Just two years ago, the Borkholder Furniture executive team elected to begin producing more of its solid wood furniture in-house, within the walls of its Amish-owned parent company Kountry Wood Products, a leading manufacturer of wood kitchen and bath cabinetry. The gamble paid off this fall with the company’s first Pinnacle Award win in the casual dining category.
Now in its 23rd year, the Pinnacle Awards, bestowed by the International Society of Furniture Designers (ISFD), promote design quality and encourage the recognition of furniture designers within the retail home furnishings industry. ISFD is a global, non-profit, professional organization dedicated to advancing, improving and supporting the profession of furniture design and its positive impact in the marketplace.
This was the second nomination for Borkholder Furniture and designer Catina Suarez Roscoe whose Mid-Century-influenced Aero Collection was honored as a finalist in the casual dining category last year as well.
“Catina has been steadily helping us revamp our product line, expanding Borkholder beyond its traditional roots with fresh, transitional styles not typically associated with traditional Amish styling,” relates Tom Halvorsen, Vice President. “Her enthusiasm for natural resources like solid wood and heirloom quality furniture handmade in the heartland makes her the ideal partner for the company.”
In accepting award at the Pinnacle Gala held inside the High Point University Congdon School of Health Sciences, in front of some 350 attendees from across the furniture industry, the designer held the award high above her head and exclaimed, “This just proves the Amish can build anything!”
Indeed, Borkholder’s move to bring production in-house is unusual in a category where manufacturers typically employ networks of Amish workshops located throughout Indiana and Ohio to produce their goods. And, according to Halvorsen, therein lies Borkholder’s competitive advantage.
“The ability to produce our new collections in-house ensures that our proprietary designs remain exclusive to Borkholder,” he says. “That is not only helping retailers differentiate themselves in their marketplaces with products that they cannot not find anywhere else, it is changing perceptions about the capabilities of Amish craftspeople altogether. Long known for time-honored construction techniques and exceptional quality, the operative words in Amish-made goods have always been authenticity, integrity and roots. Now, the key descriptors are modern, contemporary, clean-lined, sculptural and stylish.”
In presenting the Pinnacle Award for Local Harvest—a collection rendered in solid red oak that reflects the growing enthusiasm for the farm to table movement in a crafted furniture experience for the home—the judges said, “We felt that the Local Harvest Table exhibited a rustic charm that is a fresh new look to farmhouse design that transcends modern and cottage. It is made of solid wood with mortise and tenon joinery. The double-leg design adds a nice architectural element that is quite beautiful and the doubled edge of the table in lieu of an apron was also a nice touch. The red oak grain offers warmth and depth to the finish of the collection.”
One of the key design themes that set Local Harvest apart is the use of round posts. “True round posts are rarely used in furniture design today simply because producing them and having them adhere to flat surfaces is technically challenging for a woodworker,” Halvorsen points out. “Round posts require highly skilled craftspeople to execute properly and that’s one reason they are not usually seen in today’s mass-produced designs.”
Halvorsen reports that producing within the Kountry Wood complex is affording Borkholder’s talented craftspeople access to state-of-the art machinery and innovations that could only be made possible by the synergies and buying power of its larger parent company. He adds that the lean manufacturer, which produces an estimated 6,000 cabinets daily in a combined manufacturing space of 227,000-square-feet, is on its own path of continuous improvement, one that saw the unveiling of a brand-new events center—Sammlung Platz—German for “gathering place,” just prior to opening the newly designed Borkholder Furniture showroom in High Point.