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Crafting Luxury

Text by Juliet Izon | Photos by William Kaner
From custom dining tables to unique textiles, artisans are building lavish furniture in the Hudson Valley.

At this point, it’s almost a rite of passage for New York City residents to trek upstate to the Hudson Valley with antique furniture in mind. With an abundance of shops and artisan fairs, the increasingly buzzy towns and villages here have long amounted to a preeminent destination in which to hunt down distinctive furniture, from dining tables and desk chairs to textiles and objects. But lately, design-minded connoisseurs aren’t traveling upstate only to hunt for one-of-a-kind collector vintage pieces, but to take advantage of the boom in custom, artisanal furniture makers mastering their craft on location. And Brad Ford has been in the thick of it.

As founder of FIELD + SUPPLY, interior designer Ford oversees a bonanza of opportunities to scope out and scoop up custom furniture in his biannual fairs. Billing itself as a modern interpretation of an design bazaar, the multi-day event held at Hutton Brickyards in Kingston is a veritable who’s who of furniture makers throughout the Hudson Valley. And this year, the lively market is celebrating its tenth anniversary, making it an especially exciting season to visit.

“The first time we did it‭, ‬I organized it in probably three months‭, ‬with close to 24‭ ‬vendors‭,‬”‭ ‬Ford says‭. ‬“Now‭, ‬we probably have close to 300‭ ‬and anywhere from eight to ten thousand visitors attending‭. ‬I’d like to think it’s something people really look forward to at this point‭, ‬because we have it at the same time every year‭. ‬And I love that there’s an appreciation of all the different artisans who live in the community and are celebrated‭.‬”

Interior designer Brad Ford, founder of FIELD + SUPPLY.
Accessories and furniture from Sawkille Co.

With 30 to 40 percent of those vendors in the furniture space, it’s almost assured you’ll find at least one maker who aligns with your own aesthetic. The market showcases everything from the zero-waste pieces from FN Furniture in Kingston to the sleek, custom-order tables and cabinets from Germantown’s Michael Robbins. The fair, of course, is also home to many other types of makers: Some of Ford’s favorite pieces for this upcoming Spring session include KHEM Studios’ walnut cutting boards, Horton Daniel Furnishings’ hand-carved mirrors, and Cambium Lost Arts’ handwoven baskets.

If the fair serves as a sort of hub for locally made furniture, it’s understandable that it’s also raised the profile of many makers who have participated. “So many of them may have started off building as a hobby, but have now become full-fledged businesses. It may have been a one-man shop that now employs several people,” Ford says.

Sam Moyer, Brian Persico and Jonah Meyer are just a few of the artists who have participated in FIELD + SUPPLY with great success. And these makers and their contemporaries have formed a bubbling community of creatives with a wide array of styles who tend to share a distinct regional ethos.

Brian Persico studied industrial design at Pratt, and began woodworking after discovering a career in the former would lead to a life of making “disposable things out of plastic.” His onetime furniture making hobby turned into a new career with the opening of Brian Persico Studio, in Windham, NY.

Like many creative movements, this local alchemy of makers doesn’t have an exact formula, but is better understood instead as the confluence of factors, starting with simple geography.

It’s easy to understand just how important the region’s energy and pace is to this budding movement of makers. There is more room to focus on one’s craft because there’s less noise, both literally and figuratively. And finally, it’s difficult to write any story about the Hudson Valley without mentioning its rightfully famed natural beauty. Vistas here can range from views of the undulating Catskills to rolling verdant pastures, and finding creative inspiration can be as easy as looking up.

‬“It’s not the most efficient way to work‭, ‬but it’s a really interesting way to work. And sometimes‭, ‬the results you get when you work that way are surprising and unexpected and pretty delightful‭.‬”
—Sam Moyer, founder of Samuel Moyer Furniture

Such is the case for Moyer, who moved to Salt Point in 2011, after starting his furniture business in Los Angeles. In true Upstate fashion, just prior to our interview he was chopping firewood in his backyard, while also admiring the topography of the forest that surrounds his home. “There’s a lot that’s happened on this terrain,” he says. “Being surrounded by that legacy feels really holistic, really fulfilling.” Moyer also draws inspiration from woodworking legend George Nakashima and the simple designs of Shaker furniture for his custom pieces, which range from dining and coffee tables to 20-drawer cabinets.

FIELD + SUPPLY artist Sam Moyer.

But perhaps what draws clients to Moyer most—aside from glowing write-ups in the likes of the New York Times, Architectural Digest and Interior Design—is his passion for creating a piece of furniture that both solves a problem and functions as a piece of art.

Brian Persico, whose company Brian Persico Studio is based just about an hour southeast in Windham, is another area woodworker who has found success in fashioning bespoke furniture. After studying industrial design at Pratt but then realizing he didn’t want to make “disposable things out of plastic for the rest of my life,” Persico slowly morphed his hobby of furniture making into a career. Drawing on regional vernacular designs like post-and-rung chairs, his finished pieces are an eye-catching mix of traditional and modern, like a sofa inspired by ladder-back chairs paired with a printed, handwoven cushion and chic antler pins. Persico is also game to tackle virtually any type of furniture, from dining tables to armoires. “It’s a really wide range, which is good because it keeps me from getting bored,” he laughs.

Jonah Meyer, Owner and Designer of Sawkille Co.

A custom-crafted bench from Jonah Meyer’s Sawkille Co.

Jonah Meyer and his team at Sawkille Co. in Rhinebeck, NY, make everything from bedframes to cabinets in a wide variety of styles, and may be best know for its cheeky design flourishes.

But no name may be more synonymous with Hudson Valley furniture than Jonah Meyer, the owner and designer of Sawkille Co. While Meyer and his team fashion tables, bed frames, and cabinets in a wide variety of styles, the company may be best known for the cheeky brass patches that can be inlaid on top of the dining tables, in designs like hands and banners. “The American furniture tradition is very small and very particular,” Meyer says. “And it also is born out of necessity. People want simple, well-made pieces.” But be warned: A visit to Sawkille Co.’s chic shop in Rhinebeck may have you debating the merits of tossing out all your dining chairs in favor of Meyer’s handsome models made out of American black walnut. Plenty have, including some celebrity clients Meyer is far too modest to name.

“It’s this built-in network of people that are very supportive of each other‭. They’re all really friendly with one another‭, ‬but even better‭, ‬they can lean on each other if they need guidance or advice‭.‬”
—Brad Ford, founder of FIELD + SUPPLY

At Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection, located in the heart of the Hudson Valley in Ulster County’s Gardiner, you’ll find many of the furniture styles for which the area has become known. Scattered throughout the property are tables and lighting sourced from Ron Sharkey’s shop Maple Lawn 1843 in Stone Ridge; felted stools and art in the fitness and movement studio from local fiber artist Jess Ludwicki of Love Lamb; antique chairs procured from Indiko Antiques in Hudson. Interior design duo Ward + Gray designed Wildflower Farms capturing the essence of the land and its stunning scenery by emphasizing connection, creating custom pieces for both the communal areas and the guest rooms.

“On our first visit we photographed the landscape and then had those photos in our studio throughout the whole design process. So the interior design was really influenced by that color palette and the sense of place of Upstate New York,” says founder Staver Gray. The firm ultimately produced over 500 custom pieces for the hotel, including rugs, furniture and fabric, lighting and wall coverings.

And in the same way the hotel has brought together diverse designers to create an environment that is both of its place and inimitably welcoming, so, too, have Hudson Valley’s makers formed a community that has made them stronger together.

Field‭ + ‬Supply takes place twice a year‭, ‬over Memorial Day weekend and in early October‭, ‬at the Hutton Brickyards in Kingston‭, ‬New York‭, ‬a quick 40-minute drive from Wildflower Farms‭.‬

The Richness of Hudson Valley at Wildflower Farms

In guest rooms at Wildflower Farms, you’ll find L’Impatience Ceramics coffee mugs and rugs designed by Tailor-Made Textiles, a small, female-founded company/design resource in upstate New York. In the lobby you’ll find Bobbin Rockers sourced at a local antique shop, and reupholstered in Pierre Frey. Over at Clay, the property’s signature restaurant with a menu that spotlights rustic American fare, much of the coveted plateware comes from Jane Herold Pottery from Connecticut. And inside the on-site boutique, The Shop by Gardenheir, a constantly rotating selection of wares includes everything from gardening tools and home goods to apparel to a tightly edited selection of fine antiques.