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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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:
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
Or for more information, view the event details here.
It’s been pretty, but are we ready for this to end yet?
All in all, we think it might be nice if it stopped now.
This isn’t Michigan, after all!
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:
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:
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.
We’ll post pictures of the finished product in 10-12 weeks, once the project is installed.
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.
“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.
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.”
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 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.
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:
“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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re proud to say we knew you when, Ronni!
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.