You don’t have to be Amish to appreciate Amish furniture. In fact the high quality, good-looking modern Amish furniture coming out of contemporary Amish workshops today is more likely to be found in the homes of discerning non-Amish Canadians and Americans than in the traditionally simple houses owned by the very craftsmen who make it.
Ironically, many people seeing Amish furniture today might not even identify the furniture in terms of its origins. But they will recognize the caliber of craftsmanship that made it.
Unlike Shaker furniture, that has a distinctive simplistic style, the furniture made by equally religious Amish craftsmen does not follow any one particular style. Instead, their work is about quality and a standard of excellence that no factory mass-producing furniture can ever hope to equal. It is also about pride and perfection, and the love of hand crafting beautiful solid wood.
So if you are considering decorating with Amish furniture, you can rest assured that you will not be tied to a certain look. Certainly you will be decorating and furnishing with carefully hand crafted items, but today there is such an immense choice of Amish styles, you’re going to need to decide on a look that suits you before you go shopping.
If you shop around you will find everything from Shaker and Mission style made by Amish craftsmen to modern furniture that would suit any contemporary look. It will also fit in with any other top quality furniture you may already own. However if you started out with run-of-the-mill, off-the-shelf knock-offs, be warned that new or antique Amish is going to show it up!
The Amish tradition
Traditionally Amish folk have shunned modern conveniences, including electrically powered tools that conventional furniture factories have used for decades. Instead they have concentrated on the craft of carpentry. Most of their furniture is made of solid wood, and each item is lovingly created from start to finish.
Generally, authentic Amish furniture is still made in small workshops on family-owned farms. But gone are the days when they had to rely on relatively few discerning customers travelling to the country to find Amish craftsmen and hire them to make furniture. Many now make use of modern distribution systems that take their products into the cities where more people can access them. However many still only make furniture to order, which is another reason why it is so appealing to consider decorating with Amish furniture.
For generations Amish woodworkers have learned their craft from their fathers and grandfathers. They have been taught how to select the best materials for different types of furniture in terms of grain and hue. They have been taught how to cut the wood to get the best out of the grain. They have been taught how to carefully craft furniture so that every detail is perfect. For example, a solid wood chest of drawers will be painstakingly sanded and sealed inside and out. The underside of tables will be as smooth and beautiful as the top. And best of all, they have been taught how to make outstanding furniture that will last for generations. For instance imperfections in the timber will be eradicated and the joinery used will have stood the test of time.
Recognizing Amish furniture
While not all high quality furniture is Amish-made, all Amish furniture is top quality. But when it comes to identifying Amish furniture, it is more about what it isn’t rather than what it is. Unlike mass produced items found in most high street and online stores, it doesn’t bear a company stamp or label. Instead it is signed by the craftsman who made it, just like any work of art would be signed. This way it is possible to identify both the craftsman and workshop where every piece of quality Amish furniture is made. You will find that some suppliers of this very special furniture will even offer a lifetime guarantee, and if need be will send it back to the workshop of origin for any repairs – just because they can.
Historic styles of Amish furniture
Having said that furniture made by Amish craftsmen does not follow a style, you will find that some specialize in making hand-made items that follow a traditional form. Take the furniture produced by Simply Amish (www.simplyamish.com) for example. While items are made by an incredible network of small and traditional Amish workshops, the company has identified a “rustic” look that in itself tells the story of traditional American carpentry. Whilst beautifully made, it mirrors the designs favored by the early pioneers who traveled through the country in search of promised fortune in the form of gold.
Examples out of the Simply Amish range include furniture that incorporates branches bent by steam with the bark left on, and items that feature milled logs that are polished to perfection.
Custom Made Furniture
Even though suppliers (including Simply Amish) do produce specific ranges, many Amish workshops are well known for their custom made furniture.
The beauty of custom-made Amish furniture is that you can decide exactly what you want. You can choose the style, choose the wood, and you might even be able to choose the craftsman who will make it for you.
At Simply Amish seven types of wood are used to make furniture, offering an enormous choice when it comes to decorating with Amish furniture. These are:
- red oak, which is exceptionally strong and durable and ideal for furniture that is used every day,
- paler white oak, which is also strong and very hard wearing,
- soft maple, which is not as durable as most other woods, but which comes in an attractive range of colors,
- hard maple, which as its name suggests is tougher than soft maple, and also comes in a variety of colors, often with a red tinge,
- cherry, undoubtedly one of the prettiest woods used for custom-made furniture,
- hickory, which is used for rustic bentwood furniture and is one of the heaviest, hardest and strongest woods around,
- walnut, the ideal choice for cabinet making.
All in all, if you decide to go Amish, you get the chance to make the best of all worlds in your home!