The Big Dollhouse

I really enjoy designing custom cases for people. I like the customers I work with, and find them all interesting, and I like to get personally invested in projects. If I spent my career just making shiny boxes, I think that would be very boring. Rather, I spend a lot of time getting to know the needs and wants of my customers, and as a result, a lot about the customer themselves.

Cliff and Donna came in to see me this winter. They had just moved back to the area from Alaska, and were in need of a custom wall system to hold a variety of things.

This was all normal stuff at first. Then we discussed scale. Donna showed me the fireplace. It was huge, larger than any fireplace I had personally seen. The room was enormous. The ceilings were very high. The job was now to design an eclectic looking piece that fit the space as well as complimenting the array of objects collected during their many travels.

When Donna told me she wanted a cabinet ten feet tall, twelve feet long, and thirty-two inches deep, I thought she was a bit delusional (sorry Donna-we love you). Once she pulled out her ipad and showed me pictures of the space, I understood the scope of the project. Scale is a driving force to any design, but I find that the space a cabinet sits in also defines the project.

We sat down and walked through all of the ‘this and that’ about what the unit would hold. I really did not know how this would work out. After several hours of AutoCAD, I finally figured out how to do this. Working a design is all good, well, and fine, but you have to execute the task, transport the unit, and get it installed. The sheer size of this job made me re-think how we build cases.

Once the case hit the shop, the lead craftsman and my buddy, Brent, proceeded to question every detail and decision. He always does this. I think he takes a bit too much pleasure doing this, but he is very good, so I really can’t complain too loudly (he’s a little fussy, don’t you know, like most good craftsmen). Due to the depth, he suggested two sets of lights, two in the back and two in the front, to ensure proper illumination.

Brent also suggested adding a top to the crown. This was great for me because I felt the crown was small, relative to the size of the cabinet. I had not come up with a good solution for increasing the scale. This top added a little more mass to the whole effect.

Lastly, Brent wanted to add a second back to the TV area. In today’s world, we don’t need a 32” deep TV cabinet. The “false” back keeps the space from looking cavernous, hides the wire management, and keeps anyone from having to dust way back in the cabinet.

The last problem was the actual execution of installing the cases. I had designed it to come in nine sections – six cases and three platforms. The real problem was that two people could not lift sections of the wall system. The center hutch alone weighed about 250 pounds. They had to strip the cases of all the doors, drawers, shelves, etc. and bring a third man. Oops, looks like I owe someone lunch, again.

The installation took over 12 hours. We had already included things like wire management and vents in the plinth to allow for air flow from the vents we were covering in the floor. The fact that a lot of parts had to be removed added to the time.

I think the overall system turned out just the way I had envisioned. Cliff and Donna have told me that they are pleased with the final results. More important, I had a very pleasant experience getting to know these two lovely people, and I got to solve a problem for them. Like I said, I consider this the best part of the job, and I can’t wait for the next adventure.

Mark Gatterdam

Saturday, June 4th Event in Alexandria – Color + Cabinetry

Saturday, June 4th

Join us on Saturday, June 4th for talks on the principles behind the psychology of color, how to choose the right color for your home, where to begin when designing a built-in and the current color trends for the home.  There will be wine, drinks and hors d’oeuvres.  We hope to see you there!



Hardwood Artisans – Bradlee Shopping Center

3622 King Street. Alexandria, VA – 703.379.7299

A problem solving built-in design by Hardwood Artisans Alexandria showroom manager Larry Northrop


Event Timeline:

11am: Built-Ins…  Where to Begin?

By designer & craftsman Larry Northrop

12pm: The Psychology of Color Selection

By designer Denise Willard


1pm: Envision Color 2011

By color expert Alitia Cross


Event Details:

11am  – Built-Ins…  Where to Begin?

By designer & craftsman Larry Northrop

Larry Northrop has been in the woodworking business for 40 years.  He has designed hundreds of built-ins, from custom kitchens and space saving solutions, all the way to cabinetry and desks in the executive office at the White House.  Learn what you should know before you begin, and a few tricks from the trade.  Please bring any questions you have.  Larry will make time to answer them.

There are all kinds of space saving solutions you can utilize with built ins.

This built-in is a white board, a table, and a Murphy bed!

12pm  -  The Psychology of Color Selection

By designer Denise Willard

Are you looking to update the colors inside your home this spring, but are overwhelmed by all the choices?  Do you want to learn some of the secrets professionals use in selecting just the right colors?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this talk is for you.

Learn about the principles behind the psychology of color.  Learn why red is most often used in dining rooms and blue in bedrooms.  Learn how your body reacts to certain hues and how a local design professional uses this knowledge in selecting the right colors for her clients.

How does this room make you feel? Design by Denise Willard.

1pm  – Envision Color 2011

By color expert Alitia Cross

Alitia Cross will talk on the current color trends for the home.  She has been in the design industry for years and currently represents Benjamin Moore & Co.  She is a sales representative for the architectural & design community.  There will be time after the talk to answer any paint or color questions.

If you have any questions prior to the event, call Julianne at 703-643-1044 or e-mail her at

Could this work in your home?

Designer Denise Willard will Talk at Our June 4th Event

Hardwood Artisans is thrilled to have designer Denise Willard of Décor by Denise scheduled to talk at our Color + Cabinetry event on June 4th.  Denise will talk at 12pm in our Alexandria Showroom on the Psychology of Color.

Here are a few details on her talk:

Are you looking to update the colors inside your home this spring, but are overwhelmed by all the choices?  Do you get stuck making decisions on which color is most appropriate for each room in your home?  Do you want to learn one of the secrets professionals use in selecting just the right colors?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this seminar is for you.

Come learn about the principles behind the psychology of color.  Learn why red is most often used in dining rooms and blue in bedrooms.  Learn how your body reacts to certain hues and how a local design professional uses this knowledge in selecting the right colors for her clients.

Design by Décor by Denise. Built-in crafted by Hardwood Artisans

About Décor by Denise

Décor by Denise is a full service interior decorating firm located in Vienna, VA.   Denise Willard, owner and principal, has over a decade of experience transforming the homes of clients in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Northern Virginia.  Denise’s work was recently showcased in the 2011 DC Design House and she was selected as to be included in Home & Design’s 2011 “Top 100 Designers.”  Her work has also been showcased on ABC Affiliate, News Channel 8, and has been published in Home & Design Magazine, Washington Home & Garden, The Washingtonian, Elan and The Washington Post.  Denise is a regular columnist for Viva Tysons Magazine and is part of the Design Diva team for, a national lifestyle eMagazine.  Denise is the President-Elect for the DC Chapter of the International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA) and is an active member of the Vienna-Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce.

For more information about the event please click here.

Contact information

Décor by Denise

340 Mill Street, NE, Suite F

Vienna, VA  22180




Phone: 703-714-7343

A Special Thank You to Benjamin Moore for Sponsoring the Event

“Where Does Your Wood Come From?”

Some customers come to our showrooms looking to ‘stump’ us (pardon my pun) with this question. You expect us to give a general answer that tells you nothing and that’s when you can really start to nail us to the wall. It’s a completely reasonable suspicion. I probably would have the same thought process if Hardwood Artisans wasn’t such a big part of my life. I’ve used our furniture since I was a baby, quite literally. My father is John Hillgren and he met my mom, Jennifer, through the company itself. My mom worked in the office as an accountant. One day, my dad walked up to her (with his bobbing afro, mind you) and said ‘I’m sorry, but I need you to come to my office, you’re distracting all of the craftsmen’. Just as my parents met through the company, so did my aunt and uncle. Not to mention both my Aunt Denny and my Uncle Steven work with the company as well. I’m definitely not far from the truth when I say that my entire family has been a part of Hardwood Artisans.

About every employee here has known me since I was in diapers. I’ve been proud of Hardwood Artisans since the get-go, often bragging to my elementary school friends that my father owned a furniture business. My siblings and I used to run around the floor of the shop gathering up scrap wood and gluing the scrap together into miniature furniture so our Barbie dolls could enjoy hardwood furniture as well. I knew that the company made wood furniture, but I never knew where it came from or how we acquire it. I’m well versed on the company, but I never knew the whole story of our wood until I sat down with Mark Gatterdam, Greg Gloor, Kevin Carlson, and John Buss.

So once again, where does our wood come from? To begin, let’s first answer the question that you’re really thinking. “Do you clear-cut forests for your own pleasure and benefit?” The answer is incredibly simple; No. All four of these men had a different way of informing me of this, but it just comes down to the fact that we do not clear cut or burn down forests for our furniture, nor do we work with companies who do. Our goal in this business is not to get involved in a dishonest market; it’s to provide people with long-lasting furniture in a sustainable way. The companies we work with don’t just cut down trees for lumber – they also have regeneration programs put in place.  They replant trees, so their resources aren’t consistently being depleted. I didn’t know about regeneration programs before this, and that really caught my attention. It’s good to know that our furniture is not only sustainable in its longevity but the wood we procure is constantly being replanted.

We expect all of our pieces to last as long as it takes for the tree it was made out of to grow back. That means this cherry Waterfall Shogun Chest should remain simply beautiful for at least 100 years!

It’s funny to me that this question consistently comes up. Not because it’s surprising – heck, clear cutting forests is part of the United States’ history and heritage. Trees were in the way of railroads, farms, roads, houses. Everything, it seemed, was more important than trees, so they were burned and clear-cut until a civilization was created. I understand that forestry is a big part of our world, and that the worries over our trees are significant. However, both Mark and Greg assured me that there is several times the volume of trees in the United States than there was hundreds of years ago. What makes me laugh is the fact that we’ve advertised that we’re a local business and that our furniture lasts a lifetime, but most people don’t know anything about where our wood comes from or just how sustainable the company is. When I’m asked to describe Hardwood Artisans, the first things that come to mind is long lasting furniture and the craftsmen’s passion, not where we get our wood from.

For starters, most of our wood comes from the East Coast. As many of you may know (and probably have experienced), the climate throughout the United States differs from coast to coast. For example, if you were to come to the Washington, DC area in the middle of July, you can expect 100% humidity… yet it won’t be raining (this we experienced at last year’s Lemonade Social). The woods we get are primarily northeastern run, which means they are already acclimated to the East coast climate. If you were to bring wood over from Hawaii to here, let’s say Choya wood, there’s a possibility it could respond oddly to the climate adjustment. If you’re worried about your Mahogany or exotic wood piece, don’t be. We get our Mahogany from Belize currently, but it’s a stable wood, and therefore not wholly affected by switching climates. The advantage of getting our wood from this area is the fact that we know the climate, we know how the wood reacts, and the wood is used to the moisture content and temperature.

Isn’t Choya wood cool looking?

We’re always up for working with exotic wood, but we’re always careful to make sure the piece can expand and contract safely.

More details on the location of our lumber – our Cherry wood comes from Pennsylvania and New York. Our Birch, Maple, and Oak timber comes from New York. Walnut is from Kentucky and Indiana, and Ash comes from just about everywhere. Mahogany is the only wood that we import from South America. It’s certified under the FSC and is also listed under the CITES, which means it can’t be imported unless the proper forms and pedigree are filled out first.

Did you know that Mahogany is the national tree of Belize?

Another question you may be wondering is why don’t we certify all of our wood? We used to – Larry Spinks (one of the founders of Hardwood Artisans) was actually on the FSC board. The FSC is the forest Stewardship Council. It’s a nonprofit organization that supports the proper management of the world’s forests. They’re generally involved in certification of forests and lumber. Certified wood, however, costs about 15% more. This may seem like an unjustified excuse, but that 15% counter into the price of our furniture. While all of the owners would like to be FSC certified, at the moment we can’t rationalize it, especially when our lumber companies are already doing their best. The price hike is mostly due to the fact that the lumber companies are required to go through the certification process – which is basically lots of paperwork and additional work. Especially when most of the places we get our wood from are already working as though they were FSC certified and a lot of our wood already comes from FSC certified state forests.

Look, I even got the stump all ready for you!

So, now that you know that our wood practically comes from your backyard. You know the clean truths about our hardwood furniture; do you still want to nail us to the stump? If you have any more questions, feel free to comment on this blog or contact me directly at

Written by – Lorelei Hillgren, Hardwood Artisans Marketing Coordinator.

Photo Contest 2010 – Results 3/3

The third and final installment of our Photo Contest results contains several of our favorites. Enjoy!

This custom built-in window bench looks great in this room and made most of us want to pick up a book and settle in.

I can’t decide what looks better – the ship or the Hall Table underneath it!

Can you just say ‘aww’? This adorable dog makes this dining table look absolutely adorable.

Marleen’s Highland Dining Table and sideboard look great together!

Nicole has a great dining room set! And great photography skills – she was one of our Honorable Mentions.

This Waterfall bed fits in perfectly with the feel of the oriental decor in this bedroom.

This photo shows off the dovetail joinery of our drawers and the gorgeous cut of our wood… but it’s hard to look beyond the cute cat. Nick doesn’t need to get a cat bed – it looks perfectly happy in our Craftsman chest.

Thank you for looking at the results and entering the contest! We all enjoyed it. Keep an eye out for more blogs in the future – especially for one on our Cutting Edge event for those of you who can’t make it down for the festivities.

Photo Contest 2010 – Results 2/3

Here’s the second installment in our Photo Contest results posts. We hope you enjoyed the last photos and the following ones as much as we did. We’d appreciate your feedback, along with any suggestions for the future. Would you participate in this event again?

Enjoy the photographs!

Penny got her stereo cabinet just in time for the Holidays! It’s great to see that she put it to good use.

The wood on this dining table is absolutely stunning!

This photograph of John’s cheese board is making me wish it was the Holidays all over again!

Juliet’s Entrance Bench and Waterfall TV Console complement each other perfectly.

Our Loft Beds are great for a child of any age and the Toy Story figurines are the perfect subject of this photograph.

Judy’s set of photographs had all of us wishing that we were kids again so we could play in this great family room. Her built-in bookcases add to the flow of the room.

Two words – cozy and practical! Featuring a Crofters coffee table and a corner wine cabinet, you can’t go wrong!

Neal’s Linnaea living room won over the owners in the ‘Best Representation of the Furniture’ category. His Linnaea sofas and coffee table look absolutely gorgeous when paired with his interior.

The Glasgow Equipment console looks absolutely gorgeous in any situation, especially next to this stone fireplace.

This completely custom desk would make a great office for anyone!

Keep an eye out for the last Photo Contest results in the next week or so! in the meantime, we’re working on new events and activities. We are excited to see you all in the next few months.

Photo Contest 2010 – Results 1/3

When Hardwood Artisans came up with the idea of throwing a Photo Contest, everyone was beyond excited. However, we didn’t expect the great response that we got. For weeks on end, everyone had fun admiring the photographs. We all swelled with pride when we saw what great set ups you all have. Some of the dogs and cats included even caused our office people to have fits of giggles and admiration.

These photos are just too good to keep to ourselves! We want everyone to see just how talented our customers are. Plus, doesn’t everyone want a little ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ in their life? We are splitting up the results into three posts, just to be sure we don’t overwhelm you with the talent of our customers.

Here are some of the submissions for you to enjoy.

This is the Grand Prize winner – a gorgeous living room featuring a Crofter’s sofa and chairs, a Shaker coffee table, and a Waterfall television console.

Looking beyond the cute dog, this living room is very attractive and that isn’t my Hardwood Artisans bias speaking. David knew exactly what he was doing when he placed his two Parlor chairs, Parlor sofa and Highland rocking chair in the same room!

This room is absolutely beautiful. From the Mackintosh Sectional, Custom Entertainment Center, Waterfall coffee table, to the Hardwood Artisans Custom Fireplace mantel, we all want to move in.

This Classic Hampton dining table is no longer available, but the standard 


 style is. Either way, Doug and Maryellen have one stunning dining room.

Getting work done while sitting at this desk must be a cinch. Entirely custom from the knobs to the desk shape, Mark Gatterdam had a lot of fun collaborating with the customer when it came to creating this office.

This Waterfall bench chest and Empress chest look great next to each other! I can’t help but want one of my own.

This bedroom is so cheerful and the Waterfall bed looks right at home!

Leesa’s Woodley Loveseat futon was one of the first submissions to our contest! It looks like this is more the cat, Kefira’s, chair than Leesa’s, however.

Heather had her dining room set custom designed – as you can see, that was a great choice!

If you have any questions about the above photos or want to look into purchasing one for yourself, contact one of our showrooms! We do everything possible to keep our customers happy, but unfortunately, the cute animals are not offered with our collections. The next installment of posts will be up within three days, so keep an eye out for it!

Custom High-End Turtle Cage Design

Audra was tentative when she walked into the Hardwood Artisans store in Fairfax, Virginia. She knew she had a somewhat unusual problem. You see, she was the owner of two turtles and lived in a limited space apartment in Reston, Virginia. She needed an attractive and functional way to house these pets and wasn’t sure she would be taken seriously.

The Lucky Turtles

Luckily, she ran into Greg Gloor, the person who started Hardwood Artisans 35 years ago. And equally lucky for her, he had also kept turtles (and an iguana, and a corn snake) as pets.  He knew he could design and build exactly what she needed.

Hardwood Artisans has been building superior hardwood furniture by hand since its creation in 1976 and now employs 75 people.  They build furniture, kitchens, and much more their woodshop in Woodbridge, Virginia and invite each customer to come in and see how their piece being made.  Customers come to Hardwood Artisans with problems of space and design hoping for a solution.  Greg Gloor has become a professional at creating a solution for just about any problem.

“I never know what piece of my past I will need to call on to help solve a customer’s problem,” said Greg. “I try to approach each new customer with a blank slate and actually listen for what’s needed and wanted. I try to see it from their point of view, and put together something that works for them.”

Greg wanted to be sure the turtles could be easily played with and their cages could easily be cleaned.  He and craftsman Kevin Parker designed a special system so that the turtles home could be pulled out and the front of the drawer could come off.

Image of the Piece without the Turtle Residents. Showing off the Removable Doors on the Front of the Piece- Door on

Showing off the Removable Doors on the Front of the Piece- Door Off

This “care for the customer” approach has been the hallmark of this unique local custom furniture manufacturer. Purchasing made-to-order furniture could be intimidating unless the people you are working with are really on your side.

“This was not our standard turtle credenza,” laughed Kevin Parker, the craftsman assigned to build the piece. “Greg had gotten the project pretty far along. He handed it off to me and made sure I had the general idea; then he left the details up to my judgment. I really appreciate this level of freedom and confidence.” Kevin is certainly someone who could be trusted with the job. He has been a master craftsman at Hardwood Artisans for 15 years and is also an avid naturalist and bird watcher. He does volunteer work and guided tours for the Prince William Conservation Alliance. Kevin knows woodworking and turtles.

Built out of red oak wood this turtle cage features everything a turtle and turtle owner can need!

Guaranteed to last a lifetime!

“I LOVE IT!!” gushed Audra to Ricardo Berrum, one of the current owners. “Please thank everyone for me. It is absolutely amazing. The sliding drawers and the removable doors were GENIUS! This was a breeze to set up and the pets settled right in.

I can’t say enough about how great this cabinet turned out, it was 100% what I wanted plus tons that I didn’t even know I could have.”

It’s playtime!

Showing Art through the Glass

Have you seen the art glass in some of our furniture?  Those beautiful creations were made by our skilled Edwin Moncada, who is also a craftsman, sales person, webmaster, and my dad!  He designed and crafted this piece:

"Fall Begins" An Art Glass Screen

“Fall Begins” An Art Glass Screen

Back in 2005, when he first began working for Hardwood Artisans, he started with sanding pieces, making cabinets, and enjoyed working as a craftsman in our shop; later on, people got to know him better and learned that he had other talents, which let him into working in his career which is Systems Engineering.  He turned into our webmaster.  Being the company’s webmaster taught him about the 800 products Hardwood Artisans builds, designs and sells.  Edwin soon became a valuable salesperson.

Javier's Mirror with Edwin's Art Glass Design

Javier’s Mirror with Edwin’s Art Glass Design

His interest in art glass sparked when Greg Gloor, our previous art glass creator, told him that it was time for him to learn something new. He started to show him what he knew about art glass and taught him until he mastered the creation process. The lessons started with stretching lead, cutting and breaking glass, and occasionally getting bloody fingers (tee hee!)  Even with the “suffering,” he likes creating the art glass a lot. “I like the fact that you can create new things with feeling towards what you build, which is also applied in furniture making,” my dad says proudly. He has now been making art glass for three and a half years now and shows progress and new ideas with every design.

Here is a design for Greg Gloor’s home:

Edwin's Art Glass for Greg Gloor's Home

Edwin’s Art Glass for Greg Gloor’s Home

 He makes his art by first sitting with customers and designing a style that would be suitable for their furniture. Then he comes up with the measurements, drawings and the template, and afterwards choosing the glass that best fits the design (“The most difficult part” he said). The fun part starts when he has to put all the pieces together to see if it looks like he planned. Finally, after welding them together with lead, he goes to wash his piece and… It’s ready!

Edwin's Art Glass up close

 Our customers have been happy and proud of their new furniture, because not only has the design come to life; it also shows a light of its own. At the moment, he is working on doors for kitchen cabinets (pictured below), so keep in touch to see the result!

Edwin working on a kitchen cabinet art glass design

Edwin working on a kitchen cabinet art glass design

If you would like to see his creations, or talk to him about a project you can email him:  You can also come to our Woodbridge showroom/woodshop to see my dad in action, or visit one of our other three showrooms to see more of his designs.

Written by Edwin’s daughter: Adriana Moncada, 14

Interior Design, Anyone?

Designer Katie Grech finished grad school at the Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids, Mich., less than a year ago, and she has something very few of her former classmates have: a job. “I feel really lucky to be here,” Katie says. Those of her friends who do have jobs, she adds, are mostly making copies and doing research; “I’m just kind of lucky to be doing design now.”

Katie built this rocking chair at home last summer.

Katie built this rocking chair at home last summer.

Katie earned an undergraduate degree in interior design, and focused on furniture making in grad school. She came our way through her mother-in-law, who she says had always admired our work (thanks, Mrs. Grech!). Her mother-in-law told her – maybe half joking? – that she should work here after graduating, and sure enough, Katie called Alison, our former marketing director.

We recognized her talent immediately and made space for her. She’s spent the past six months learning about our lines and how they are built, and she’s now our go-to person for interior design when customers ask for the service.

Katie sketched an early version of our Waterfall mirror.

Katie sketched an early version of our Waterfall mirror.

“We started noticing there was a niche for interior design” after a few customers inquired, Katie says. “It just kind of fell into our laps.”

One client, who had bought a house full of furniture from us, asked for help picking fabrics and colors that would coordinate, so Katie spent several hours helping him.

Another client is building a new house and needs help blending his new furniture from Hardwood Artisans with his existing furniture, in addition to choosing paint, windows, and flooring.

Katie’s been able to assist both those clients, and is also working on a kitchen project where the client presented intricately carved panels, and wanted them incorporated into the cabinetry.

Kitchen design- We just installed a kitchen to view in our Fairfax showroom

Kitchen design- We just installed a kitchen to view in our Fairfax showroom

She’s also sketched ideas for new additions to our collections, such as the Waterfall mirror above, and the Linnaea desk, below.

Linnaea desk drawing

Linnaea desk drawing

Although the sketch of the desk never came to fruition, she says, “I’m learning a ton from them – not only do I get to see the design, I get to see it built.”