Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Not Your Grandmother's Hickory Chair

The original motto of Hickory Chair was "chairs made better than seems necessary" and the motto today could be "furniture made better than seems necessary." I wasn't that familiar with Hickory Chair before my visit to their factories and showroom and now I can't imagine how I designed without them! But what I thought was a simple tour turned out to be so much more than just about furniture. Everyone who was a part of this trip which is called Hickory Chair University was deeply impressed by the company's attention to detail and quality but also their lean manufacturing process and employee pride and ingenuity. There is so much that I learned while there that I wasn't quite sure where to start. But since someone already pointed out yesterday that the furniture didn't look like the Hickory Chair that they knew, I thought we should start with a look at the showroom and the really gorgeous furniture that they produce!

There really is something for everyone at Hickory Chair and if you don't see what you need, you can have it custom made. The tag line under Marketing Director Laura Holland's email reads, "If you can describe it, we will try to MAKE it" as well as "MADE not manufactured." I'll get more into how the furniture is made in my next post and how this is a company that isn't manufacturing a hundred of the same piece on an assembly line but making your furniture as you order it.

You can customize almost any piece and choose from 19 wood finishes; 24 paint finishes in weathered, vintage or rustic technique; 12 special paint finishes including gold and silver leaf; special handpainting by an artist; Antique Rub or Solid striping; hardware in antique brass, antique bronze, antique silver or Customer's Own Hardware (COH); 8 different skirt options; and monogramming of initials, words or motifs (your family crest is not a problem). I also forgot small, medium and large and deluxe nail trims in a myriad of finishes which can be places over 36 different colors of gimp or ribbon. Oh, and there are over 800 fabrics to choose from or you can send in your customer's own fabric. I haven't even mentioned the Silhouettes program where you can choose different arm styles, legs, custom depth and height, skirt or no skirt, casters or no caster, etc. The options are dizzying and exciting!

The styles range from American, French, Asian and European and have been designed by some of the best in the design world including noted American antique dealer and scholar Albert Sack, and interior designers Alexa Hampton, Mariette Himes Gomez, Thomas O'Brien and Suzanne Kasler.

I don't want to come off as someone who drank the Kool-Aid or who is only writing about Hickory Chair because they sent me to visit their company. I think you all know by now that as a New Yorker, I'm not easily impressed and that I only write about companies, designers and products that I can honestly endorse. I don't think any other furniture company could ever invite me to view their operation after Hickory Chair because I don't think anyone could come close to their quality and construction.

I have shopped at Aero in New York, Thomas O'Brien's Soho store but I never knew his furniture was made by Hickory Chair. I also have it on good authority that Chelsea Bed seen here was purchased by a certain interior designer for a certain house in Washington, DC. If Hickory Chair is good enough for the President, then I think it's good enough for you! It probably isn't a coincidence that they chose furniture that is made in America.

I saw a gentleman in the factory making this Beaufort Chair with caning and will share the photos soon.

I also heard that the Candler Bed by Suzanne Kasler was ordered for a certain white house. Hint hint. Oh, and someone likes ikat. Other designers have ordered this bed with shorter headboards, headboards only and also with a headboard and footboard the same height to make a daybed. I told you the sky is the limit.

Suzanne Kasler's line is all based on antiques that she found on her travels through Europe, mainly Paris. These pieces here look like they are finished in antique ivory but I really love her designs in Weathered French Grey. They are to die for!

Hickory Chair Creative Director, Ron Fiore, was challenged with styling the 5,000 square foot showroom and he accessorized this wall as a chic ladies bathroom. The mirrored dresser here could also be ordered without the mirrors or just a mirrored top or front. If you can dream it, they can make it.

In addition to regular mirror, you can special request antique mirror as well.

I'm not sure if this was the chair but one of them on the showroom floor swiveled but Hickory Chair offers eight different styles that swivel including low profile swivel chairs that don't require an added skirt now.

This breakfront has thirteen panes in each door that supposedly represent the thirteen original colonies. Ron Fiore had the artist hand paint Roman numerals and striping on the doors. You could also replace the mirror with glass as another option.

I didn't see this screen in the catalog but it looks gold leafed which is also a special painted finish option.

These Linwood Arm Chair by Suzanne Kasler are one of my favorite styles, especially in the Weathered French Grey finish. The Collier Dining Table features a quatrefoil stretcher that has become Suzanne's trademark.

Someone heard a rumor that Hickory Chair will soon start offering upholstered headboards and they pointed out that since they can upholster a screen, they should be able to upholster a headboard.

The Knole Sofa looks a little more modern upholstered in this fabric and can be custom made to measure from 28 to 120 inches as can all the sofa styles!
You can see another example of the special hand painting available from the artist at Hickory Chair. I also loved this striped fabric on these chairs #3235-34. We were asked for our "wishes" at the end of the last day and I forgot to ask for fabric names. As a visual person and interior designer, I can't remember numbers but I can remember a name!

This "sofa" was made by combining a left arm facing and a right arm facing sectional sofa end. The pieces lock together and are perfect for those New York apartments with small doors and freight elevators...or no elevators!

Many, if not all, the other participants in this Hickory Chair University owned a store or a showroom and this showroom was designed to look like a store in the mid-west when it was set up.

I can't believe that Hickory Chair can produce so many different styles of furniture and options and I'll get into how they do it in the next post.

The posts on this bed can be unscrewed so you can take them off and screw the finial into the footboard or switch them to make them shorter or taller in the front or back.

The Hallings Secretary by Thomas O'Brien has to be one the most iconic and popular items by Hickory Chair.

You can get a sense of the space of the showroom in this shot. It was fun to see the fabric and finish choices Ron Fiore made and how he put them all together.

This New Hampshire Bowfront Chest is part of the Albert Sack collection and is a reproduction of the original circa 1790-1810 chest.

These were another favorite chair especially with the striped fabric on the back. You also never have to worry about crooked fabric or unmatched seams. Hickory Chair will always center a pattern and match all sides.

I think you can see again in this photo the range of styles of furniture options and finishes and upholstery styles. As I mentioned before, I'm not easily impressed but I was blown away by Hickory Chair. I owe a big thank you to President Jay Reardon and Laura Holland for inviting me down to North Carolina to show me what they can do. I had a great time and can't wait to show you the real behind the scenes look at where the magic happens in the factory! But y'all gotta come back later for that ya hear!

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

what are the retail price points of HC?

Vitania said...

I can read the enthusiasm of this excursion. It's wonderful. There is no greater reward than the fruits of our labour. I come from manufacturing. And i have seen all the meticulous craftmenship that goes into creating beautiful pieces of furniture. I would love to be part of a tour like this one.

Thanks Heather. Looking forward to reading more.

Alicia said...

I feel like Dorothy & the guys skipping through the Hickory forest...
Beaufort chairs, breakfront & mirrored dressers oh my!!!
Thankfully this mythical land is a plane ride not a tornado's throw away.
How much damage did you do???
Seriously, I saw 8 pieces I'd purchase right now...if the money tree I ahd ws real.
Glad you had a heck of a time. can't wait to see more!!!!

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I have always been a huge fan of Hickory Chair and used to dream of working for the firm. Wonderful products by great designers.

Renee Finberg said...

hickory chair has always been one of my favorite sources.
what a fun experience @!

xx

SOPHIE DAHY DESIGNS said...

I am absolutely amazed! I knew Alexa Hampton had designed for them, but I had no idea that the quality was so fine. The showroom is amazing! Thanks for the information and great photos.

Laura Casey Interiors said...

Love all of the furniture, especially that Beaufort chair.
Looks like you had a great trip!

I had to laugh at your Bojangles comment on your other post, there is one somewhat near our house in Charlotte.

Linda/"Mom" said...

* Beautifully informative & oh! What FUN for YOU!!!

I've always known the quality was top-notch, but it's been a while, and the VARIETY they offer is such a turn-on!!! (Grins!)~

May I have that fabulous white wing chair with the thick brown "stripe" down the middle, please??? (Delivery tomorrow is perfectly acceptable!)~~~

Warmest thanks,
Linda in AZ *

La Maison Fou said...

Love these pics! I was not as familiar with HC either. Good stuff!
L

Anne said...

I am a relocated native of Hickory, North Carolina...and I can't help but feel pride reading your lovely post! :-)

royalapothic said...

Such a great post. I love working with them, everything we have done has always come out better than expected. Thanks for the glimpse.

mary said...

Hickory Chair has really soared in design and quality and everything. Thanks for the post...who would have guessed.

Erika @ Urban Grace said...

jealous with a capital J!!!!!!
Looks like an escape to Candyland for peeps like us. Thanks for taking us along for the ride... can't wait to see more!

Chic Coles (Cole Design) said...

Hickory Chair is a great company. I have sold their products for years. The Chelsea Bed by Thomas O'Brien is always a favorite and a big hit. It was used on the set of You Me and Dupree. It is a bed that works great for a bachelor or couple. Hickory Chair has an amazing customer service department too. I love the store Hudson Home in Hudson NY, a boutique store design that carries the line. I am also excited about the addition of Suzanne Kasler to their great line up of designers.

prepschool101 said...

Beautiful post -- thanks for sharing. I am officially lusting after that gold leaf screen now!!

michele said...

Hi Heather, awesome post. I live in Raleigh and am working with a designer to furnish a beach house. Is this showroom open to the public &/or trade? When I click on the trade showrooms on the HC website it only lists one here in Raleigh that is quite small and has very limited furniture. Where was the showroom that you went to? Thanks so much!

Habitually Chic said...

Anonymous - Hickory Chair is considered high end but the quality makes it worth it. The retail price is more than the to the trade price so it would also help to work with a designer.

Vitania - It was a great tour and I have a new found respect for how furniture is made!

Alicia - I didn't buy anything yet but I already started pulling pieces to show my clients!

An Aesthete's Lament - I love that dream! We might have to make it happen!

Renee - it's good to hear that others use them and like them!

Sophie - it was an eye opening experience for me too! You should check them out in person!

Laura - I fear I am never going to live down the Bojangles comment but the biscuit I had was amazing! I would like to see Charlotte the next time I am down there. I know you have some amazing stores!

Linda - They can't deliver tomorrow but you could get it in about three weeks!

La Maison Fou - glad I could bring them to your attention!

Anne - Awwww! That is so sweet! I really enjoyed my time there!

Royal Apothic - that is good to hear! Thanks!

Mary - I'm glad I could tell you more about them!

Erika - I bet they would love to have you tour the facories! Email me if you really want to go and I will try to help you!

Chic Coles - Oh, I forgot that the Chelsea bed was also fetured in Something's Gotta Give too! I'm going to have to check out Hudson because someone else mentioned them too!

Prep School - I'm going to have to find out the name of that piece.

Michele - If you are working with a designer, you should be able to make an appointment to see their showroom. Keep in mind that the prices will be listed as retail. They are located in Hickory, NC and the showroom is on site. Also, you should call them to see if you can create an account because there is a lot of behind the scenes information in a special section called My Hickory Chair. They can also send you a full catalog too. Tell them that I referred you and they will help you! Good luck!

CashmereLibrarian said...

So many beautiful things! Thank you for a wonderful tour.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your humbling post dedicated to your HCC University experience. We really appreciate your enthusiasm and ability to share what our amazing craftsmen can do! All of us at Hickory Chair appreciate you coming and letting us get to know you.

Mimi said...

I really like Hickory Chair. It's always one of my first go to resources. They have a huge selection and their trade prices are pretty good too. Looks like you really enjoyed yourself... This is a trip a have to make! I find the whole manufacturing process truly fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

Jane F from Atticmag said...

Your tour looks like quite an education and it's always good to see how a manufacturer presents their pieces in their own "home." What a coup for the company to be in that certain house and for you to be one of the first to tell. Hab fab!

Dobbygirl said...

Hickory Chair really does make some lovely things. Your post is fantastic!!!! I got so much out of it. Thank you so much!!!

Love Where You Live said...

Wonderful!!!
thanks for sharing, -susan

An Aesthete's Lament said...

You know what Hickory Chair piece I most covet? A tilt-top table by Mariette Himes Gomez. It is lacquered, as I recall, or has a painted finish at least, rather Japanese in appearance, oval top. A really lovely and sophisticated and strangely modest design.

Kimberly at Suzan Fellman Showroom said...

I am SO jealous. I would love to go on a tour at Hickory Chair. I love all of your pictures! Thank you for sharing your adventure.

Louisa said...

That NH bowfront chest is a-mazing!

I would have been like a kid in a candystore - thanks for sharing your experience!

LeonaGaita said...

Wow, I'm more impressed than I expected to be! I just placed a couple of the small occasional tables in a living room and the client is very happy(so I'm happy!) I do know this, I always expect good quality and styling and GOOD PRICING from Hickory Chair. Thanks for sharing an inside look at this excellent company.

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