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Mark’s Excellent Adventure in Thailand

Date added: 24-02-2010

If the folks here haven’t seen hide nor hair of co-owner Mark Gatterdam in the last several weeks, there’s a reason. He and his wife, Erika, conveniently used their points to take a first-class airplane ride to Thailand. For three weeks. During the worst snowstorm we’ve seen in decades.

So: while you were out shoveling 20 inches of snow, here’s where Mark was:

Welcome to fantasy island.

Welcome to fantasy island.

Yes, while we were complaining of backaches and sore arms from all that shoveling, Mark and Erika were complaining of sunburn on the blog they created for the trip. As for aches, those got kneaded away by the 12 massages Mark got during the trip. His only complaint? That he didn’t get more.

From his perspective as an artisan, though, Mark was able to share a few observations that didn’t make the rest of us snowbound losers gag ourselves.

Bangkok is known for its tailors, so Mark and Erika both had clothes made for them while they were there – bespoke service for less than what you would pay at Nordstrom’s for a nice suit, can’t beat it.

Marks fitting

Mark’s fitting

They also visited a Thai Craft consortium, which showcases saori, a weaving technique. Sales benefit women affected by the 2004 tsunami by keeping them employed by their craft.

Thai Craft consortium

Thai Craft consortium

Next, they visited the White Temple in Chiang Rai. You thought our people at Hardwood Artisans were talented? We’ve got nothin’ on this:

White Temple in Chiang Rai

White Temple in Chiang Rai

Erika also saw a notice in a local paper for an art fair of master craftsman who are skilled in the Japanese bamboo basket weaving technique, known as beppu. They wouldn’t let Mark take any pictures, but we found some representations here:

Traditional Japanese basket weaving

Traditional Japanese basket weaving

Another example

Another example

Mark’s fondest memory is of going to Myanmar, and riding down the Mekong River into Laos. “Sitting on this long tail boat, scooching down the Mekong River, I’m thinking, ‘How did I get here?’” he asks. (That’s the David Byrne in you, Mark. But rest assured, that is your beautiful wife!)

And finally, a note on cutting trees. We have a huge shop filled with big, powerful machines to cut the wood for our furniture. It takes mere seconds to cut through big, long slabs of it.

But as Mark was sitting by the pool one day, he saw someone truly dedicated to his task, with nothing but a dull blade:

Pruning palms

Pruning palms

Here’s what he said about it: “We spent an hour watching a man pruning the coconut palm tree by the pool today. Everyone was watching. He climbed the tree barefoot, and proceeded to cut the fruit and lower it by rope to three men below. He was using what was obviously a pretty dull hatchet, chopping repeatedly at his task. These people are really very industrious.”

Watch out, artisans – run for the hills if you now hear Mark telling you that you need to be “more industrious.”

We’ll exit this post now with one last bragging right from Mark. You see, while we were staring out the window at a blizzard, here’s what Mark was looking at:

By the pool

By the pool

Not too shabby, eh?

Bill and Dru Vodra: Just Like Family

Date added: 21-02-2010
Look inside the Vodras’ lovely home on the Potomac River in Alexandria, and you’ll find a collection of Hardwood Artisans furniture dating back to their first purchase in 1985.

Look inside the Vodras’ lovely home on the Potomac River in Alexandria, and you’ll find a collection of Hardwood Artisans furniture dating back to their first purchase in 1985.

Bill and Dru Vodra have so much of our furniture in their Alexandria home that when I went to visit the other day, he laid out one rule for the tour: “The default position here is, it’s Hardwood Artisans. We’ll tell you what’s not.”

Bill and Dru Vodra sit on one of our sofas in their living room.

Bill and Dru Vodra sit on one of our sofas in their living room.

The Vodras are among our dearest customers who keep coming back for more, and it’s with their constant support, input, and ideas that our lines have evolved from just loft beds to any imaginable case good for the home.

That’s why, when they walked into one of our showrooms recently and a sales associate who didn’t know them approached, co-founder Larry Spinks waved off the associate. “Oh, don’t bother with them – they’re family.”

Keep reading to get the full house tour.

(more…)

How Much Would You Pay for This Man?

Date added: 17-02-2010
Greg in his workshop

Greg in his workshop

Now think hard. This is our general manager, Greg Gloor, who will give you 30 hours of his time in our Woodbridge shop to help you make your own piece of Hardwood Artisans furniture.

You can bid on him at the grand opening of our Fairfax showroom at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 20. And you can have fun doing it: Alison asked a member of her church “who’s a really funny guy” to do honors as the auctioneer.

Your money will go toward a great cause: Kids R First, (www.kidsrfirst.org) a charity based in Fairfax County that gives 98 percent of its donations to school supplies and college scholarships to children from needy families in our region.

So that’s where the money goes. And what do you get with your 30 hours, you ask?

Well, here’s an answer from our esteemed artisans, and I quote:

•          Have you always wanted to learn how to build furniture or pondered what goes into the process?

•          Have you always wanted to know how the objects you sit on and eat on are built?

•          Do you want to gain knowledge so you can build the perfect chair you have always dreamed of or a nightstand that is just the right height?  These 30 hours with Greg will give you the basic skills and knowledge to do so.

•          Have you always wanted to learn how to design furniture, how to get the proper dimensions for a piece, what type of wood to buy, what nails you should use, if any?  All of these details you will learn in the 30 hours.

•          Greg Gloor is the founder and general manager of Hardwood Artisans.  He and his friend Larry started Hardwood Artisans in 1976 as a simple two-man shop using only a router, Skilsaw, hand sander and drill.  They built loft beds and platform beds from birch wood.

•          Greg knows woodworking. Greg knows furniture design. Greg is also a wonderful, fun person to work with and learn from.  Not only will you learn great woodworking skills, but we believe you will have an great time doing it.

•          The best part of this auction is how you will be able to put the skills and knowledge Greg teaches you to a practical use.  You and Greg will go through the process of designing and building your own piece at our incredible wood shop in Woodbridge.

•          Greg is willing to work these hours into your schedule.  If the weekends are a better time for you, we can arrange it.  If the weekdays work better, we can make it happen. We want you to learn a lot, enjoy your time and leave the shop feeling happy, and with a piece that you can call your own.

Quick, easy kitchen fixes

Date added: 15-02-2010

Kitchen remodels are never inexpensive, particularly when you have a personal commitment to quality like many of our customers. Let’s say you aren’t ready to completely overhaul your kitchen, at least not for the next few years. There are several easy-to-do solutions that can give your kitchen a quick facelift.

Cute and colorful knobs can brighten up your kitchen.

Cute and colorful knobs can brighten up your kitchen.

Replace (or add) knobs and pulls. When my parents bought their latest home, it was brand new and completely built and finished, therefore, it was up to them to customize it.  One of the first things to go was the standard bronze knob on the all the cabinets. My mom is a very cute, crafty lady, so she chose very cute hand painted ceramic knobs, similar to this one. What a difference it made to the kitchen! What was a once pretty standard became whimsical and inviting. Imagine what knobs like these could do to your cabinets.  Just be sure to check the size you need before you buy. If you have 3″ handles, you’ll need to purchase handles that screw in at the same place – you don’t want to fill holes.

A sophisticated glass knob

A sophisticated glass knob

Replace light fixtures. If you have a kitchen light in the middle of your kitchen or hanging over your kitchen table, swap it out. Don’t be afraid to throw some color into your lighting.

Colorful lighting can cheer up any kitchen.

Colorful lighting can cheer up any kitchen.

New floor coverings, linens and upholstery. If you  have rugs in your kitchen, say at the kitchen sink, put a different colored or textured one down. Not only are new rugs more squishy (therefore better for your back), but a brightly colored one could really pop! New hand towels, table cloths, placemats and kitchen chair seats can make a world of a change too. You can keep within the establish color scheme by trying out a new pattern too – got flowers? Try stripes!

A new rug can completely change how you look at your kitchen.

A new rug can completely change how you look at your kitchen.

Clean off your countertops. This may seem silly, and more of a cleaning issue than a design one, but it’s shocking how different your kitchen can look when you de-clutter your countertop.

So the next time you think you need a new kitchen and don’t have the funds or motivation for a re-haul, try even one of these things and for a fraction of the cost and time you can get a new look!

Katie Grech is a designer at Hardwood Artisans. You can email your design dilemmas to Katie here and she will answer as many as possible in future posts.

“Ribbon” Cutting? Yeah, right.

Date added: 14-02-2010

Most grand openings involve a ribbon cutting to get things started. But as we contemplate our upcoming grand opening at the Fairfax showroom, ribbons just didn’t seem to fit who we are.

So, we’re going to do a different kind of cutting on Feb. 20 – with THIS:

Who needs scissors?

Who needs scissors?

It’s an antique loggers’ saw that Curt Smay found at a friend’s house, which is where he got this great idea. Two of our guys are going to use it to slice open a log to unveil the new store – which quietly opened last month, but we’re pulling out the big guns, er, saw, next Saturday. How cool is that?

After the official log cutting, customers can come in and enjoy music, food, wine tastings, and demonstrations. Owner Mark Gatterdam will talk about furniture care, and Edwin Moncada will be explaining the technique behind creating stained glass.

Meanwhile, customers can also participate in our live auction to win 30 hours of time in our Woodbridge shop with owner Greg Gloor, who will help the winner make a furniture piece of his or her choosing. So if you know anyone who loves woodworking, bring them along!

Here’s where to find us:

Pender Village Shopping Center

3905A Fair Ridge Dr.

Fairfax, VA 22033

703-537-0600

Or for more information, view the event details here.

Snow, Snow Go Away

Date added: 09-02-2010

It’s been pretty, but are we ready for this to end yet?

This is what the Fairfax showroom looked like Friday night.

This is what the Fairfax showroom looked like Friday night.

By Sunday, the Fairfax showroom looked like this.

By Sunday, the Fairfax showroom looked like this.

And the parking lot looked like this.

And the parking lot looked like this.

All in all, we think it might be nice if it stopped now.

This isn’t Michigan, after all!

Fun with Kitchen Remodeling

Date added: 08-02-2010

What, you don’t think “fun” and “kitchen remodeling” belong in the same sentence? Having gone through one myself, and written about countless others, I think the sentence is possible if you go into it with the right expectations.

Hardwood Artisans has recently gotten into the business of kitchens, and the new Fairfax showroom has cabinetry on display to show the kind of work they do:

Cabinetry in the new Fairfax showroom

Cabinetry in the new Fairfax showroom

As you might guess, cabinetry from Hardwood Artisans isn’t cheap – in fact, no cabinetry ever is, according to this great write-up on the HGTV Web site. Cabinetry accounts for 35 percent of your remodeling budget – the biggest chunk of all line items, including labor and appliances.

As they say, you get what you pay for. So check out the cabinetry General Manager Greg Gloor and co-owner Mark Gatterdam built for their own kitchens:

Mark’s kitchen, with Craftsman-inspired cabinets.

Mark’s kitchen, with Craftsman-inspired cabinets.

The warm glow of the cherry wood on Mark’s cabinets is a nice counterpoint to the black granite counters and backsplash.

The warm glow of the cherry wood on Mark’s cabinets is a nice counterpoint to the black granite counters and backsplash.

Greg used bamboo countertops for his kitchen, along with the custom cabinetry.

Greg used bamboo countertops for his kitchen, along with the custom cabinetry.

Going back to HGTV, I tend to think its programming gets a little goofy at times, but the articles on its Web site are very informative. (Full disclosure: I’ve written a couple of them!)

Here are some other great links to kitchen remodeling on that site, which are worth printing and keeping. This one talks about finding a good contractor, and this one details how to set a budget, plan, and even pay the remodeling bills.

Another great resource for researching remodels is the National Kitchen and Bath Association, or NKBA for short. I found a good all-around article with consumer tips here, which talks about when — and why – to update, and there is an exhaustive Q&A that gets down to the nitty gritty of every aspect of kitchen remodeling, right here.

And if you want to know how the marketers have you figured out as a kitchen consumer, read this interesting article about a survey of more than 3 million households, which asked people about their searching and buying habits for kitchen upgrades.

So once you have your remodeling plan, you’ve set aside enough money for each of the line items (including those unexpected expenses that always enter the equation), you’re ready to have fun, right?

Speaking of fun…

Owner Ricardo Berrum is working with a couple who who just ordered a kitchen plan for their DC condo. They came back to Hardwood Artisans after buying a piece of furniture from us 20 years ago.

Part of the new kitchen plan includes custom-carved drawer fronts of quarter-sawn white oak, which the customer provided.

“That’s most likely the reason they went with us,” Ricardo says. There are about 20 panels that the couple purchased 10 years ago. “We’re going to try to use all of them and integrate them into their kitchen,” he says.

Carved drawer face

Carved drawer face

We’ll post pictures of the finished product in 10-12 weeks, once the project is installed.

Mad for Murphy Beds

Date added: 05-02-2010

For a while, I thought Murphy beds only lived on old sitcoms. Honestly? I didn’t think they existed anymore. I laughed when Mark Gatterdam first told me that Hardwood Artisans made Murphy beds – I thought it was a joke. I had in my head this image of some cheap bed falling out of the wall, hitting some poor slob over the head with a laugh-track voiceover.

Weeellll, not so much, it turns out. The way these artisans make enclosures for the Murphy bed, so you would never know there was actually a bed in back, was a surprise to me.

“People are so amazed to see they still exist,” Mark says. On most of the Hardwood Artisans beds, all internal bed mechanisms come from the original Murphy Bed company.

One of them is featured in the current online edition of Washington Spaces magazine, where Joan and Jack Dempsey hired us to build one for their small basement so it could be used as a guest room—when it wasn’t in use as a poker room or wine cellar.

Larry Northrop worked with the Dempseys to modify the standard measurements of the Library Bed so it would fit perfectly into their space. Photograph © Morgan Howarth

Larry Northrop worked with the Dempseys to modify the standard measurements of the Library Bed so it would fit perfectly into their space. Photograph © Morgan Howarth

“I’ve known about Hardwood Artisans for years,” Joan Dempsey says. When she and her husband downsized to a remodeled carriage house in Alexandria, they knew they wanted a Murphy bed. “We knew they did extremely high-quality work, so it was a no-brainer to go with them.”

And because these beds come with Tempur-Pedic mattresses, she adds, it’s much more comfortable than a typical pull-out. The ultimate compliment came from her 16-year-old nephew: “He said he had never slept in a better bed. He talks about it all the time. I don’t know what kind of cat nip they have in that bed, but it was amazing.”

Another project in DC’s Chinatown (which I blogged about for Washington Spaces last year) allows Annie Kammerer to work in a sleek, contemporary office by day, but still make it welcome for guests at night.

Not only does the custom unit fold down into a bed, a panel on the outside also folds down into extra desk space.

Home office with a modified Panel bed

The bed is more comfortable for guests than a sofa bed because it features a standard mattress.

The bed is more comfortable for guests than a sofa bed because it features a standard mattress.

The bed is more comfortable for guests than a sofa bed because it features a standard mattress.

Annie had this to say about the outcome, which she shared on the Spaces blog:

“The den really functions as both a spacious office and a cozy guest room–I swear it doubled in size with this installation. The guest drawers to the left of the double bed (coupled with the closet) make the room comfortable for two guests. The office is definitely the most Zen space I’ve ever had to work in.”

Joan Dempsey says she turned to us because no other company would agree to change their measurements for her space, and much of what Hardwood Artisans does is custom. “It wouldn’t have worked if they had not worked with me.”

Take a look at our Murphy beds online or in our of our four showrooms.

We Love Our Customers

Date added: 03-02-2010

We are blessed with great customers who keep returning over the years to add more of our furniture to their collections. We had a reception for them in the new Fairfax showroom this week, so they could see the place.

Adrian Small

Adrian Small

Adrian Small www.adriansmall.com is among this group. As an interior designer, she’s purchased through us for her clients as well as for herself. She’s such a great customer, in fact, that we asked her to be our in-house designer for kitchen cabinetry.

“I’m picky, they’re picky – two picky people, and it works fine,” she says.

Adrian Small and Designer Andrea Olsen

Adrian Small and Designer Andrea Olsen

Designer Andrea Olsen www.floor-to-ceiling.com was with Adrian the other night, as they often combine forces on projects. She said the furniture was right in line with what her clients are after these days.

“When clients buy furniture, it’s really an investment, and they want to make sure what they have will last,” she says. She particularly likes the Murphy beds:

A library by day…

A library by day…

And a guest bed at night.

And a guest bed at night.

“Especially with how expensive real estate can be,” Olsen explains, “it’s the perfect feature for the home office – it turns into a second bedroom real easily without having this huge bed in the middle of your office.”

Linda Hewes stands with the Waterfall secant table, which she purchased at the new showroom.

Linda Hewes stands with the Waterfall secant table, which she purchased at the new showroom.

Linda Hewes is another favorite of ours. Her first Hardwood Artisans purchase was in 1981, when pretty much all we sold were beds. “We really overextended ourselves buying the loft bed for our 10-year-old son,” she says.

And even though her own collection is small, she adds, “to me, it’s therapy to come in here and see all their beautiful things.” She especially loves our Waterfall collection: “I love the curves – it’s a beautiful, clean look.”

The Waterfall sideboard

The Waterfall sideboard

The Waterfall dining table

The Waterfall dining table

Linda purchased a small console table for her kitchen, in addition to a lamp stand that Mark let her take right off the floor.

It goes without saying that no business could survive without customers, but we really must say it because we feel like we have the very best customers, who ultimately become great friends. We will be posting from time to time on these interesting people and their environments, which we’ve been lucky enough to enhance.

Ronni Jolles: Our New Artist Debut

Date added: 01-02-2010

While we’re on a roll here to make everything in our Fairfax showroom different from all the rest, customers will now see the gorgeous paper-collage artwork of Ronni Jolles http://www.ronnijolles.com/ from Great Falls, VA hanging on the walls through April 1.

Artist Ronni Jolles

Artist Ronni Jolles

Ronni came to our VIP customer reception on Tuesday to demonstrate her technique (because, do you know anyone else doing artwork with paper?), and she’s just a delight, as is her work, which we felt was a great pairing with our handmade furniture.

The way we came together was purely by chance, but it also seems like there was some karma involved.

Silhouette of TreesbrLayered paper and pastelbr38 x 20

“Silhouette of Trees”, Layered paper and pastel, 38″ x 20″

Our marketing coordinator, Julianne Yurek, first went searching online for a good local artist to feature in the new showroom. “We were thinking about making our own artwork,” she says, laughing, “but that, of course, is never a good idea.”

So, Julianne started surfing, entering “northern Virginia artist” as a search term. After going through more than 30 artists’ Web sites, she found Ronni, who lives in Great Falls, VA. “There’s this beautiful texture that’s created through the piling and the layering of paper,” Julianne says. And the earthy, textural element that results is a wonderful match to the textures and tones of the furniture.

Blues and Greys of Winter, Layered paper and pastel, 20 x 30

“Blues and Greys of Winter”, Layered paper and pastel, 20″ x 30″

When Julianne called Ronni, it turned out that Ronni had known and admired Hardwood Artisans for years, which is such an incredible compliment. “I’ve always thought the furniture was absolutely amazing,” Ronni says.  “It’s so beautiful, it’s almost like an art piece. It’s one of these stores where I’d just like to buy everything from them.”

The feeling is mutual, Ronni. We’re even more impressed after watching this video http://www.ronnijolles.com/about.asp on her Web site, which documents her painstaking (and self-taught) process of creating each piece.

Cherry Blossoms, Layered paper and pastel, 28 x 22

“Cherry Blossoms”, Layered paper and pastel, 28″ x 22″

Midtown, Paper, fabric and pastel, 36 x 12

“Midtown”, Paper, fabric and pastel, 36″ x 12″

New Orleans Jazz, Layered paper and pastel, 25 x 21

“New Orleans Jazz”, Layered paper and pastel, 25″ x 21″

Ronni, an art teacher of 18 years who has been creating her paper collages for 10 of them, will move her work out of the showroom in April to exhibit in the prestigious Smithsonian Craft Show http://www.smithsoniancraftshow.org/indexmain.asp, of which Hardwood Artisans is a corporate sponsor, at the National Building Museum, where she has been accepted for the first time. In addition, she’ll be the only local exhibitor in the “paper” category.

Ronni Jolles at work

Ronni Jolles at work

We’re proud to say we knew you when, Ronni!

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