by Joan MacDonald
Whether it’s a chair that’s a standalone work of art, well-crafted built-in cabinetry or some decorative trim, the right woodwork can help create a comfortable home that’s uniquely your own.
A Woodworking Relationship
“The most important thing any craftsperson can do when sitting with a client is to try to understand what they want from the very beginning, to really listen rather than try to impose his own vision,” says Jason Jones of Ingrained Woodworking, a full-service contracting firm in Lake Katrine. “Everyone’s situation is unique.”
Although the firm’s focus has grown over the years from doing interior work to major renovations, improving a home, says Jones, does not always require big changes. It’s possible to define a space with a small touch, such as applications of historic millwork, which include moldings, wainscoting and railings.
One of his favorite projects, a home in Gardiner, did just that, using well-thought-out interior details to create a home that was cozy and a pleasure to look at without being ostentatious.
“It’s a really nice balance without imposing the bigger is better attitude,” says Jones.
Ingrained Woodworking offers services that range from small renovations and improvements to additions and new construction. To reach them, visit, ingrainedwoodworking.com, call 845-246-3444.
What Wood Should You Choose?
To achieve the look you want in your home, you may first want to examine different kinds of wood. From maple to walnut to oak to pine, your choice can help make a style statement.
“Different types of wood have different characteristics,” says Sarah Weaver of A&G Custom Furniture in Accord. “Some are soft. Some are hard. Pine, for example, has knots. It’s a soft wood. So, if you’re thinking about a contemporary look for your dining table, don’t go with pine as it will ding and dent. You will get a more rustic distressed look, not the contemporary look you want. If you’re not sure about the kind of wood to use, the craftsperson may be able to help you.”
A&G, which sells furniture crafted at Bare Furniture by Weaver’s dad Alex Kambouris, says unfinished furniture offers a distinct advantage over finished furniture. You can add details, the finish of your choice, you can even distress the finish, but most importantly, you can see the quality of the wood before you buy the piece.
“Unfinished products have to have a higher grade of wood,” says Weaver. “Even if it doesn’t look as pretty and shiny as finished furniture, the wood is going to be a better grade and you can see it. When you buy finished furniture, the finish may conceal a lot of flaws while with unfinished furniture such flaws will be exposed.”
Unfinished furniture can be a cost effective way to acquire the things you need to achieve a total look. For example, you can have unfinished chairs painted and distressed to match an antique dining table.
At A & G Custom-Made Furniture Corp., you can design your own kitchen cabinets, wall units, vanity, hutch, or bedroom furnishings, and they will build to your exact specifications. The company does both residential and commercial work. To contact them, visit agcustommade.com or barefurnitureny.com, or call 845-626-0063.
If you long for furniture that’s one of a kind, pieces that are so beautifully crafted they can be considered functional art or sculpture, consult the Hudson Valley Collective, where a dozen local designers offer distinctive pieces.
Collective member Josh Finn describes his own work as being inspired by the patterns and shapes he sees in nature, for example, the effects of wind on water, water on stone and the arching of a tree’s branches. Finn was also inspired by the simplicity of Shaker furniture, the naturalism inherent in Art Noveau and the work of Japanese-American woodworker George Nakishima.
He is not interested in making disposable furniture. He wants to make pieces that become heirlooms and warns that such creative effort can result in a higher price tag.
“If you’re going to cut down a tree and use natural resources, there should be a certain amount of honor that goes into that,” says Finn. “It should be well made and well designed so people want to keep it around. We really need to get away from the idea of a disposable society. You could go down to Ikea and pick up a table for a few hundred dollars, yes, but it’s going to fall apart after a while. It should matter to you that you are using regional wood, not wood that’s shipped halfway around the world.”
While Finn makes a few pieces of his own a year, he and other artists in the collective will work with a client to create whatever is needed. If a client tells him he wants a king-sized bed with a canopy but also a curve in it to match a favorite bedroom chair, Finn will make a sketch and work with the client until the piece is realized.
Finn helped found the Hudson Valley Collective in 2008 to showcase the designer/makers of custom furniture in the region. Woodworkers in the collective offer high-quality, handcrafted items in a diversity of styles.
Finn can be reached at 845-687-8805, or visit him at joshfinnfurniture.com and you can reach the Hudson Valley Collective at
Antique furniture is a great way to add appeal to your home, but many flea market and antique finds often need restoration work that the do-it-yourselfer may not be up to. Time-honored designs made expertly from scratch can be a good way to achieve that desired look and at the same time ensure that a chair doesn’t fall apart when a guest sits on it, says Larry Ruhl of High Falls Mercantile.
Using reclaimed floor boards, barn wood and recycled pieces, High Falls Mercantile creates pieces that look authentic but are strong and will last. Making good use of recycled materials has benefits.
“Hand crafting our furniture from reclaimed pieces gives them an heirloom quality and also uses materials that would otherwise go to waste,” says Ruhl.
The company creates and customizes classic American designs that employ clean lines and subtle curves. Their distressed finishes and colors hark back to early American painted furniture and are reminiscent of shades seen in Folk Art pieces.
How can you know you are getting quality when you buy furniture?
“I'm a big believer in touching and seeing these pieces firsthand,” said Ruhl. “That is the best way to determine quality and construction. For our Internet customers, we send samples of our finishes for them to see and touch.”
The store is located in High Falls. To reach them, call 800-687-6707 or visit highfallsmercantile.com
Kind To The Environment
All the materials used in a home have an effect on your immediate environment and the health of the planet. That’s why its important to use quality materials made in the safest way possible.
“If you are buying a wood item or having cabinetry made, ask what it’s composed of and if any parts of the process are toxic,” says Douglas Nikkila of DCN Woodworking in Accord.
"Some cabinets are made with plywood type material, others with particleboard cabinets,” said Nikkila. “I shy away from the latter. Plywood is composed of layers of wood laminated together with adhesive to form a strong bond that makes it easier to work with. Particleboard traditionally uses adhesive that is toxic and bad for environment. It is getting better now, more environmentally friendly, but it’s still not the best choice.”
Looks can also be deceiving, says Nikkila. Wood can look solid, but homeowners need to consider if it will last.
“If cabinets are made using inferior materials, over time homeowners will certainly see the difference. Fortunately, the quality of custom woodworkers is pretty high and there are some great woodworkers out there.”
DCN Woodworking has been constructing and installing cabinets for over 25 years, and have had examples of their work showcased in Architectural Digest as well as Better Homes and Gardens. The small woodworking shop provides custom cabinets and furniture in a variety of styles and materials. The store is located in Accord. For more information, call 845-626-7230 or visit dcnwoodworking.com.
Reclaimed Wood And Versatility
Using reclaimed wood can be one eco-friendly way to furnish or renovate your home, but another responsible design choice is to buy or commission multipurpose furniture.
“Versatility can be just as important in wood design as the materials you use to design it,” says Marc Antony of The Green Palette in New Paltz.
“Instead of having to buy multiple pieces of furniture, a smarter option is to create pieces that are multifunctional.”
For example, the company creates a headboard with storage space for quilts, minimizing the need for a separate storage unit. They also make a table that can switch from being a side table or coffee table at a moment’s notice. And all their designs are made from reclaimed or repurposed wood.
Antony became interested in the use of reclaimed materials on a furniture-buying trip to Indonesia. There he discovered a family factory that counteracted the destruction of natural resources for industry by creating products from salvage.
“It changed my way of doing things, shifting the focus to using resources that already existed,” says Antony.
Besides creating versatile designs from earth-friendly materials, the company offers consultations to homeowners on making conscientious design choices. Sometimes, small steps are all that’s required.
“First, we let them know what options they have, whether it’s shopping for a new eco-friendly floor, using paint with no volatile organic compounds, or making the best resource choices while renovating,” says Antony. “Pieces they already have may need only minimal work to freshen up or upgrade them, and it can be done with repurposed materials.”
To contact Green Palette, call 845-594-8476 or check out their Facebook page.
These craftspeople each have a unique way with wood that can help your home look its best.