LoneStar Artisans acquires the BoardSMITH

In the four years I’ve been doing this for a living, there’s been one guy out there who set the standard of excellence in butcher block: David Smith of the BoardSMITH. I recently learned that he was retiring, and reached out to him. He was extremely gracious, and was willing to invest time and effort in me to allow me to do what I do better. After numerous conversations, we have now worked out an arrangement that will allow me to be the steward of his business, continuing his tradition of excellence in craftsmanship under the BoardSMITH brand. Going forward, LoneStar Artisans will focus primarily on fine furniture and cabinetry. The BoardSMITH will focus on butcher block and perhaps some other kitchen-related items.

Dave flew from High Point, North Carolina to Dallas and spent the entire week with me last week. His attention to detail is incredible, and his approach is one of the most deeply thought-out I’ve ever seen. We made a whole bunch of sawdust together, and my ultimate goal is to reproduce butcher block that will be indistinguishable from those that David produced himself.

His website should be fully up and running again next week, and we are both excited to see where this will go.

The very last butcher block cutting board that David made before closing up his North Carolina shop was a maple with walnut border (dubbed, “Tail End Charlie”). And the very first board we made together in Dallas was that same style of board, seen in the picture.

www.theboardsmith.com

 

(Photo credit: Barb Haseman)

Featured on Texas Homes For Sale

I was just interviewed for Texas Homes for Sale. Here’s the link:

http://www.texashomesforsale.com/articles/expert-tips-on-custom-designed-furniture-for-your-home

And here’s the article:

Expert Tips on Custom-Designed Furniture for Your Home: An Interview with John Loftis of Lonestar Artisans

By John Loftis

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

LoneStar Artisans creates hand-made, heirloom-quality furniture and cabinetry. Our principle market is Texas, but we’ve shipped custom pieces to clients all over the world. Our philosophy is in stark contrast to the cheap, disposable, imported furniture that is mass-produced these days.

What are the latest trends of furniture design that you build for people’s homes?

Two popular trends right now are live edge tables and furniture made from reclaimed wood. With live edge tables, I work in partnership with my sawmill to find really extraordinary slabs of wood. Rather than milling the lumber in a traditional rectangular shape, they flatten the two faces and leave the edge alone, resulting in a beautiful, organic feel that follows the natural contours of the tree trunk. In the last month, I’ve made a live edge walnut kitchen island top, a dining room table, and two conference tables. They are challenging to make, but it is a lot of fun to let the natural beauty of the wood shine through.

With reclaimed wood, customers are generally looking for a rustic/distressed feel and often like the idea of re-purposing old wood. It can be challenging (and expensive) to find just the right pieces of reclaimed lumber, but the results can be really beautiful. Furniture made from reclaimed lumber can also have really great stories. I made a coffee table out of lumber from a 120-year old barn in North Dakota and am currently working on 3 desks out of reclaimed pine flooring from a really old building torn down in Dallas.

What are the biggest differences between a custom-designed and a ready-made piece of furniture?

With custom-made furniture, the answer is almost always “yes.” You don’t have to settle for cookie-cutter pieces. I can make you exactly what you want. And I love to collaborate with customers, lending my design experience so that we can come up with something truly extraordinary.

The flip side of this, of course, is price. Hand-crafted custom furniture is more expensive than mass-produced furniture. And it takes time for me to make each piece, so there isn’t the instant gratification of taking it home today.

What are your personal favorite advantages of using custom furniture that you can share?

The biggest advantage of custom furniture is getting a piece that has been built to last. Solid wood tables can be refinished if they get banged up rather than being left out in the alley on heavy trash day. Dovetailed drawers should hold up 50 years from now, when you pass the piece on to your children. It’s an important philosophical distinction, I think. You can either get something beautiful and hand-made, with the intention of keeping it, enjoying it, and then passing it on to future generations. Or you can buy an inexpensive thing that you will discard after a few years once it starts falling apart.

When I started LoneStar Artisans, I did so because I felt like there was already enough “fast food” out there in the marketplace. Craftsmanship is disappearing, and I wanted to create a company that really celebrates well-made things.

Can you briefly describe the main steps of the design process?

It’s all about collaboration. Some customers know exactly what they want; others only have a vague idea. In our initial meeting, I listen and ask lots of questions. I’ve found that pictures are extremely helpful, so I love to send customers to “idea” websites like houzz.com to get inspiration and show me what they like. I tell customers it won’t bother me at all if they send me lots of information. The more I know, the better able I am to create something they love. Once we’ve gone back and forth and settled on a design, I almost always create a 3D rendering of the piece to ensure that we are on the same page with the final design.

Interestingly, the majority of my customers don’t meet me in person. We do almost all of our collaboration via the phone and e-mail, which saves a ton of time. Some customers still want to look me in the eye, which I totally understand. But the Internet can really streamline the process.

What advice would you give someone who wants custom-designed furniture but is afraid they won’t be able to afford it?

I never play games with price. So the best thing you can do is to be honest with me about your budget. If there’s a number we need to be under, then I’ll do my best to come up with a design that allows us to meet that budget. Sometimes there are simple design changes that can really save money. As long as we don’t compromise on craftsmanship or quality, I’m happy to try to save customers money.

I do need to give a caveat though. Every week, I’ll get at least one call from someone who wants me to make a less expensive version of a desk they saw at Ikea. It’s just not going to happen. Custom furniture is always going to cost more than mass-produced stuff. So if your budget is tight, it is always better to have that conversation early rather than later in the process.

What’s the best way for people to contact you and your company?

E-mail is great: john@lonestarartisans.com or I can be reached on my cell at: 469-387-8581. Our website is www.lonestarartisans.com.

– See more at: http://www.texashomesforsale.com/articles/expert-tips-on-custom-designed-furniture-for-your-home#sthash.I8uI1yvg.dpuf

They like us… they really like us!

Somehow, our company completely missed this announcement, but we are grateful for the honor (even if it happened six months ago)!

 

PALO ALTO, Calif., February 4, 2014 – Houzz (www.houzz.com), the leading platform for home remodeling and design, today announced that LoneStar Artisans has been awarded the Best Of Houzz 2014, a homeowner to homeowner guide to the top home buildersarchitectsinterior designerscontractors and other residential remodeling professionals on Houzz, both in the U.S. and around the world.

“By providing homeowners with the most comprehensive view of home professionals – from images of their work and client reviews to an opportunity to interact directly with them on the Houzz site and app – Houzz empowers homeowners to find and hire the right professional to execute their vision,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of community. “Each year, our community of homeowners and home design enthusiasts recognizes the home building, remodeling & design professionals delivering the best customer experience and the most inspiring and innovative designs.”

The Best Of Houzz award is given in two categories: Customer Satisfaction and Design. Customer Satisfaction honors are determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2013. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 16 million monthly users on Houzz, known as “Houzzers,” who saved more than 230 million professional imagesof home interiors and exteriors to their personal ideabooks via the Houzz site, iPad/iPhone app and Android app. Winners will receive a “Best Of Houzz 2014” badge on their profiles, showing the Houzz community their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.

About Houzz
Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality. For more information, visit www.houzz.com

Bearings Magazine article on LoneStar Artisans

The editor of Bearings Magazine (http://southeast.bearingsguide.com/) decided to do a story about our little company! It went live today and I think the author did a fantastic job of capturing what we’re about.

Here’s the link to the article: http://southeast.bearingsguide.com/2012/11/02/restoring-american-craftsmanship/

BTW, Bearings Guide is a seriously cool magazine, their plug of me notwithstanding. Subscription is free. You should check them out.

 

Where did all the wood go???

There were a number of trade publications that excitedly announced the following yesterday:

U.S. Hardwood Exports Hit 72-Month High:

May’s hardwood lumber export data totaled 121.4 million board feet, the highest level in 72 months and the fifth highest monthly total ever. China shipments set a record. 

This is good news for hardwood sellers, I guess. And it might indicate that the global economy is improving. Hardwood is used to make stuff, after all. And if factories are making stuff, then it’s likely that people are buying stuff.  But I’ve got to admit, this headline makes me sad. Here are a few of the reasons:

Marketers Gone Wild

I love watching the work of marketers. What they do is as lurid and engrossing as sharks attacking chum. The art of manipulation, of tapping into our frail psyches and implanting new wants and needs, is a never-ending source of fascination for me. I can (and do) stare at infomercials with rapt attention, listening for the features and the benefits (OH the sweet, sweet benefits!) of using their product. I listen for brand positioning, for pricing, for purchase triggers. How are they creating urgency? What needs are they claiming to meet?

I’m trained in marketing. I understand why marketers do what they do (because it works). If I can create an emotional bond between you and the product or service I have to offer, you are FAR more likely to buy it.

I AM

This is only tangentially a small business blog post, so when this quickly devolves into existential ‘Dear Diary’ pathos, I ask your forbearance.

I recently went to a prospective client’s home to create a scope and fee for a furniture project she was interested in having me do. While there, her husband called her on the phone. After chatting for a minute, she said to him, “Honey, that carpenter guy is here. I gotta go.” I kept sketching the project in my little notebook, but that phrase kept running through my head. “That carpenter guy…” She didn’t intend to be condescending, I’m sure. But nonetheless, I left her house muttering, “That carpenter guy, huh? Oh yeah, I’m that carpenter guy.”

A different kind of grateful

One of the unexpected blessings of starting this business is just how differently I view ‘income’ now. After getting my MBA and entering the corporate world, my salary and bonus were things I expected… things I DESERVED, darnit! I EARNED those things. And frankly, they weren’t high enough. I DESERVED more. I was FAR more productive and deserving than Bob, after all… And Susan only got where she got because of office POLITICS. I mean really, who does she think she is fooling???

Houston, we have lift-off!

And… we’re off!

I want to tell you that I just got back from my company launch party, where friends and hangers-on dined at some place swanky and had champagne and generally let the bons temp roulez. Lots of well-wishing and bonhomie. But…

Here I sit in front of the computer with a three-day beard, having just finished a marathon session of working with my web developer to get this website done. I’m excited and terrified, sort of a pale facsimile of how I felt when my kids were born.