Charleston Forge has a long history of hand-building, beautiful, high quality, steel, wood, and leather furniture. We have an extensive catalog of products and do a large amount of custom work and have built product for retailers such as Room & Board, Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel and Bloomingdales, just to name a few.
We love to hear it when people love our furniture (I mean, who doesn't like the occasional pat on the back?) Yes, it tells us we're doing a good job, but it also lets our customers know that we have built a piece that was meant to last. Recently, we have received calls and e-mails from multiple different customers who purchased a Charleston Forge product 20 years ago and want a couple more. They had looked at replacing them with brand new product, simply so they would have matching pieces, but the quality and durability just didn't match what they had grown to love. So, our team custom makes a piece or two to match their current barstool, or table.
However, this story really kind of tops them all. Our marketing director had a chance to speak with a husband and wife who had first hand experience with the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina:
Despite being raised 13 feet off the ground, the first floor of Kay and Chris Harris’ home in Pascagoula, MS found itself under 4 feet of water for days after Hurricane Katrina’s hit the southern US in 2005. Only half a block from the Gulf of Mexico, the Harris’ home had in fact faired far better than many of the homes around it – homes that weren’t raised up on concrete piles.
“They were gone,” Chris said during a visit he and his wife, Kay, made to the Charleston Forge factory in Boone, NC recently.
“The house was severely damaged,” Kay told company co-owner, Susan Barber. “Everything downstairs was destroyed except for your tables and an antique dining table that had been recently rebuilt.”
Despite sitting in salt water for days Chris said that the steel table bases needed only a light sanding and touching up with paint.
“The wooden tops were fine,” added Kay. At the time they owned four pieces of Charleston Forge furniture — two end tables, a sofa table, and a coffee table.
The Harris’, who no longer own the Pascagoula house, now split their time between homes on Beech Mountain, near Boone, and their home in Chocowinity, NC near the Atlantic coast. The furniture is now part of the décor at the Beech Mountain property.
“It’s lasting furniture,” said Chris.
At Charleston Forge, we are best known for our furniture. Our bakers racks, our dining tables, our drink tables, our swivel counter stools and chairs... even our beds which have had the pleasure of gracing the bedrooms of some of the top celebrities. However, what many don't realize is that we cater to a whole range of needs.
The Town of Boone, NC commissioned us a few years back to create street signs that looked classic, and remained sturdy (hey, it's what we're known for,) but also fit the small town feel of this quaint little place that has made it to so many "Best of..." lists (most recently being listed as number 4 on Forbes list of Fastest-Growing Small Towns.) We were more than happy to be a part of this project for this town were we live, work and play. Since that time, we have created signs for other main street areas in other states.
In addition, we have recently been a part of furnishing brand new upscale hotels, building lighting systems and a huge wine rack (which covers an entire wall) in a soon to open restaurant in Uptown Charlotte. We are in the process of creating table bases for a major golf course here in the south (stay tuned for that story within the next few weeks,) and although it's not something we do on a daily basis, we did design and create some beautiful banisters for an outdoor stone patio and entertainment area at a clients home. They could have gone with someone else, but they wanted our quality and our style along with our craftsmanship . We are so much more than furniture (although it is something we're great at.)
Downtown Boone, NC
While I do my best as a writer to convey the idea of what we do here at Charleston Forge, illustrate what we see and hear, show you the process of how our furniture comes to be, sometimes, its just better to see what we do. So while this video is quite a few years old, it tells the story and shows the process of what we do, how we're made, and what we believe. Enjoy!
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Have you heard about Rue La La yet? Rue La La is an awesome site dedicated to all things shopping. Items range from children's clothing and accessories, to name brand design, purses, shoes, clothing, and even furniture (of course they carry furniture... and OUR furniture too.) These limited number items all sell for spectacular deals and come with a time limit. Once the sale is over, its over.
Rue La La holds events, today they are having the "Orange Event." Starting at 11am, all things orange are featured and at incredible prices. Charleston Forge has three drink tables featured on the front page of the event.
If you dont have an account, be sure to head on over and create one... its a shoppers paradise.
We do hand painted. We do reclaimed. We do antiqued finishes. And we do customs. Ask for Charleston Forge furniture at your favorite home furnishings store, or visit our Warehouse Sale section for "you can't find anywhere else," one of a kind deals. Still can't find exactly what you are looking for? We do custom work: 828.264.0100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reports are consistently saying that the quality and value of American made goods is on the increase, however, employment within these industries (ours included) is, as it has been in recent years, decreasing. The average number of manufacturing jobs, according to and article from NPR titled “The Past and Future of American Manufacturing,” has dropped from around 18 million to approximately 12 million in the last decade. While we have not been strangers to having to make the difficult choice of cutting our employee base due to economic downturns, we still believe in the decision making power of the worker.
There is nothing like coming in to the factory on a snowy morning here in the mountains, putting on my protective eyewear, grabbing my camera and heading out to the shop to see what’s in the works. There is a normal loop I take, first visiting the men working the hot, reddish orange forge, flames licking at the metal, softening it to a point where one can take a hammer to it to give it a texture unlike any other. I then wander around to where they weld the pieces together, men in their green aprons, covered in metal dust, large protective masks covering their faces while blue and orange sparks fly in every direction, lighting up the red plastic separators between each station. Being trained as a photographer and fascinated with light as I am, I must remind myself not to stare directly at the center blue flame where the sparks originate. That light will burn the eye, even from far away. I then head on over to where we have a few detail-oriented ladies who grind down any metal burrs or weld melts to create a smooth and beautiful look to our metal, again, sparks flying.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we turn on these massive machines and you see chairs, tables, bakers racks, mirror frames, and sometimes bed frames (along with any other item we have been commissioned to create) on a slow march, through a 5-stage washer, a dry off oven, a paint booth and finally a cure oven, preparing each to be delivered to a designer, a home or a store. I can’t exactly tell you how, but this process always reminds me of the animated movie “Alice in Wonderland.”
Sometimes, we have custom paint jobs, a bright teal, or an orange for a flash sale event. These items head over to Dana, who, like any artist has her area of paint samples and brushes, an area where all of the colors she uses are blotted on a canvas so that she can take stock of its quality. She then hand paints each item, giving it a texture and sheen that you just can’t get from a paint booth or an airbrush.
During this process, there’s metal dust everywhere, there is texture and sound, metal clanging against metal. There are people, very talented at their jobs, working and smiling because they love what they do, creating something useful and meaningful with their hands. During lunch breaks, there are men and women joking and laughing over their brought-from-home lunches, strengthening friendships with the close-knit community of co-workers that they have created over the years.
I couldn’t imagine this process being nearly as intriguing if it were done by robotic arms, controlled by someone staring at a screen, pushing a button every half hour (which some reports are now stating that’s where the manufacturing world is headed…how factories have slowly replaced workers with machines in order to be able to compete with the Asian market.) While the furniture always leaves our warehouse clean and metal dust free, the process it takes to get to the beautiful sturdy piece that ends up in a customer’s living room would not be the same were it done in a shiny clean factory. It would not have the history and the energy that it does going through the process that it currently does here at Charleston Forge.
While I can’t foresee the future of where the employee scarce factory will take our world, I have to say that there is something about the process, and the people that makes our furniture something to LOVE that will last for years and years…. and years.
So many furniture manufacturers are located in areas of the country like Upstate New York, and Hickory or High Point, NC (the furniture capital of the world,) yet we are one of the few who are not. Instead we call the mountains of NC home. The area is the home of magnificent views, such as those from Grandfather Mountain, and the often-photographed Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Home to all kinds of artisans and craftspeople, some of whom focus on tiny details when creating lovely jewelry; while others follow family traditions when building delightful handcrafted mirrors or hand wrapped traditional wedding brooms.
Boone, Blowing Rock, and the surrounding areas are steeped in history and beauty. The winters bring fluffy white snow (often just in time for the Holidays,) decorating the mountains and valleys in a white silence. The spring and summers are lush and green, full of life with beautiful light streaming through the trees, the temperature rarely rising above a comfortable 78 degrees; and the area during the fall is one of the most spectacular places in the country to see the changing of the leaves. Bright oranges, yellows and reds stretch for miles, creating a splendid golden hue, especially during the hours of sunrise and sunset, where one can just bathe in the warmth of the golden light, while cuddling up to a loved one with a favorite oversized sweater and cup of rich hot chocolate, warding off the crisp cool nip in the fall air.
Quaint little downtown areas welcome shoppers and diners, the stores catering to a wide array of visitors, yet very few sell by corporate names or product. During a weekend visit to the area, a shopper can pick up a cute little metal knickknack creature, with charming buggy eyes, sweetly named “doodlebug” (a fond childhood nickname) as a gift for their mother, or a scenic canvas by a local artist whose talent recorded the splendor that is the area. They can dine at a restaurant whose menu changes day to day, only serving gourmet dishes made from local seasonal items, and then attend a winery for a “grown in the High Country” wine tasting. They can take a day hike to a beautiful waterfall, or an afternoon drive armed with a picnic basket filled with delicious local meats, cheeses, wine, and skillfully hand decorated, made from scratch cupcakes. They can ride on horseback and tour the trails and mountains, and during the warm summer evenings, catch a show by a community theater production.
While Boone and the High Country does not have the amount of steel, concrete, shopping malls and name brands that cities like New York, Atlanta, Dallas or even Charlotte does, it does not lack in culture or beauty. There is far less traffic and far more nature, far fewer crowds and far more distinct seasons. The area cradles our craft, our design and our people, nurturing its growth while reminding each of us to enjoy the beauty set out in front of us, rich and radiant. We’ve never found a place we’d be happier to call home.
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Handmade. We tell our customer and our partners that we are “Handmade… American Made.” It’s our motto, it’s on our business cards, it’s on our website and we constantly refer to it through facebook and our blog. We use the terms as if they mean something, as if they were important…. an ideal to live by. But in a world full of “Made in China,” “send the work over seas so we can make more money here at home” and cookie cutter repeats, we wonder if our consumers truly understand what we mean.
Back in October, our CEO shared a story that he received in an email with a photo of a ship containing 15,000 tractor-trailer loads of product from Asia. The Journey took just 4 days and the ship was emptied so that the product could be sent straight to companies who get their product quickly and cheaply, just to increase the price for something that you will walk in to your neighbor's house next week finding the exact same item. And while this seems to be the norm, the fact is that the cost to produce and ship product from China is on the rise, while much of the quality remains the same.
And for a dose of happy news, published in an article by Florida Today (www.Floridatoday.com), 2012 is a year where more people are looking for furniture specifically with the label “Made in the USA.” According to the article, “The demand for American-made products has created record prices for American antiques at auction houses.” And apparently, this trend is expected to influence many of the furniture manufacturers and all of the industry in one way or another (which is great to hear after so many companies followed the trend after 9/11 of sending much of their furniture manufacturing over seas. And all this during a time when total patriotism was shouted from the rooftops.)
So to us, “Handmade… American Made” is a phrase we couldn’t be more proud to use or to live by. Our people put their hearts into their work, from concept and design, to spending time by the hot forge twisting a chair leg into a glorious swirl, to meticulously painting a side table in a bright peacock teal as per a custom request. When it’s custom made, you can bet your neighbors won’t have the same barstools to entertain by. Your boss won’t have the same bench in his office that your kids sit on to tie their shoes in the morning. And your four-poster specially designed bed for your newly remodeled master suite will be special to you, and you alone.
And not only will it be unique, but it will also last for years and years. It won’t be put together with brittle plastic clips that refuse to hold the weight of your favorite book collection, nor will your favorite bar stool shatter into pieces when an excited brother-in-law knocks it over while tripping over his feet trying to get to your home made dessert (which he swears is better than any “from the box” mix you can buy.)
Handmade still means something. American made still means something. Quality.
The instructor, of course, would always return the paper to me, red pen, and oftentimes, permanent marker corrections decorating its surface, with requests to rewrite and return. I would be so set on being different that I would re-print, maybe correcting a few spelling errors (and sometimes punctuation, although that was also a part of my style) and re-submit the paper essentially unchanged. My biggest reasoning behind this was the question: How is anyone supposed to stand out if everything they did was the same as everyone else? If everyone did the same thing, and followed the same rules, and walked along to the same rhythm, there would be no leaders and there would be one person for every situation, position and job in every location all over the world. There would be nothing of interest for people to decorate with, read, watch or do. We would all be vanilla. I breezed through high school, college and challenging positions within companies this way, remaining loyal to what made me different.
When Charleston Forge co-owners, Art and Susan Barber, began talking to me about what they wanted to do with this company, and how it was destined to stand apart, they mentioned exactly these things. While it is still questionable where corporations fit into the blog world, it is even more questionable as to where a furniture manufacturer, in operation for more than 25 years in the high country of North Carolina, fits. Very few furniture companies embrace the social media aspect, and while we don’t aim to alienate anyone, we do want to stand apart. Be different. Rise above. One thing is clear; the Internet is a powerful tool, as is blogging and every facet of Social Media. Why can’t an “American made” furniture company take a bite out of that big ol’ slice of pie? We can use this tool to reach designers, and customers alike, all the while providing an entertaining read to break up the sometimes-monotonous tone of the workday.
So, from here on out, you can expect something different, something entertaining and thought provoking… from our joint ventures with Internet explosions like One Kings Lane and Rue La La, to the daily goings-on within our factory walls and an introduction to all of those individuals who make our company what it is. While we are a company, we are also people, who are so much more than metal, wood, finishes and fabrics.
- The Cake Tester and the Cake Baker
- John Winer, A Man of Full of Color among Shades of Grey
- Anna Lehman, The Psychology of Design
- Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn
- Meet our Artists, Tom Wooten
- A Sweet and Cozy Evening in Front of the Fire
- Charleston Forge is getting dressed for furniture market
- breathtaking images of autumn by Rusty Albertson
- October 2012 Furniture Market — High Point, NC
- The Monarch Bench