Walnut Wood Furniture | 2 Tone Combinations
This modern 2 tone combination of walnut and maple wood furniture is offered in the SoHo collection.  Made by Copeland Furniture, SoHo provides many options for customizing the combination of light maple and dark walnut wood tones.

Maple furniture is making a comeback!  For many years, cherry has been our customers’ favorite hardwood but in 2015 we’re seeing that maple wood is giving cherry a run for the money.  This is a welcome trend for those of us in the Vermont forestry community since maple is a hardwood that grows extremely well in the Green Mountain state (indeed maple is the Vermont state tree).  It’s sustainably harvested nearby, making it a great choice for eco-friendly furniture.

Although maple furniture is beautiful on it’s own, many customers are dressing it up with walnut or cherry wood accents.  One example of this design is in Copeland Furniture’s Modern SoHo bedroom furniture collection.  The picture above shows SoHo in maple and walnut wood but it is made to order and can also be customized in all maple wood.

Maple Furniture with Walnut Wood Accents
This Classic Shaker huntboard was customized in light maple wood with a dark walnut top and walnut drawer pulls.  Thanks to Margot G in Knoxville, TN for sending us her photo!

Nearly all of our furniture at Vermont Woods Studios can be customized in maple wood, regardless of the wood it’s shown in on our website.  This photo was sent to us by Margot G in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Margo created her own unique version of our Classic Shaker Hunt Board by choosing maple wood (rather than cherry) and accenting it with a walnut top and walnut drawer pulls.  It’s beautiful, don’t you think?

Astrid furniture is made in Vermont by Copeland Furniture
Astrid modern bedroom furniture is available in maple wood (as shown) as well as cherry and walnut.  It’s hand made in Vermont by Copeland Furniture.

Another example of modern maple furniture is the Astrid bedroom furniture collection (shown above).  Astrid is dramatic and sophisticated.  It’s been a favorite of contemporary urban dwellers from Manhattan to Los Angeles.

Check out our website for more examples of modern maple furniture.  Use the drop-down menus to customize your wood choices online.  If you don’t see exactly what you want, give us a call and we’ll talk about further customization.  It’s more affordable than you might think.

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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.

Solid Wood Furniture Buying Guide

Astrid Bedroom Set | Solid Wood Furniture | Black Walnut | American Made in VT
This top quality solid wood furniture set is handmade of real solid American black walnut wood.  To get the best price, shop for Astrid bedroom furniture as a set and save on white glove shipping and delivery.

I’ve been looking for a definition of “solid wood furniture“.  I’m finding the same thing I found when I looked for a definition of “American made furniture”.  Anything goes.  Here’s an example of what I found on a popular reference website (About.com),

Solid walnut wood furniture means that all exposed parts of the piece are wood. But the frame and inner parts may be of other, less-costly wood.  Thin layers of fine, decorative wood can be bonded to the face of low cost wood pieces. This is called veneering.

Now does that sound like solid wood furniture to you?  I don’t think so.  If you’re shopping for high quality furniture and solid wood construction is important to you, try asking your salesperson these 5 questions to help clarify things:

Is This Real Solid Wood Furniture or Veneered?

When you take a look at the edge of a solid wood tabletop you can see if the graining on the top carries through on the edge – the way marbling does in a piece of steak.  If this is not the case, you are looking at the “banding” on a veneered piece.  Another way to tell solid wood is to look at the underside of the piece.  Does the grain look like the same as the wood on the table top? If not, then it’s probably veneered.

Is this Furniture Made Of Hardwood of Softwood?

In North America, typically the best quality solid wood furniture is made of native hardwoods, such as cherry, walnut, maple, oak, ash and birch.  Although hardwood is more expensive than softwood, it has a higher density and is therefore usually harder and heavier.  Hardwood grain is closed, tight and non-resinous as opposed to softwood grain that’s loose and resinous, thus it splits easy.

Is the Craftsmanship Top Quality?

You can buy plenty of solid wood furniture that’s of poor quality.  For example, I just searched for “solid hardwood furniture high quality” and Google shopper’s first result was a solid wood bed for $68.98.  What good does it do to have solid wood construction when poor workmanship is going to limit the life of a piece to a couple years?  Check for solid craftsmanship, top quality joinery and meticulous finishes in your furniture.  A salesperson should be able to show and tell you about construction details such as mortise and tenon joints, dovetails, miter joints, finger joints, splines, biscuits, dowels, butts, dados, rabbets, tongue and groove and more. Durable, robust joinery is critical to the life and usefulness of a piece.

Finish is important too.  Most imported furniture is finished with cheap coatings that contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene) which can cause asthma and allergies especially in young children.  Ask your salesperson to explain what’s in the finish and how many coats have been applied to protect the furniture over time.

Is This American Made or Imported Furniture?

Are you wondering why imported furniture is so much cheaper than American made furniture?  It’s not just that Chinese wages are about 1/10 of American wages.  It’s about where the raw materials come from.  In the USA, wood furniture is made from sustainably harvested wood that comes from well managed American forests.  With imported furniture, the wood is typically clear cut from the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests.   Although imported furniture often carries labels that it’s made of American cherry, walnut, oak or maple woods, that is rarely the case.  These labels are trade names used to describe woods of suspicious origin that are stained to look like familiar American woods such as cherry and walnut.

Am I Getting The Best Value & Price?

Top quality solid wood furniture is inherently expensive, so you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the best value and price.  Find a local craftsman or retailer you can trust. Try to purchase your furniture as a set, rather than piece by piece.  Purchasing furniture sets not only creates efficiency in the craftsman’s workshop, it also saves money in shipping and delivery.

For more tips on purchasing top quality solid wood furniture with the best value and price, visit our Facebook and join the conversation.

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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.

Quality Hardwood Furniture Buyers Guide, Part II

Today’s post is Part II of our Hardwood Furniture Buyers Guide.

Hardwood Furniture Finishes

Hardwood furniture finishes: oil, wax, lacquer or poly?
Which fine hardwood furniture finish is right for you: oil, wax, lacquer or poly (hint: got kids? Go for the lacquer or poly)? This cherry wood dining table is finished with a blend of hand rubbed linseed oil and Poly gel.

Waxes and oils, such as beeswax or mineral oil are often used as hardwood furniture finishes because they sink into the fibers and condition the wood. These finishes bring out the grain of the wood and create a soft, supple surface but they need to be reapplied periodically. Alternatively, lacquer, shellac, varnish, poly and other non-porous coatings may be applied just once, creating a water proof coating that is almost maintenance free.

Which is best for you? Well if you have young children you many not have time to be oiling furniture, so lacquer may be your best bet. On the other hand, if you adore the feel of a well-oiled natural wood surface and you don’t mind taking the time to re-oil periodically, go for the oil and wax.

Care of Fine Hardwood Furniture Finishes

Fine hardwood furniture is an investment that should increase in value over time, however that depends on how well you care for it (particularly for furniture with an oil or wax finish). If you follow the furniture maker’s instructions your wood furniture should last a lifetime and more!

Oil Finish on Quality Hardwood Furniture
This Cherry Moon Nightstand is made with cherry hardwood and finished with natural linseed oil. To keep the wood soft and supple, it is smart to re-oil it 1/month during the first year.

Protect Against Water and Humidity

Wood is very 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. Fine hardwood furniture that’s coated with lacquer or poly is sealed and protected from the occasional water spill.

Replenish Oil and Wax Finishes Periodically

Oil and wax finishes must be replenished frequently during the first year. A rule of thumb is: clean and oil your wood furniture immediately upon delivery into you home. After that oil it once/week for the first month. Then oil 1/month for the first year. After that oil your furniture 1/year. This will result in a soft supple patina that will not only protect your furniture but add to it’s beauty and value over time.

Construction Details in Fine Hardwood Furniture

Joinery

Mortise and tenon joinery illustration
Mortise and tenon joinery is often used to attach side pieces to corner pieces and legs.

Joinery speaks clearly about the craftsmanship of a piece. Be sure to inspect corners and drawers to see how they’re crafted and look for these robust and durable joints:

Mortise-and-Tenon Joint

Mortise-and-tenon joint are often used in armoires, dressers, chests, cabinets, tables, chairs, desks and bookcases. The tenon (projecting piece) on a board is inserted into the mortise (cavity) on another board, then glued. An M-T joint may be further secured with a peg inserted through both pieces.

Dovetail Joint

The dovetail joint is typically used in drawer construction. Wedge-shaped projections on one piece interlock with corresponding slots on another.

Hardwood furniture construction details
Dovetail joints are shown attaching drawer fronts to the sides of the drawers (middle photos). Quality hardwood furniture also employs sturdy hinges and finished backs on case goods.

Use of Veneers

Veneers have taken a bad rap over the past several decades because much of the cheap, imported furniture sold in big box stores is made with low quality plywood or fiber board, then covered with a thin wooden veneer. Although solid wood construction is often preferred by those seeking high quality hardwood furniture, there are certain furniture designs that require veneers, for example sleigh beds that have curved wooden panels.

Why Hardwood versus Softwood Furniture?

In the world of trees and lumber, hardwood is relatively rare. About 80% of all timber comes from softwoods like pine, hemlock, cedar, and spruce. Only 20% of our timber is from hardwood trees like cherry, maple, oak, walnut, mahogany, teak and beech. As such, hardwood is relatively rare and expensive so why choose it over softwood? Generally speaking hardwood is more dense than softwood and has a tighter grain making it more resistant to decay. The density also makes hardwood more difficult for craftspeople to work with, but the beauty of the grain and the patina that develops over time makes solid hardwood furniture a prized possession.

If you’re in the market for high quality furniture, what’s your favorite wood? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments section below.

 

 

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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.