BRISTOL — A new furniture business in downtown Bristol is getting a lot of attention in the upscale, handcrafted furniture and architectural materials market in Vermont.
What sets Vermont Tree Goods—with an alluring showroom located at 27 Main St. in Bristol—apart from other local, natural furniture retailers, is the fact that it mills its own lumber and creates furniture from so-called heirloom trees that stand, unnoticed, in many of our fields and woodlands.
Vermont Tree Goods does not cut down living trees; instead, it harvests deceased trees that have viable wood, usually on a mature scale.
“Our approach to making products is simple–less is more,” said Tai Dinnan, director of sales and marketing of Vermont Tree Goods. “The less wood has to be worked, the more its natural beauty can be preserved. In the tradition of George Nakashima, we are drawn to saving the natural or live edge of the trees we mill. This live edge gives our furniture a soft natural feel.”
Nakashima’s organic philosophy and respectful spirit of woodworking is at the heart of Vermont Tree Goods. The world-renown Pennsylvania artisan is celebrated for creating exquisite furniture from richly grained, rare timber.
Like Nakashima, woodworker John Monks, the owner of Vermont Tree Goods, handcrafts tables, beds, and architectural accessories. And like Nakashima, Monks finds an ideal use for each plank of heirloom wood “to create an object of utility to man and, if nature smiles, an object of lasting beauty.”
We are fortunate to be based in Vermont, which has a tremendous variety of hardwood species,” according to Monks. “Each has its own wide range of unique and beautiful characteristics, some of which are only to be found in the fully matured trees with which we work.”
Monks started Vermont Tree Goods last year and has an artist’s eye for exotic wood sources that are right in front of us. Even the business’ graphic logo—a silhouetted, ancient oak tree—is identifiable to locals who drive Plank Road in Bristol.“
Monks begins furniture making with the initial milling of the log.
“We’ve developed an eye for reading logs before they are placed on the mill, which has a tremendous impact on the shape and character of the lumber produced,” he said. “Rotating a log just a few degrees on the mill can make quite a difference on the furniture produced. We align wood in a manner that is harmonious and insightful.”
Monks selected trees tend to be large—even by New England woodland standards.Most of the furniture Vermont Tree Goods offers is derived from single pieces of wood, which make the product line all the more stunning and one-of-a-kind.
According to Dinnan, “Through the transformation into furniture these magnificent beings (trees) extend their legacy by living on in your home or business.”
What you see is what you get and what you get is exquisite—the wood is not glued together from pieces of other woods as you see frequently in other competitive furniture.
“By milling all of our own lumber, we are able to unlock the hidden gifts that these trees have often taken more than a century to grow,” Monks said.
“The beauty and character of the lumber we use is found only deep within such trees,” Dinnan added. “We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be able to work this amazing material into beautiful furniture.”
Monks works in a mill located just north of town. The facility is large and can accommodate the big, raw wood selections stacked to be milled.
Always looking for venerable hardwood trees to harvest and mill, Monks has visited many residences around the region, even making furniture from a family’s favorite old backyard tree that, sadly, had to come down.
Next month, Monks will harvest what had been the largest living elm tree in New England; the specimen is located near Thompson’s Point Road in Charlotte.
While the Charlotte elm is now dead—perhaps growing for as many as 300 years—Monks will give it new life, to be manufactured into beautiful furniture.
The old elm died of a fungus infection known as Dutch elm disease; the “skeleton” of the tree is simply too large to move—thus enters John Monks and his Vermont Tree Goods crew.
“With an old tree like this, anything is possible,” Monks said, already envisioning what secret natural features may lurk in the wood.
“This will be the largest tree our business has ever milled to date; no two slabs of this elm will be the same,” he said.
Check It Out: You can visit the Vermont Tree Goods showroom, located at 27 Main St. in downtown Bristol across from National Bank of Middlebury, Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., and by appointment. For more information, call 802-453–4544. If you have heirloom tree for John Monks, e-mail him at mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Monks’ beautiful, one-of-a-kind heirloom cutting boards can be purchased at the showroom or online at VermontTreeGoods.com.