Simply Beautiful Furniture.

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The 3/50 Project

Date added: 24-03-2009

We’ve talked about supporting local businesses here on the blog before. In fact, the business that we originally featured (Black Wolf Coffee in Warrenton) has just announced that it is shutting down for good.

Mark is, to put it mildly, heart-broken.

It’s such a sad fact of this economy that the first to go will not be the local Starbucks or Barnes & Noble, but that wonderful independent bookstore you love (as beloved Washington chain Olsson’s Books and Records closed last year) or the coffee house where they always remember what you order and start making it for you when they see you pull into the parking lot.

Enter The 3/50 Project. Started by Cinda Baxter at the Always Upward blog, the 3/50 Project asks supporters to commit to spending $50 per month at three local stores of your choice. It’s such a simple concept, but look how powerful it could be:

I’ve signed up. So should you.

Time to Step Up

Date added: 11-03-2009

You and I may be doing fine, but with unemployment at over 8%, a lot of people could use a little extra help right now.

An article in our local paper (the News and Messenger, not the Post) down here in Woodbridge underscored the need for giving what you can right now, especially to food banks.

For several months now, Hardwood Artisans has had a partnership with ACTS (Action in the Community Through Service), a Dumfries, Virginia-based non-profit organization. It started with a furniture donation drive over the holidays to support their thrift stores.

Next month, Hardwood Artisans will be hosting the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours at our workshop in Woodbridge. We have requested that those attending bring a non-perishable food item for donation to ACTS. It’s a small thing, but every little bit counts.

So if you’re attending, don’t forget to bring that canned good! And if you’re not, consider dropping by a local food bank or church. They’ll be happy to take your donation.


Date added: 03-03-2009

My lovely wife, Erika, has been laying her clothes on the bathroom floor for the last few weeks. No, she hasn’t gone insane, at least not in the traditional sense of the word.

When we built our home eight years ago, we added a few “luxury” things, like a heated floor system in the master bath. We had some problems with the system initially, so we didn’t use it much until this year.

So, I got up this morning to 12 degree weather, snow and ice everywhere, and winds of 30mph. After taking a ridiculously hot shower – the kind that takes skin off, I hop out to slide into warm socks…and jeans…and shirt. There is very little in this world that is better than the feeling of being engulfed by warmth, especially on a morning like this one.

I felt bad having splurged on a heated floor and the electricity it consumes, until I remember that my lovely wife, Erika, has yet to turn on the heater this year! The wood stove is working overtime for sure. Tabby, our cat, really appreciates the heated floor too.

While it seems like an unnecessary cost, the actual cost of running the heated floor is about the same as leaving on a table lamp. This versus the cost of running a heating system in a house makes the heated floor seem like a good, not so luxurious, item to splurge on.

While many people consider our furniture a luxury, I never have. I consider it a good value. To me this means something that lasts, is appreciated often, and has more value for the purchaser than the cost of the item itself.

The Power of the Internet

Date added: 27-02-2009

The web is a funny thing. Some days I can’t find what I want and I think all this online stuff is just a big waste of time. (I sound like Mark, don’t I? No, this is Alison.)

But other days, I think it’s great. (That’s better.)

For those of you who don’t know, Hardwood Artisans is also on Twitter. What’s Twitter? It’s like a blog, but everything has to be said in 140 characters or less. It’s an interesting mode of communication because it requires you to be concise. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in 11th grade English with Mrs. Avery telling me to eliminate all flowery language. No adverbs! No infinitives! If you use “however” or “anyway” you will be shot!

Anyway, this week, I sent one of Tom Heath’s Washington Post columns over to a guy named Ben McConnell, who wrote “Creating Customer Evangelists”. He then sent it out to all the people who read him as a great example of marketing coverage by mainstream media, giving me credit. If you’re a rock music fan, this is like being acknowledged by Mick Jagger or Eric Clapton. Wow.

Next, Mark was trying to design a piece of furniture for a customer that involves round legs. Since we don’t usually do round legs, we were going to have to buy them from someone who does, but we couldn’t find an appropriate supplier. Luckily, I happened to have met someone on Twitter a few weeks ago who does hand-turned wooden furniture legs: Within just a couple of hours, I had a drawing, I had a price and they told me they could mail them out today if I wanted them that fast. Wow again.

Just when my faith is lagging, something like this happens and all is right with the world again.

P.S. You can follow us on Twitter @furnituregirl.

The story of sycamore

Date added: 12-02-2009

For years and years, our founder, Greg Gloor, worked with a lumber mill to purchase quarter-sawn sycamore. Above, that’s a picture of what quarter-sawn sycamore looks like at its best. Between us and another manufacturer in Vermont, the mill hoped to be able to sell enough of this not-very-popular wood to make drying it in quantity a profitable operation.

However, sycamore is hard to dry. It is prone to what is called “blue stain”—an infection in the wood that cause the surface of the board to turn, essentially, blue—and a couple of loads of stained wood killed the market. Stained wood of this type becomes virtually useless, as it isn’t pretty enough for anything but painting. The mill couldn’t get the prices they needed as a result and stopped the production of quarter-sawn sycamore.

We went through a period of time trying to cobble together enough stock from other suppliers to keep using it as a secondary wood in our drawers and an accent wood on other pieces, but only about five percent of the mills in the entire country quarter-saw lumber, making it very difficult to secure the quantity we need at a price we could afford.

We tried valiantly, but in the end, we had to give up. Ash is cut by many more mills and is competitively priced so finally, the Board decided to make the switch. We’d been phasing out the sycamore-sided pieces over the last year or so, but it has been taking too long so we finally decided to sell them off all at once.

We’ve also got a few pieces that have discontinued fabrics on them or that have been in the showrooms for a while. Click over to the floor model list and see what treasures you can unearth for your home!

VIDA and the lifetime value of a customer

Date added: 09-02-2009

It’s not often that I run across a company that I would love to work for. In fact, it took me almost ten years of working various places before I found my spiritual home at Hardwood Artisans.

Today I read about VIDA, a fitness company with three locations in the DC metro area, none near me all the way out here in the suburbs. This is a company that gets it, probably because they have a CEO who gets it–he has a passion for working out. I can relate. I’m a bit of a workout fanatic myself. I love to play softball, have had personal trainers at various points and really, truly enjoy working out.

To be honest, I don’t so much mind that my gym focuses on selling cheap memberships, locking people into long-term contracts and banking on the fact that most of them will work out for a month then never come back. It means that the gym isn’t crowded (yes, the resolution crowd has already dispersed), but it’s also not terribly honest. The gym knows they make more money when people don’t come back.

But VIDA does the opposite. By basing optimal profit levels on a certain (lower) number of memberships sold and focusing on giving those members great experiences, they have created a tremendously loyal following of people who love to go there and increasingly put other aspects of their lives under VIDA’s control (nutrition, laundry, spa services). It’s called the “lifetime value of a customer” and it’s something that not enough businesses focus on.

Even though the reporter focused on the business aspects of VIDA’s model, there’s a moral aspect as well. When you sell to someone who you know isn’t coming back, you’re not doing that person a service. When you sell a membership (or a product) to someone with the express purpose of making sure that they love it so much that they absolutely have to come back, you’re adding something to that person’s life.

We do the same. When a customer who has come to us before comes back, not only are we able to provide increasingly good service, we’re developing a real, human relationship. And what’s great about working here is that I can sit around all day thinking about how to offer better service instead of how to make more money. That’s good for everyone.

Now, off to the gym!

On A Whim

Date added: 09-02-2009

Imagine my surprise when catching up on my blog reading over the weekend, when I saw the post on Pure Style Home about On A Whim, an antique mall in Lucketts, Virginia.

This picture is the booth of our very own Glen Redmon, who does presentation and sales for Hardwood Artisans in addition to being the proprietor of the best looking antique booth in the area.

He’s got a bunch of cute things out there so next time you’re out near Lucketts, definitely take a look.


Date added: 07-02-2009

I read a very interesting article in The Washington Post by Jason Wilson about the origins and evolution of the martini. While the subject of martinis is not top of mind for me, I found this all very insightful and so, so true.

My father is one of those who began drinking gin martinis in college, you know, back in the 1950’s, smoking a pipe, wearing a coat with the patches on the elbows. It was the rage of the time. Later, when I was becoming of legal age, I fondly remember mixing him drinks where I would splash vermouth over the top only, or just say the words over the glass.

I remember sitting around with my father on one of the many fishing trips to Chincoteague Island, VA. The day was done, and we were regaling in our daily pack of lies, otherwise known as the fish stories of the day. He and I sat around drinking “martinis” made his way…no vermouth. I thought I would die. Talk about harsh.

In the article, Derek Brown says “when people finally experience a martini with unique and artisanal ingredients, it makes a world of difference”. The whole point of the article is that we Americans have somehow managed to stray from the original composition and intention of the martini.

I think that the furniture world has managed to stray from tried and true practices. When I show people a dovetail or mortise and tenon joint, they are just amazed this sort of joint is still created. The concept of wood from the trees stops people for a moment. When I say walnut, I don’t mean a walnut color, I mean a walnut tree – as furniture makers for centuries have intended it to be. So mix a real drink, and get some real furniture.

Etsy Love for your Valentine

Date added: 04-02-2009

If you’ve already gotten her a Hardwood Artisans jewelry box, check out some other handmade gifts.

DreamsandJewelry from San Ramon, California

Block Party Press from Baltimore, Maryland (LOCAL!)

Lawn Fawn Cards from Los Angeles, California

hijirik studio from Brooklyn, New York

Remember to make it a handmade holiday!

Torpedo Factory in Alexandria

Date added: 30-01-2009

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to visit the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria. I didn’t realize just how much astonishing talent is in our area. When most people think of DC, they think politics, lobbying, defense contractors, maybe tech or biotech if they’re in the know. I’ve never heard DC described as a great artistic Mecca, but I was truly impressed by the quality of some of the work at the Torpedo Factory. Here are a few of my favorites:

First is Nancy Reinke, a painter and print-maker. Her paintings seem very introspective, but her woodcuts are the real standouts. Would you believe that the above is a woodcut?

Next, Matthew Harwood, whose work just literally cannot be appreciated online so you will just have to visit and see it in person. These extraordinarily detailed drawings and watercolors are three-dimensional. Rather than being a quaint conceit like some I’ve seen though, these really jump off the page, I think due to their stunning level of detail. He’s draftsman-like in his precision.

Carol M. Dupre might not be to everyone’s taste, but if you enjoy M.C. Escher or the collage art of Dave McKean, you should really check out her studio. Again, these have to be seen in person to be believed.

Finally, something completely different: the Enamelists Gallery. A collective of fifteen different artists, this gallery features jewelry, wall hangings, bowls, trays and lots of decorative enamelwork. If you’re into color, the colors of enamel just can’t beat. None of the pictures on the site really picture how wonderful this gallery is.

And our own Mark Gatterdam’s mom, Barbara Gatterdam, has stoneware on display in the Scope Gallery. Such a talented family!

The weekend is coming so get out and take in some of DC’s local art scene. The Torpedo Factory is a great place to start. Just wear comfy shoes because you’ll want to stay all day.

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