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.
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.”