There’s more than one way to look at this bad economy. In our case, the construction industry’s loss has been our gain. Our newest artisans here, Andy Muth and Josh Gettings, went looking for better ways to hone their craft when jobs in new construction started drying up last year, and thanks to Craigs List, they found their way to our Woodbridge shop last summer. Let’s meet them.
Andy graduated from George Mason University with a biology degree in 2005, but he had loved his shop and engineering classes in middle school and at Woodson High School in Fairfax, where he grew up. After a stint at the Nature Conservancy and a few years working in the remodeling industry, he says, “the hours [became] so light with the economy so bad, this was a steady job, and I’ve always been into building furniture.”
Working with wood had always been a hobby, he says, but “nothing like this. Nothing this high quality … That’s really why I’m here. I just love the craft.”
Another thing Andy loves is the fact that all the artisans here are able to use the shop machines for personal projects on their own time. They can buy their wood at cost and make whatever they want. “I made my girlfriend a jewelry box for Christmas. She loved it,” he says. “I want to do more personal projects in the future – that’s one of the great benefits.”
Josh moved down here from New Jersey in July, when his girlfriend got a great job with ExxonMobil. For him, it was an opportunity to move away from construction, which he started doing part time at age 14 and full time since he graduated from high school in 2000.
“I used to be a framer, and I wanted to get into the finishing aspect of carpentry,” he says. “This is a great place to do it, because they’re known for high-quality furniture.”
Before coming here, Josh had done “a little bit of trim work in framing buildings,” but like Andy, nothing like this. “I never worked with any of the machines,” he says. Yet the atmosphere in the shop is one where the seasoned artisans mentor and teach the junior ones.
Josh says he’s been impressed with how generous people are with their time and knowledge – even if they don’t work directly with him. “I can ask anybody outside the team and they’re more than willing to help,” he says. The craftsmen here work in teams of about five, where they all work together to build certain pieces of furniture. Josh’s team mainly builds dinner tables, chairs and desks.
Like Andy, Josh is using his newfound woodworking skills for personal endeavors. He’s currently building three Shinto stools for his home. The problem with that, of course, is that his girlfriend now wants to come to the showroom and make a list of all the other things she wants him to make. As far as problems go in this economy, however, we think that’s a good one to have.
You’ve decided it’s time to re-do a room, so where do you begin?
Many people would head straight to the paint store. If a fresh coat of paint is all you need then buy that paint, spend a few hours and Viola! a refreshed living room. If your plans lie beyond just paint and you want a whole new room then the paint store would be the last place to start, after all there are thousands of paint colors, but a only so many sofas, dining tables or rugs.
I like to pick at least one thing that I love and is going to stay. Maybe it’s an heirloom rug or a $5 vase from a DC flea market. While I’m not suggesting to build your room around that one piece, it’s a great place to start and may help guide your color and style selection.
After you have the one piece squared away and your color & style gears are beginning to grind – look towards the floor for your next clue. Whether you’re laying down wood, bringing in carpet, or in search of the perfect rug, this is the time to really consider what you are trying to accomplish in that room. Warm and fuzzy? Shag carpet may be your ticket! Minimalistic? Hard wood or a very neutral, no-pattern rug would add subtle, non-competing beauty.
Once that flooring is chosen it’s time for a trip to Hardwood Artisans, or to another furniture store. You are ready to choose that sofa/dining table/queen size bed. Keep in mind the style and color scheme you began to develop and the hints that your special piece gave you. Furniture will guide you almost the rest of the way to your solidified color & style. Now is a good time to choose lighting fixtures as well!
From furniture it’s time for the window treatments. But like paint, you have various window options and just need to follow your theme and tried not to get tied up in fabric swatches.
Now you’ve earned your trip to paint store. It may seem silly to have to move that furniture one more time, but it’s a lot better than getting the room done and pictures hung only to realize the one thing you hate and one thing that does not create a cohesive look is the paint. Just don’t forget to grab a few drop clothes for your new floor and furniture!
Lastly are accessories. Personally, I don’t like to buy accessories all at once. I like to buy things that strike me as I find them and let them slowly make their presence in my home.
Katie Grech is a designer with Hardwood Artisans. She has dual Bachelor’s degrees in interior design and furniture design. She’d love to help you with your design dilemmas. If you have an interior design challenge, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured on our blog.
For more than 30 years, Hardwood Artisans has sold, well, hardwood furniture made by artisans. Hence the name, right? Well, we decided to throw some more new artisans into the mix with our new Fairfax showroom, as part of our endeavor to make it different from the way we’ve always displayed our furniture in the past.
We’re now offering more accessories made in the same loving manner as our furniture, and they can be purchased only in Fairfax. Come take a look.
Gorgeous traditional shaker boxes made by Brent Roarke in New Brunswick, Canada
A cabinetmaker by trade, Brent Roarke has been making these boxes for 13 years, while continually coming out with new sizes and styles. Roarke, who works from a restored century-old barn, says the boxes are based on traditional sizes, but some of the newer products, such as a divided carrier, jewelry box, and bureau tray, are adapted to today’s uses.
He explains their popularity: “It’s a very tactile thing. It’s pleasing to the eye, but when you pick it up, it’s smooth to the touch, and they have an interesting shape.”
Handblown glassware by Simon Pearce
Pearce grew up in Ireland, working with his brother out of their father’s potter’s shed. As he came into his own as a potter, he traveled to work as an apprentice in New Zealand, where his passion extended to glassmaking as he started collecting old glass. “Each glass is made by one person, hand finished,” Pearce says in a video on his Web site. “That’s what really got me into glass.”
Pearce opened his first glass workshop in Ireland in the ’60s. “Like any skilled craftsperson, the way you learn is by doing,” Pearce says, “and that’s how I learned over two years, by blowing glass all day, every day.”
He moved to the United States in the late ’70s, settling in Quechee, VT, on a bucolic river the company produces its own electricity through hydro-energy. The facility is now a tourist destination, with a highly rated restaurant on the premises. As creative director Liz Ross describes the Pearce glassware and pottery, “It’s affordable luxury, to be used every day, and passed on to future generations.”
Bedding produced by the Rockville-based Blissliving Home
When Blissliving Home Founder Mei Xu was traveling the country, promoting her lines from the Chesapeake Bay Candle company, she noticed that the hotel beds she slept in had inferior linens.
That’s why she set out to create her own bedding, made from high-quality cotton from the Orient. In addition, spokeswoman Stephanie Tait says, “she’s always had this thing about how there’s a disconnect between home décor and fashion.”
The bold colors and patterns on the Blissliving duvet and comforter sets are inspired by nature, travel and fashion. “I get inspired anywhere and anytime,” Mei says in her style profile. “It can be a visit to the museum, a book I am reading, a fashion magazine, or a movie. Another major source of inspiration for my designs is my travels around the globe. I love to travel – I would not be happy without it – and I am fascinated with the different cultures of the world.”
We at Hardwood Artisans, of course, are steeped in the craft tradition, so when we are looking for accessories to sell with our handmade wood products, we want purveyors who are like-minded. In the Fairfax showroom here, you will be able to see that we’ve found them.
I’m happy to introduce Jennifer Sergent, formerly of Washington Spaces magazine, as the newest addition to the Hardwood Artisans blogging team.
We here at Hardwood Artisans so admired Jennifer’s style and wit when she wrote a mini-feature on us in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Spaces that when Spacesfolded late last year, we immediately approached her to write for us. She’ll bring a fresh perspective to the story behind Hardwood Artisans for your reading pleasure.
If you’ve read our two most recent blog entries, Our Fairfax Flagship is Open! and For the Love of Linnaea, then you’ve already been introduced to Jennifer’s writing. But if you’d like to read more, head on over to her own blog, DC by Design.
And please welcome Jennifer in the comments!
I heard once that the term “chairman” originated centuries ago, when dwellings had little in the way of furniture. When there was a chair, there was usually just one, and it was reserved for the most important person in the house, or an honored guest.
When it comes to building chairs, this piece of furniture that most of us (and our fannies) take for granted still retains its perch on top of the furniture-making hierarchy.
General Manager Greg Gloor explains why chair-making is so difficult: “You can have a dresser that looks good, and it’s good dresser. You can have a good-looking chair – but it’s damned uncomfortable. A chair has to cradle and support the human body, which no other piece of furniture does. It’s the most meticulous work we do in the shop because the pieces are so small compared to what you’re asking them to do.”
One of the first things you see when you walk into the new Fairfax showroom is this sleek, mid-century modern bed and end tables:
And this handsome chest just to the side:
They are from the new Linnaea collection, which has distinctly Swedish roots, considering the initial goal was to create a look that was “Danish Modern.”
“I was looking at plants for inspiration,” co-owner Mark Gatterdam says. He ran across the linnaea borealis, the national flower of Sweden.
“I just kept coming back to this word,” Mark says. And it didn’t hurt that Marketing Director Alison Heath’s favorite coffee shop in her native San Luis Obispo, CA, is called Linnaea’s. And they both loved the organic roots of the word, which they tried to capture in the style of our first mid-century collection:
The craftsmen in the Woodbridge shop spent countless hours coming up with the perfect design prototypes for the Linnaea pieces. There’s even a Linnaea graveyard where the rejects are piled:
The results are worth it – especially in the big-picture scheme of things, Mark says. “My vision was to re-position the organization,” he says. “What that meant was playing with the big boys, coming up with new product lines … Alison said we needed a mid-century modern thing. All I could remember was ugly parents’ furniture that was badly done from the ’70s, but there are some really cool ’40s and ’50s cutting-edge styles.
The customers seem to be happy too – especially all the scientists we get in our Rockville showroom who come from NIH, NASA, Walter Reed Army Medical Center – “and those rock lickers” from the National Geological Survey, Mark adds. They all recognize the Linnaea name.
“Several customers immediately knew what the reference was,” Mark says. “Linnaea was more recognizable than I had anticipated, which made us happy. In people’s minds, it’s organic. Other people just think it’s a nice word.”
Drive into the new Pender Village shopping center in Fairfax, and there it is, right next to the new Harris Teeter grocery store. We say this because our building permits were linked, and they were worried that little ol’ us wouldn’t be able to finish our work in time, and that we might be a drag on big ol’ them. Well tut tut, Harris Teeter, we were a month ahead of you, and our shelves are stocked with much prettier things:
We closed our Chantilly showroom to make way for the much bigger one (4,300 square feet) in closer-in Fairfax because 50 percent of our clientele comes from the Reston/Herndon/Fairfax area. “It made sense to move in for them,” Mark says.
Eleven months ago, Marketing Director Alison Heath sent a memo to our sales staff, outlining our vision for what the store should be: “It will go farther than we ever have in attempting to communicate our core messages – that we’re local, that we’re craftsmen, and that we’re quality. The idea is to bring the shop into the showroom.”
To inspire everyone, Alison created a “concept board” with assorted images meant to evoke the feeling we were after. (The living room in the central picture belongs to our general manager, Greg Gloor.)
Read on to see how that vision was realized.
Last week, a bunch of us from Hardwood Artisans visited the Pope-Leighey House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939. Though it was moved from Falls Church to its existing location on the grounds of Woodlawn in Alexandria in order to make way for the new Interstate 66 in 1964, the home is still oriented the way it would have been in Falls Church and great care was taken to adjust the topography of the new location to closely match the old.
Unfortunately, taking pictures inside is not allowed, but the photographers in our group (Alanna, our marketing coordinator, Jason, a craftsman and design team member and Mark, one of the owners) got some great shots of the exterior.
Here’s a selection:
Most of us were fairly disappointed by the furniture, which was innovative, but not particularly well-designed. For example, all the tables in the home are the same size and height, which meant than the owner could use them to create one very large table, but the legs were awkwardly positioned in relation to the chairs, meaning you would nearly always be straddling either a leg or a seam between the tables. The furniture was also all plywood, which was a new, hip, expensive material when the home was built, but which looks rather unfinished to the modern eye.
That said, there was some fabulous floating shelving in the living room where they used L-brackets, but put the bottom part of the “L” behind the paneling so the shelves are more stable than the floating shelves you would typically see today.
All in all, it was a really fun trip. Despite our reservations about the furniture, the architecture is interesting and getting the story behind the home and the two families who owned it was enlightening.
It seems like whenever I see bookcases in a magazine, they always have more stuff on them than books. They’re usually very pretty. For example, this post by one of my favorite DC bloggers.
The problem is that such an artful arrangement might work for some people, but it would never work for me. I simply have too many books. See, like many of our customers, I am a book-a-holic. I love to read them, shop for them, browse them online. A life-long love affair with books is both a blessing and a curse.
If you’re not the kind of person who can arrange their books by color or intersperse them with vases and artfully placed shells and folk art either, this guide to buying bookcases is for you. Some of these steps might be a little rough so take a deep breath.
1)Get rid of some books. I like to do this with the TV or music on to distract me from the pain of parting. I use the following categories:
-Books I did not like
-Books I liked but probably would not read again
-Books I liked and will read over and over and reference books
-Books I have not read yet
2)Get rid of the books in the first two categories. A local used bookstore is great, but there aren’t as many of those about any more. I sell my books to Powell’s through their website and they give me store credit so I can get more books.
3)Put the books you have not read yet into another pile within easy reach of your bed, favorite chair or other favorite reading place. If you have not picked up a book in that pile within the next three months. You never will. Get rid of them and buy something you will read.
4)Put the books in the order that you like to store them (topic, alphabetical by author, your own system of classification).
5)Measure for total length, height and depth of books.
6)Now measure the length, height and depth of your space.
7)Bring these measurements into your chosen store.
Hardwood Artisans can build bookcases in any size and we have seven woods and lots of styles to choose from. If you want built-in bookcases, we can do that too. Just let us know what you need.
When I stated in this earlier entry that Mark gave me a ton of food, I really meant it. The sheer amount of cucumbers alone barely fit in my veggie crisper bin in my refrigerator! While I was on the baking kick, I decided that cucumber bread sounded just as delicious as cucumber muffins, and my dear sous chef/boyfriend was more than happy to help me prepare it.
Cinnamon Pecan Cucumber Bread
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cucumber, peeled and pureed (though you could also grate them if you’re really feeling domestic)
3 cups white flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
Pecans, as desired (walnuts might be good, too)
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Fill loaf pans evenly. Bake at 325 degrees for 60 – 70 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.
Since I took the cucumber muffins to work with me, dear boyfriend took the bread to work with him. He reports that the bread was devoured with the morning coffee. There are also reports that the Spicy Peanut Butter Frosting of the cucumber muffins fame also makes a good spread for the bread.
If you make this, I’d love to hear how it turns out!