As an admirer of all things Arts and Crafts, I enjoy visiting Asheville, North Carolina’s Grove Park Inn, often attending the annual Arts and Crafts Conference that takes place at the inn. During my many visits to the inn I’ve come to love its furniture collection, especially the original furniture still used in the main inn’s rooms. For me, this furniture is a great example of pieces produced in factories during the Arts and Crafts era.
Because of my interest in building Arts and Crafts inspired furniture, I am, naturally, curious about how original Arts and Crafts furniture was built. How were the designer’s creations put into motion? How were they brought to life? Any opportunity to learn more about how a piece of furniture was made I find difficult to turn down. Recently such an opportunity came my way, and the focus of this 3 part post is what I learned from it.
During my visits to the Grove Park Inn I have come to know its furniture with the help of the room staff, who have taught me much about the collection. They maintain a significant inventory of out-of-service furniture parts and assemblies, which are used to support the repair and maintenance of the collection — particularly the original furniture still used in the main inn’s 142 rooms. From this inventory I was allowed access to a vanity chair, which I disassembled and restored so I could learn more about how it was built.
A Unique Design
The Grove Park Inn’s vanity chair has a unique design story. It was not just designed by one person, but rather was influenced by two furniture-makers, one, a relatively well-known designer of Arts and Crafts furniture, and another, an established furniture manufacturer, whose 56 page catalog contained only a few pages of Arts and Crafts offerings. Bruce Johnson, in his book Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts furniture, points out that Elbert Hubbard’s Roycrofters were originally selected to build the furniture for the Grove Park Inn. But upon learning of the job’s scope and schedule, they realized that their available resources prevented them from completing the job in the prescribed time, and a local company, the White Furniture Company, was eventually awarded the job of building furniture for the guest rooms.
Fred Seely, who was charged with designing, building, and furnishing the Grove Park Inn, did insist the White Furniture Company use the Roycrofters’ furniture as a model. And, in fact, the Roycrofters built 3 bedroom suites, one of which was delivered to the White Furniture Company, to serve as a model for the design and construction of the inn’s guest room furniture. However, White did exhibit an amount of creative license with the model by using thinner tops and lighter slats to soften its lines.
In my next post I’ll share what I learned about how the Vanity Chair was built, and I’ll follow that with the final post which will briefly discuss the chair’s restoration.