Refined rustic reflects on its roots
Nicole Crews -- Casual Living, 10/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
Lodge looks have been around since man carved his first twig, but the evolution of sylvan styling has come a long way from cave dwelling necessities. In 19th century America alone, "rusticating" became popular for the well-to-do with the advent of second homes where city life could be escaped and less formality displayed.
When upstate New York's Adirondacks became a sought-after location for second homes, the American rustic furniture movement was born from natural materials including willow, logs, antlers and roughly milled woods. The call of the West put its own brand on lodge looks with prairie life influences and Western Native American iconography and material use.
The Shakers, Quakers and the Amish made their own contributions to rough-hewn, simple design. The Colonialists embraced their rough and wild new terrain and forged order on it with their own designs as well. The Arts & Crafts movement provided its take on nature from a philosophical point of view.
The last 100 years or so have been a mixing and matching of styles, camps and materials - a veritable hodgepodge of lodge, if you will. Of late, however, there's been a distinct refinement of the look - including many outdoor offerings. Here's what some of today's manufacturers of outdoor lodge had to say about the design category:
Q There seems to be resurgence in lodge looks right now. Would you agree and how has the look evolved?
It's not bears, elks and squirrels and pine cones anymore. Gen X and Y have a minimalist sensibility. They want things modern and elegant and they grew up with cutbacks so they understand frugality. Rustic is really divided into two camps - elegant and log furniture and there's not really a bridge in between.
Yes, definitely. In doing research for future product development, I am finding that the Lodge look is now more upscale with a very neutral color palette for entire rooms, more of an industrial look. There are still the rustic elements of accessories in wood and metal, yet against light neutral walls, sisal flooring and neutral upholstery. If there are any patterns or plaids mixed it, it's very tonal. Case goods are in heavily distressed lighter woods framed in rustic metals. The backdrop for this entire look is very light, gone are the dark woods and dark color palettes of yesterday.
home furnishings, Woolrich Home
I agree. The look has evolved into different mediums as well. I would consider our Equestrian collection to be a take-offas well as certain others in this genre. Equestrian is a combination of cast aluminum, tubular and woven resin with a leather appearance. Croquet is a wrought aluminum and cast collection that would also apply.
Yes, the Lodge category has been pretty strong for the last 10-15 years. We actually saw a sales peak around 2006, but I am unsure what role the economy has had in the drop off. The trend is similar to what happened in the early 1900s when rich industrialists got tired of the big cities and purchased homes in the country where things were quieter and simpler. In the early 1900s, Old Hickory was shipping over 20,000 products to homes, lodges and restaurants all over North America.
Old Hickory Furniture Company
Q It's always been around and a staple of outdoor, but how has modern manufacturing changed this segment of the industry in terms of materials, finishes, fabrics, weight, etc.?
Lodge furniture was recycling before it was cool. The sustainability movement really made the look take off. We always had reclaimed but then it came into vogue during the Gore era.
We are now seeing a wide range of materials being used in case goods, upholstery, lighting and accessories. Current trends feature heavier metals, hammered and distressed, with very heavy cotton or wool fabrics for upholstery, but all in a neutral color palette. Accent pillows and other accessories are very textural and carry over yesterday's lodge icons with animal motifs, deer racks and other elements of nature. More and more factories are addressing the needs of the consumer by offering a mix of materials. Plus, they have the capability to assemble it all in one factory and are not just limited to one resource.
Our manufacturing process is very similar to the way it was done 100 years ago. Because we are using young trees we cannot automate our processes very much. Obviously fabrics have improved quite a bit, but most of our people love the natural rattan cane or wood splint. We do offer synthetic versions of these items, but most people who purchase our product like the natural versions.
Q What are your best-selling lodge looks and what percentage of your business falls under this design umbrella?
Everything we do could be considered lodge - or lodge-inspired.
At Woolrich Home, we always found that if we put a moose or a bear on a product it will sell. This still holds true today but those popular icons are becoming more stylized and not as traditional looking as before. Other popular lodge looks for us are the plaids, in upholstery and bedding, along with decorative pillows that feature motifs of wildlife and nature. Rustic details of leather, leather trims, buttons and fur complement the whole lodge lifestyle. I would say that approximately 60-65% of our business falls under this category. The fact that there is such a huge resurgence in the Lodge look is great for the Woolrich brand.
We see most people wanting to return to the original items you see in antique stores or in old magazines. People love vintage lodge looks because that's what they saw in their grandparent's cabin or throughout the National Park lodges. Some of our most popular items today are the very same as they were 100 years ago ... we have more options today, but otherwise it is very similar. About 99% of the products we build are considered "Rustic" or "Lodge." Our best-selling item continues to be our 32K Two Hoop chair or rocker. Other popular items for porches and verandas include our small occasional tables, our rockers, and our settees and swings.
Q Where does lodge sell the most geographically? Domestically and internationally?
Our customer is where water and woods meet. We are a second home commodity/product.
We only have a presence in the U.S., but actually any state that has mountains buys lodge. We have a very strong concentration in the southern Appalachian Mountains, in the Southeastern states of Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. These are all strong tourist areas with resorts and second homes that are decked out in the popular lodge look. On the northern end of the East Coast are the Adirondacks of New York, which is in the northern region of the Appalachian Mountains. The Adirondacks are heavily concentrated with cabins and homes that exude the lodge lifestyle. In addition to these areas, we sell heavily in the Midwest around the lakes of Wisconsin and Minnesota and have a strong presence in the Western states of Montana and Wyoming all the way to Northern California around the Lake Tahoe area.
It appears to be selling everywhere - especially in the South, Southwest and Midwest.
Most of our products are sold in the USA or Canada especially in "resort" areas like the Adirondacks, the Rocky Mountains, the mountains of North Carolina/Georgia, and the upper Midwest.
Q What particular riffs off of lodge are you seeing or thinking of developing?
We are really learning from the new designers from the universities that we are helping launch. They are skilled and innovative and they are the future. We started cultivating students in 2010 with Appalachian State and so far we've reached nine universities so far. This year we are working with Auburn, N.C. State University, Columbia College - Chicago and University of Southern Illinois - Carbondale. The University Hall of Innovation & Job Creation is just exactly what it sounds like. We need to nurture the next generation for this industry on all levels.
Our more modern look has evolved from where we were. It was very Flintstones. From working with universities, our look has changed. We're using new materials, embracing new looks and doing things like upholstery and working with resin that we didn't do before.
We are looking at a more stylized lodge neutral color palette of products using a mix of materials in more distressed lighter finishes. I have even used the term "Swanky Lodge" on one of my inspiration boards. Fabric and textiles will lighten up and become more tonal patterns.
We are working on several collections that are in this genre that crossover to Adirondack.
We believe there is a movement toward a little more modern versions of the "Lodge" look...we refer to it as: "Urban Lodge" or "Mountain Modern." It is more of the same, but with a little cleaner lines and a little less bark showing. That is a direction we have been moving in lately.
Q What are some of your favorite pieces and what sort of feedback do you get from dealers?
Some of my favorite pieces are from our Chatham Run outdoor collection made by our furniture licensee Whitecraft. Whitecraft does a great job of blending woven materials with resin that looks like twig furniture. It makes a very cool and durable rustic casual collection suitable for the outdoors. The fabric applications that are married to the frames work well with Woolrich's plaid patterns mixed with the bear and moose icon woven fabrics. The Chatham Run collection gave Whitecrafta brand for regions that they had not been able to sell in before. Not only did we give retailers a great lodge outdoor furniture collection but we were also able to coordinate other outdoor products, like Mohawk rugs and outdoor lighting, with it to complete an outdoor room which is an extremely popular extension of the home today.
Croquet in teak is my favorite. Our own stores sell lots of the aluminum version. We have sold several nice contract orders on the Adirondack series and it's a re-work of a '80s version of a similar collection. Good design never dies.
My favorite pieces are usually those one-of-a-kind items that are custom designed or else something someone saw in an old book.
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