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!
I have a dirty little secret. Very dirty and very secret. It has been going on since I was about 10 years old. As a child growing up in what was once the farming area Dranesville (now Great Falls, VA), my buddies and I would go to old farm dump sites and dig for hidden treasures. What could possibly be better than rummaging through 50-year-old trash, finding all sorts of curious and unidentifiable tractor parts and used cans of Spam. Without a doubt, I would end up going to the medical center for a tetanus shot as a result of some piercing metal object. Man, do I miss doing that stuff.
The result was my interest in soda bottle collecting. Specifically, I collect painted label, or ACL (applied color label) soda bottles. A lot of them date from the 40’s through the 60’s. I like the period look the bottle labels and shapes took on. I like the weird marketing they were trying to create. It takes on a very Norman Rockwell feeling. It’s just cool to me.
Last year, I built a home office/display cabinet for myself. Now that the collection is in full view, I have been buying additional bottles on eBay. While I have enjoyed this to a point, it really is just not the same as digging for them myself. Half the fun of collecting the bottles is the stories and scrapes and bruises that go along with the collection. A collection is not about what you own, but rather about the experience of acquiring, sort of like the process of buying Hardwood Artisans furniture. I think a lot of people come back because of the positive, engaging experience they have with us.
I have decided that I want to spend the time to go treasure hunting on my own. I live on an old piece of land that has a few trash pits on it. I’m thinking I need to go and get a metal detector and a shovel and just have at it. My neighbor has one as well that I already dug on, but I think not deep enough. Also, I have been doing some other research, and there is a lot of talk and YouTube videos on privy digging… My wife has told me in no uncertain terms that she has no interest in joining me in the pit. Like I said, I have a very dirty secret.
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?
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.