Not Your Grandmother’s Hickory Chair
06 . 03 . 09
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.
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!