Simply Beautiful Furniture.

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A study in peanut butter

Date added: 30-07-2009

Aside from always wanting a Barbie Dreamhouse, I can’t say I have always been particularly attuned to furniture. It’s a love that came on later in life.

Growing up though, I recall my parents being fairly preoccupied with paint. When I was around five or six, they painted our living room forest green. It was a very nice color. In fact, I have something similar in my own living room now. However, in our Spanish Colonial revival home in California, I remember them going for a faux-painted look later on that, well, ended in tragedy. It looked more like peanut butter that had been smeared on the walls than stucco or marble or whatever it was supposed to look like (they did have it repainted).

Decorating mistakes are easy to make, whether it’s believing the painter who says that the faux-whatever is going to look fantastic or choosing a trendy dining room table. The thing about furniture is that it’s a lot more expensive to change than paint. That’s why choosing great basics so important.

This was part of the idea behind our new Essentials Collection. For under $10,000 including delivery and set-up, the Essentials Collection provides a bedroom, a dining room and an office that are designed to grow with you, your family and your home. For example, the office is compact enough to go into a corner of a condo living room when you’re just starting out and good enough quality to serve as the backbone of a home office later on, unlike some of the furniture made of “engineered wood” available out there.

Do you have a decorating tragedy in your past?

Bending wood (Plywood 101, part 2)

Date added: 24-07-2009

This is the second post in our series on lamination. For the first post, go here.

In the past year or so, we have been playing around with more curved forms. For years all of our curves have been cut from solid wood stock. Seldom have we ever bent wood, and certainly not on a production level.

With the introduction of the Linnaea collection, this has all changed. The entire line has various curves, and some bending needs to occur. One of the more challenging things was the seat on the Linnaea Chair. We wanted a curved seat, but not of solid wood. Greg, our Founder and lead chair maker, came up with a two piece bendable plywood seat that follows the curve of the brace below it. It really is the perfect solution for this application. It is both comfortable and good looking.

What is bendable plywood? It is laminated ply that is not cross laminated. The layers of ply are all oriented in the same direction, making it easy to bend either across the grain or with the grain. This is basically a one directional bend. People have said this is not good for structural use, but once we have glued up two layers on each other into a curve, it is pretty much solid as a rock. One brand name for this is Wiggle Wood.

Another kind of bendable stock a kerf-cut type, where you can buy plywood that has been cut 80% of the way through on the back side at 1/8” increments. This allows you to do pretty tight radii, but there is no real structure to the stock, even after gluing. Assorted brand names and various styles are: Econokore, Flex Green, Kerfkore, and Timberflex.

In our third post in this series, we’ll discuss how we do curved bends and laminations using only solid wood.

Closet clutter remediation

Date added: 22-07-2009

If you’re anything like me, folding fitted sheets is pretty much a horrible, traumatic proposition. Okay, perhaps not traumatic, but at least irritating.

Here’s a great guide to folding a fitted sheet that will leave your closet, blanket chest or other storage free from balled-up, badly folded sheets.

Plywood 101 (part 1)

Date added: 18-07-2009

Lamination is a four-letter word in the consumer’s mind today. This is largely because so many people have been screwed over by poor laminates over secondary substrates. Ply, as it applies here, is a single thickness, fold or layer. Our plywood is referred to as hardwood plywood. This is because the substrate is made up of layers of hardwood. Specifically, poplar, basswood and luan are some of the woods used to make up the core.

Other plywood cores are made up of particle board, straw board, wheat board and medium density fiberboard (MDF). These are often viewed as inferior because they don’t last very long. There is far less strength associated with these other cores because they are not laminated (except MDF). Lamination is simply the process of building up something in thin sheets or layers. Ply is therefore the thing, and lamination is the process.

Layers of ply are oriented at right angle to each other. When you look at the end of one of our adjustable shelves, you see dark and light alternating colors. What you are seeing are the alternating grains. End grain is darker than long grain. This is what makes plywood strong and stable. In this case “stable” means that it doesn’t expand and contract nearly as much as solid hardwood does, making it in some ways, a more versatile material.

The top coating on plywood is called the veneer. The wood veneer that is applied to the surface of plywood is about 1/32 inches thick. Each strip of veneer you see on the plywood is referred to as flitch. The seams are called flitch seams. The flitch pattern should be a perfect match, much like the book matching on our doors, done over and over again. Another veneer process, though less common, is called rotary cut veneer. This would be like rolling a log with a knife against it, peeling up the wood in a solid continuous sheet. This is a more sophisticated machining process, as you can imagine.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll explain more about plywood and how it functions in good quality furniture.

In the meantime, here’s a video from Bob Vila about how plywood is made.

I just don’t understand kids these days

Date added: 10-07-2009

Yesterday my 23-year-old marketing coordinator was reading this article from the Washington Post about generational differences and how members of different generations can adjust their expectations and communication styles to get along better in the workplace.

I had my own experience with inter-generational communication break-down a few jobs ago. I had this very bright young assistant who nevertheless wasn’t particularly detail oriented. One day when we were sitting on the floor of our office stuffing name badges into name badge holders, I pointed out that she had misspelled the person’s name and asked her to fix it. She did, but only after rolling her eyes at me and arguing that she didn’t see why it was so important.

A few weeks later, I attended a seminar by a Marriott executive that explained why that interaction had gone so badly. See, certain members of the youngest generation currently in the workplace have never really been criticized. They all got trophies even if they didn’t win. Self-esteem is paramount. (All according to generational theorists of course.)

What it all came down to was that if I sandwiched criticisms with praise, I got a lot farther with her than I did by just giving her the criticism. In that instance, I should have said, “I really appreciate how quickly you finished printing those nametags. I noticed that a couple of them were misspelled so if you could fix them that would be great. And by the way, I heard how you handled that irate caller earlier and I was impressed with how well you kept your cool.” It didn’t take a lot of effort on my part to totally reinvent my relationship with her and now we’re still in touch after several years.

Of course, any discussion of generalizations, including generational ones, are always subject to alteration for individual characteristics. When my marketing coordinator and I were looking at the generational profiles at the end of the article, she and I both thought some of the markers of our generations (Gen Y and Gen X respectively) weren’t entirely accurate.

Read the article and let us know what you think.

Collection or clutter?

Date added: 07-07-2009

I’m as guilty as anyone. My grandmother had these great glasses from the 1960s. I have fond memories of sitting next to her while she sipped vodka martinis and we watched Jeopardy together. I was stuck with a Shirley Temple and I never got the answers right, but when I saw those glasses at a flea market a few years ago, I couldn’t help but snap them up.

Nearly everyone has collections of things that mean something to them now or meant something to them once. I think there’s still several boxes of Barbie paraphernalia sitting around at my parents’ house somewhere.Ten years ago I thought that stuff was important. I’m pretty sure I don’t any more. I guess I should call mom and dad and tell them to give it all away.

Via a website called Unclutterer, I discovered a very funny man named Marc Sotkin, who has a website called Boomer Alley. Marc used to write for Laverne & Shirley, Golden Girls and Gary Shandling and, well, you can tell when you watch his videos.

College student’s letter home

Date added: 03-07-2009

[Ed. note: Evan Leggett is the son of one of our craftsmen, Dave Leggett. Evan is interning with us this summer on his summer break from Virginia Commonwealth University.]

My career at Hardwood Artisans started with a little get-together hosted by our founder Greg Gloor, showcasing his newly-built house and the furniture insider (manufactured by our company, of course). I had been introduced to many of the craftsmen through my dad, but never really had the chance to meet any of the brains behind the day-to-day operations. It was there that I met Alison Heath, the Marketing Director, and Mark Gatterdam, the jack-of-all-trades owner and designer.

After talking for awhile we came across the subject of my education. I’m a student at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Arts program. Last year I completed the Arts Foundation course, which is a crash course in creating and evaluating art. This first year course has little to do with the major you choose; it’s basically set up to weed out the people who don’t have what it takes. You choose your major at the end of the year. I chose graphic design.

During my talk with Alison and Mark, I told them all about my previous semester and what I had been doing. Near the end of the night, Alison told me to contact her at the end of my year to see if she would have anything that I could do for the summer. I had a few offers like this before, but none that I was so excited about pursuing. I sent her an email, and the rest is history!

This summer I will be working and apprenticing under Alison for two days a week and apprenticing under Greg Gloor for the other three, so I get exposure to both the business side of the operations as well as the furniture-building side.

Working here is like nothing I have ever experienced before; most people I know are terrified to use a saw that’s a quarter of the size of the ones we have here. Like all jobs it has its ups and downs, but its ups don’t get any higher and its downs are no where near as low as they could be. I enjoy what I’m doing and my only regret is that I know I’ll miss it when I’m sitting at a computer six days a week next year.

Evan Leggett

Lemonade Social Redux

Date added: 29-06-2009

This past weekend was our 3rd Annual Lemonade Social, and it was such a treat to see so many of our customers. Everyone seemed to enjoy the event from the cookies to the wide selection of floor models we were able to offer, but the two biggest standouts were our featured items: the Essentials Collection and the finished pool table.

We had folks breaking the balls left and right and the cracks of kissing balls could be heard throughout the duration of the social. Folks really fell in love with the new pool tables, with many approving of the beautiful but not visually heavy design. With such excitement surrounding the pool table, Curt was inspired to make a smaller model to put in a showroom soon. We’ll keep you updated!

Many social attendees also fell for our Essentials Collection. No matter the room—bedroom, office or dining—the Essentials Collection is a great deal and was just what many folks were hoping to find in this economy—a fabulous product at an extremely affordable price. Kevin, our delivery manager, said half a dozen new Essentials rooms found forever homes in the DC metro area this weekend alone. Will yours be next?

Eye Level view of Greene & Greene

Date added: 08-05-2009

Here’s a drive-by post just to point out that the American Art Museum’s blog posted an entry about the Greene & Greene exhibition with a different picture than any of the others I’ve seen (of furniture no less!) so head on over there and check it out.

American Picture Frames: Choices by Artists and Collectors

Date added: 29-04-2009

According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s website, “Carrie Rebora Barratt is Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, and Manager of The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

Last night, however, she was the speaker at the latest edition of the museum’s Collectors’ Roundtable series: American Picture Frames: Choices by Artists and Collectors. She spent a good portion of her time discussing the renovations they have just completed or are starting at the Met, but she did go into some detail about choices that have been made regarding the frame of a very high profile Met painting: Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze.

The painting was acquired by the Met in 1897. A picture from 1910 shows the painting in a great old frame, but in pictures from 1917, that frame is already gone. That said, the curators weren’t satisfied with just their own archival photos and they decided to do some more research.

Further archival research was done to determine the sort of frame that the artist would have preferred to see on the work. The Met turned up pictures from the New York Historical Society that showed the painting the same year it was painted (just after the Civil War) and the wild Federal Revival frame the artist had commissioned for it in a fit of mid-19th century nostalgia. They have commissioned a reproduction of that frame to show in their new galleries starting in 2011. Keep your eyes peeled for this because it’s truly something else—gilded with a huge carved rampant eagle on the top. Here’s a brief story about it from the New York Times that doesn’t have nearly enough pictures.

Though Barratt touched briefly on the craftsmanship required to create such a frame and professed to appreciate frames as works of art in themselves, it seemed clear that at heart, she truly is a paintings person and not so much a craft person. After all, her focus was what the artist would have wanted to see on their picture and not what the framer would have considered most appropriate. And she was fairly dismissive of collectors who change frames to suit their interior design.

This was underscored in a conversation I had with an American Art Museum docent during the reception after the lecture. Apparently getting docents for the American Art portion of the museum is much easier than getting docents for the Renwick. I had been under the perhaps mistaken impression that craft had gained more respect in museum-world than it appears that it has, at least among scholars and docents.

The final lecture of the spring series takes place Tuesday, May 19th when Dr. Walter O. Evans, major collector of African American art will discuss Collecting Outside the Canon.

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