Amish Furniture - A Comprehensive Guide
Much of today’s homes are dominated by mass-produced goods and subpar materials, making handmade artistry and painstaking construction more precious than ever. One such source of high-end, timeless pieces? Amish furniture makers. This small community of skilled woodworkers uses age-told traditions passed down through generations to produce solid wood furnishings of varying styles.
In this blog post, we invite you to learn more about Amish furniture as we explore the history, philosophy, and enduring appeal of these remarkable creations. We'll answer commonly asked questions, dive into the earmark characteristics of Amish furniture, and explain some of the underlying Amish principles—like sustainability—that influence the final products.
Understanding the Amish as Furniture Makers
It’s important to note that not all products that portray themselves as “Amish furniture” is actually Amish-made. This confusion can be attributed, in part, to woodworkers who use similar construction methods or to individuals that attempt to replicate “Amish” style or traditional style furniture.
Rest assured, our furniture is made by genuine Amish woodworkers. Countryside Amish Furniture’s founder, Mel Stutzman has close personal ties to Amish furniture workshops. We collect orders and sell online on their behalf, enabling them to reach customers well outside their geographic area. It’s a win-win!
In Countryside’s case, Amish means Amish-made, as our artisans use time-tested construction methods and generations of expertise. In their workshops, they carefully construct each furniture piece according to your specifications made while ordering.
Completed Amish furnishings are sanded, stained, and then sealed with a catalyzed conversion varnish which acts as a barrier against everyday wear and tear.
Though the process of crafting Amish furniture takes time, we are proud to offer quality furnishings that will become treasured family heirlooms.
What Makes Amish Furniture Distinctive: Mortise and Tenon Joinery
Amish furniture can be crafted using various techniques, joinery, and hardware. The most common form of joinery used to construct our offering of Amish furniture is mortise and tenon joinery.
Mortise and tenon joinery in Amish furniture consists of a junction made by inserting the tenon (protruding piece) into the mortise (opening). Additionally, the joint is further secured with strong bonding agents and use of clamps.
One of the strongest and most attractive joints used in carpentry and Amish furniture, mortise and tenon joinery boasts a smart, flush-fitting design. See examples of this method below.
What Makes Amish Furniture Distinctive: Dovetailed Joinery
Another common form of joinery frequently found in Amish furniture is dovetail joinery, which is especially relied upon for drawer construction.
Every drawer box is made using solid wood five piece construction, with dovetails in front and in the back to ensure that the box will retain its integrity for years to come. Dovetail drawers are considered a sign of premium quality and solid construction. The glue surface area on a dovetail joint is increased significantly, and the interlocking geometry of the dovetail joints holds together even if the glue fails.
The majority of our drawer boxes are built from solid hardwood, which results in storage that is strong and resistant to everyday wear and tear. Drawer box faces will be built in the same wood as the rest of the furniture piece. The front is the primary wood, of course, but rarely are the sides and back made from the primary wood. The goal is to build the boxes to be sturdy and tight, not too heavy, and easy to open and close.
A well-built dovetail drawer is not only incredibly strong and long-lasting, but is aesthetically beautiful. What’s more, Countryside Amish Furniture supports the drawers with heavy-duty slides that are fully enclosed and mounted from below or the side of the drawer. This premium hardware offers year after year of quiet, reliable operation. They offer a smooth opening-and-closing action that’s not affected by wood movement. Most of our furniture also features full extension access and soft close. This prevents slamming by the drawer self-closing inches from the piece of furniture.
What Makes Amish Furniture Distinctive: Best-in-Class Materials
Throughout this piece, we’ve referenced the fact that authentic Amish furniture relies upon solid wood (with few exceptions, like outdoor pieces). However, their eye for quality extends beyond the choice of timber to include the use of localized sourced, real leather and durable and fade-resistant fabrics for upholstery. The varnishes themselves are carefully chosen and applied in multiple layers to provide peak protection for the furniture, a topic you can learn more about in our article The Toughest Amish Furniture Finish: Catalyzed Conversion Varnish.
The point is that Amish furniture makers don’t cut corners in either their selection of materials or construction processes, resulting in pieces that are distinct and long-lasting.
Common Misconceptions About Amish Furniture
- That Amish furniture is only available in traditional styles - Yes, there is a wide-sweeping range of traditional styles available to fans of Amish furniture, spanning from ornate Queen Anne to simple Shaker. However, Amish woodworkers also embrace Mid-Century and modern design movements, like industrial and live edge features. It’s also possible to custom-order furniture in fairly contemporary colors, whether you prefer a chic black or playful blue.
- Amish furniture doesn’t incorporate modern enhancements - Amish furniture makers embrace their customers' needs, including contemporary features like touch lighting, wire grommets, and keyboard pull-outs in desks.
- That Amish furniture only uses solid wood - While real hardwood is an earmark of Amish furniture, it’s not ideal for outdoor use. As we explore in The Best Outdoor Wood Furniture, poly lumber is best suited for prolonged exposure to moisture and UV rays. For this reason, Countryside Amish Furniture pivots away from traditional timber in favor of the ultra-durable plastic-based alternative when constructing outdoor furniture.
- That Amish furniture is only available by visiting Amish communities - While many Amish choose to disconnect from the Internet, they sometimes partner with non-Amish friends who operate web stores on their behalf, as is the case for many of the businesses we highlight in Our Favorite Online Stores for Amish Goods. Therefore, it’s possible (and ultra-convenient) to order Amish-made furniture without physically visiting their rural storefront.
Solid Wood Amish Furniture & Sustainable Forestry
Since we build to order each individual piece of solid wood furniture, there’s no need to keep aisles and aisles of dining tables, living room tables, bedroom, and nursery furniture waiting in large furniture warehouses.
At Countryside Amish Furniture, we also take this opportunity to conserve precious resources by making sure that our hand-crafted furniture originates from sustainable forests. That means before any tree is cut down, the forest it is in has been evaluated by an ecology expert in order to determine the best way to optimize these resources –- not only for today, but also for the next generation. In other words, younger trees are always there to replace an older tree that is being removed.
Sometimes a tree’s demise comes due to Mother Nature, but sometimes it comes to mankind’s actions. In a healthy forest, sapling trees are there waiting to take over and grow into a large tree for things like furniture making. Furniture our Amish builders make from these trees, however, will last for generations.
Legislation and education have created ways to protect our forests when it became apparent that too many trees were being lost due to less-than-perfect practices. According to Mother Nature Network, there are more trees standing today than there were 100 years ago due to responsible harvesting.
The United States, which contains 8 percent of the world's forests, has increased the number of trees over the last 100 years. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), "Forest growth nationally has exceeded harvest since the 1940s. By 1997, forest growth exceeded harvest by 42 percent and the volume of forest growth was 380 percent greater than it had been in 1920."
At Countryside, many of our Amish craftsmen utilize local lumber that is not trucked in from miles away, saving on gas and emissions. We select the artisans with whom we partner very carefully based on the integrity of the product they produce as well as the sustainable means by which they acquire their raw materials.
Because we use high-quality hardwoods in our furniture-making process, fine furnishings built by Countryside Amish Furniture will not end up in a landfill within a few years. Instead, you are choosing to ‘go green’ when you order from Countryside.
Going green in our industry means helping to sustain our environment. Increasing the number of trees in our forests improves photosynthesis, oxygen production, and airborne toxin removal. Finally, the wood being used is a renewable material and decades later will still be a biodegradable product, according to MNN.
Is it Better to Buy Amish Furniture Online or In-Person?
While there is no clear right or wrong, shopping for Amish furniture online actually presents numerous advantages. For instance:
A broad range of online furniture options, created specifically for you by our Amish craftsmen - Because Countryside does not suffer the limitations of a brick-and-mortar store and the need to have physical inventory on hand, we offer a wider variety of options made-to-order. Our point? Shopping online with Countryside Amish Furniture grants a vast selection of choices to achieve the perfect piece, customized just for you.
Easier browsing with a “search” function - Go ahead and use our online search bar to find the exact Amish furniture piece you want. Type in phrases like “coffee table lift top” or “farmhouse canopy bed” and you’ll see options at your fingertips in mere seconds. Simply put, you can’t replicate the ease of the online experience when shopping offline.
Additionally, because our pieces are custom-made, there is no physical piece to see in person prior to ordering. Amish artisans will make the pieces based on your preferences. For example, if you’re choosing a table, you’ll be asked to select the dimensions, shape, hardwood, stain, edge profile, and the option of extending leaves. Customizing a desk? In addition to the wood and stain, you can determine if you want a hutch, drawer locks, hardware style, and special features.
For more insights, check out Where to Buy Real Solid Wood Furniture Online.
How to Ensure You Order the Right Amish Furniture Pieces
Minimize the risk of receiving an Amish furniture piece that doesn’t quite fit the room by taking the following steps when custom ordering online:
Request samples of the wood stains and upholstery prior to finalizing your decision. Countryside Amish Furniture will send you four different wood samples stained with your color candidates. We also have this service for leather and cloth upholsteries. This lets you view how the color looks on the hardwood and how it compares with your other pieces. Our tip? View the samples under different lights (natural and electric) to make sure you’re fully satisfied. For additional tips on choosing wood stains, read To Mix or Match? A Guide to Choosing Wood Stains That Go Together.
Document the furniture’s dimensions and replicate it in the space using painter’s tape. Quick, imagine a dining hutch that is 49"W x 19 1/2"D x 74"H. Pretty tricky, right? To make sure it is ideally sized for your dining room, pull out the measuring tape and painter’s tape to outline the shape on your ground and wall. When determining if the furniture is right for your space, also consider factors like swinging cabinet doors, extended drawers, pulled-out chairs, etc.
- Unsure about something? Ask questions and more questions! The Countryside Amish Furniture team can walk you through the step-by-step of shopping online and provide plenty of brainstorming along the way.
Order Online With Countryside Amish Furniture
We welcome you to explore our diverse online offerings, from our Shaker-style dining tables to our two-tone bedroom furniture and breakfast tables. Each piece will be made-to-order by expert-level Amish craftsmen using advanced woodworking techniques, yielding furniture which will last a lifetime. What’s more, our store offers a flat $150 delivery and set-up fee, no matter how many solid wood pieces you order or where you live within the Continental U.S.
Need additional guidance for shopping online or picking out Amish furniture? Visit the Countryside Design Center or check out one of the following articles: