Seashells at the Seashore

In this charming, one-of-a-kind bedroom, every piece of furniture attracts the eye like a fine work of art. Pleasant depictions of majestic sailboats and young children immersed in the business of play are painted directly onto the original, handcrafted furniture. Hand-sewn pillows depict a day at the beach and sailboat postcards painted onto the jewelry box continue the theme. Delicately carved rose bouquets adorn the dresser drawers and the bed’s headboard and footboard. Slender red and white stripes accent the upper curve of the armoire and are repeated in the bed skirt and the ruffled pillow trim. Kathie and Ben Woods, owners of Olde English Woods, built and designed the furniture in the room, and they pride themselves in the quality and creativity of their products. Kathie’s vision guides the project, her husband and four craftsmen construct the furniture and seven local artists paint the scenic imagery in their Goffstown workshop. As Kathie sits in her office, cluttered with design templates, showcase pieces and unfinished projects, she discusses her clients’ many unique requests. Often people send her family photographs or scenery from favorite places to be recreated on the furniture. In an adjoining workroom, a nearly completed dog feeder bears the image of an owner’s beloved pet. When working with her customers, Kathie tries to pick up on their individual styles: “I’m just a magnet to the details. Whether they are looking for something traditional or modern, I try to find out what their personality is like and then go in that direction.” This direction often leads to innovative designs. “I love to do the unusual. It’s not just furniture, it’s taking people’s ideas and creating something special from them.” The company once designed several rooms in a mom and child’s day spa, building boat-shaped salon chairs for the children. “The owner was so happy she cried,” says Kathie. In addition to her eye for detail, Kathie credits their success to her husband and his crew for crafting “heirloom-quality furniture.” Ben uses hardwood timber and practices old-fashioned techniques, like mortise and tenon joinery and dovetail drawer construction. He also shares Kathie’s enthusiasm for imaginative ideas: “A woman once requested a lighthouse-shaped armoire to hold her grandchildren’s entertainment set and toys. It was something we had never done before, but Ben built it with a functioning light up top,” recalls Kathie. The company began 11 years ago in the family’s New Boston home. During a slump in the building trade when Ben, a finished carpenter, couldn’t find work, he and Kathie built trunks for their daughters and neighbors. Several artistic friends were enlisted to paint the projects. “I would pick up on a theme from the room and try to incorporate that into the trunks,” says Kathie. Encouraged by the local interest, she marketed their products to furniture stores and at gift shows. Once their popularity grew, the Woods moved the business into a larger workspace in Goffstown. Their clientele expanded over the years to include people from all over the country, including illustrious public figures—members of the Kennedy family and singer Billy Joel. They have also designed rooms for numerous businesses. Mom’s Place, a birth center at Manchester’s Catholic Medical Center, commissioned them to design the furniture for their bed and breakfast-themed suites. Although Kathie’s success may lie in her appreciation for details, she has a grand vision of her company’s future. “My hope is that we will be recognized throughout the country. Our products have been in magazines before,” says Kathie, as she hands me a Xeroxed copy of the fall/winter 2006 edition of Decor featuring her beds, “but they forget to mention our name.” Hopefully, for Olde English Woods, this detail will no longer be overlooked. NH
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