Amish Furniture and Tradition

There are approximately 150,000 Amish in North America, with the largest group residing in Ohio and other large populations in Pennsylvania, northern Indiana and Iowa. They are known as the plain people because of the plain colored clothing they wear. The Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch among themselves and live within highly personalized relationships, and avoid anything more than casual contact with strangers. They are happy living without the conveniences of the 21st century such as electricity, cars and telephones.

The Amish follow the Christian faith as any other person of the Christian faith. The Bible is the main study book. Their beliefs do not allow them to pose for photographs because they feel it violates the biblical teaching against making graven images. They also don't believe in photographs for fear that it will promote self-pride. Many will put their hands or hats over their faces, look away or take evasive action to avoid having their picture taken.

The history of these people can be traced back hundreds of years and unlike most cultures that evolve to adapt to the ever-changing world, the Amish have stayed true to their roots. The Amish religion originated from the Mennonite religion, which encourages nonviolence, nonviolent resistance, and pacifism. The Mennonites are a group of Christian Anabaptist denominations whose roots began in central Europe. When Swiss-German Mennonite leader, Jacob Amman insisted on the practice of Meidung, which is the strict shunning of excluded members, this brought about a division in the Swiss Mennonite movement in 1693 and led to the establishment of the Amish.

Amman felt the Mennonites were drifting away from their beliefs. Nevertheless, the two groups are still very closely related and the two groups may many times live right next to each other. Their roots and standards for a simple life and diligent work are very closely aligned and have remained much the same throughout the centuries. Among their lasting traditions, their dedication to the production of heirloom quality furniture has remained true.

Amish furniture making is mostly known for being constructed from solid wood, using no particle board or laminate, and the great attention paid to the details of the wood. Each piece of wood is hand selected and special attention is paid to the grain of the wood. Amish furniture is valued for its heirloom quality that can be passed down and valued by different generations. It first gained attention in the 1920's when early folk art was becoming popularized.

The techniques used by Amish woodworkers do not require electricity; their tools are hydraulically and pneumatically powered by running on diesel generators. However, the detail and finish are applied by hand, therefore ensuring the finest quality. A common characteristic of Amish furniture is the five-piece English dovetail joints on drawers and steel ball bearing drawer glides.

Among many other styles, the Amish create Mission and Shaker styles. The Mission style features classic, straight lines, exposed joinery and features a clean design; similarly, the Shaker style is very simple and is designed with functionality and durability in mind.

Amish craftsmen acquire their skills from generations before them. Starting early in their life, many Amish dedicate their lives to helping in the family shop where if they are woodworkers, they pick up specific design details.

Because the Amish don't use the Internet themselves personally or for business, they rely on entrepreneurs that sell the crafts and furniture that the Amish create. Retailers , like Barn Furniture Mart, often attend Amish furniture expositions in middle-America to develop relationships with the Amish craftsmen and then become facilitators between the Amish and the buyer. This makes it possible for people world-wide to enjoy high-quality Amish woodworking.

What is Quarter Sawn Oak?

Oak first became the wood of choice during the Middle Ages when Gothic furniture was first produced, and then continued to be popular throughout the 17th century. Quarter cut oak boards known as wainscot were brought to Northern Europe as early as the 14th century. While there are so many different types of oak including Red Oak, White Oak and Live Oak, White Oak is usually used for quarter sawing. During the early 20th Century, quarter sawn oak become one of the hallmarks of the Arts & Crafts style. While other materials became incorporated into the style like mahogany and ebony, quarter sawn oak remains the wood of choice.

Since then, quarter sawn lumber has fallen out of favor during the first half of this century because it yields less lumber per tree and takes more labor than plain sawing. With most furniture being plain sawn today, quarter sawn oak furniture have become prized period pieces and are therefore an important key to accurately recreating the true look of Arts & Crafts furniture.

Quarter sawing means cutting at a 90-degree angle from the growth rings on a log to produce a vertical and uniform pattern grain. The grain on the face of a quarter-sawn board will be parallel lines that are straight, tight and run the length of the board. The closer the growth rings are to being 90-degrees from the face of the board, the greater the chance to getting the famous medullary ray flecks. Additional aesthetics include wavy and interlocked grains. Structural benefits to quarter sawn oak include that it reduces twisting, warping and cupping, holds finishes better, and does not allow liquids to readily pass through it.

Quarter sawn lumber is valued more than plain sawn lumber because of the greater time it takes to produce. The production of plain sawn lumber is much more efficient as it allows woodworkers to cut lumber quicker and produces less waste. Quarter sawn lumber on the other hand, takes longer. To quarter saw a log, first a log has to be cut into quarters. A board will then be cut off one face, and then the next board will be cut from the opposite face. The faces will be alternated until the quarter is completely cut.

A quarter sawn piece radiates elegance and traditional beauty. The extra work put into it is admirable and the results truly stand out. When you own a traditionally- built Arts & Crafts piece, your unit will only get better with age, making it a heirloom that will proudly remain part of your family for years.

Why Barn Furniture is better than IKEA

With very humble beginnings, the Barn Furniture Mart and IKEA were founded around the same time. In the mid-1940’s, while 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad ran his mail-order company from his home in Sweden, selling pens, wallets, and eventually furniture at reduced prices; Phil Tuberman, a WWII veteran, took over the “Whitler’s Barn” in California’s then desolate San Fernando Valley where he sold unfinished furniture and bicycles. Basing his company on affordability, Kamprad’s company, now recognized as the over-bearing IKEA chain of outlets, generates products whose quality is reflected by the lowness of prices. The Barn Furniture Mart has remained a family-owned business that remains true to both great quality and affordable prices.

Many people buy furniture to match their personality and make a statement about whom they are. What will the mass-produced styles available at IKEA say about you? IKEA’s generic styles are de-personalizing and reduce their customers down to anonymity. How often do you enter a home and recognize the IKEA furniture? The Barn Furniture Mart offers various timeless styles with a modern approach whose heirloom-quality will stand out in any room.

Quality should be the main reason for purchasing a piece of furniture. It must be sturdy and possess a timeless appeal that can be valued throughout the years. Besides their material use, furniture is often cherished because it is passed down from generation to generation. A heirloom-quality piece can be valued because of its lasting craftsmanship or more sentimentally, because of the tradition it represents. IKEA produces disposable furniture that often must be replaced within a year. Nicked veneers and wobbly joints are common results of owning an IKEA piece. Composites, particleboard and even formaldehyde are all materials used in IKEA’s furnishings. In the past, IKEA has come under attack a couple times for their use of hazardous materials. Before being reprimanded in the late 1980’s, many IKEA products tested positive for illegally high levels of formaldehyde.

After being sued and slapped with a fine, IKEA remedied the situation; until 1992, when IKEA’s popular bookcase, Billy was found to have higher than legal formaldehyde emissions from the veneer used. IKEA was forced to stop the production of this popular item worldwide and cost IKEA and its suppliers millions of dollars to correct. IKEA was also criticized for using Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), which poses unique and major hazards in its manufacture, product life and disposal. However, since then they have phased out of the use of this material, with the exception of electrical cables. All the while IKEA had been dealing with lawsuits and the altering of their methods of production; the Barn Furniture Mart has been dealing with solid wood furniture, many of which are produced here in the United States, following traditional guidelines set by skilled craftsmen.

Most IKEA products are ideal for transporting. Unassembled products are set in flat boxes that can easily be brought home from the store. The assembling of the product is what becomes problematic and often frustrating. Leaving out necessary tools like reliable screwdrivers but including cheap plastic screws to keep costs low makes assembly more difficult and only leads to a poorly assembled product that is already made of faulty material. In addition, to save money, IKEA does not include words in their assembly instructions. With stores in 35 countries, translation of instructions would be too costly! At no extra charge, the Barn Furniture Mart offers all pieces fully-assembled. To ensure that they will not be damaged during transport, friendly employees wrap all items in plastic or blankets and carefully load items into customers’ cars. At an additional charge, customers can have items delivered to their home where they will carefully be placed in their chosen location.

The shopping experience at IKEA also differs greatly from The Barn. While IKEA has carefully laid out their stores so that you need to pass through most of their merchandise to get to where you need to be, the Barn Furniture Mart has areas clearly labeled so you can find what you need with ease. Self-service is necessary through the entire shopping process at IKEA, while at the Barn, there’s helpful salespeople and other staff to help with the loading of your furniture.

IKEA offers trendy home furnishings that keep up with the time, however their customers are forced to shop there often not because of ever-changing styles but to replace their broken units. Their mass-produced inventory leaves very little individuality and even less reliability. With self-service comes inconvenience and at IKEA, self-service is one of their principles. Low prices shouldn’t be an excuse to lack in other very important areas such as customer service. For fully assembled, heirloom-quality furniture at low prices without the expense of good customer service, The Barn Furniture Mart is a trusted company known to uphold these values for over 70 years.

Tips on Buying Dining Room Furniture

Aside from focusing on the style of your dining room set, the one thing that should not be compromised is comfort. Dining tables come in various sizes and shapes. The most common being:

36-inch diameter seats 3
42-inch diameter seats 5
48-inch diameter seats 6-8

36-inch square seats 4
54-inch square seats 8

36 x 60 seats 6
36 x 72 seats 6 to 8
36 x 84 seats 6 to 8
48 x 96 seats 8 to 10
48 x 132 seats 12

Formal, informal or kitchen dining tables all need to provide diners with adequate “elbow room.” It is recommended that each person be allowed 24-30 inches and at least 30 inches across the table. Standard dining height is 29-30 inches.

In order to be visually proportioned, 3 feet of space is recommended to surround the table to allow diners to move into or out of their seats comfortably.

Leg placement is also important for comfort and stability of the dining table. Whether the table has a leg at each corner, a center pedestal or trestles, it is important to make sure they are stable by leaning on the table from various angles.

There are several choices for dining room chairs. From Mission style slat-back dining chairs to 18th Century style Queen Anne chairs and English style Windsor chairs, style is not a problem. However, when searching through them, keep comfort in mind.

Dining chairs should allow diners to sit upright while sitting comfortably close to the table and still have support from the chair’s back. While chairs with straight backs will encourage diners to sit up straight, curved-back chairs will provide comfort by following the natural curve of the back. In addition, a curved-back chair will add softness to a room plagued by straight lines.
Lastly, arms of chairs should be low enough to slide under the table with adequate space between the underside of the table and your thighs.

Once you have found the perfect style and fit, be prepared for great reviews from friends. They will be amazed at how comfortable and accommodating your dining room is and how it accentuates your lovely style.

The Craftsman Movement & The Gamble House

At the turn of the century, Southern California gave birth to the Craftsman movement, which quickly spread to the rest of the country through pattern books and popular magazines. It became the dominant style for smaller houses from 1905-1920. In varying forms, it became affordable to almost anyone, from the working man to society’s elite.

Primarily inspired by the architectural works of brothers Charles and Henry Greene, of Pasadena, California, the Craftsman house was a departure from the formal ornamentation of the Victorian. Literally a breath of fresh air, it exuded a oneness with nature, a casual lifestyle, and an air of elegant simplicity for a servantless society.

The Craftsman house seemed to grow out from the land and took its clues from nature. Great sheltering overhangs provided air conditioning, relief in the winter, and psychological sheltering; wall cladding, usually of wood clapboard or shingles; stepping stones that looked like they were left there to stumble upon; and interior designs were reminiscent of the great outdoors.

Although the Greenes were influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style and the elemental forms of H. H. Richardson, they were immensely impressed by the Japanese idea of the functional house. Responsive to adverse laws of nature and rapidly changing family needs, it stressed the relationship of structure and design, subtle proportions and the integration of a building into its natural environment. Aided by these theories, their interest in the English Arts and Crafts movement, and their background in manual arts, the Greenes created the “California Bungalow”.

Their 1908 masterpiece, The Gamble House, in Pasadena, highlighted their utilization of exposed joinery that seems to grow out of the house, post and beam construction, airy verandas and ambulatories, the use of earthy materials, and the close relationship of house and garden. Asymmetric and horizontal, it slices out a picture of natural beauty. The low-pitched, gabled roof, wide eave overhang, exposed roof rafters, triangular braced supports, transomed windows (in 3’s) are typical Craftsman ideals.

The Japanese influence is seen in the relationship of the house to nature, exposed beams, the flair of the chimneys and garage roof, and the stylized Japanese “Cloud Lift” design, seen on doors, windows, lamps, carpets, furniture, picture frames and elsewhere throughout the interior and exterior of the house.

Other motifs adding unity are the “Tree of Life”, the “Oak Leaf”, sets of 3, and the “Crane and Rose” (the Gamble family crest) with the most diligent attention to every detail.

Upon entering and leaving the Gamble House, one is awestruck by the front door. From the outside, a reflection of what appears to be an oak tree vertical behind you. The vertical cloud lifts, sets of three, and Louis Comfort Tiffany glass (up to three glasses thick) are a clue as to what you are about to encounter as you step beyond. They entice you in with a serene, calm, yet exciting look that whets your appetite for more. The horizontal bar below the transom is another motif carried throughout the house on many windows. The bars look like curtain rods, but in fact are there to add unity. This horizontality, also seen in the sweeping broad lines of the house exterior, provides restfulness.

As you look at the door from the inside, the same oak tree, now seen beyond the house, gives a feeling of being a part of nature. The stained glass scene, ever so sensitive to light, changes dramatically as the day wears on.

Impeccable wood joinery is the highlight of the breathtaking interior. Everything is covered. Scarf, lap, and finger joints (mordis and tendon) leave no crevice exposed.

The Japanese-inspired lack of clutter and ornament, and the desire for function are exemplified by the Greene’s extensive use of built-ins. Built-in dining room drawers hold linen and other items. So concerned were the Greenes about unity, that they built in much of the furniture so that whoever lived there would not bring in any unwarranted items that might ruin the ambience.

The themes mentioned above are repeated throughout the room. Sets of three can be seen in the vertical wood pieces just below where the wall meets the ceiling, in the three stained glass windows, the three circular lines on the handing lamp, the clover-shaped wood pieces connecting the lamp to metal straps, the leaded glass cabinet windows, and in the number of tiles on each side of the fireplace. The cloud lift was placed on leaded glass cabinet doors, the stained glass windows, and all three of the lamps.

Like the front door, the window carries on it the “tree of life” motif and changes colors throughout the day so those living there can look forward to and enjoy every nuance of light.

The mahogany table is suba shaped, as is the chandelier. All the furniture in the house was either designed by the Greenes or Gustav Stickley. The fabric covered walls are painted over. The carpets were brought in to add color.

The fireplace uses groovy tile with an inlay of Tiffany glass in a vine pattern that matches the Tiffany glass in the bowl on the table. The vine pattern of the Tiffany glass ties in with the stained glass windows. Everything fits together like clockwork.

If you're interested in discovering more about the architects Greene & Greene or about the Gamble House you can visit:

If you're interested in viewing beautiful reproductions of Greene & Greene furniture you can visit our sister site at: Barn Furniture Mart

History of The Barn

The history of Barn Furniture Mart, Inc. begins with a store called the “Whittler’s Barn.” This wooden barn had served as an unfinished furniture store that catered to local farmers and had been in existence since 1890. The “Whittler’s Barn” once stood at The Barn Furniture Mart’s current location on Sepulveda Boulevard near the Victory Boulevard intersection.

Across the country, future Barn Furniture Mart owner, Phil Tuberman worked in the bicycle business at the age of fifteen. It was the Depression of the 1920’s that gave this young man the opportunity to run a bicycle business of his own, when his former boss offered him a store. Phil Tuberman ran “Phil’s Bike Shop” in New York along with his two older brothers, Frank and Harry.
Barn Furniture
After all three brothers served in WWII, only two survived. Phil and Harry lost their brother, Frank while he served in France. The two surviving brothers decided to move to sunny California, with no money and their bike shop failing.

On his way to California, Phil played a lucky hand of poker that won him $8,000. When he got to Los Angeles, he kept hearing about the developing San Fernando Valley. He ventured through the desolate valley in 1945 and came across the “Whittler’s Barn” and managed to buy the store, property and merchandise with his $8,000.

He used his previous experience as a bicycle shop owner and former connections to create “The Barn Furniture and Cycle Mart,” where he sold bicycles that he got from India, and unfinished furniture. However, by 1949, The Barn Furniture Mart stopped selling bicycles and sold only furniture.
Phil Tuberman also decided to start a family around this time. He married and had two children, Andrea and Leon Tuberman.

By 1955, The Barn Furniture Mart began selling patio furniture in addition to the unfinished furniture. It was a true family business with Millie, Andrea, and Leon all having responsibilities within Phil’s business.

Tragedy struck the Tubermans when Phil was involved in a traffic accident and spent the following three years in the hospital. Millie and Leon, then 15-years-old, took control of the business.

In 1971, The Barn Furniture Mart evolved yet again when Leon decided that the furniture being sold should be finished, taking the burden of the hard work off the customers. 1972 brought solid oak toilet seats that became extremely popular and ball & claw tables that continue to sell successfully. A major innovation came in 1978, when Leon achieved major success by creating butcher-block tables that were made out of solid maple.

In 1984, the Tuberman family grew with Leon getting married and starting a family of his own, but also lost an important member of the family. Phil Tuberman passed away the same year.

By 1996, The Barn Furniture Mart had expanded to seven stores spread out throughout Southern California. While there were several benefits to having so many locations, the comfort and ingenuity of having the one major, family-owned business that began The Barn’s success was missed. The original store and all the sentiment that came with it prevailed, and all the other stores were consolidated.

By 1995, Barn Furniture Mart began catering to their online customers through Internet sales. Now, customers can buy the unique pieces that set The Barn Furniture Mart apart nationwide. With the website being up since 1986, The Barn has shown to be aggressive with its use of technology.

In the future, The Barn will continue in the direction that has led the way thus far. By servicing customers and friends for over three generations, word of mouth will continue to be the corner stone of the store’s advertising. The excellent quality, value and service will keep bringing in new customers as well.