Idea Board: Made in America

04/19/2019
Idea Board April

Home Court Advantage

Quality control, customization up the ante for U.S. furnishings manufacturers

Gat Caperton
Gat Creek’s Gat Caperton assesses the sustainably harvested Appalachian hardwoods used in its U.S.-made furniture. 

We’re makers, not middlemen,” says Gat Caperton, CEO of U.S. wood furniture maker Gat Creek, based in Berkeley Springs, WV. That sentiment seems to hold strong for a number of U.S. home furnishings manufacturers

Beyond the emotional connection of keeping jobs in America and some consumer preferences for U.S.-made goods, there are practical advantages to keeping production here as well. Domestic manufacture allows for full control over process, materials, quality, customizability and delivery times

While these furnishings makers may bank on customers looking for made-in-the-USA, the more important consideration is the ability to actually give those customers exactly what they want. Producing here allows the flexibility to respond to the market quickly and customize at a customer’s request. 

They’ve Got This

“The business has really changed,” Cameron Capel, President of Sales and Marketing for Capel, Inc., says. “There are very few brick-and-mortars that take in stock nowadays. The onus is really on the manufacturer.” 

The rug company enjoys a 100-year-long history with its custom braided rug category, and Capel still makes its braided rugs in its Southeastern plants, including its original location in Troy, NC. 

While certain construction styles — hand-knotting and tufting, for example — have taken some of the work offshore, production for the braided rugs division, for which the company is most known, remains here. “By making these rugs here, we’re completely vertical. We can control every step of the process,” Capel says. “My name is on every rug. It has to be done right and to the best of our ability.” 

That ability to control the production process can result in better quality control as well as offering real-time flexibility to respond to customer demands. For upholstered furniture manufacturer Craftmaster, in Hiddenite, NC, the company’s foundation is based on its ability to provide customized products. Suzanne Henson, Vice President of Merchandising and Marketing, says customers can choose from more than 1,000 fabric styles, which can be applied to any piece of furniture. “If we need to make changes to new introductions, we can do that quickly and with the folks who will actually be building the furniture. There’s no middleman to loop in,” she says.

 

Craftmaster upholsterers
Craftmaster upholsterers on the job create custom pieces.

George Moussa, President of Ambella Home, agrees that making its upholstered furniture here gives the company an edge in today’s market. Ambella Home started as an importer, and while it still brings in casegoods from overseas, with the custom nature of the upholstery business, it made sense to move manufacturing to a facility in Archdale, NC, which the company has recently more than doubled in size — from 47,000 square feet to 108,000 square feet.  

“We can control the quality of our products better,” Moussa says, but more importantly, he notes the ability to provide customization. “We are not a mass manufacturer. We cut one sofa at a time.” 

That custom nature of its processes allows Ambella Home to go as far as creating upholstered pieces with customer-owned materials, a benefit to designers and retailers that wouldn’t be available if these products were mass-produced. 

At Gat Creek, where all furnishings are also created one at a time from sustainable Appalachian hardwoods, the artisans sign and date each piece they produce. “We take a very personal approach to the production of our furniture, Caperton said. “We build everything to order. You can pick the wood, finish, hardware. We care about what we produce and how we produce it.” Using sustainably harvested local woods, for example, produces natural products that are healthy in the home and better for the environment, he adds. “We’re creating something that’s made to a higher, safer standard that consumers can trust.” 

With customization as a key reason for domestic manufacture, product doesn’t arrive at the speed of Amazon Prime. However, many U.S. furniture producers adhere to pretty quick turnaround times — we’re talking weeks, not the months it may take for an overseas shipment — making their products even more appealing.  

At Gat Creek, the company adheres to a 20-day production cycle. “Speed is important, but more important is consistency,” Caperton says. “Our customers get their products in the amount of time we tell them.” 

Craftmaster’s Henson agrees that a quick turnaround time has enhanced the customer experience. “The fact that we’re domestic allows us to deliver custom items in typically four weeks or less,” she says. “Designers especially love our quick turnaround times since they know they can offer their customers a full custom experience without the long wait and hefty price tag.” 

At the Heart

To deliver these outstanding lead times requires skilled labor and, in many cases, a substantial number of employees. For some of these companies, they are a primary employer in the towns they inhabit. Craftmaster employs 700 full-time employees and has had generations of families who have worked at the Alexander County, NC, plant. “One of the biggest advantages we see is being able to help support our community by providing good jobs,” Henson says, noting that Craftmaster is the largest private employer in the community. “With high standards and an amazing work ethic, it’s the American workers who really make the difference,” she continues.

Domestic skilled labor can result in higher expenses, but pride in workmanship makes the additional expense worth it, manufacturers agree. “What we’ve typically seen overseas is high turnover with the labor force,” Ambella Home’s Moussa notes. That’s not something the company contends with in its Archdale operation. 

 

Justice Design Group ceramics
 Ceramics finishing at Justice Design Group.

While U.S. manufacturing companies tout the benefits of American-made, the majority of home furnishings is produced overseas. According to Gat Creek’s Caperton, when he bought his business 23 years ago, 90 percent of wood furniture sold in the United States was made here, with 10 percent imported. Now, that number is more 90 percent imported with 10 percent still manufactured domestically, he says. 

He sees a renaissance right now for American-made furniture, however. “Customers are enthusiastic and
excited again,” Caperton says. “If you buy American, you’re investing in America. More and more people are appreciating that.”

Any Way You Want It

Customization is a benefit of U.S.-made home furnishings. From finishes to fabric to size, these products can be configured myriad ways.

Meyda Beer Garden chandelier

Meyda’s 144-inch Beer Garden chandelier is designed with authentic beer bottle lighting. This oblong chandelier features 330 Amber glass beer bottles. Frame and hardware featured in a textured Black finish. Handmade in Yorkville, NY. Custom beer bottle colors, styles and sizes are available. www.meyda.com

 

Justice Design Group sconce

Handcrafted in Los Angeles, this ceramic wall sconce from Justice Design Group features dedicated LED lamping and a dual-tone carbon Matte Black exterior and Champagne Gold interior finish. www.jdg.com

 

Ambella Home Cooper lounge chair

This tall-backed Cooper lounge chair from Ambella Home is inspired by Mid-Century chairs of the 50s and 60s. Slim boxed arms flow into tailored wings. The seat cushion has a bull nose detail and is raised on a carved Beech base and tall tapered legs. www.ambellahome.com

 

Taylor King Taylor Made dining sectional banquette

Taylor King has introduced this sectional banquette, a new casual option to its Taylor Made Dining program that can stand alone or pair with chairs. Customizable across all design elements: back style, arm style, leg style and fabric. www.taylorking.com

 

Tempaper Soleil

Inspired by Morocco’s colorful culture, Soleil, from the new Tile Collection from Tempaper, will bring viewers to far off places. Shown: Terracotta & Blue. Also available in Morrocan Spice. www.tempaperdesigns.com

 

Gat Creek Tomlin console

Made with local, sustainably harvested Appalachian hardwood, the Tomlin console by Gat Creek is built to order. A catalyzed lacquer top coat forms a clear, protective barrier with a close-to-the-wood feel. Features hand-glazed Lambs Wool finish and Polished Nickel hardware. www.gatcreek.com

 

Craftmade Composite lantern

Craftmade’s Composite lanterns feature three styles molded of durable, non-corrosive UV-resistant resins, warrantied for five years. These lanterns can withstand harsh environments. www.craftmade.com

 

Capel Garrison rug

Anthony Baratta’s spin on a classic braid for Capel, Garrison is designed with an amiable aesthetic. Made from 95 percent wool and 5 percent other fibers, this rug is a reversible wool braid. www.capelrugs.com

 

2nd Ave Kahe pendant

The 72-inch-wide Kahe pendant’s shade reveals a Statuario Idalight diffuser. The shade is complemented with a ribbed band of saltire accents and hardware is featured in a Brass powder coat finish. Available in a wide range of custom choices. www.2ndave.com

 

Bradington Young Caroline lounger

Bradington-Young’s Caroline three-way lounger can be customized with more than 300 premium leathers, leather and fabric combinations or all fabric options, as well as an assortment of nail head and wood finish options. www.bradington-young.com