In an age of flimsy, low-cost goods mass-produced in factories halfway across the world, high-quality furniture that lasts for generations is harder and harder to come by. Much of the furniture produced a century ago using time-tested techniques is still around, while tables, beds and shelving made in the ’80s and ’90s has already fallen apart. One company keeping the tradition of handcrafted furniture alive is American Eco Furniture, which offers an array of options in solid Eastern White Pine.
Storage cabinets, sideboards, hutches, and traditional pie safes with hand-punched tin doors ‘made in the USA from seed to finished product.’ They’re available in a variety of stains as well as paint colors ranging from seafood and celery to mango and cranberry.
All of American Eco Furniture’s Eastern White Pine options are made of solid kiln-dried pine responsibly grown and harvested in the Great Lakes region. Free of pressed wood, MDF, veneers and particle board, this is heirloom-quality furniture that’s made to order for each individual customer.
American Eco Furniture uses recycled, reclaimed and repurposed materials when possible, and is dedicated to fair labor practices as well as sustainable forestry. See the whole range at AmericanEcoFurniture.com.
The soft to medium density and fine, straight grain of Eastern White Pine makes it an ideal material for furniture making. This sustainable softwood takes stain beautifully and allows woodworkers to achieve incredible ornamental details. Black Forest Decor makes a range of furniture items including coat racks, chairs, bar stools, cupboards and more out of Eastern White Pine.
Full of rustic charm, these pieces would fit right in at a cabin, farmhouse or casual country home – or bring a little bit of that feel into more contemporary spaces. The antique stain brings out all of the knots and character in the pine. Many of these furniture and decor items are printed with wilderness scenes.
Eastern White Pines produce the most valuable softwood lumber in the Eastern United States, and furniture-grade pine is largely smooth with just enough knots to give it that outdoorsy character. The size, ease of use and wide availability of Eastern White Pine has made it a historic furniture material in the U.S. since the first colonists arrived in New England.
See more at Black Forest Decor.
The value of Eastern White Pine remains long after its initial use as a building material, as countless centuries-old structures in New England can attest. A company called Old Globe reclaims antique wooden grain elevators and turns them into home accents like flooring, furniture, picture frames and mantels brimming with historic character. The company’s current project is the deconstruction of the 1887 Globe Elevator, which was once the biggest grain storage facility in the world. It contains approximately 6 million board feet of wood, mostly Eastern White Pine.
This pine is from what was once vast forests of old-growth trees in Wisconsin and Minnesota, which have since been depleted. Though Eastern White Pine forests are being replanted throughout the United States to keep this valuable material a part of the country’s architectural character, they haven’t yet been restored to their former glory.
Take a look at Old Globe’s gallery of historic, time-worn Eastern White Pine products to see how beautifully this material holds up after centuries of use.
“While we are proud to contribute to the conservation of our planet’s natural resources, we also love the richness and character of old-growth wood,” says the company. Its products can be found in luxury homes, hotels, restaurants and convention centers.
The Windsor chair likely originated in Buckinghamshire, England in the 16th century, but the design was refined by American woodworkers in the 18th century thanks to the bounty of Eastern White Pine found in New England. This classic furniture design features chair spindles that are based upon wheel spokes. While the original British Windsors typically have elm seats, Eastern White Pine is the wood of choice stateside. Its softness makes it easy to carve into a comfortable, deep-saddled seat.
Master carpenters in New York, Boston and Philadelphia refined the shape of the chair, often giving it a hoop back, with legs joined by three stretchers. Its popularity led to a presence everywhere from rustic farmhouses to the courthouses of the big cities. Compared to other furniture of the period, it was lightweight, inexpensive and fast to make.
According to Gummel Chair Works, George Washington himself was a big fan of American Windsor chairs, purchasing twenty-seven of them for his Mount Vernon home. Thomas Jefferson was said to have signed the Declaration of Independence while seated in a Windsor. Windsors were also the seating of choice for the assembly when the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776.
The many different varieties of Windsor chairs in America can be attributed to the spread of the Colonial population along the eastern seaboard, with furniture makers choosing differing varieties of wood. While English furniture makers had to use what few wood species were available to them, Americans benefitted from lush forests. Today, many modern furniture producers making Windsor chairs still choose Eastern White Pine for the hand-carved seat.
Photos: Chicone School of Windsor, Rundell & Rundell, FM Windsor
The character of Eastern White Pine shines through in every wooden surface of Sanctuary, a beautiful Shaker-style home in Burlington, Vermont. This 1,850-square-foot, three-bedroom home by Cushman Design Group is a sustainable getaway with rustic charm and contemporary comfort, featuring large plate-glass windows that look out onto the tranquil meadow setting.
The owners, Demaris Wehr and David Hart, wanted a design that would connect thematically and emotionally with the woodland Vermont setting. They showed the architects an image of a fairy house in Wales as inspiration, and the result is an inviting modernized interpretation. Cushman Design Group, of Vermont, often features Eastern White Pine in their creations, ranging from modern homes and historic-style barns to commercial interiors.
Locally harvested Eastern White Pine is the star of the show here, from the exterior siding to the kitchen cabinets. All natural wood surfaces in the home are treated with polymerized tung oil rather than oil-based urethanes for a greener finish that highlights the beauty of the wood.
All of these surfaces, including the shiplap ceiling and the wide-plank floors, were custom-built. The countertops are heart pine, procured from standing dead trees. The Eastern White Pine surfaces even extend to the furniture, with built-in dressers, shelving and bathroom vanities.
Photographs by Susan Teare, used with permission