In With The New: Fine NH-Made Furniture

New Hampshire furniture makers

David Leach says inspiration for his work comes from many sources. “I’m inspired by architecture and oceanic art, but I’m not restricted to that,” he says. “I look at a wide variety of things.”

Photo courtesy of David Leach

Cutting edge probably isn't the first phrase that comes to mind when envisioning New Hampshire home décor in all its oak, pine and maple glory. Understated, maybe. Rustic, certainly. Classic, yes. But edgy? No way.

Think again. Now more than ever, New Hampshire artisans are experimenting with modern, unexpected takes on the classic furniture that has defined the Granite State. They boast unique design sensibilities, fresh perspectives and, above all, new uses and interpretations of a time-tested New Hampshire classic: Wood.

Take League of New Hampshire Craftsmen member Peter Bloch, for example. Bloch has all but redefined the way wood can be used in furniture by crafting unique wooden lampshades out of aspen, a material he says offers optimum translucency but is widely considered a "junk species."

"Woodworkers just don't have the instinct to use it," says Bloch.

Bloch adds that he has found great inspiration from working in New Hampshire.

"Being a craftsperson is a pretty tough business choice to make, " he says, "but if I were to choose any place in the world to do it, it would be New Hampshire."

Like Bloch, Don McAulay and Don McAulay Jr., the father-son duo who make custom rustic furniture, feel firmly entrenched in the area and its natural beauty.

"Partly the inspiration has come from traditional furniture style designs, but we are also nature enthusiasts," says McAulay Jr. "You can really explore and gather inspiration from the forest's natural landscape."

But the pair's "unique rustic furnishings" aren't just inspired by nature - they include it. Indeed, using raw materials like tree bark and roots is what sets the McAulays' work apart.

By Timothy Coleman
Photo courtesy of Timothy Coleman

"We hope to accomplish a unique look for the homeowner or designer so that they too are inspired every time they see our furniture," McAulay Jr. says.

Not all New Hampshire furniture makers rely on the state for ideas, though.

Timothy Coleman, for example, bases his work on a place a world away: Asia.

"My work draws quite a bit from the Asian aesthetic in general, the emphasis on material, pattern and proportion," Coleman says, noting that his furniture is often intricately carved and patterned.

Coleman, a New Hampshire Furniture Master, says this treatment of wood allows him to breathe new life into the age-old material.

"[Each piece of wood] is going to be different, and that's the fun of it," he says. "[With carving] you're not restricted by the movement of the wood."

Despite his infatuation with the Asian aesthetic, however, Coleman says New England is a great place to make and sell furniture.

"There's a lot of diversity in the arts community," he says. "Because the area isn't vast, there's a lot of overlap of different communities of artists, and I think that keeps things vibrant."

David Leach, a fellow New Hampshire Furniture Master, has also made a name for himself by manipulating the traditional forms of wood furniture. Leach's designs are decidedly modern despite using wood, an old-fashioned furniture base, as his primary material.

"My furniture is contemporary, it's one of a kind and it uses high-grade materials," he says. "I prefer simplicity. I'm inspired by the complexity of simplicity."

Leach says he believes his modern take on furniture could soon be a sweeping trend in New Hampshire.

"Younger people are moving into the area, and we have a lot of people coming from outside this area, and they bring with them a different experience," he says. "I think this area is evolving."

Furniture Masters Gallery: New Addition to Downtown Concord

The New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association has opened a new, permanent gallery in downtown Concord, located in the "Smile Building." Long-time Furniture Masters supporter Steve Duprey of the Duprey Companies recently signed the 10-year lease that charges the association just 10 cents per year.

The gallery, at 49 South Main St., is in an ideal spot in the thriving downtown area adjacent to the Concord Chamber of Commerce's Welcome Center and across from the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen's gallery.

The NHFMA was founded in 1995 as a means of supporting and continuing New Hampshire's tradition of fine furniture making. Today there are nearly two dozen members from across New Hampshire, as well as from Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont.

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