Locating craftsmen to build custom, handcrafted, heirloom quality fine furniture for a decent price is a stretch on a good day. At Cherry Pond Fine Furniture, nestled in the heart of the White Mountains in Northern New Hampshire, we do it every day.
Peter, our President, is kept busy figuring quotes for a multitude of customers who need either minor changes, such as a coffee table widened or end cabinets shrunk, to major innovations that result in our company creating an entirely new conceptual piece. I especially appreciate finish sanding these custom pieces. Perhaps it’s the artist in me that enjoys the creative imaginations of our customers who take something that is naturally beautiful and make it their own.
A particular favorite of mine came from customers in Chicago who called their creation a “Bar Cupboard”. They began with a Cambridge double buffet and hutch set built out of hard maple. To customize it, they added two rows of wine racks at the base of the hutch, glass shelves, lights in the hutch and another light under the hutch which shone on the counter top which was to be made of stone (though an inch thick black walnut or tiger maple top finished with catalyzed lacquer would also be effective). They wanted the width of the set slimmer than normal while adding height to the hutch and depth to accommodate the wine bottles. The result was a beautifully lit wine station with the white wood of the maple adding to the luminescence. It was an amazing creation. I just did not realize our Cambridge hutch and buffet could do all that.
Building custom furniture can range from something relatively simple (such as when shrinking or enlarging a piece) to incredibly complicated (like when Matt, our chief engineer, built the spinning nautilus wall art project for the daughter of an MIT professor). The process begins with Peter bringing his custom request to Matt, either in the form of specific dimensions, or just a general idea, like when Mike from California asked us to build a surfboard coffee table in the Jackson style. Matt does a drawing, which is sent to the customer for acceptance or changes, and we take it from there. Sometimes, if it is something entirely new, (like Mike’s table), Matt will build a mock-up out of plywood just to get the visual and make any changes as necessary. For this project, Matt built a tiny one, then a plywood version, a maple version, then finally the actual top. Of course, the boys took a break to enjoy a ride on the board and Peter joined them with a more safety conscious simulated approach.
There is so much to tell you about our custom work, I will have to save the story about the Quincy bed for next time, but what I really love is this: Throughout our shop, when we are doing custom work, the customer becomes very personal to us. Their first name gets attached to the piece from wood selection in the rough end to the finishing process. Eli’s three drawer cabinets have the custom sliding tray in the top (shown below in center) and his twelve drawer Verdana dresser has extra-large custom drawers throughout (shown below on left). Ellen’s night stands just went into finishing and Jim and Debbie’s bedroom set should reach California in two weeks. Today I finally got to see the top which goes to Steve’s seven drawer dresser (shown below on right). It is extra wide with a special bend which gives it an oriental flavor. It feels like we are creating these very special pieces for family. Our days are filled with endless variety.
I will remind Peter to post a photo of the surfboard table when it is finished. In the meantime, people, keep those ideas coming!
Autumn has descended on Cherry Pond Fine Furniture. One night, while we were all in a deep sleep, a long wind rushed in and painted everything, from the lowliest shrub to the most majestic maple, a riot of brilliant reds, neon oranges, lemon yellow, burnt umber, lime green, chartreuse, gold, and vermillion. I want to rush out and buy a pumpkin!
It began subtly enough. By the end of September, when every view still showcased various shades of green, the young maple saplings turned crimson red, peering out from the dark green forest surrounding them like overexcited children ready for the party before everyone else. A few days and one very cool night later every living thing was awash in color. Mums sprung up in town planters, meridians, home gardens, and grocery stores. Pumpkins piled halfway up the wall at the local market and adorned porches all over town.
How can you live in the White Mountain National Forest in Northern New Hampshire and not love autumn? I mean seriously. The brilliant, sunny, 70 degree days are perfect for haying. In the backdrop of work and play there is the constant muted whirring of tractors dragging the hay baler and the smell of fresh cut grass. The five-foot round bales left behind in the field appear instantly; like a woodland fairy tipped her wand and said, “I want one here, and over there, and some here, and maybe here, and here, and here, and here” and *POOF* hay bales in every open grassland from Jefferson to eternity. They are as much a part of the season as pumpkins.
Of course our Cherry Pond Fine Furniture showroom gets its fair share of autumn tourist traffic – which makes us all happy. They are not like the summer and winter tourists who rush from one activity to the next; from kayaking to swimming to hiking to skiing to sledding to snowmobiling. They are here to simply look, to savor, and to soak in the splendor of their surroundings; sustenance for the spirit. My favorite question to ask each new customer is “Where are you from?” It always amazes me when someone from Colorado, California or Texas would find us.
The most obvious sign of the autumn tourist season in full swing is the multitude of cars pulled to the side of the road holding their cameras. Peter Guest, our illustrious President, and I recently went on a photographic adventure per request from a customer in southern California. Every hundred feet or so we would peer through a clearing and discover a spectacular vista to photograph. It was a short trip. (Jim and Debbie, By the Sea, this was for you).
Less than a mile from our shop there is a very special place where artists often set up easels to paint the scene. This particular spot is called “The Meadows”. It is a river valley completely surrounded by mountains. If you stand on the bridge and look northwest, which the artists do, the green valley runs flat and straight and true like a giant runway (dotted with a few cows) straight to the foothills of the Presidential Range. From this vantage point there is no doubt that Mount Washington is the master and commander. The autumn colors climb about one third up Mount Washington, then the dark green pines take over. At the top third, there is nothing but rock. It is an amazing sight, breathtaking.
I think about this when I am working. We are so lucky to be surrounded by such wealth, and challenged by it too. When we are handling the very material which gives us so much, how can we do less than our personal best with each piece of furniture we create? It’s no wonder our small shop creates heirloom quality fine furniture. Anything less would seem an insult.
Today Neil, who handles the rough wood and imagines the perfect matches he creates from it, came to me with a board about 12 inches wide and 70 inches long. He wanted to make two matching drawer fronts from it but wasn’t sure that a couple of marks at one end would pass muster. Any shop like ours that relies on profits from production would frown on an employee deviating from his task, but Peter encourages this kind of collaboration. This is why we get a result we can be proud of. This is why it works.
I was outside this afternoon when a flock of Canada geese flew south right over the shop. My right brain warned me I shouldn’t look up, but my left brain couldn’t help it. They flew in their typical “V” formation with the inevitable straggler calling from the rear. Another amazing sound of autumn.
by Caroline Lack