Our daily worlds are surrounded by pieces of furniture.
The desk where you write in your journal or pay bills. The bed that cradles you at night. The dining room table where you share a meal with family or friends. The chair you rock your grandchild in. The chest of drawers that holds your most precious belongings.
These pieces of furniture often spend years in a household perhaps generations.
The folks who have built Hardwood Artisans know this. They value the ambiance that is created in a room where one of their pieces resides.
For the creators and craftspeople, their furniture building transcends the ordinary into the extraordinary. More like sculptures, objects of fine art and structures of elegance, owning one of their pieces goes beyond utility. It’s about adding distinct beauty to a space.
It speaks to a way of putting things together that is time honored and valued.
Their craftspeople are truly artists. Their vision is shared. Attention to detail is not taken lightly.
Decades in the making
Hardwood Artisans celebrated a 40-year anniversary in September. Friends, family and employees gathered to share the success of a company started humbly by a group of guys many years ago who made The Loft Beds. They soon realized that crafting beds was only a sliver of what they could imagine. So, a name change to Hardwood Artisans expanded their brand.
Kevin Carlson, John Hillgren, John Buss, Ricardo Berrum, Curt Smay and Mark Gatterdam are still at it today along with some 50 employees.
One of their more recent hires, Todd Breeden, has a background in advertising from Virginia Commonwealth University. A 2007 graduate from Culpeper County High School, he serves as their marketing manager. Breeden wanted to literally shed more light on their unique products.
An expansion and redesign of the shop in Culpeper has added an impressive showroom where large windows let the sun shine in.
“We’re able to set up scenarios now where people can get a real idea of what is possible,” said Breeden who encourages groups or individuals to schedule a tour visiting their showroom and then entering the inner sanctum of how it all happens.
Amaze and Delight
When you put on a pair of safety glasses and enter the manufacturing arena at Hardwood Artisans you’ll no doubt be dazzled by its cleanliness and the smell of woods – maple, cherry, birch, walnut, mahogany. Most of their woods come from the forests of the United States but the mahogany hails from Belize. Kevin Carlson inspects every piece that comes in carefully looking for any imperfections. He also knows what’s on order and if a customer is looking for lots of grain or certain colorations. It’s all about pleasing the customer and adhering to their strict criteria for how every chair or table is assembled. It’s about quality from the moment that wood enters the shop to the time it leaves for distribution to Florida, Tennessee, Colorado or other destinations as a finished product.
The place has a feel of the old and the new. You’ll see designs and figures penciled on wood and computerized machinery that can take a block of wood and produce the arm to a rocker. But for every piece that comes through, there is a craftsman inspecting, sanding, and attaching their name. Check off boxes vary from piece to piece but at the end of the day, your signature states that you’ve signed off on your piece of a magnificent puzzle that once assembled is sure to please.
Sustainability has been built in so that nothing goes to waste. A large piping system sucks up sawdust that, in addition to being employee friendly, will find its way to local farmers who use it as bedding. Smaller pieces are fashioned into cutting boards or fancy crates. Whatever might be left after that is put in a large bin where the public can come, sort through and take what they like.
Are those wine barrels? Not limited to the lines they carry, the company is always open to customer requests like a recent one to create furniture using, in part, wine barrels for, of course, a local winery.
Making its debut, outdoor benches and chairs have been designed and created for The Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C.
“This is brand new for us and we’re excited,” said Breeden about the sleek and sturdy garden furniture that will soon make its appearance in the nation’s capitol.
With a background in sales and the arts, showroom sales manager Tina Rankins has found a home at Hardwood Artisans.
“I’m learning more and more all the time,” smiled Rankins who is a pro as she guides folks through the details of every piece of equipment in the workshop.
Rankins takes great satisfaction that much of their success has come through word of mouth and their website.
“We have repeat customers that know about us, refer us to others…it’s tremendous,” says Rankins as she looks at one of their most popular pieces…a large rocker.
Many of the employees have been with the company for years taking great pride in the products that have found their way into the homes across the country and even into Canada.
Made in America
The expanded show room is worth a visit. Call to arrange a tour. It can be you or a group. Not only to see for yourself what is being produced in Culpeper but to share in a vision that making a quality product is worth doing, that craftsmanship and pride in your work is alive and well, and that the story of six guys who like to work with wood and how they’ve built a business that has survived is something beautiful.
Anita Sherman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shop and Showroom
21405 Business Court
Elkwood, Virginia 22718
2800 S. Randolph Street
4828 St. Elmo Avenue