5 Southern Vermont Towns You’ve Got to Visit

Last updated on January 16th, 2019 at 05:35 pm

There is so much to love about Southern Vermont. Especially the way that the towns are surrounded by mountains and rich expanses of trees, making them even more beautiful  in that brief autumn period where the leaves are multicolored and bright. These 5 southern Vermont towns are each unique, and vary in size and culture. But all of them are rich in artistry, with diverse communities of independent artists, performance arts, and theater.

These 5 communities thrive with quaint downtown areas, promising lots of food and plenty of shopping! Antique stores, one of a kind book stores, eccentric decor shops, galleries, and much more are what make these towns so special and true to Vermont.

All of these towns are less than an hour away from us at Stonehurst, and we’d encourage you to visit them to see all of the wonderful things they have to offer!

 

1. Brattleboro

Brattleboro, VT Photography
A Rainbow over Brattleboro, Vermont. Photo by Professor Bop via Flickr

 

2.  Bellows Falls

Bob Taylor Photography
‘Bellows Falls Street Scene’ Photo by Bob Taylor, via Flickr.

3.  Wilmington

Wilmington Vermont Photography
Wilmington, Vermont. Photo by Kimberly Vardeman via Flickr

4. Bennington

Bennington, Vermont
Bennington Battle Monument, Photo by Jim Guerard via Flickr

 

5. Chester

Chester, Vermont
Chester, Vermont. Photo by Lee Bennett via Flickr

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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.

Discover Vermont Artists at the Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival

Last updated on March 13th, 2019 at 05:24 pm

Click photo for source. Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival.

Vermont’s most popular summer art and craft festival begins today! We’re proud of Vermont for its amazing support of its craftsman and artists, which is why we are super excited about the Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival. The festival had been hosted in Manchester for 30 years, but the 2013 festival will be held in Bennington, Vermont! This provides advantages because its in a more southern region of Vermont, which will hopefully bring in a larger turnout than in previous years! The festival will host over 160 talented artists who will display and sell their one of a kind artwork, as well as traditional and contemporary crafts, and pottery!

From Friday, August 2nd to Sunday, August 4th, this three day event will run in conjunction with the town wide Bennington Arts Festival Weekend. The festival is put on by a variety of community arts organizations and venues, so expect a jam packed weekend with live music, art, and activities ranging from art walks, open studios and receptions, live entertainers, and a historical architecture exhibit! As always, you can expect lots of kid friendly activities, local food vendors, ice cream,craft beer, and more!

If you don’t have plans for the weekend, why not add the Southern Vermont Art and Craft festival to your agenda and find some inspiration in the work of talented Vermont artists!

 

 

 

 

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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.

Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival: Real VT Fun

Last updated on March 13th, 2019 at 05:09 pm

Quechee Hot Air Ballon Festival
Hot Air Balloons at Night. Photo taken from Quechee Balloon Festival Facebook Page.

When I was younger, one of my favorite events of the year was the local hot air balloon festival that took place in my town (Pittsfield, New Hampshire) each year. While it wasn’t the Quechee balloon festival, it was a hot air balloon festival all the same. I loved the way that it would bring the whole community together for a day of fun and celebration, despite whatever else was going on in the world and on the news. It seemed like even the busiest people in town always made time to come down to the festival to watch the hot air balloons or to just be in the presence of friends, family, and community members. Kids loved it too, because they’d get to come and run around and go on rides with their friends (plus there is usually cotton candy and all sorts of other goodies too). And there really is just something special about hot air balloons. They are whimsical, and magical in a way. Magical in that they never fail to give you that feeling of childhood excitement, wonder, and awe as you watch them rise. Maybe its the way their colors light up in the sky, or the fact that they get to float amongst the clouds…either way, a hot air balloon festival is a spectacular event that every person should get to experience at least once in their life (but hopefully more)!

This weekend is the 34th annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon festival, taking place in Quechee, Vermont! The weekend festivities include music from a bunch of great bands that will be playing continuously throughout the weekend, tasty food, a kiddie zone for the children, a beer and wine garden for the adults, tons of talented Vermont artists and crafters, vendors of all sorts, and hot air balloons of course!

I truly hope that you get to enjoy the unique and heartwarming experience that a small town hot air balloon festival provides– and if not this year, maybe next year! 🙂

For more information on the festival, check out their official website and Facebook page.

 

 

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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.

Ta Da! VWS Selected For Working Lands Grant Award

Last updated on June 13th, 2013 at 09:40 am

Vermont Working Lands Grant
We are grateful to Paul Costello and all the people who have worked so hard to implement Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative. Last week Vermont Woods Studios was selected for a $100,000 grant from the Initiative to be used to complete the construction and landscaping of  Stonehurst, our Vermont Made Furniture Showroom

Last year I started reading about Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative.  Paul Costello, the Executive Director of Vermont’s Council on Rural Development had begun leading a movement to protect the Green Mountain State’s pastoral landscape from unplanned, unsightly, unsustainable development.  I don’t know Paul personally but I see him as a modern day Paul Revere who leveraged the power of the Internet to spread the word about how we can use sustainable agriculture and forestry to build a thriving rural economy in Vermont.

In a very short time frame, Paul and his band of “working lands” believers have achieved unbelievable success, including getting Vermont’s legislature to allocate $1 Million in grant money for green businesses willing to pitch in and help.  The idea was to provide incentives to “stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurism, business development, and job creation.”

It was just one of those lucky moments in life when I read about the Working Lands Grant last year as we were in the middle of planning our new Vermont-made furniture gallery at Stonehurst.  We were a perfect match for the grant.  Our furniture is all made in Vermont. It’s sustainable, eco-friendly and made from Vermont grown wood when practicable.  We support all the links in the economic chain from the forest through the land-owner, forester, sawyer, lumber yard and craftsperson to the customer.  The whole Stonehurst concept of raising awareness about where your furniture comes from and how it’s made fit the grant criteria like a glove.

Fast forward a year.  The Working Lands Enterprise Boards have worked tirelessly all year, developing their concept, selling it to the public and the Legislature, securing funds, soliciting competitive proposals from businesses and evaluating those proposals.  Last week it was time for them to make a decision on which businesses would win the awards.

Drum roll please.  Ta Da!!  Vermont Woods Studios was selected for a $100,000 grant award to be used to complete the construction and landscaping of our Stonehurst Vermont Made Furniture Showroom.  This is a huge achievement for us and one that will allow much of the polishing of our venue to happen now, rather than over a period of years.  We are enormously grateful to Paul Costello and all of the good people who have worked so hard to make the initiative possible.  And of course to the taxpayers of Vermont who we feel a strong need to repay in terms of economic benefit and increased consumer demand in the furniture sector of our economy.

I’ll write more in the coming weeks about the Initiative and the other companies who also won awards.  We are honored to be in such good company.

Do you love Vermont’s rural landscape as much as we do?  Join the Working Lands Partnership, help keep Vermont green and be a part of it’s future!

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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.

Settling in at Stonehurst

Last updated on August 2nd, 2013 at 02:25 pm

The view at Stonehurst
The view behind Stonehurst

The woods that surround Stonehurst make it a hotspot for local wildlife, and a favorite part of the new location for many of us. From wild turkeys roaming openly in the field, to our new porcupine friend, to the neighborhood chipmunks, squirrels, and birds that call this place their home—we are excited to be a part of this wonderful eco-community.

Now that we are getting settled, it’s great to see that many of us are forming a bond with different parts of Stonehurst. You can find Kendall walking around out back enjoying the mountain fresh air, Neville and Martin outside enjoying the scenery, while Dennis is always the first to volunteer to checkup on the families of birds who have occupied the birdhouses we put up earlier in the year. Needless to say, we all care about it here for one reason or another, and that’s what makes this place so special.  

The stone wall behind stonehurst, headquarters for Vermont Woods Studios
Stone Wall on back side of Stonehurst

Stonehurst allows us to “tell the story of where your furniture comes from,” Peggy explains. “People can look out the windows and stroll around the grounds to see and experience what sustainable forestry is… we can use our learning wall to show people how their choice of furniture affects the habitats of endangered species.” For anyone who doesn’t know, Vermont Woods Studios was created with the inspiration to help put an end to the deforestation of the world’s rainforest’s. “Every species of big cat (lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc) and every species of primates (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc) is critically endangered due to habitat loss,” Peggy revealed, “and many of those habitats are forests that are being illegally decimated for timber that goes into imported furniture.”

Stonehurst, to us, is more than just our headquarters—it is a reflection of our impact on the natural landscape. We want to show people that by living consciously and shopping ethically, it is possible to live (and thrive) without harming the ecosystem, and that we can live harmoniously with our friends in nature, rather than endangering them by destroying their homes and habitats.  

           Besides the woods that surround Stonehurst, and the animals that inhabit them, the building itself has quite an interesting story. Stonehurst started out as a farmhouse circa 1800, and has “moved through various identities as a boarding house, 4 season resort, ski area, and residential home,” Peggy explains, “Stonehurst has been transformed several times, just as our business has transformed.” And despite all of the transformation, we’ve worked hard to preserve much of its history wherever possible. Plus, all local materials were used in its renovation, adding to its Vermont roots. “The resulting space feels like a natural home to us, said Peggy,  “a place where we can enjoy our work while finding success in accomplishing our mission.”

The Vermont Woods Studios team
The whole team gathered for our first group photo at Stonehurst

           When asked about their vision of the future for Vermont Woods Studios at Stonehurst, the team had differing answers with a common theme… We would all like to see Stonehurst busy as ever, with a thriving community of happy customers raving about their furniture and excited to be brand advocates for us and for our mission. We envision “people coming from near and far to get an up close look (and feel) at the best handcrafted furniture made in Vermont,” as Martin revealed, while Dennis would like to see people coming to Vermont not only to visit Stonehurst and see our furniture, but to experience all of the culture and activities that the state has to offer as well.  Peggy is hoping to see a relaxed and efficient staff, excited to learn new things and making creative strides every day… plus lots more automation and continued rapid growth. Stonehurst will bring the team closer, and allow us to work more effectively and creatively together… and will also give us more opportunities to have fun! (Liz is really looking forward to future taco parties). Most importantly, however, Peggy explains that we “want to see evidence that we are raising awareness about where your furniture comes from.”

           The move to Stonehurst has been a major transformation for us, and we are excited to see what the future has in store. With a handful of wonderful memories already created here– from happy hours in front of the wood stove in Ken’s shop, to physically helping with the planning and construction of the building, to watching a lone porcupine roam our field… we have high hopes and expectations for our future here. Our sign is finally up out front, signalling the end of the “making of” portion of our Stonehurst story–a chapter we are happy to leave behind. Now, its really time to get to work!


PS. We’ve created a Pinterest board for Stonehurst! Pin us 🙂


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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.

Notes From Vermont’s First Economic Summit

Last updated on May 4th, 2018 at 10:27 am

Vermont's First Economic Summit

Governor Shumlin kicked off Vermont’s First Economic Summit in Rutland yesterday by signing a new downtown development law.Yesterday I traveled to the Paramount Theater in Rutland for Vermont’s First Economic Summit.  Where else but Vermont could a small business owner like me elect to join the Governor, many of his Cabinet members and some of the most successful CEOs in the state to brainstorm about our economic future?  New York?  California?  I don’t think so.  Only in Vermont.

Anyway, about 125 people gathered to discuss the opportunities and challenges of doing business in America’s greenest state.  On one hand our taxes are high, environmental regulations are onerous and the cost of living is barely affordable for most workers.  But, somehow we love to live, work and play here anyway.

So we looked at why that is and listed a lot of benefits that Vermont has to offer:  beautiful scenery, short pleasant commutes to work, relaxed pace, local economies, vibrant farmers markets and co-ops, fabulous farm to plate restaurants, skiing, hiking, fishing, camping, nice neighbors, working landscapes, clean lakes, rivers and streams, sustainable development and so on.  Not to mention easy access to government officials!

Then the task was reconciling the pluses and minus’ of Vermont’s economics in terms of concrete fix-it strategies.  We broke out into small groups to focus on:  workforce development, the Vermont brand, Vermont infrastructure, Global competitiveness, Innovation and a few other topics.  I was lucky to find myself working in the Vermont Brand group with Kathleen Wanner of the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association VWMA, Lynette Kemp of Vermont’s Department of Taxes (we tried not to hold that against her) and Colleeen Leonard, Vermont’s Working Lands Policy Administrator from the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

At the end of the day all of the small groups presented their ideas and recommendations to a plenary session and we discussed plans to follow through both formally and informally.  Now our challenge is to make things happen in a way that preserves Vermont’s pristine rural character and brings economic prosperity to all it’s citizens.  Think it’s doable?

You can read more about the Economic Summit on Vermont Digger.

Break Out Group Working on Defining Vermont's Brand
Robin Scheu, Executive Director at Addison County Economic Development Corporation led the break-out group working on defining Vermont’s brand.  I worked with Kathleen Wanner of the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association VWMA (the only one looking at you), Lynette Kemp of Vermont’s Department of Taxes (we tried not to hold that against her) and Colleen Leonard, Vermont’s Working Lands Policy Administrator from the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

 

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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.

Vermont’s Working Lands Initiative: Our Proposal

Last updated on August 14th, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Vermont Working Landscape Grant
This is the “backyard” of Stonehurst, our future Vermont made furniture gallery and nature center.  We’ve applied for a grant from the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative to close the final funding gap so we can complete Stonehurst renovations by mid-summer.

What do you love best about Vermont?  Our maple syrup?  Organic cheese?  Skiing or snowboarding?  Mountain climbing?  Our farm to plate restaurants?  Chances are whatever your favorites are in Planet Vermont, they are here for you because of Vermont’s working landscape.  That’s the term Vermonters are using to refer to the Green Mountain state’s pastoral forests and fields– and there’s a concerted effort afoot to ensure they will remain sustainable.

Last year our Legislature passed the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative which  allocated $1Million to “stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurism, business development, and job creation.”  A request for proposals to carry out the WL initiative was issued last year and yesterday was the deadline for submittals.

Hundreds of entrepreneurs from all across the state have offered ideas and projects that will eventually add up to a wave of renewed commitment and progress in sustaining our working lands.  We at Vermont Woods Studios are among the group.

Our proposal seeks to use WL grant monies to close the final funding phase of renovating our Stonehurst Furniture Gallery and Nature Center.  From a Working Lands perspective, one of the advantages of Stonehurst is that it tells the story of where Vermont made furniture comes from and how it’s made– sustainably.

Putting our Working Lands proposal together has been quite a process and regardless of whether we win an award, I think it’s been time well spent.  I know the grant is highly competitive.  It’s my understanding that the WL Board received some 268 proposals  for a total request of over $12 million.  They are working with only $1Million in funding, so the odds aren’t good.

But I feel our proposal answers an important need in providing a market for Vermont’s wood furniture and a destination that will attract customers from beyond our borders.  We’ve been able to forge many new partnerships and collaborations as a result of the grant application process and that alone makes the effort worthwhile.

Decisions on grant awards are expected in April and we’ll keep you posted.  Best of luck to everyone who has invested their time into this important project!

 

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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.

Forest Conservation in Vermont

Last updated on May 3rd, 2018 at 04:19 pm

Forest Conservation in Vermont
Vermonters are serious about forest conservation.  It’s not just because the Green Mountain Forest makes a $1 billion contribution to our economy.  Or that the forest industry provides 9% of Vermont’s total manufacturing sales and employment for over 6000 Vermonters.  It’s also that Vermonters love the wildlife and recreation the forest provides.

Vermont is the Green Mountain state and trust me, Vermonters are serious about forest conservation.  If you live in New York or Boston or another metropolitan area you might be surprised though to learn that we have to fight hard every day to keep our forests clean, green and intact.

Dennis and I were at a meeting of the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association last week and as always, forest conservation was high on the list of topics for discussion.  Vermont furniture companies are working on creating a chain of custody for their furniture so customers will be able to trace it back from the furniture maker to the forest where it was sustainably harvested.

You may be thinking: “why do Vermonters think forest conservation is so important?”  Well it’s not just because the Green Mountain Forest makes a $1 billion contribution to our economy.  Or that the forest industry provides 9% of Vermont’s total manufacturing sales and employment for over 6000 Vermonters.  It’s also that Vermonters love the wildlife and recreation the forest provides.

We see how forests are being decimated in tropical countries like Brazil, the DR Congo and Indonesia and we’re determined to do what we can to conserve forests (both our temperate forests and rainforests) for future generations.  Here is  just a short list of Vermont organizations working on the mission of forest conservation:

Another forest conservation group– one near to my heart, is the Vermont Center for Eco Studies. Researchers there are working to conserve habitat for our state’s migrating songbirds.  As such their conservation efforts span both our temperate Vermont forests and the rainforest of the Dominican Republic where our state bird the Bicknell’s Thrush winters.

Learn more about forest conservation and  how it fits into our mission at Vermont Woods Studios on our website.

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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.

Stonehurst Renovation and ADA Compliance

ADA Compliance | Stonehurst
To transform this 200 year old farmhouse and adjacent barn into a fine furniture showroom, we’re connecting the 2 buildings with a third to result in a “U shaped” complex. The floor in the barn (on the left) is being lowered by 2′ to match the floor height in the main house so people in wheelchairs can move about freely. 

ADA Compliance: Lift vs Ramp

When expanding, small retail businesses in Vermont often consider historically significant spaces such as downtown buildings or old farmhouses.  ADA compliance is a major factor in determining the feasibility of such a move.  Entrepreneurs should seek the advice of an architect or other professional during the earliest stages of planning.

Because many small businesses in Vermont are starting to consider expansion these days, I thought I’d share some of our experience with ADA Compliance at Stonehurst, our future Fine Furniture Gallery.  In working with Jeremy Coleman + Company Architects and Bob Furlone of American Construction we’ve explored several alternatives to accommodating customers with disabilities.  At first I began to call Jeremy Coleman “Dr. No”.  He nixed every idea I had on layout and flow, because they weren’t ADA compliant.  The codes aren’t intuitively obvious for a newcomer, but eventually I caught on.

The main challenge we have is that our 200 year old farmhouse sits 2 feet lower than the adjacent horse barn.  Our plan is to connect the two buildings and transform them into a furniture showroom.  But how will a person in a wheelchair be able to go from one building to the next?

We thought about a ramp, but there’s not enough room (a ramp cannot have more than 1″ rise in height per foot of length so that’s 24′ of ramp).  Then we considered a 2′ high elevator lift, but it took up too much floor space and added $30,000 to our cost.  Finally our builder, Bob Furlone suggested lowering the floor in the horse barn.  It’s going to involve some excavating but we all feel it’s the best way to go.

We’re excited that soon we’ll be better able to accommodate the customers who contact us looking for customized furniture designed for wheelchair access.  We’ve modified our dining tables many times by increasing the table height so a wheelchair can fit under the apron.  Now those customers can come see us in person and enjoy the view of Vermont’s Green Mountain Forest while shopping comfortably from their wheelchair.

Stonehurst is still in the planning stages, while we wait for our Act 250 and other permits to be approved by the state of Vermont.  After that happens, we’ll have a ground breaking ceremony and start digging.  Stay tuned for more progress reports or follow us on Facebook for updates.

 

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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.