Wood furniture that's built to last.
March 31, 2012 6:53 PM   Subscribe

High quality, custom built wood furniture. Where does one find such a thing?

Recently bought what I hope is our forever home, and we need to invest in some quality furniture pieces. I have some friends who have done that by heading to amish country. Is that a legit way to go about it? Is there some OTHER legit way to go about it? What about places like Ethan Allen? We're willing to wait a while for things to be made, and are particularly interested in dining/kitchen furniture. Thanks for recommendations!
posted by dpx.mfx to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Here's one source I'm passingly familiar with, the Carpenter's Boat Shop in Pemaquid, Maine.
posted by cribcage at 7:04 PM on March 31, 2012

(ms. Veg)
I think there are a number of such places in High Point, NC.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:05 PM on March 31, 2012

The Joinery in Portland, OR
posted by kbuxton at 7:44 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

My parents got several chairs & sofas custom crafted through Mark at Area in Greensboro, NC. He and his contacts also make furniture for Room & Board and other big-name stores, but they run to run 20-30% less for same-quality pieces. There's a lot of (struggling, historical) furniture industry in the Triad area of NC, as I understand it, so this probably ties into a robot made out of meat's comment.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:19 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: CustomMade? I have some friends who had a good experience with a woodworker from that site.
posted by amestar_runner at 8:23 PM on March 31, 2012

Best answer: I had my dining room table custom-made by a local table-maker, and I was very pleased. It's a really nice way to go, if you can find someone whose work you like, and can afford.

I don't have any experience with these folks, but here are a couple woodworkers in Michigan that I had in my bookmark collection:
Center of the World Wood Shop
Cathedral Woodworking

And the Michigan Woodworkers Guild could probably point you to others.

If you're interested in going outside the area, here are some others I've seen online that always looked interesting:
Green Design Furniture
Pompanoosuc Mills
posted by jeri at 10:08 PM on March 31, 2012

One of my brothers has had an Amish guy build many items for him, Amish community mid-state IL but hey, maybe there's someone closeby to you. It was not cheap but not really expensive, either, not considering what you got.

Too bad you don't live in Austin -- I've got a couple of items I'm going to let go of, a small oak dresser, a walnut desk, few other things. Craiglist, here I come.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:16 PM on March 31, 2012

Vermont Wood Studios makes great stuff.

I covet the dining room tables at Gat Creek.
posted by itstheclamsname at 10:18 PM on March 31, 2012

Area 51 in Seattle has wonderful things.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:15 AM on April 1, 2012

I am a fine woodworker and do a little of this sort of work. A lot will depend on your budget and aesthetic preferences, and how much you want to be involved in the design process. Custom furniture makers typically specialize in a particular style and quality level, so go to someone whose previous work looks and feels like what you want. Visit multiple sources to see a range of what's available before you start plunking down cash.

Amish-made stuff is amongst the most practical, affordable custom-made furniture you can buy. Most of it is sturdily built, but I rarely see any of it that I like the look of.

Custom furniture tends to be expensive, so most of the high-end shops cluster around affluent cities -- east and west coasts, Chicago. There are probably a handful of one-man shops in SE Michigan, but the economy there is not vigorous enough to support very many of them.
posted by jon1270 at 3:24 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

My mom has some absolutely beautiful pieces that she got while we were living in Pennsylvania by going up to Lancaster county and buying them from an Amish gentleman that she had a recommendation for. It took several months and was pretty expensive and we had to rent a U-Haul to drive the stuff the four hours home.

We recently bought some pieces from The Amish Craftsman in Houston. I find the bedroom set we bought there to be amazingly beautiful and extremely high quality. They have relationships with a variety of builders and have a fairly large showroom, so you can go and get a general idea of the quality and what your is going to look like before you buy. We are saving our pennies for a full dining set.

I would NOT recommend Ethan Allen. My mom has several pieces from them (kitchen table, end tables) that are only 5-6 years old and have not held up well at all under fairly gentle use. Contrast that to the Amish made stuff that is 15+ and still looks like it did when it came home. I believe Ethan Allen has transferred most of their manufacturing to China, and my mom says that at that point, their quality really went downhill.

Stickley furniture is expensive but also breathtakingly beautiful and very high quality. It's still made in the USA and when people talk about "heirloom quality" furniture, that's what I always think of. I have a Stickley hutch that was made in the 1920s that was my first "real" piece of furniture and still looks great and is still in regular use.
posted by pallas14 at 4:57 AM on April 1, 2012

There's always Baker, manufactured yes but of a higher quality than your average furniture.
posted by Max Power at 6:09 AM on April 1, 2012

I guess you don't have a Thos Moser showroom near you, but that's what I always think of for heirloom-quality, handmade furniture. I get the catalogs just to stare at photos. They will ship to you.
posted by supercres at 7:31 AM on April 1, 2012

Woodworkers who make furniture can often be found at Big Serious Crafts Shows - the juried kind, which you usually have buy tickets for. These are most common in Christmas shopping season, but you might find some sooner. A big show might have several furniture-makers with samples of their various pieces, and you can talk to the woodworkers themselves about exactly what you want. It's a good way to find out what's doable on your budget, and they're usually happy to take commissions. Plus, I think it's a good thing in general to support small/local artisans.

(My mom commissioned a gorgeous but not astronomically expensive rocking chair from a guy in California, who delivered it to her in New York on his way to a show, and it's the most comfortable chair ever because he sized everything to fit her - she had to send him her leg length etc before he started. Also, he's one of those consummate woodworkers who uses grain and dimensions to make things sturdy or flexible (like the back slats), depending on what each part of the chair needs. And beautiful too. People like this should be more famous!)
posted by Quietgal at 8:58 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out your state's artist association/guild. They should have a list of woodworkers, which should include furniture makers. I know Vermont has this at least.

At least in Vermont there are furniture makers that are companies, who are probably cheaper than custom built. Their stuff is quite fabulous, IMO, and again maybe your state has these smaller companies.

And around these parts Ethan Allen is not highly respected. FYI.
posted by evening at 9:22 AM on April 1, 2012

We've recently added a number of heirloom-quality pieces from Weaver Furniture. They serve as brokers of a sort for a number of Amish furniture-building families, and the prices are far less than you would find for non-customizable pieces at places that promote themselves as "Amish Furniture" stores.

The website is a bit weird, but a trip to their store in Shipshewana IN made it clear that their furniture is very high quality and they will custom-build or customize whatever you want. For example, we purchased a plasma stand but added corbels, removed the skirting underneath, had the power cord holes put in a different place, and narrowed the entire piece by a foot or so. The results were beautiful, and precisely what we had requested.
posted by DrGail at 10:58 AM on April 1, 2012

Oh, and to give you an idea of prices: The completely redesigned plasma stand, 62" wide, came to $1350.
posted by DrGail at 11:00 AM on April 1, 2012

Not custom, but items from these companies seem to be made to last:
Thos. Moser
Room & Board
posted by belau at 1:00 PM on April 1, 2012

This link at Room & Board shows all of the companies around the United States that they work with.
posted by belau at 1:09 PM on April 1, 2012

Hardwood Artisans is amazing. My parents just got a complete bedroom set from them and it is some of the most beautiful furniture I've ever seen. They worked with the staff to pick what types of wood, hardware, and other modifications.

It was even assembled on site by the craftsmen who had made the furniture- they clearly cared about it and loved it as much as my parents!
posted by Mouse Army at 5:21 PM on April 1, 2012

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