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15
Aug

Hickory Chair : Hand-Made and Made-To-Order

Last week I had the opportunity to go up to Hickory, NC to visit the factory of Hickory Chair, one of the furniture lines that we sell!  It was my first time at any sort of factory so I went with a lot of preconceived ideas: endless conveyor belts, workers in masks and hard hats, and a lot of machinery.  I can tell you that my ideas were far off from what I found in my tours through the factories!  Hickory Chair is a company who makes beautiful pieces of furniture, that is for certain.  In addition, so much of who they are as a company is because of the innovation from employees and the handmade craftsmanship that goes in to each piece.  

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One machine allows a single employee to make carvings into about thirty different legs at once!  The engraving they do on one piece is done to all of them simultaneously.  If they need to change the needle for a different marking to be made, they change all of the needles.  It is efficient but there is still a good amount of time involved!  (Also, if you make a mistake on one, you run the risk of making a mistake on all of the legs – no pressure!)

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I got to see the creation of their 8-way hand tied cushion in person and it was incredible!  This system goes into the bottom of the frame with specific sizes of coils put in specific places for the best sit possible.  The construction of tying them top-to-bottom, side-to-side, and diagonally to the coils and frame adjacent, keeps the springs in place and is meant to last you a very long time.  Our instructor, Laura, commented that when you buy from Hickory Chair, you are buying pieces for your grandchildren – some that might not even be born yet!  They are building furniture that will be passed as heirlooms through generations of families.  The company was established in 1911, so after 105 years, they’ve experienced this!

IMG_3200 This is a photo of a detailed veneer in the leg of a piece of their furniture.  This veneer was only about 3″ long but comprised of 29 different pieces that had been put together.  It is a flat piece so all of the shadows are created by putting each piece into extremely hot sand.  It browns the edges creating an illusion of shadows!  Here is a picture of this piece after the stain: IMG_3210 It was so beautiful and the amount of work put into this comparably, small detail was incredible!

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This is a photo of a Diamant Dresser waiting for its hardware.  The dresser had been stained and then all of the gold striping was hand-painted on the front.  Hickory Chair has a studio for an artist in the middle of the factory.  There is no limit to what can be painted on to their furniture: chinoiserie, monograms, a design from a fabric swatch, horse portraits, sorority crests, etc.  This was one of my favorite rooms to visit!  The furniture you are ordering is one-of-a-kind and it makes their pieces more like art than just furniture.

The ultimate lesson I learned from my trip was that not all factories are created equal.  The factory was filled with natural light from open windows.  There wasn’t a single person in a mask – employee or person on a tour. They’ve created fans and air systems that pull everything out of the air that would make it difficult to breathe or a health risk to breathe.  The floor of the factory wasn’t full of saw dust…it was (embarrassingly) cleaner than my house!  As we walked through the factory we heard story after story of employee innovation.  Every employees’ workspace/desk is completely customizable to fit their work style: they can stand or sit or have it tilted.  They have lifts that will put a piece of furniture at eye level so employees can work all day without muscle aches.  Going against my judgements before arriving, there are large amounts of women working in the factory, in all departments!  

Every part of the process of making Hickory Chair furniture is hand-made.  There are so many different hands that go into making these beautiful pieces.  Don’t see exactly what you’re looking for on their website?  Since every piece is made-to-order, we can ask them to make a sofa 3″ shorter to fit a wall, or a chair to sit 2″ higher for ease.  We’d love to chat with you about what you have in mind for your home and show you options!  Here are a couple of pieces that I fell in love with while I was there: 

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Isla Dining ChairIMG_3226

Suzanne Kasler Leigh Sofa

FullSizeRender-53Samuel Wing Chair

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