Shelburne Farms is a 1,400 acre working farm teaching people what it takes to live off the land. About one-quarter is covered in trees -- and that's where one business finds its inspiration.
"We both have a fondness for our material," said Jeff Parsons.
"We live in a place and our furniture embodies the place," said Bruce Beeken.
Beeken and Parsons started their furniture business, Beeken Parsons, 30 years ago. "We make furniture. We design the furniture we make and make the furniture to order," Beeken said.
The partners met studying furniture making at Boston University. Now they sell furniture to universities -- outfitting libraries with tables and chairs and board rooms. They also make custom home furniture. "We try to build things that we think are sound structurally and aesthetically," Parsons said.
Not every piece is built here at the two man shop. For large orders, designs are sent to bigger U.S. Manufacturers. Parsons says moving to a bigger production site keeps their furniture price competitive when trying to secure large contracts with universities. "After the 100th chair, sanding the same piece over and over looses some of its luster," Parsons said.
A chair made at the Shelburne Farms workshop starts at $1,250, but sending away their designs for big orders drops prices to a 1/4 -- chairs start at $300.
"We're never on anyone's cutting edge because we're not fashionable," Parsons said. Beeken Parsons avoids trendy, but aims for timeless -- and they do it with wood that normally isn't found at the lumber yard.
"We're using native materials exclusively," Beeken said.
Species that don't have commercial appeal like hophornbeam, black ash, black locust and beech are some of their favorites. They get wood from downed trees in people's yards and the forest around them. They like nature's imperfections. "Our clients are very interested in something natural -- real -- and is from this place," Beeken said.
Quiet designs that fit in to their surroundings and are Made in Vermont.
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