Vermont Furniture Shopping

An Encyclopedia Of Everything You Need to Know

Vermont Furniture Encyclopedia

About Vermont Furniture Shopping

Vermont is the Fine Furniture Capital of America. The Green Mountain State is increasingly recognized as the countrys leader in high quality, handmade wood furniture. Vermont boasts over 1000 furniture companies plus 2000 independent woodworkers operating out of small shops, barns and garages. They produce a diverse collection of wood furnishings for every taste and budget and together they have earned a world-wide reputation for integrity, authenticity and green design.

Here shoppers will find information on the history of Vermont furniture, Vermont furniture makers, Vermont furniture designs & styles, sustainability, Vermont furniture companies, woods used in Vermont furniture making, education and training of Vermont furniture makers, Vermont furniture quality and craftsmanship and how to find and purchase Vermont made furniture. Interested in learning more? Send us your comments and questions on Facebook and help keep the conversation about this unique form of American craftsmanship alive.

History of Vermont Furniture Makers

Vermont furniture making history can be traced back to the 17th century, and by the 18th century almost every town in Vermont had woodworkers making furniture, tools and utensils. Wood products became the single most important manufacturing industry in Vermont during the 19th century. It was then that Vermont made wood products began their long history of export to customers all over the U.S. and abroad. Wood furniture, wooden cutting boards and bowls, bowling pins, baskets, drumsticks, toys, musical instruments, golf tees, cheese boxes, wooden dolls, gun racks, Scrabble tiles, snowshoes, clothes pins, and wooden shipping boxes were (and continue to be) all products of a thriving Vermont woodworking industry.

Forest To Furniture

Perhaps the biggest contributor to a growing fine furniture and woodworking industry was the character of the land in Vermont. It is estimated that forest covered 90% of Vermont in the 1760s, when many towns were chartered. Travellers in the 1700s would have found extensive forests of various species that were 6 feet in diameter and as high as thirteen-story buildings; some more than 300 years old.
In such an abundance, wood created an identity for many Vermont towns. They have similar stories of logging, lumber mills, and a continuous succession of Vermont furniture companies. In some towns, wood industries provided income for the majority of the population. Technology and products changed with the times to increase production and efficiency, meet market demand, and capitalize on popular trends and tastes. Owners of the mills and factories became community leaders who took responsibility for the commercial and civic growth of their towns.

Notable Vermont Furniture Craftsmen of the 18th & 19th Century

Furniture makers hailing from Wilmington, Norwich, Middlebury, Shaftsbury, Rutland, Charlotte, Putney and Bennington were among the master craftsmen of 18th and 19th century Vermont. Some prominent luxury, custom furniture makers of the time include:
  • George Stedman, Norwich, Vermont, c. 1800-20
  • Asahel (b. 1759) and Martin (1778-c. 1830) Cheney, Putney, Vermont, 1798-1803
  • Hastings Warren (1779-1845), Middlebury, Vermont
  • Asa Loomis, Shaftsbury, Vermont, c. 1815-20
  • Nahum Parker, Middlebury, Vermont, c. 1825-35
  • Levi Pitkin (1774-1854), Montpelier, Vermont, c. 1800

An example of Vermont furniture manufacturers from this era is the H.T. Cushman Furniture in North Bennington, VT. The company opened in 1892 creating popular colonial furniture which was exported from Vermont to the rest of the United States and overseas.

Rich and Tasty Exhibit of Vermont Furniture up to 1850 (Shelburne Museum)

An exhibit on the history of Vermont furniture up to 1850 was featured at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT in 2015. The Rich and Tasty exhibit expanded popular understanding of Vermont high style furniture. It revealed the exquisite craftsmanship of individual forms and encouraged a wide audience to learn about regional tastes and economics that help define Vermont furnitures stylistic features and unexpected aesthetic innovations in the early decades of the nineteenth century".

Quaker Made: Vermont Furniture, 18201835 (Rokeby Museum)

A unique collection of Vermont made furniture crafted by Quaker cabinetmaker Stephen Foster Stevens, is on display at the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, VT along with his account books, photographs, and other personal items.

Antique Vermont Furniture

Where To View or Purchase Vermont Furniture Antiques

Antique dealers throughout the Green Mountain State display relics of the early Vermont furniture industry. The Vermont Antiques Dealers' Association has events featuring their antique furniture. The Shelburne Museum, and Bennington Museum have recently showcased Vermont made furniture collections and pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries. Elaborate grandfather clocks, chests of drawers, secretary desks, sideboards and bureaus made with exotic wood veneers (such as tiger maple, flame birch, birds-eye maple and mahogany) are typical of Vermont fine furniture from this period.

For further information about the history of woodworking in Vermont contact us or visit the Vermont Wood Manufacturer's Association website.

Contemporary Vermont Furniture Makers

  • The Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers is an association of master level furniture makers dedicated to the promotion of quality craftsmanship, excellence in design, and the pursuit of artistic vision. Membership in the Guild is juried by the 28 existing members, many of whom have been recogized nationally and internationally for their world-class designs and craftsmanship.
  • The Vermont Wood Manufacturing Association includes over 100 primary and secondary members of the Green Mountain State's woodworking industry. Member companies employ approximately 6000 people and produce wood furniture, bowls, toys, carvings, flooring, windows, doors and more. VWMA's mission is to support the industry in Vermont and promote its long-term viability by expanding members presence in the marketplace, ensuring a sustainable supply of raw materials, increasing workforce skill and acting as responsible employers and community members.
  • The Vermont Crafts Council. Founded in 1990 by a group of crafts people and representatives of Vermont craft organizations from around the state, the Vermont Crafts Council focuses on education of both the public and the visual arts and crafts community the Crafts Council conducts outreach within Vermont and nationally.

Vermont Furniture Designs & Styles

Vermont style furniture is known for the use of organic solid wood, clear natural finishes and fine craftsmanship. The favorite hardwood among craftspeople and customers is American Black Cherry although a variety of other North American woods including walnut, oak and maple are also prevalent. Popular style categories include:

  • American Shaker Furniture - Born in the Northeast, the Shaker furniture style is a simple, utilitarian design characterized by straight tapered legs, woven chair seats, and mushroom-shaped wooden knobs. Original Shaker furniture was produced by communities of the United Society of Believers starting in the late 1700's. Today's Vermont made Shaker style furniture ranges from a strict interpretation of the original Shaker pieces to many variations on the theme, often incorporating modern functionalities, curves and hardware. Simple aesthetics and sturdy design remain at the heart of today's Vermont Shaker style furniture.
  • Mission, Craftsman and Arts & Crafts Furniture are characterized by rectilinear design, simple, straight construction, heavy proportion and exposed joinery, often using medium or dark stained oak. Drawer pulls are often simple round brass rings or rectangular back plates of solid brass with canted corners and an oval bail handle. Today's Vermont made mission, craftsman and arts & crafts style furniture ranges from traditional to modern Contemporary Craftsman furniture.
  • Mid Century Modern Furniture design has been embraced by Vermont's Copeland Furniture company as they have greatly expanded their offerings over the last decade. Clean, sleek, unadorned lines characterize the classic style of America's mid 20th century designers. Copeland's interpretation of this retro art form is found in their Catalina, Soho, Astrid and Dominion bedroom furniture collections.
  • Contemporary Furniture designs from the late 20th century and early 21st century have come to life in Vermont in styles like the Contemporary Cable Collection, the Modern American Collection and the Modern Designer Collection. Simple design, clean lines, minimalistic shapes and highly functional, space-saving features define this furniture category.

Cherry wood starts out a light pinkish tone right after the tree is cut and milled. Over time, with exposure to light, cherry darkens to a rich reddish brown. Read: What Color Is Real Cherry Furniture?

  • American Black Cherry Wood is a favorite among Vermont furniture makers as it is a stable, workable hardwood that develops a lustrous, rich reddish brown patina over the years. Natural cherry wood starts out a light pinkish color and darkens over time with exposure to light. Because American black cherry fruit trees are not particularly well suited to Vermont's climate most Vermont cherry furniture originates from well managed forests in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
  • American Black Walnut Wood is the only really dark North American wood. It polishes to a beautiful smooth finish and the color ranges from creamy white in the sapwood to a dark chocolate color in the heartwood. There are over 20 species of walnut trees but it is the Eastern Black Walnut tree (aka: American Walnut) that is native to North America and is used for our walnut furniture. Vermont is home to a limited number of walnut trees as our soil is too acidic and our climate too cold. Much of our black walnut wood comes from Ohio, Indiana and other mid-North American states where it grows well and is sustainably harvested.
  • Sugar Maple Wood (aka: hard maple) is Vermont's most abundant hardwood species and a mainstay of many of Vermont's woodworkers. Maple heartwood is usually light reddish brown but sometimes considerably darker (dark maple is often mistaken for cherry wood). The sapwood is usually white with a slight reddish-brown tinge. Maple is heavy, strong, stiff, hard, and resistant to shock. It has a fine, uniform texture with generally straight grain, but variations such as birdseye, curly, wavy or fiddleback grain occur and are often selected for specialty custom artisan furniture.
  • White and Red Oak Woods are solid, sturdy and very durable hardwoods with generally uniform coarse texture and prominent rays. It is not uncommon to find different grain contrasts in the same piece of solid oak wood furniture. The contrast between the look of oak heartwood and sap wood is much less than for cherry wood. Oak wood may darken slightly over time, taking on more amber tones however the change is very subtle, unlike the significant color change with cherry wood. Mission, Craftsman and Arts and Crafts style furniture often employ oak wood. Logs are typically cut in quarters (quartersawn oak) to highlight their unusual grain. Vermont furniture makers typically use locally harvested oak or Pennsylvania grown oak.
  • Other local and regional woods inlcuding ash, birch, beech and aspen are used to a lesser extent in Vermont furniture making. In addition, custom furniture makers sometimes employ the use of sustainably harvested exotic hardwoods such as mahogany, lacewood and bubinga in the creation of high end artisan pieces.

Vermont is known for fine craftsmanship and the high quality of it's wood furniture. Thousands of furniture makers call the Green Mountain state their home. Vermont furniture companies range in size from a single craftsman to a couple dozen to the larger companies (Copeland Furniture and Lyndon Furniture) that employ about 75-100+ craftspeople each. Some furniture makers craft ultra luxury artisan custom furniture. Each of their pieces is unique, made in a small studio, usually by a single artisan, with the occasional help of an apprentice or a family member. Other craftspeople produce more classic handcrafted wood furniture designs which they make routinely, at affordable prices.

The variety of small, custom workshops and studios tucked into Vermont's working landscape is what distinguishes our state from America's other furniture producing regions. Each of these creative craftspeople has his or her own time-tested furniture making techniques and finish routines.

Education and Training

Education and training in the Vermont woodworking industry ranges from techniques handed down through the generations to self teaching to formalized training (both on the job and in trade schools, colleges and private studios). A few of our most popular learning venues are:

  • Vermont Woodworking School in Cambridge is a very popular, well-respected educational institution for woodworking, offering immersion programs, short classes, workshops and degree programs (in coordination with Burlington College).
  • YesterMorrow "teaches the arts of design and building as an integrated process, and provides instruction in fundamental skills. YesterMorrow offers nearly 100 classes in sustainable building and design, construction, natural building, architectural craft, woodworking, working landscapes and ecosystems, energy efficiency, and building science.

Sustainability, Local Economies and Vermont Furniture

Prior to the 1960s the USA dominated the global furniture industry with quintessentially American companies (like Lane, Broyhill, Thomasville, Ethan Allen and La-Z-Boy) producing high quality products in North Carolina, Vermont, Massachusettes, Indiana, Virginia and elsewhere. At that time, wood was harvested locally and regional craftsmen were employed making furniture a vital US industry. But by the 1980s globalization was setting in and America's top furniture manufacturers began a mass exodus to China. Loose regulations and cheap labor & materials quickly led to the outsourcing of America's furniture industry to Asia (some sources estimate that over 75% of wood furniture sold in the USA is imported).

Vermont was the one state that resisted this 20th century trend of outsourcing to Asia. Vermont's major furniture companies: Lyndon Furniture, Copeland Furniture, Pompanoosuc Mills and Newport Furniture along with medium sized and small custom furniture specialists stayed in the Green Mountain State. The philosophy of Vermont's fine furniture industry remains today, much the same as it was a century ago. Drawing on local craftsmanship, local and regional sustainably harvested wood, Vermont's furniture makers continue to embrace the values of quality, sustainability and community.

How to Find and Purchase Contemporary Vermont Made Furniture

Options for purchasing handcrafted Vermont made furniture range from visiting individual craftsmen in their studios to purchasing online. Below is a run-down of popular choices:

  • Small Custom Woodworking Studios - For the unhurried traveler, a favorite way to shop for Vermont made furniture is to tour through the state's backroads visiting craftspeople in their workshops and showrooms. A map of Vermont, showing woodworkers located in every corner of the state can be obtained from the Vermont Wood Manufacturer's Association.
  • Frog Hollow is a non profit arts organization representing over 200 Vermont artisans working with wood, clay, ceramics, jewlery, fiber, metal, photography, painting and more. Shoppers can visit Frog Hollow's retail store on Church Street in downtown Burlington, VT or purchase handmade furniture and crafts online.
  • Vermont Artisan Designs, a fine art and contemporary American craft gallery on Main Street in Brattleboro, VT features unique handmade wood furniture crafted by Vermont woodworkers. Glass, fiber, sculpture, paintings, jewlery, music and more are also celebrated in this gallery. Artisans are from Vermont and other New England states.
  • Vermont Woods Studios began in 2005 as an online venue for Vermont woodworkers to reach out to customers beyond the state's borders. The website features thousands of Vermont fine furniture pieces for sale by the Green Mountain state's most popular furniture makers. Stonehurst, a destination shopping experience has recently taken shape in Vernon, Vermont to further connect customers to Vermont made furniture and the craftspeople who create it.
  • The Fine Furniture Festival in Woodstock, Vermont takes place every year during leaf-peeping season (the last weekend of September). It's a gathering of the state's premiere woodworkers, showcasing fine furniture, sculpture and crafts. Named one of New England's Top 10 Fall Events by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce the festival is an opportunity for shoppers to purchase fine furniture and learn about the forests in Vermont that supply our lumber. Free tours of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, the oldest sustainably managed woodland inNorth America are available.
  • Craft Fairs and Open Studio Weekends, sponsored by the Vermont Crafts Council. Each Spring (Memorial Day weekend) and Fall (first weekend in October) Vermont's Craft Council sponsors an open studio weekend when furniture makers and other artisans throughout Vermont open their studio doors to travelers and shoppers. It's an opportunity to connect with the craftsman and see the quality and authenticity that goes into handmade crafts.


This encyclopedia is a work in progress. We welcome your input as we continually revise and update this page. Please contact us with your comments.