The Art of Furniture

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.

Getting to know designer Holly Carter: Holly Carter Design

Tara Jackson - Thursday, February 23, 2012

1) Did you always want to be a designer? 

No, I wanted to be a professional horsewoman but lacked the talent (even though I still have the desire.) Design runs deep in my genes. My family on both sides is filled with artists, inventors, engineers, and the like. My parents, as a hobby (that was really an obsession,) bought and restored old stone farmhouses in historic Bucks County, Pa. The very essence of architectural integrity was a daily experience as they did project after project bringing these magnificent homes back to their original splendor. They would then go to antique auctions in the surrounding areas and furnish these houses. 

I can remember my mother on her hands and knees using Johnsons Paste Wax to polish the old pegged floors. When she was done, she would always ask me to hop on her electric buffer and get a “ride” while she buffed the floors up to a shiny patina. She said she needed the extra weight for a good shine.   

 2) What’s your design philosophy? 

As a tag line: Creating environments that nurture the soul! My Design philosophy is really simple; there is nothing new under the sun… just another viewpoint on the already well-known wheel so to speak. So it has to be beautiful, it has to have a purpose and it has to be justifiable.  I use as many organic materials as I can. And if the project dictates...I have to have the inside of the home transitioning with the outside, or I go mad! 

It's not about me...its about my clients. I want it to look like their home and feel like it’s them. if it’s a commercial project, I aim to give it a shot of soul.   

 3) From where do you draw your inspiration? 

My Inspiration comes from God. The master creator… look outside yourself and your questions will be answered. 

Then of course my family and all of my memories and experiences [bring inspiration].  I think a lot of personal life experiences play into developing your taste and style. I had a Grandmother that painted and gardened daily. Her home was always a great inspiration to me. She had this greenhouse that opened into the foyer in this redone carriage house in Yardley, Pa. It smelled like turpentine and hot dirt. It was quirky, but cool. Then she had a studio in the back of the house where the light was best with a hallway that connected the two areas; so when you would enter you got that whiff of turpentine and dirt. It sounds weird, but it’s comforting to me. She always had fresh flowers and lots of light streaming in everywhere. Her husband, my grandfather was an inventor, very much a southern gentleman; birds would sit on his hands and take seed when he fed them. He was very gentle... He impressed me a lot. 

My inspiration also comes from being an equestrian, along with many trips abroad foxhunting in Europe and seeing the world.   

4) Is there a specific design feature you like to use or feel fits in almost any situation? 

Oh yes, I would say a signature piece for me for an interior would be something antique ... every room should have one; even if it’s a book. An exterior signature piece could be a serpentine wall of some organic composition such as brick, stone or a fence line. It just undulates with the lay of the terrain.   

5) Tell us a little bit about your first solo design job, was it smooth sailing, or a nightmare? What did you learn? 

My first project was a dream project. My clients had just purchased a home and it needed a lot of cosmetic renovations along with an addition, and then total furnishing. The wife wanted to keep the wallpaper and save money. The husband didn’t give an opinion but eventually asked me what I thought. I was afraid to give my honest opinion. I was sweating the idea of having to tell them what I thought because I simply wanted the job. I finally advised them to do it right the first time and to get rid of the hideous wallpaper. He said, “Good, the jobs yours!” 

To be honest, clients are paying me for my opinion, and if a designer is afraid to give an honest opinion than they aren’t being true to themselves as a creative individual or to their clients. If that happens, then the integrity of the project can become compromised.


6) What other profession do you think you would love or be good at? 

There are quite a few: Set design, the old fashioned way (they never told us about that at career day in school.) Loving history as I do, I wanted to be an archeologist at one point. Honestly, if I could go back in time, I’d love to be an architect; one who draws by hand not in a cad program, which I feel takes the design evolution away from the process.   

7) What’s your greatest achievement to date? 

My greatest achievement would be still having a business after the horrible recession we have all been through. I’m still young enough, energetic enough and passionate enough to get out of bed each day and enjoy my work and the many wonderful friends I have met in this business (whom I am so grateful for and to!) 

Having your own business is a challenge. When I would complain about the trials of having your own business, my good friend Randall Tysinger would say to me “H, if it was easy, everybody would have their own businesses.” I am grateful to be self-employed. I never ever would have believed it if anyone had told me that one day I would have my own firm.  


Holly Carter is a designer located in Aiken, South Carolina. She offers complete interior design services...as well as the finest American and English furniture, European antiques, luxury gifts, and accessories. 

www.hollycaterdesign.com   phone: 803-226-0025   facebook fan page 




Charleston Forge and the Custom Color

Tara Jackson - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One thing about our style here at Charleston Forge is that we create very classic, beautiful, "will-work-in-most-any-setting" furniture.  Our furniture has been loved by designers and customers alike for a long time for that reason... along with the fact that it is built to last and wont fall apart after 2-3 years of use. It's sturdy, and it's made in America at our Boone, NC plant (a huge positive selling point right now!) 

However, since we do so much custom designed furniture to fit the needs of our clients, we will, on occasion, get a not so run of the mill request. A table base painted in a bright teal or a barstool cushion lined in a vibrant red zebra stripe. We create these pieces on an individual bases for our customers, or for a designer who has a color scheme in mind and just can't find anything else to fit their vision. Recently, the flash sales site Rue La La has, for a three-day period, featured a fairly non-traditional color palate and asked contributors such as Charleston Forge to provide pieces around that color scheme. With spring on the way, with all its bright colors and vibrant hues, Rue La La has requested purple. We obliged. 

Today is the last day of their purple sale. Be sure to go by and take a look to satiate your purple craving.


Charleston Forge and You...

Tara Jackson - Thursday, February 09, 2012
Do you just LOVE the Charleston Forge product that you have in your home? Well, we'd love to see it! E-mail photos of your Charleston Forge chairs, tables, etc in your home (maybe seeing them being used during your Friday night neighborhood mixer or Saturday morning brunch with your kids) to TJackson@CharlestonForge.com

If you wish, send us a little story along with it! We'd love to feature your photos both through our blog and on our Facebook Fan Page!

Charleston Forge Furniture and Hurricane Katrina

Tara Jackson - Wednesday, February 08, 2012

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.



Charleston Forge Street Signs in Downtown Boone, NC

Tara Jackson - Tuesday, February 07, 2012

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

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Charleston Forge and the Old YouTube Video

Tara Jackson - Monday, January 30, 2012

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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Texture and Sound, Metal Clanging Against Metal...

Tara Jackson - Wednesday, January 25, 2012


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. 


Tara Jackson       


Peppers Restaurant in Boone, NC buys Charleston Forge Furniture

Tara Jackson - Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Peppers Restaurant and Bar is a local staple for many in the Boone, NC area, serving up delicious sandwiches, a fresh crisp salad bar and homemade cookin’. When outfitting the bar area, the owner, Jack Pepper wanted to use Charleston Forge furniture for its durable nature and the fact that all of our work is handmade in America.  Charleston Forge was commissioned to create a unified look among the bar stools, tables and chairs, while providing a comfortable seat for their patrons.






“Our stools aren’t just made for sitting pretty, they’re made to be used, and used, and used.” Art Barber


Cookie Cutter Repeats

Tara Jackson - Monday, January 09, 2012

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.

                                 

                       Tara Jackson                                 

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Not Just Vanilla

Tara Jackson - Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Quite often, I like to start my writing right in the middle, as if my readers already know what I am talking about, as if I were talking to a good friend who needs no updates. I was never good at the introduction, or the conclusion. In school, I would get so wrapped up in writing the middle, that I would bypass the beginning and the end completely, being proud of what I submitted.

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.
                        
              Tara Jackson                            
                            




We would love to hear back from all of our readers. Feel free to post a comment or feedback below.
 




251 Industrial Park Drive, Boone NC 28607 USA

info@charlestonforge.com

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f. 828.264.5901