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Mad for Murphy Beds

Date added: 05-02-2010

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.

Larry Northrop worked with the Dempseys to modify the standard measurements of the Library Bed so it would fit perfectly into their space. Photograph © Morgan Howarth

Larry Northrop worked with the Dempseys to modify the standard measurements of the Library Bed so it would fit perfectly into their space. Photograph © Morgan Howarth

“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.

Home office with a modified Panel bed

The bed is more comfortable for guests than a sofa bed because it features a standard mattress.

The bed is more comfortable for guests than a sofa bed because it features a standard mattress.

The bed is more comfortable for guests than a sofa bed because it features a standard mattress.

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.”

Take a look at our Murphy beds online or in our of our four showrooms.

We Love Our Customers

Date added: 03-02-2010

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

Adrian Small

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.

Adrian Small and Designer Andrea Olsen

Adrian Small and Designer Andrea Olsen

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:

A library by day…

A library by day…

And a guest bed at night.

And a guest bed at night.

“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 stands with the Waterfall secant table, which she purchased at the new showroom.

Linda Hewes stands with the Waterfall secant table, which she purchased at the new showroom.

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.”

The Waterfall sideboard

The Waterfall sideboard

The Waterfall dining table

The Waterfall dining table

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.

Ronni Jolles: Our New Artist Debut

Date added: 01-02-2010

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.

Artist Ronni Jolles

Artist Ronni Jolles

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.

Silhouette of TreesbrLayered paper and pastelbr38 x 20

“Silhouette of Trees”, Layered paper and pastel, 38″ x 20″

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.

Blues and Greys of Winter, Layered paper and pastel, 20 x 30

“Blues and Greys of Winter”, Layered paper and pastel, 20″ x 30″

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.

Cherry Blossoms, Layered paper and pastel, 28 x 22

“Cherry Blossoms”, Layered paper and pastel, 28″ x 22″

Midtown, Paper, fabric and pastel, 36 x 12

“Midtown”, Paper, fabric and pastel, 36″ x 12″

New Orleans Jazz, Layered paper and pastel, 25 x 21

“New Orleans Jazz”, Layered paper and pastel, 25″ x 21″

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.

Ronni Jolles at work

Ronni Jolles at work

We’re proud to say we knew you when, Ronni!

Our Newest Artisans: Andy Muth and Josh Gettings

Date added: 27-01-2010

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 Muth

Andy Muth

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.”

Andy primarily builds doors and drawers. Here, he slips a panel into what will be a drawer.

Andy primarily builds doors and drawers. Here, he slips a panel into what will be a drawer.

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.”

Andy applies glue to the dovetails on the drawer-front panel. “I’ve learned a lot about the machines. That’s a big part of it – once you learn the machines, you can go from there.”

Andy applies glue to the dovetails on the drawer-front panel. “I’ve learned a lot about the machines. That’s a big part of it – once you learn the machines, you can go from there.”

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 Gettings

Josh Gettings

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.”

Parts for Linnaea cabinets and chairs are stacked next to Josh’s work table, where he does “a little bit of everything.”

Parts for Linnaea cabinets and chairs are stacked next to Josh’s work table, where he does “a little bit of everything.”

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.

An iron? Yup – one of the tricks Josh uses to get a small dent out of the wood is to iron it with a damp cloth, which puts moisture back into the wood and expands out the dent so the surface is smooth again.

An iron? Yup – one of the tricks Josh uses to get a small dent out of the wood is to iron it with a damp cloth, which puts moisture back into the wood and expands out the dent so the surface is smooth again.

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.

Get started redesigning your space

Date added: 25-01-2010

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.

Choose a unique item that will serve as inspiration for your room

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!

Image from House of Turquoise

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 katie@hardwoodartisans.com and you could be featured on our blog.

Artisanal Accessories in Fairfax

Date added: 22-01-2010

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.

They include:

Gorgeous traditional shaker boxes made by Brent Roarke in New Brunswick, Canada

Nesting boxes

Nesting boxes

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.

Jewelry box

Jewelry box

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.”

Swing-handle boxes

Swing-handle boxes

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.”

Nantucket lamp

Nantucket lamp

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.”

Hartland hurricanes

Hartland hurricanes

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.”

Corinth bowls

Corinth bowls

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.

The Audrey bedding set – bronzed leaves printed on cotton

The Audrey bedding set – bronzed leaves printed on cotton

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.”

Lucca Glacier bedding – lush dupioni silk with flange detailing

Lucca Glacier bedding – lush dupioni silk with flange detailing

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.”

The Ashley Gray duvet set – bold, graphic chrysanthemums printed on cotton

The Ashley Gray duvet set – bold, graphic chrysanthemums printed on cotton

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.

New blogger at Hardwood Artisans

Date added: 20-01-2010

Jennifer Sergent, formerly of Washington Spaces, now blogging for Hardwood Artisans

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!

Chairing the Burden

Date added: 20-01-2010

What’s in a chair? Much more than you’d think.

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.

Stacks of chairs in our Woodbridge shop await the final finishing process. They’ve all traveled a long, meticulous road from blueprint to reality.

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.”

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For the Love of Linnaea

Date added: 14-01-2010

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:

Linnaea bed and nightstands

And this handsome chest just to the side:

Linnaea chest

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.

The flower is named after the 18th-century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who invented the modern system for classifying plants and animals.

“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:

Linnaea sofa with custom bolsters

Linnaea sofa, chair and coffee table

Linnaea extension table and dining chairs

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 Linnaea graveyard

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.

Co-owner Kevin Carlson with the Linnaea mirror frame

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.

The craftsmanship is evident in all the details of the Linnaea mirror.

“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.”

Our Fairfax Flagship is Open!

Date added: 13-01-2010

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:

The Parlor sofa, Parlor armchair and Bungalow rocking chair share the sunshine on our raised window display.

The Parlor sofa, Parlor armchair and Bungalow rocking chair share the sunshine on our raised window display.

Also in the window, the Craftsman chest and Nantucket bench form a quiet vignette with classic Shaker boxes.

Also in the window, the Craftsman chest and Nantucket bench form a quiet vignette with classic Shaker boxes.

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.)

The concept board

The concept board

Read on to see how that vision was realized.

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