Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Greene & Greene Furniture


Tom Stangeland has each in abundance; even in his early days when he made small motorized airplanes these qualities were evident.  As I was driving away from his woodworking shop/winery I couldn't help but kick myself for not getting a photo of those early flyers.

Now Tom makes absolutely gorgeous furniture—and that has always been the case but the furniture wasn't always in the Arts & Crafts tradition inspired by Greene & Greene.  A turning point in his craft was in 1990 when a music industry icon visited the Seattle gallery where Tom's furniture was displayed.......

The Blacker Chair

The gentleman and his wife selected three different pieces of furniture from the gallery. They wanted to contact each furniture maker in their quest for someone to craft a chair like one in the famous Blacker House by Greene & Greene.  To their surprise each piece of furniture in the gallery they selected that day was made by Thomas Stangeland.  They admired his quality and style and they knew he was their man.  They commissioned a selection of furniture with Tom for their San Juan Island home.

A chair is one of the most difficult pieces of furniture to make:  comfort, quality, and aesthetics are critical. 

Toms' version of the Blacker Chair hits every mark and is designed to last a lifetime. After crafting this chair, he was hooked on Greene and Greene style and now offers this furniture style for every room in the home.

When we get to the furnishing stage of our house we will undoubtedly need a few of these chairs and just about every purchase we make these days is with the plan of having it forever.  I like to use a mix of various patterns of china, crystal, and silver on our table—especially when we have more guests than my basic set of place settings.  This same concept works with dining room chairs.

the Strand Chair

Tom designed the Strand Chair, the same high quality as the Blacker Chair with a bit less embellishment; oftentimes customers will buy a combination of the two chairs for their dining room.

Not only has Tom developed perfection in his furniture but over the years he has trained 10 apprentices in wood working, it is so important to pass on the knowledge, passion, curiosity, and craftsmanship.

Washington Wine –Cloudlift Cellars 
Merlot Grapes

I first met Tom when our paths crossed through the Northwest Wine Academy.  Tom finished the program a year or so before I enrolled and was already producing his own wine when I had the chance to help him with his 2010 crush.  I wanted to volunteer somewhere and when my teacher gave me his name I immediately recognized him from having seen his work many years ago at Northwest Fine Woodworking gallery (which is now in the hip Belltown neighborhood) and of course his name is often within the pages of American Bungalow and Style 1900.

I was excited to help with the crush; it was an opportunity to see Tom's workshop and winery!   Along with family members and friends I was able to help on several weekends and learn hands-on the various elements we were reading about in class.

I am in the back on the left. Joining me in the sorting of the grapes
 are co-owner Joannie, their daughter, and my friend Suzanne.

Pressing Chardonnay with two guys from the NW Wine Academy program.
And to my delight someone who had also built a home in the style of Greene & Greene (and went through the NW Wine Academy) was also helping with the crush.  I hope to someday see his home as well.

Once you get out into this community of people one thing leads to another…..

Tom's label is Cloudlift Cellars. Cloudlift is the name of the unique pattern used by the Greene brothers on sleeping porch railings, interior/door trim, and furniture detail. I think curiosity drove Tom to pursue winemaking, just as curiosities lead him to begin working with an anvil to make his own copper handles for his furniture.

Tom has four red wine blends using varying percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.  His two white wines are Chardonnay and a Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc blend (this is the one I had the opportunity to help with most).

Tom has begun to win some awards for his wine and he has long been recognized for his furniture.  For me it was fun to see the two coexist within one space….

One last thought.

At first I debated about revealing the name of the gentleman who inspired Tom to create his version of the Blacker Chair but I love this story.

Growing up, my parents absolutely loved Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass' Whipped Cream album, in many ways it was the soundtrack of my childhood.  Same thing is true for my husband's family and probably every other family in the 60s.  Not only did everyone marvel at the lovely lady on the cover but the music is happy and fun.  When my husband and I married we, of course, had to get the CD version.

Every time I look at the Blacker Chair I will think of that album and the couple who made it possible and here's why:

The gentleman who asked Tom to make the Blacker Chair is Jerry Moss ---the M of A & M records (the A is Herb Alpert).  One of the first records they produced was the gold-selling Whipped Cream.  This team built A & M into the nation's largest record company not owned by a conglomerate, though just after selling out to Polygram in 1989 the Moss's visited the Seattle gallery and commissioned the furniture from Tom.

We already love to crank up Whipped Cream on sunny afternoons….I can't wait to do so when we have a Blacker Chair or two in our Greene & Greene home!